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Cardio And Abs, Muscle Gain And Weight Loss

Question: Hi, I was reading a lot of articles for abs and bench press. I read that to get abs you need to do cardio at 55% of your heart rate and do it for 40 mins everyday second day. I thought just 20 mins of speed walking was fine in the beginning of the day. Also I read that you can't gain muscle while you're trying to lose weight. I was wondering if you knew which are true or not?

Justin Leonard: Good question. The 55% is accurate for some people. Although it may not be the best option for someone who is not accustomed to working out. The 55% actually means 55% of max predicted heart rate (220 - age).

Someone who does not workout regularly will probably achieve a fairly good cardiovascular workout at a much lower percentage of their max heart rate. Also, the heart is best conditioned by gradually giving it more work to do overtime. Hence, the target heart range or training zone.

The heart rate zone involves starting with a lower percentage of your max heart rate, then slowly working up to a higher percentage of your max over a given period of time.

The 40-minute duration you mentioned is again another magic/arbitrary number pulled out of the sky. This too varies from person to person. For a normal person, the body will begin to burn fat after about 20 minutes into a cardiovascular workout session. Fit people will actually tap into their fat burning zones in less time because their bodies are more efficient.

Your next question was with regard to gaining muscle while trying to lose weight.

In fact it is possible to lose body weight and gain muscle at the same time. For example, if someone is significantly overweight, they will more than likely notice a rapid weight reduction with a simple strength training routine.

Physiologically, the body is actually building muscle in order to adapt to the increased physical demands. This requires more energy usage, which could ultimately result in a weight reduction and a muscle gain (especially for an overweight person).

Fat Burn Supplements

Question: Hey, I cant decide if I should take hydroxycut or if I should take diet fuel. I was also wondering if I should take both or could I take hydroxycut on my lift days and take diet fuel on my rundays. What is best? Thank u.

Justin Leonard: Unfortunately, I don't make supplement recommendations. However, I can say that Hydroxycut is a more popular product. I can also say that there is no need to take two fat burners. Both are caffeine pills, and too much caffeine can be harmful.

In addition, fat burn supplements can sometimes contain added stimulants (e.g. pseudoephedrine under different names) and trace minerals (e.g. chromium) that can also be harmful to your health when taken in excess.

There is no benefit to taking two fat burners. Also, avoid purchasing any fat burn supplement that contains a "proprietary blend" of ingredients. You can find this information on the nutrition label. No one ever knows the specific quantities of each ingredient included in the blend, which can be dangerous.

There is a loophole in the Food and Drug Administration's guidelines for dietary supplements and some manufacturers have caught onto it.

Ab Sculpting

Question: Are you able to explain briefly what ab sculpting is?

Justin Leonard: Sculpting is simply a fancy term for burning fat throughout the body.

Need Help To Strengthen Bones

Question: Hi there. Just received your webpage. I am 59 years old weigh 118 lbs. Do not want to lose weight. I have just been diagnosed with osteoporosis. What exercises can I do to strengthen my bones?

Justin Leonard: First, I would like to welcome you to the Leonard Fitness network. I am sorry to hear about your diagnosis. Second, I want you to understand that there are many remedial steps that can be taken to lessen the severity of the condition.

I am certain that you are already aware of the various causes of osteoporosis. But for people who may not be familiar with the disease, it is most commonly caused by age, genetics, nutrition habits, and gender. Women are more prone to osteoporosis than men. White and Asian women particularly are at a greater risk for the disease than any other population. Skinny people get it more than fat people (larger bones).

There is evidence which suggests that resistance training can help to prevent or improve the conditions of osteoporosis. For some, a simple daily walk can actually assist in the creation of new bone in the legs, making the overall density of the bones greater.

Even though it's only a walk, it may actually provide enough stress or impact to the bones such that they must adapt to the conditions and become thicker.

Here is an article that contains some helpful facts about osteoporosis.

Incorrect Nutrient Info?

Question: In your discussion about nutrients and what a body requires, you state the body needs no more than 30% fat of the total caloric intake. I think in the chart, it really calculates to be 3%, not 30%. If 30% of our diet was fat, we'd be in trouble.

Justin Leonard: Thirty percent may sound exorbitant, but this number is correct. They are taken from guidelines which come directly from the American Dietetics Association and several other credible sources (like the FDA).

It may sound strange, but protein is actually supposed to be consumed LESS than carbs. The exception is if you're an athlete... particularly an endurance athlete (e.g. marathon runner).

Three percent of total calories from fat is extremely hard to achieve. Let me provide an example:

Suppose someone were on a 1,200 calorie diet (considered extremely low)... and only 3% of those calories came from fat. That would mean only 36 calories could come from fat.

A decent sized chicken breast contains roughly half this amount. If two chicken breasts were eaten in a day, it is possible that you could surpass the 3% fat limit... by eating "healthy" foods. And that's just the chicken. Imagine what will happen if you add the recommendation for dairy and oils?

The FDA would never make such a recommendation because it would be too extreme and doesn't leave much room for enjoyment.

The following reports have useful information regarding dietary recommendations:



Supplements That Claim To Increase Height

Question: I was just wondering what your view is on the supplements that claim to increase height after the age of 18? I am 20 years old and of short stature myself, so of course I am interested in ways to increase my height and the supplements claiming to do this are attractive, but do they really work? They seem almost to good to be true and therefore I'm very weary about investing time and money in them. Is it even possible that a supplement can increase height? Thanks for your help.

Justin Leonard: It sounds as if you've answered your own question. Whenever you feel "weary" (should be wary) about something, don't do it, don't buy it, and don't get involved with it. Absolutely no dietary supplement can increase height beyond normal expected growth.

The only way to increase height beyond normal growth is through various surgical procedures (e.g. stretching bone, metal rods, etc.) and growth hormone. Growth hormone is a drug and must be doctor prescribed. Also, watch out for any over-the-counter supplement that has "GH" anywhere in its name.

Protein And Abs

Question: I am currently trying to gain muscle mass and have been told that with a high metabolism I need to have an extremely high protein intake in order to put on weight (about a gram of protein for every pound of weight). The trouble is that with all this protein intake I am finding it hard to keep a toned stomach, and with all I have read from this site the only way to do so is to cut calories. Is there anyway to take in that amount of protein on a daily basis and still get toned abs? Is it a myth that I need to take in this amount of protein to gain mass? What is a good diet that will allow me to gain muscle mass while getting my abs in shape? Thank you.

Justin Leonard: There are several factors that must be considered in order to give you a completely accurate response. The added protein basically equates to added calories. Most of them are probably useless calories which are contributing to excess bloating or weight gain. Most people have to literally lose weight slightly to be able to see their abs. As such, a caloric reduction or alteration is usually required. Technically, you don't need much additional protein to gain muscle mass per se. Most people receive much more protein than they need. But if you wish to maximize your physical and performance gains, then yes, you can probably benefit from a slight increase in protein. Another point I want to make is that many protein supplements contain synthetic additives which can cause a smoothing effect around the abs. Consider reducing your supplementation of protein to about half of what you are currently consuming now. Monitor your progress and let me know how things turn out.

Abs Diet

Question: Once a person gets abs, can you stop the diet modification and eat regular but just work off the fatty foods you eat?

Justin Leonard: Some people can indeed get away with doing this. The general rule is if someone has to modify their diet to get abs, they probably won't be able to maintain their desired appearance if they go back to eating "regular" foods. The people that don't have to worry about this are the ones with ideal nutrition habits or those with metabolisms (genetics) which are higher than others'.

Spot Reduction, C-section

Question: I'm 5'1 and a 125 pound, 41 year old women that has never had a weight problem in my life. In fact I've always wanted to be more shapely. I had a baby 16 years ago by c-section and my stomach/abs over the last year due to a middle age spread have become nothing but stomach and fat. Now I like the rest of my body because I'm more shapely in the butt and hip area and I'd like to even go up to 130 pounds for a larger butt and hips. I've been told since I had surgery during delivery of my baby by c-section that my abs can never be as they were and that my stomach won't stay flat as I age even with exercise because my abs were cut. Is this true? If not I will continue with my recent plan to join a gym. I don't want weight lose in my butt and hip area. Can you suggest how I can get the abs but not lose overall body weight from targeted areas. It is impossible to obtain flat abs, but not lose weight from certain areas?

Justin Leonard: Unfortunately, you cannot control where you lose the weight. Although the body does have its preferred areas to take weight from. These are generally the areas where fat is stored the most. It is true that if you've had a child in the past, it is extremely hard to achieve the midsection they way you may want it. The c-section "hang" is usually excess skin, not necessarily fat. I don't know enough about what happens to the abs as far as functionality once they are cut. I would assume that the linea alba portion of the rectus abdominis is cut. The linea alba basically serves as a divider for the left and right abdominal hemispheres. Don't quote me on this but it would seem to me that it wouldn't affect your ability to get a flat stomach. But the degree to which you want your abs to be flat is the question.

Incorrect Abs Info?

Question: Dear Mr. Leonard, I don't mean to be argumentative, but your starter ab routine goes against everything that I have ever learned. It says to do 100 repetitions of each exercise for your abs. Now this would be fine, but your rectus abdominis is still a muscle and should be trained no more than any other muscle. (When you work your biceps do you do 100+ repetitions of each exercise?) I was just curious, for educational reasons, is your ab routine proven?

Justin Leonard: Please tell me what article you referenced. None of articles I've written have ab workouts with specified sets or repetitions. Unfortunately, sometimes my work is stolen, modified, and posted on other websites which adds to the confusion. In a few of my ab training articles, I mention that abs can be trained as often as you would train any other muscle group. But this is in regard to the number of days per week or frequency of training. Opinions vary on the ideal amount of sets and reps for abs. Based on my own research, any ab routine will benefit someone somewhere. I will probably amend some of the articles to include direct references from the American College of Sports Medicine and the National Strength and Conditioning Association. These two organizations say that it's okay to train abs 5 to 6 days per week. Thank you again for emailing. I always want to ensure that the information on the site is accurate and I gladly welcome input from readers.

Uneven Abs

Question: My abs are weird. On my right side the abs are smaller and higher up than the abs on my left side. What's the deal?

Justin Leonard: Perfectly normal. No one has a set of perfectly symmetrical abs. Although some are more symmetrical than others. You cannot fix the imbalance. It is genetic. The good news is that for you to have discovered this imbalance, you'd have to be pretty lean.

Top 10 Unhealthy Foods

Question: What are the ten most unhealthy foods? Fattening foods?

Justin Leonard: In my opinion, there is no such thing as an unhealthy food. Of course there are foods that are more fattening than others and we know what they are. I see it like this: Foods are only unhealthy when they are consumed in excess or prepared a certain way (added fat/calories). For example, rice is considered a healthy food. But it is what sumo wrestlers eat in order to gain weight. So it has nothing to do with the type of food, but rather the quantity consumed. You should be able to eat any and everything in moderation. Of course fattening or high calorie foods should be eaten less. Here is a recent article that asks some of the top nutritionists in the country your same question:


Burn Calories With Sit-ups

Question: Hi. I am doing a nutritional analysis for a college assignment and I need to find out how many calories are burnt off when doing full sit-ups. Can you help me. I can't find anything on the internet. Than you.

Justin Leonard: It depends on how many sit-ups you're talking about, and for how long the movement is repeated. It also depends on the initial weight of the person performing the sit-ups. For example, a fat person will burn more calories doing the same amount of work than someone who is fit. But it's safe to assume that the average person will burn between 3 - 5 calories per minute doing sit-ups.

Supplements That Suppress Appetite

Question: What is the best supplement that suppresses appetite, won't cause heart palpitations, or cause/aggravate acne? Will the low sugar meal replacement drink suppress my appetite?

Justin Leonard: It's probably your best bet to cause this effect (curb appetite). Similarly, low sugar meal bars can also do the trick. The onset of hunger comes as a result of low blood sugar levels. What a meal replacement will do is help to keep your insulin (thus blood sugar) levels at a constant rate throughout the day. The consistency in the regulation of metabolism speed is key to not feeling hungry at different times of the day. Although feeling hungry at certain times of the day is a normal response in some cases. For example, if you get done performing a tough bout of work, your body's metabolic needs will naturally be higher both during and after you are done. So a low sugar shake or meal bar might be ideal either in the place of meals or in between meals. Meal replacements usually won't cause heart palpitations or acne unless they contain caffeine or another stimulant that mimics caffeine, or if you have any medical contraindications.

Visible Abs For All

Question: Hi, I just have one question about abs: is it possible for ANYONE to get visible abs? I train very hard and know I have great abs but unfortunately I can't see them because of fat. When I was younger, I was a little overweight. Because of this it seems my stomach well never go down, especially due to a bit of loose skin. However, I am thin now. I do a lot of very high impact cardio work and never consume excess calories, but I can't seem to shift the fat on my stomach - this is the only part of my body where I still have any. At one point, I was severely underweight, but it was still there. I wanted to know if there is anything I can do to shift it, or if I'm stuck with it, especially due to the loose skin? Any information would be greatly appreciated! Thanks so much!

Justin Leonard: I would have to say the answer to this question is yes. It is possible for just about anyone to get visible abs. But it may be uncomfortable or even unhealthy for some. For example, those who may have certain genetic predispositions such as thick skin or a slower metabolism probably wouldn't be able to sustain the nutritional and fitness demands needed for visible abs. Likewise, it could also be dangerous for some people to trim down to the point that the abs are visible. There are some exceptions to this, but women with unusually low bodyfat levels may be putting themselves at risks which could alter hormone levels, menstrual cycles, and even the ability to bear a child. As far as I'm concerned, as long as you are healthy, you are doing good. Aesthetics are okay as long as you don't jeopardize your health in the process.

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