13 Common Fitness Questions Answered

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For those of you who don’t me, what I stand for is quite simple.

Train hard, eat clean, be consistent, take responsibility for where you are in life, and don’t be afraid to fail.

It’s definitely a process that requires work on a daily basis.  Even I have to take it one step at a time or else I get overwhelmed and feel like everything is impossible.

Training can be hard work with all the squats, deadlifts, burpees, pull-ups, and sprints.  Combine that with trying to eat clean, get enough sleep, minimize stress, and you got yourself a full time job!


Naturally, people want to know how to get the best results in the shortest amount of time possible.

My goal as a fitness professional has always been to help people become the best they can be and with that comes many questions.

Here are answers to some of the most common fitness questions I’ve received over the years.

1. What is the best way to lose fat?

A.  Without getting into too much science, I’m going to try to keep this as simple and straightforward as possible.  If you want to lose fat, you need to get into and maintain a caloric deficit.  That means you need to burn more calories than you take in.  Whether you exercise or not, as long as you are in a caloric deficit you will lose weight (mostly fat).  Now, if you are in a deficit and you add in fat burning exercise like high intensity intervals, or even moderate intensity cardio with heavy weight training, you can accelerate the process.   Caloric deficit + exercise = fat loss.


Related Article: How to Burn Fat: The Definitive Guide.

2.  How many days per week do I need to workout?

A.  Well, that is a very open-ended question that depends on many things such as training goals and training age.  For novices, I recommend 2-3 days per week because their bodies need more time to recover and adapt to a new training program.  For intermediate and advanced trainees, I recommend 4-5 days per week with at least one full rest day to maximize recovery.  These training frequencies would apply to both the fat loss and muscle building crowd as well any type of competitive athlete.

3.  Is it better to do cardio or weights first?

A.  I generally recommend doing the bulk of your cardio at the end of your workouts whether it be low intensity or high intensity intervals as this will allow you to better tap into your fat stores.  Also, you won’t be as fatigued for your weight training if you do it at the end of your workout.  Having said that, I do also recommend 5-10 minutes of low to moderate intensity cardio at the beginning of your workouts to wake up the nervous system, increase core temperature, and prepare the body for the more intense work to come.

4.  Do I need to take supplements to reach my goals?

A.  Nutritional supplements are simply that – supplements.  They should be looked at as a way to “fill in the gaps” in your overall nutrition plan.  For example, if you can’t get enough protein throughout the day, then maybe a protein supplement would be a good idea to make up the difference.  The key is to not get caught up thinking that any given supplement will be responsible for transforming your body.  Make sure you have a clean, balanced diet made up of lean sources of protein, fruits and vegetables and healthy fats, then AND ONLY THEN should you be entertaining the idea of supplements.

5.  If I’m not sore, does that mean my workout wasn’t hard enough?

A.  The quality of your workout should never be measured by the amount of muscle soreness you experience.  Don’t get me wrong, soreness is definitely a part of the game but it doesn’t tell the whole story.  Mild to moderate soreness is normal but it shouldn’t be your goal to destroy yourself every time you step into the gym.  There is no doubt that certain exercises and rep schemes will do more damage than others but your focus should be on quality and that doesn’t always mean training at the highest intensity possible. Aim to be better not more sore.

6.  I know I need to exercise but I don’t know where to start, should I just start running?

A.  Well, running does beat sitting on the couch stuffing your face.  However, if you want to build a strong, lean, and conditioned body that looks as well as it performs,  then you need to incorporate some basic strength training into your training program.  If you don’t belong to a gym or don’t want to join one, you can include exercises like push-ups, sit-ups, squats, and lunges into your program to get some great full body workouts.


Related Article: Having Trouble Gaining Muscle? 19 Reasons Why You Can’t Get Jacked!

7.  What’s the best training split to build muscle?

A.  I don’t think there is a definitive answer to this question.  If you asked 10 different bodybuilders and powerlifters, you’d get 10 different answers.  The key to building muscle is using primarily compound exercises like presses, rows, squats, deadlifts and pull-ups as they will boost testosterone the most.  Although not the be all end all, here’s a basic 4 day split:

  • Day 1 heavy upper body
  • Day 2 heavy lower body
  • Day 3 rest
  • Day 4 dynamic upper body and conditioning
  • Day 5 dynamic lower body and conditioning

The options are endless, the key is to stay consistent, mix up your sets, reps and grips from time to time and progressively increase your weight.

Related Article: Words of Wisdom: 41 Training Rules to Live By…

8.  I want to try Crossfit, but I’m worried I’m going to lose my size and strength, should I even bother?

A.  It’s funny how people think that Crossfit is just a bunch of “cardio.”  The truth is, you can pack on quite a bit of muscle and get pretty strong doing Crossfit.  As someone who’s always carried a lot of muscle,  I’ve found Crossfit to help me maintain my muscle while building my conditioning.  Now, if you’re a professional bodybuilder or powerlifter or someone who’s performance is highly dependent on how big and strong you are, then Crossfit might not be your best option. But if you’re looking to switch things up and become more athletic and well-rounded in the gym then it’s definitely something worth looking into. I would recommend starting slow and learning the fundamentals before you crank up the intensity.  Keep an open mind, you’d be surprised what kind of results you can achieve when you do.


9.  If I do cardio, will that ruin my muscle gains?

A.  Too much cardio can have a negative effect on strength and muscle gains but the right amount can help with shedding excess fat and speeding up your recovery.  10-20 minutes of moderate intensity cardio post-workout 2-3 times a week will be enough to speed up your metabolism and flush out toxins but not enough to break down hard earned muscle.  You can also incorporate 10-20 minutes of interval training a couple times a week to crank up your conditioning and preserve muscle mass.

10.  How long should I workout for?

A. If you’re efficient with your time in the gym, your workouts should take no more than 45-60 minutes.  Minimize rest periods, focus on one main lift, some accessory work, and a short bout of conditioning.  Anything longer is most likely diminishing returns as quality will start to decline due to fatigue.

11.  What’s more important, diet or working out?

A.  This is kind of a chicken and egg type of question.  You need to think of diet and exercise with “the whole is greater than the sum of its’ parts” mentality.  Both are important but the effects of each are enhanced when they are combined.  Just do both and you won’t have to worry about it.


12.  What should I eat after a workout?

A. Over the years, there’s been a lot of emphasis on the importance of the post-workout meal in order to get the recovery process started as soon as possible.  This is because the body can absorb more nutrients such as carbs and protein after intense exercise.  Although this is important, I’ve found that the urgency to eat or drink a post workout shake immediately after training isn’t that necessary.  As long as you get adequate nutrients in you at some point after the workout, you’ll be good to go.  As far as what you should eat, you want to try and consume at least 20-30 grams of protein and 30-50 grams of carbs sometime after your training.  This can come in the form of a supplement or whole food.  The fact that you are getting quality nutrition after a workout is more important than how soon you get it after your workout.


13. I stretch but I still get sore, how come?

A.  Studies have shown that stretching does not do a whole lot to reduce the risk of injury or muscle soreness.  Stretching simply enhances elasticity and blood flow to the muscles but it’s effects are temporary at best.  As far as muscle soreness goes, that is primarily due to microtears in the muscle fiber from intense training.  Stretching cannot heal those tears but can help to alleviate stiffness.  A better option would be light aerobic activity like walking or riding an exercise bike to help increase blood flow, flush out toxins, and accelerate muscle repair. Like I mentioned earlier, sometimes muscle soreness is inevitable and all you can do is manage it until the muscle fibers have repaired.

I’m sure you guys have other questions that weren’t answered here.  I’d love to hear from you, so drop a comment with any training or nutrition questions you might have.

Stay strong,

Isaac Payne



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