Fitness Q&A

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Sarah answers your fitness and nutrition questions

Beginning a Fitness Program
Beginning Runner

I have just started to run at the age of 37. I have been doing this for about 3 weeks or so. I worked my way up to 2 miles and then I went to 3.4 the next day. Since then my knees are aching. I took a day off but that did not seem to help. I don't want to stop running! Any suggestions? Thanks! 
First of all, it is awesome that you have taken up regular exercise! Good for you! How many days a week are you running? Are you running on a track, street, grass?  I feel it would be best to gradually increase your mileage. Increase your mileage by no more than 10% each other words, if you are used to running 2 miles 4x/week, try stepping it up to 8.8-9 miles 
total for the next week. From what I have learned about setting up a running program, many runners like to utilize different running workouts during a given week. This prevents boredom and overtraining, by adding variety to what can be a monotonous activity! There are interval training, long and easy distance runs, and other running workouts that may benefit you. Just make sure that you have properly warmed up before you try a new workout! For more info, you might try or other running-specific sites. 
When I do my morning runs, I typically jog easy for 10 minutes, stretch, jog another 10 minutes, throw in a ton of lunges, and then jog another 15 minutes home. Make sure you are getting enough oxygen, and find a steady comfortable pace to work at. Glad you're here! Welcome! 
Yours in Health, 
Sarah E. Rippel 

Weight Lifting
Q:  I'm very interested in getting started in bodybuilding. I'm familiar with all the exercises and machines, but how much weight do I lift? Do I go by the pyramid; lift the heaviest weight possible for 12 reps, then lower weight and do 10, then lower weight again and do 8 reps? What is the best way to do this? I'm a 33 year old female and I have a lot of fat and weight to lose (29% fat and 139 lbs., 5'2), so I'm working out 45 minutes before breakfast 5-6 days a week and lifting weights Monday, Wednesday and Friday. 
A:  There are different methods! What has worked best for me in my efforts to gain lean bodyweight is a warmup set, generally of 15 reps, then taking it heavier from there, adding weight with each successive set. 3-4 work sets. My reps have always stayed in the 8-15 range. Right now my goals are different, so the reps are higher, but for building, stick with 8-12, going to a point of temporary muscle failure. You gotta make those muscles work! :) Keep the cardio up, 2 thumbs up to you for doing it pre-breakfast! That is the best for fat-burning! Back to the weights, for building, focus primarily on the basic lifts, which will produce the best results in terms of strength and size gains. Good luck and keep in touch! 

Q:  Hi - I'm a beginner. I'm approx. 64 kg and 165 cm tall. My aim is to tone down - and I was wondering if you could give me a few hints. I live on campus at a university, and there's a fairly decent gym available here.  I'm also pretty down on energy being anemic, but I'm determined not to let this stop me. Thanks. 
A:  Helen- What are you currently doing as far as your exercise program goes? Let us know! :) Yours in Health, Sarah 
Q:  Sarah, I've been spending 10 minutes on a treadmill to warm up, then doing 30 reps on whatever equipment I can use (the rugby league boys use the equipment and sometimes I can't lift the weights off because they're too heavy!), 30 lunges and about 50 crunches. I've been trying to do this every morning except when I have early lectures (Thursdays and Fridays). As you can tell I really don't know what I should be doing, and any advice would be greatly appreciated. I'm at the Gatton campus of The University of 
Queensland in Australia, and there are no gyms in the surrounding towns that aren't 45 km away, and no instructors here at university.
A:  Helen- Are you able to adjust the equipment so that the weights are lighter? I feel that it would be better for you to stick to sets of 10-15 reps with moderate weight, and not performing the same exercises 2 days in a row! Get 3 sets of each exercise. Try grouping the upper body exercises together, and doing the same for legs, then hitting each routine 2x/week, alternating them. On upper body days, make sure that you work chest and back first, before you hit shoulders and arms. The larger muscle groups should be prioritized in your routine, as they involved the smaller groups also. 30 reps on upper body all the time is most definitely too much! :) I'm glad you explained! If you can explain the specific exercises for upper body that you are currently doing, that would help me out! For now, I have to get going! Yours in Health, Sarah


Q: I am 53 kgs(about 118 pounds), 24 years old female, with body fat percentage of 18%. How many calories should I have? I am already in the 5 meal break up during the day. I take Whey after my excercises. I am on the low carb diet but keep the carb level higher than protein level. And currently am consuming 800 calories per day. I do cardio (45 mins)4 times a week (Twice low intensity cycling after weight training in the evening and Twice low intensity jogging on weekends in the morning), weight training thrice a week...I do Low intensity cardio because I dont want to loose my muscles.  And for meal replacements with my office schedule I manage I meal replacement Bar which tastes horribly sweet. I have decided to munch some roasted chick peas instead...what do you think? Do you have any tips for healthy convenient snacking?!  And what about Caffeine. I love Espresso after meals. Is it bad for the programme?

A:  My biggest concern with what you have mentioned is that you MUST eat more than 800 calories a day! 1200 AT LEAST is what I would recommend, and with working out and focusing on maintaining muscle, 1500 calories would be ideal. The body will tell itself that it's starving, and in the long run, you are risking muscle loss! Increasing your calories will only help you feel more energized, and you'll see better results from your work in the gym!  What are your fitness goals?
So...your homework is... :)
*continue the 5 meals a day, but focus on increasing calories overall, perhaps by making the 3 "main" meals slightly higher in calories, with the other 2 being snacks of 200 calories or so.
As far as snacks go - I snack on chicken, tuna, occasionally beef jerky (high sodium), protein bars (low sugar), nuts, etc.

Q:  Thank you for your advice.  Sarah as you asked my fitness goal is to loose my body fat. This is my only goal for the moment.  I will start consuming 1200 calories per day. I also would like to mention here that my weight training is medium and not strong. As I mentioned I do cardio (45 mins)4 times a week (Twice low intensity cycling after weight training in the evening and Twice low intensity jogging on weekends in the morning), weight training thrice a week. I know resting is important as well. So I keep 2 days as my rest days where I dont do any excercises. Do I have your consent on this???
Thank you for being such a big support.

A:  You're very welcome! A well- rounded exercise program includes rest days! You are wise to take this into consideration. GOOD! :) Two thumbs up for you!
Nutrition-wise, make sure you are getting enough fiber in your diet, through veggies preferably. 20-25 grams a day is optimal, but if you aren't at this level, work up to it, to avoid stomach problems! With your goal of losing bodyfat, have it tested every 4-6 weeks, as it's not going to change dramatically week to week. Also, try not to weigh yourself every day. You can tell more progress by how your clothes fit and what you see in the mirror!


"Clicking" Joints

Q:  Hi,
I experience "clicking" joints. Sometimes, for no reason at all my elbow joints or my knees click when I stretch them out. Does this imply anything? If so, what could I be doing to trigger them? I have had these clicks since I was a kid.. I figured I'm not very active and this may account for it.

A:   John-
Most of the people I have trained have some form of "noisy joints". Usually the popping is due to the tendons and cartilage as the joint is moved. As long as the popping isn't accompanied by pain, you are fine. I believe the condition of "joint noises" is referred to as crepitous. Often times it accompanies arthritis. If you aren't hurting, I don't think it's anything to worry about, but remember i'm not a doctor! :)
Yours in Health,
Sarah E. Rippel


Indications of a Sped-Up Metabolism?

Q:   Hello,  Is there any indication when a slower metabolism fastens? From 800 calories I have gone up tp 1200 calories and need a lot of assurance and have a lot of questions! Accorning to your Body Fat % I am in the athletic level with Body Fat YMCA showing as 14.5% and another showing 20%. My BMI is 20%.  From 3 meals I have improved to 5 meals perday.  Coming back to the same question. How will I get to know when the metablosm rate changes? Fitness goal is reducing the bodyfat%. And, must mention here that I like the way Sarah answers questions, in a very reassuring, understaning way. Keep it up!  Thank you!  Serena   

A:   Serena-   Thank you bunches! :) I'm glad that i've offered help and reassurance! I make a point to be as understanding and empathetic as I can with my clients, that's the best way to get results! No one should be put down or made to feel ignorant. Fitness can be enjoyed by everyone, and you must ask questions in order to gain more knowledge! When I first started working out, I asked so many questions it was unreal! As they say, knowledge is power!   Don't stress about your metabolism. Right now, due to the increase in calories, it will probably "freak out" and you may notice that you shed some bodyfat simply because your body doesn't know what to do with the calories. To give you an example, when I competed in my first fitness show, I overdieted, and then after it was over, I didn't go nuts eating everything, but I allowed myself to eat more. I got even leaner after the competition was over with, in that next week, because I was taking in foods that my body hadn't had in a while! Shocking the body is a good thing!   Yours in Health,  Sarah

Ripped Abs
Hi, I have an unusual question about abs. When I was a teenager, I was 100 pounds 5'6, which means I was very skinny with hardly any body fat, but I didn't have any definition in my abs at all. I was just flat waisted, no lines. I did a lot of situps and was very active. Now I have 40+ pounds to lose after kids and was wondering if I have a chance of getting lines if I work on abs and cardio to lose weight? If I get my body fat percentage down, can I have a "ripped" look even though I didn't when I was really thin and active? Any suggestions on how to get ripped or if it is possible for me? Your thoughts would be appreciated. 
There is a good chance that you will see your abs if you get your bodyfat percentage down. Keep in mind, however, that genetics plays a big role in things. You might see that some women have washboard abs, but bulkier legs and hips. Women tend to store the majority of their bodyfat in the lower region. When you 
lose bodyfat, it might happen so that you see the loss more visibly in a certain region, but bodyfat doesn't just melt off in one spot. Abs are like any other muscle group, and need to be trained for them to develop. As a teenager you might not have reached that development yet. I think that if you are doing what is 
necessary to lower your bodyfat, there is a good chance you will see more definition in your abs! 

Ab frequency
Hello, I was curious as to how often abs should be trained with resistance ? Some of the trainers in my gym tell me the abs are some kind of fast twiched fiber muscle and therefore can tolerate being worked every day. Then there are the others that say the abs are like any other muscle train em hard and give em a break. Can any of you finaly dispel what is truth and what is fiction. Thank you, Tom 
This is probably one of the hottest disputes among personal trainers and fitness enthusiasts. I am of the belief that abs are just like the other muscle groups, and need to rest between workouts. If you are training them everyday, you risk the chance of overtraining, which can lead to a lack of progress. Keep in mind thatlosing bodyfat is the key to a killer midsection! If you are using resistance while training abs, also keep in mind that there might be the potential to build up a blocky waist through training obliques with weights.  Research clearly has shown that all the sit ups in the world will not reduce the fat covering the mid-section, nor will high repetition sit-ups improve abdominal strength. Cardio and diet are the keys to have the abs showing. 
Keep training hard! Sarah

I am 22 yrs 5'5 and weigh 122lbs. MY GOAL IS TO HAVE GREAT ABS AND LEGS . just mainly toned everywhere not so much body building. i run 2miles a day 5 times a week and do ab exercises 3-4 times a week. i just started this 3 weeks ago. i eat 3 good meals a day and some snacks (oranges, granola bars in between). what would you recommend for me to meet the goal i am aiming for. summer time is just around the corner. 

(Sarah's Question)
Are you performing any leg and arm exercises currently? 

no currently im not performing any leg or arm exercises. i would like to perform arm and leg exercises, just kind of unsure on how many reps or how heavy on weight. i would like to have my upper legs a little bigger. my calves i would like to show, and my arms just very toned and defined not to heavy. what would you recommend and how long would it take me to see a difference if i keep up with what ive been doing (running and abs) along with what you suggest. 
thanks, your input is very appreciated 

A: (Sarah's response)
My suggestion would be to begin with an upper body/lower body split routine. I know you are wanting to focus on the arm muscles, but it is also important to work on strengthening the chest, back, and shoulders! The biceps and triceps are also used when performing exercises for these muscle groups. Try starting with 2 sets on each exercise, 10-12 repetitions, using a moderate weight. With a little time, 
you'll be able to determine if the weight is enough. 
In the beginning, the most important thing is learning the proper form on each exercise! I cannot stress this enough (and you can ask any of my clients about just how picky I can be)! :) 
If you choose to perform an upper body workout, choose 2 exercises for chest, such as the chest press machine and dumbbell flyes; 2 for back, such as pulldowns and rows; 1 for shoulders, such as overhead presses; 1-2 for tris, such as pressdowns and kickbacks; and 1 for biceps, such as cable curls or dumbbell curls. As you progress, you can get more specific and add exercises. Stick with 2 sets for the first 2 weeks, then move up to 3 sets. 
If you are wanting to add a little muscle, you will need to use enough weight on the exercises so that your muscles fatigue temporarily, generally around 10-12 reps, and perform a warmup set, then 3 work sets, adding weight on each if necessary. Toning is, in a sense, muscle-building, but to a lesser degree. Don't be afraid to lift weights! :) For the thighs, I feel that squats and lunges are the best exercises, simply because they work several muscle groups at one time, and they are convenient to perform anywhere. You can add weight to both exercises, once you have the form down! On squats, start with the bar (45 lbs), and for lunges, start with your bodyweight, then use dumbbells to make them harder. Again, 2 sets in the beginning, 10-12 reps. Calves are fairly resistant to being worked, so you really must shock the muscles through adequate resistance and reps! My favorite calf exercises are the standing calf raise machine and donkey calf raises (we have a machine for these, so you don't have to do 'em the old fashioned way)! Give it about 1 month to see changes. You will notice changes almost immediately in the areas of coordination and energy improvements, just as you probably have with running and ab work. Strength gains will improve noticeably also! 
OK, now that i've written a novel... hope this is of some help to you, and that you give it a try! Again, don't be afraid to lift weights! I promise you will not become bulky and overly-muscled! :) Sarah

Lower Abs 

I am 30, female and I weigh 136 lbs. I am 5-2, I wear a size 9. I have had 3 C-sections. The Last one 4 years ago. I do a full body workout every other day combo of free weights and some machines fallowed by 20-30 min of cardio, treadmill or stairstepper, bike whatever. On the days I do not weight train, I do 45-60 min of cardio, either cycle class or elliptical machine, and an abs class. I feel great, and am happy with my results, except for my lower abs. From my pubic line up to about my belly button, is hanging flab, very soft, like jello. I look like a lot of the women pictured on the before shots of the Tummy Tuck pictures. I want to look like the after shots, but with out surgery. I read that it is possible that my muscles could have unattached during pregancies. And that diet and excercise will not correct this. I am hoping that this is a "ploy" by the plastic surgons to get patients. Is this loose skin, or just fat that I have not lost yet? 
Let me ask you a few questions... Since you've been working out, how much weight have you lost? How many inches from your waist? Have you noticed a reduction in the abdominal areaa? I am asking because it sounds like you are following a good plan to lose bodyfat, and it does take a little time to see the results 
you want to see! How long have you been following this routine? 
I have several clients who have had C-sections, and have gotten good results from a consistent workout plan and healthy diet. Although the abdominal muscle has been cut during the procedure, there is no reason why it cannot improve in tone and appearance. Women tend to store bodyfat in the lower part of the body, therefore, this can be a challenge when it comes to seeing a flatter stomach. Do not be discouraged! Unless you have experienced a rapid weight gain/loss, there should not be an excess of loose skin. 
Yours in Health, Sarah E. Rippel 
Sarah The extra skin (fat) has been there since the babies. first one in 92, second one in 94 and third in 95. My highest weight was with the 1st weighing in at a whopping 193! (I was 130 pre preg)I lost all the weight, but not the fat tummy. With the second and third I did not gain near as much, only 22 and then 17 (not loosing all the weight between the two)I have been working out religiously since Nov. Turned 30. I was weighing 160 before I started working out. I don't know my inch lost, but was wearing a size 14 jeans and now wear a 9. I was a swimmer in high school and always kept in shape. Until I had kids....I don't know if my additional info helps. I just feel like the more I loose, the more the skin just sags, Am I just being impatient? 
Goodness! Sounds like you've got your hands full! I don't see how you mom's do it, and I have great respect for all the mom's of the world! Sounds like you have made some very good progress in the past 9 months! 
It's easy to be impatient, especially when you have seen progress and want to continue to see it happen. Don't give up - you are on the right track! Sometimes it seems that the last place that the weight comes off, is the place you most want to see it come off from (does that make sense?) 
How do you feel about your daily diet? How many calories are you eating each day (average)? How many meals? Nutrition plays a BIG part in the fat-loss battle! I recommend 5-6 small meals spread throughout the day, 3-4 hours apart. Focus on "clean" foods (ie: un- processed carbs, lean protein, veggies, fruits, lowfat dairy), and make sure that you are drinking 6-8 8 oz glasses of water each day. It's alright to feel a little impatient...that just shows that you want to see more success! Get back to me when you can, in regards to your diet, let's see if we can get those "abs of steel"! 

Yours in Health, Sarah 
E. Rippel 

Sarah, I am not very good at eating more than 3 meals a day. What I do eat is pretty good for the most part. I try to get fish (grilled) three times a week, and chicken the rest with the exception of red meat usually
once. My water intake is usually around 4 glasses, but I have cut the diet cokes back to 1 a day. My dairy is usually cheese on broccoli or sliced with apple but not too often. I am not a milk drinker, so thats not a big deal. I don't eat chips or sweets very often, just the occasional nilla waffer. I am famous for just having the crusts of my children's sandwiches for lunch, but that has gotten better now that 2 of them are in school. Fast food in minimal. I find it hard to eat more than 3 times when I am not hungry. Should I reduce my portions, so that I do want to eat that many times? 

I must emphasize the importance of the "mini meal" strategy! Eating smaller meals throughout the day is a metabolism-booster, as your body must rev itself up to digest each meal. You will notice a decrease in sluggishness, as you feel energized all day long, due to the constant fuel your body is given. Your blood 
sugar levels will not suffer the ups and downs associated with waiting too long in-between meals. You see, the longer your body has to wait before it recieves fuel, the more it begins to turn to "starvation mode", 
therefore increasing the chances of storing bodyfat! 
Yes, I suggest that you give it a try! What have you got to lose? 
Try this for an example of a basic daily plan: 
Meal #1: 1/2 c(dry) oatmeal, piece of fruit, nonfat yogurt Meal #2: lowfat turkey slices and rye crackers 
Meal #3: grilled chicken, 1/2 baked potato, brown rice, st
eamed veggies 
Meal #4: piece of fruit, lowfat cheese 
Meal #5: grilled fish, salad with lite dressing, 1/2 sweet potato 
Meal #6: piece of fruit or lowfat frozen yogurt 
Also notice that I promote a diet that is higher in fiber. A diet lacking in fiber works against you if you're 
trying to shed bodyfat! Fiber helps you feel full from a meal, it helps maintain blood sugar levels, and high-fiber foods provide lasting energy. The recommended daily intake of fiber is 24 grams/day. I suggest that you begin at a level lower than this, and gradually increase your fiber intake to meet the requirements! I promise you will notice a difference! Keep drinking the water and knocking out those soft drinks. I was once a diet coke addict! I now drink a gallon of water a day, and have limited my intake of diet drinks to 1-2 cans/day. 

Yours in Health, Sarah 
E. Rippel 

What to eat...

Question about when to eat after workout

Q: Hello all! I have a question about eating. Ok, I just got my free weights today and am going to start working out in the morning for aerobics and weight training. I was wondering when I should eat. I am on the Atkins diet which means that I would have high protein for breakfast coupled with low carbs. Should I eat after or before the workout? Or is there a certain length of time after the workout that I should wait if I exercise on an empty stomach. I need to burn off 40 pounds of fat, so I just need help with this question.

A: If you are just doing aerobics first thing in the morning, don't eat before you train. After you are finished with your workout, wait at least 30 minutes before you eat your first meal. Now, if you're doing weight training in the morning, it would be more productive for you to eat something first, to give you energy!  

When and what to eat

Q:  Hello to the GREAT team!   Sarah, Joe and the team have helped me a lot with my knowledge about fatloss, muscle gain etc. To remind you I am 24 years of age, female , with 18% body fat and 119 pounds.  Now I would like to ask you:  -Can I have my 20gm of Whey with Cottage Cheese, slice of bread and fruits in the morning as breakfast? This is because I would like to keep the veggies and other protein food for the evening.  -Best sources of fiber and protein containing foods are Almonds,ChickPeas,Peas....(am i right?!!) Can you suggest some others?  -Also wanted to tell you that it has been a week only since I started taking whey and I am beginning to cut in the upper abs but the lower way...a long way to go!..I will be patient.  - I had been taking 800 calories per day, do you think that was the reason for a slow metabolism? Now I have increased it to 1100-1200.   And... I would be registering with you after this mail !!  Thank you all!  Have a nice weekend.  Serena     

  Q:  Hi to the Team,   I would like to add to the above mail here,  I was taking lesser calories and 3 meals and not burning fat inspite of excercising.  Will the 5 meal break up and increase in my calories from 800 to 1200 help me to burn fat? The current diet break up is more or less 38-34-25 with less of Saturated fat, the Carb sources maily being veggies, fruits and nuts and Protein from Chicken, Tofu, Tuna.   Thank you   Serena     

A:  Serena-   The breakfast idea sounds fine, just as long as it "agrees" with your stomach. Some people have a hard time digesting fruit and protein together.   Yes, the increase in calories with the 5 meals a day will help you to burn bodyfat. The more often you eat, your body has to rev up to digest the food, thus promoting fat burning and stoking the metabolism. The mini-meals make it easier to lose bodyfat because there isn't much to process at one time. It would be different if you were to eat huge meals 3 times a day.   Most people seem to skip breakfast, eat a fast food lunch, and then a HUGE dinner. This is the worst for your metabolism and won't work if your goal is to lose fat!   I was once told to "eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a queen, and dinner like a pauper", meaning, as the day progresses, your meals should be less calorie-dense. It's easy to do this with the 5 meals-a-day plan, because your hunger is controlled.   Again, keep it up and keep us updated!  Sarah       

Q:  hello all,  i would like to ask here how is cereal for breakfast?? i take bowl of cereal which is a mixture of cornflakes, all bran and muesli with 1 cup skimmed milk.   is it a 'no-no' carbohydrate??   thank you  

A:  Brooke-   In my opinion, there aren't any "no-no" carbs, as long as you eat a healthy diet and practice moderation. You can eat the things you like, as long as you don't go overboard. Restricting foods may lead you to crave them even more. The cereal you are having for breakfast provides complex carbs and some fiber, giving you energy and helping you feel satisfied longer. Do you feel that your energy levels are positively affected?  

Hello Sarah,   I think yes, I do feel better with the cereal in the morning. First of all I can last longer without and energy levels are definitely better than before.   Thank you

Personal Trainer

How to get certified

Q:   My favorite instructor has left my gym. He taught kickboxing and was a great motivator, very upbeat, great personality. I've seen a lot of great trainers come and go in my gym (I hear this is par for the fitness industry?) Anyway, twice I was mistaken for a trainer, and decided I'd like to try to become a kickboxing instructor. I have NO IDEA where to start, what certifications I need. Eventually, I'd love to become a trainer.  Can you point me in the direction I need to start?  Also, what are the highs and lows of working in the fitness biz?  Thanks guys/girls...I have to say, this is the first place I turn when I have a question. The trainers who have stayed at the gym are the ones who always give wrong advice..My husband just joined the gym and was set up with a weight routine and he was never told he should warm up/cool down and rest his body the next day after lifting...I was pretty disturbed by that! 

A:   Congrats on getting into a fun and rewarding career! I most definately can say that being a fitness professional is the best! It hasn't always been easy, but if you persist and believe in yourself, you will make it big. There are many trainers out there who aren't qualified, and it is very scary. There needs to be a regulation for this, similar to that which is demanded of nurses, massage therapists, etc.  To get started, I suggest that you get info from organizations such as ACE, ACSM, and AFAA for personal training and aerobics certifications. IDEA is another organization i'm affiliated with, and they provide ongoing education and work- shops for fitness pros. Their World Fitness conference, held in the summer, is awesome! I highly recommend it!  As in any business, there are the good and bad points, but from what i've read and can attest to, personal trainers have one of the highest job satisfaction ratings! Something to think about! I hardly consider my job a job... it's almost enough to make me feel guilty! I enjoy working with people and helping them get healthier! Sounds like you're a great candidate! Keep us updated on what you find out and if you need more assistance, email me!  Yours in Health,  Sarah E. Rippel 


I need Dietary help

  Q:   Hi, I'm a 32 year old mom of 4. I just joined the local ymca gym, and am starting to work out on a more regular basis, but I am having major problems nailing down a diet to help me to go from 260 lbs. to 175-185ish. Eventually I want to look a little more like WWF's Chyna as we have simmalar body frames (well, maybe not so chisled) I am willing to work as hard as necessary to achieve this goal. Problem # 1 limited budget, # 2 lack of dietary knowledge I have no clue as to what I should eat when, I kinda got a clue as to how many calories to stick to ( 2000 or so ) but that is just about it. Any sugestions?     

Sarah's Answer:

My 2 thumbs up also for improving your health and setting some goals!  Could you give us more info on how you're currently eating? That would help!   Yours in Health,  Sarah 


OK, I'll try to give you all a clue as to what I have been eating, or what I've tried to stick to for a eating plan.  I try to stick with in 2000 calories, usually, something like this:  Breakfast-2 shredded wheat bisquets, 8 or so ounces of milk,  Snack-1 package of cytoplex meal replacement drink with water  Lunch-3 hard boiled eggs 1 small apple ( both chopped up )and about a tablespoon or 2 of low fat low cal salad dressing all mixed together with a generous helping of mixed salad.  Snack-another cytoplex drink  Dinner-2 ounces of baked bar-b-que pork steak, salad (large bowl) 1/3cup of pataos augraten.   that is what I used for experiment this week, I didn't feel the need or urge to over eat so much. But I am concerned that I may be leaving something out, or taking in too much something else. And I was hoping someone might be able to help me out as to what would be appropriate for me to follow, I spend 45 min a day in the gym Monday - Friday on the treadmill, or in an aerobics class, and another hour or so hitting the machines and free weights. I am seeing some results I've gone from 275 to 259 (as per this morning :0D ) and I had shrunk a size well almost 2 sizes but have spent most of this time not dedicated to any particular eating program, knowing this is not healthy, I came here seeking help.  I'm drinking 5-6 1 litre bottles of water each day too.      

  Q:   Sarah  Hi -you are giving me great advice on my weight lifting but I have concerns about my nutrition? My workout schedule is Mon and Thur Firm tapes, Tae bo Advanced Basic 8 min Tue and Sat, Total body workout with weights Fri and Sun. I'm really tired alot of the time. I eat balance bar around 9 a.m. Tuna and bagel and fruit at lunch. around 3 p.m. have bran muffin and hard bo   il eggs(some kind of protein) and around 6^ p.m.I have a salade with salmon or chicken breast and always have fat free milk with dinner. I drink 6 glasses of water a day. I do have a 12 year old son and a 5 year old son both play sports also I work Mon-wed 7a.m.-5p.m. and Thur 7a.m.-1p.m.My husband said I should Not get up so early and workout every morning and sleep in. I can't give up I see such improvments, What can I do not to feel so tired?I do get more sleep on my days off and I feel great, any Ideas on my eating habits? Thanks       

Sarah's Answer:   Hi there!  From looking at your typical daily intake, my best suggestion is that you might make your first meal more substantial. A bar may be more convenient and quick to eat, but a bowl of oatmeal with egg whites or protein powder, and a little banana might provide better energy and stay with you longer through the morning.  When it comes to diet, your best bet is to stay with the unprocessed foods - grains, lean protein, veggies, fruit (in moderation).  When are you getting up to workout? Do you feel energized afterwards? Could you sneak in a nap on thursdays (30 minute "power nap")?   I am thrilled to know you are sticking with it and enjoying your workouts!   If you are interested, I would be more than happy to provide training/nutrition assistance via email. Email me if you are interested!   Yours in Health,  Sarah 

Response:   Thanks for getting back to me yes I will try to eat a bigger 1 st meal of the day makes more sense. I also want to build more muscle I do total body weights Fri and Sun leg extensions 35 pounds 20 reps 3 times. Shoulders presses 15 pounds each arm 10 reps 3 times, stationary lunges 15 pounds each hand 15 reps each leg 3 times chest presses 15 pounds each arm 20 reps 3 times, squats 15 pounds each arm 20 reps 3 times, shrugs 15 pounds 18 reps 3 times, pleay squats 20 pounds 20 reps 3 times, lat pull downs 35 punds 20 reps 2 times.I have been doing this since March I have seen more definitio but I want More mucle I am still very lean 5'7 118 pounds. I eat healthy drink lots of water, what else can I do ? what do they mean when they say break down the muscle? How much weight do I need to increase ? please help Thanks CCR.    

Response:   I am now eating a small breakfast in the morning and feeling less tired. Can you please respond to June 23 ?'s I want to build more muscle all over what can I do ? Thanks CCR.           

Sarah's Answer:   To build more muscle all over, you will have to switch to a bodybuilder-type training program. Most often, this type of routine focuses on training one bodypart a day. This is where working out in a gym may be the best option, because of the variety of equipment available.  To answer your question, "breaking down the muscle" is referring to what happens when you strength-train. Hypertrophy, or muscle growth, is the result of a chain of events. Muscles don't grow in the gym - they grow when provided adequate nutrition and recuperation. A muscle that has been challenged will have produced small tears in the tissue, and this is where proper diet and rest come into play, to rebuild the tissue. The entire body is in a constant state of rebuilding, if you think about it...we shed millions of skin cells every day!  So...if you are training intensely without adequate nutrition, you'll end up overtrained, seeing a lack of, or even a regression in, progress!    

Breakfast question

Q:   I am trying to eat better these days and part of this new eating healthy meals every 2.5-3 hours includes having a bowl of rolled oats and a protein shake mixed with water each morning. (this is replacing for example a bowl of rasion bran mixed with my protein shake.)  Problem is the taste of the oatmeal is horrid :) I have tried mixing in a Banana which does help to make the taste tolerable. But is there a problem wuth this in mixing the banana into the cerial. Someone mentioned something about mixing a high glycemic food (banana) into a low glycemic food (rolled oats) Now this is all too much for me to comprehend so maybe someone can let me know what is correct and what is not. 

Sarah's Response:   I agree, plain oatmeal is terrible! I usually add 2 packets of Splenda, some vanilla extract, and a few almond slivers. It tastes a lot better this way. If you mix in your protein powder, it might be easier to nuke the oatmeal first, adding a little less water than is needed, mix the protein with just a little water (to make a "sludge"), and then mix them both together.   Yes, bananas are high-glycemic. This means that they elicit a strong increase in blood sugar levels. I feel it is not wise to eat high-glycemic foods by themselves, so you are on the right track when combining the banana with oatmeal (which has a lower glycemic effect). This gives you a combination of both simple and complex carbs, for immediate and sustained energy, respectfully.   Two big thumbs up to you for eating the most important meal of the day - BREAKFAST!!! :) Keep it up!  Yours in Health,  Sarah 

General Workout Advice

Interval Workout

The question I have is that I have recently started the 4day/Week routine this way : 6mins Step Master (planning to make it to 12 mins) 20 mins Weights 12 mins Step Master 20 mins Weights 12 mins Step Master What do you think of this?? What are the chances of any kind of losses??!!!....On muscles?? Well my goal is Fat loss!! Diet is going just fine!! Infact I will add a question on that in your Nutrition Forum!! Thanks a Ton!! Have a nice weekend!! Brooke 
Brooke- Looks like you're doing some interval training! That's a good thing - intervals will give you an intense workout and if you keep moving, your heart rate can stay up, so you're burning more calories than regular weight training. Plus, intervals break the monotony of plain cardio or weight training. How are you splitting up your weight training? Is is upper body on one day, legs the next? Just make sure you're not doing the same thing every day you train. Yours in Health, Sarah E. Rippel 

Split Work Out Sessions
Is it "just as good" to do cardio sessions in two 10 minute workouts, as it is to do it in one 20 minute workout? 

A:  Cathy- You will most likely see better results from a longer cardio session. The cardiovascular benefit will be greater from the longer session, but it has been found that there is benefit from shorter, more frequent sessions as well. It all comes down to how much time you have for a workout. If you have 2-3 10 minute breaks during the day, where you can fit in a short workout, by all means go for it! A short workout is better than none at all. Yours in Health, Sarah E. Rippel 

Does using a treadmill on an incline work different leg muscles than if you use it flat (or does it just increase the intensity)? I read that walking on an incline will work the upper leg/thigh/hip muscles more. 
Tif- Not only does a change of incline hit muscles differently, but walking on a treadmill vs. walking outside works the legs differently! When you use a treadmill, you must shorten your stride because the belt is moving underneath you, whereas when you walk outside on stable ground. I feel that it is important to do both forms of walking, if possible, if you aren't able to have access to walking outside most of the time. Walking is a natural movement, and it will feel most comfortable when done without a treadmill. In addition to this, increasing a treadmill's incline will shift the emphasis to the glutes and calves. You must also use the hip flexors a little more. Yours in Health, Sarah E. Rippel 

Toning Arms
Hi my name is Melissa, 
Height: 5'5" 
Weight: 155 lbs. 
Age: 24 
I've just recently started an exercize regime that includes: tae won do(1hr.,4days per week) Swimming(20 min., 2days per week)  I've lost roughly 15 pounds, and I feel great. I'm extremely motivated to increase my endurance and especialy body tone. My arms(triceps), and inner thighs are my main focus, since they seem to be the areas that I store the most fat and hardest area to lose. But i've noticed that my arms and legs are increasing in muscle mass, my concern is that I don't want to bulk up, I want a lean, defined look, not bulky and you have any suggestions on how I can loose the fat, tone and define, it would be greatly appreciated. 
Congrats on your success! Keep the hard work up and stay consistent with your workouts! :) Sounds like you are doing great!  Keep in mind that as you lose bodyfat, you will gain a leaner look, and weight training is a MUST if you are wanting to reshape your body and reach that goal of shapely muscles! As a woman, it's very hard to getbulky! With a healthy diet, cardio, and weight training, the bodyfat will decrease and you will increase your level of lean tissue, thus boosting your metabolism and keeping that fat away! 
Do not be afraid to lift weights, as many women are concerned that they will get BIG! You must perform resistance exercise if you are seeking muscle definition - you've gotta have muscle in order to shape it further and define it! 
Keep us posted on your workouts and perhaps give us more info on what you are currently doing weight-training-wise! 
Yours in Health, 
Hey Sarah, 
Thanks for your advise...Previously, I was not including any weights in my workout routine in fair of bulking up. But I feel much more comfortable about weight training now, and will definitely start including it into my weekely workouts... How many days per week would you suggest, I do resistance/weight training, and what kinds would primarily focus on my arms and legs? 
Thanks again, 
You are very welcome! I am glad you feel more comfortable about lifting weights. I promise you that the results you attain will only further your progress towards a leaner, healthier body! Starting out, an easy way to break up your weight training is to perform upper body exercises on one day, and legs on another. Your goal will be to weight-train 3-4 times a week, with each workout taking roughly 30-45 minutes. When you train upper body, it is important to prioritize the larger muscle groups (chest and back) in the workout, then follow up with shoulders and arms. Choose 2 exercises for chest, 2 for back, 1-2 for shoulders, and 1 each for biceps and triceps. Abs may be trained every other day. Start with 2 sets on all exercises. 
A sample upper body workout routine would be: 
Chest press machine - 1 warmup set and then add weight 
Incline Dumbbell flye 
Wide grip front pulldowns - 1 warmup set and then add weight 
Close grip machine or pulley row 
Dumbbell overhead press 
Dumbbell lateral raise 
Barbell curls 
Triceps pushdowns 
I don't know how familiar you are with the exercise terminology, if you need any questions answered, simply keep posting! In the meantime, I've gotta go train a few more clients! :) 
Yours in Health, 

Too much circuit training?
I've been circuit training for about 4-6 months now (30 reps) and while I've dropped a lot of body fat and look pretty good, my body isn't as hard as I'd like it to be. I also do cardio about 3-4 days a week (I know, I should up it to 4-5 days). I think I've leaned out but lost muscle mass. Should I go back to just basic weight training (with higher weights/lower reps) for a while with cardio? I did 30 reps in circuit training. 
Janet- My philosophy is...if your routine isn't producing the changes you desire, change it! The circuit training and high reps surely might have an impact on your muscle mass, especially if you are exclusively training the muscles this way. Circuit training will not produce gains in muscle mass, therefore if you are wanting to increase your strength and improve your muscularity and hardness, I would suggest a more basic weight training routine. Still keep the cardio to maintain a healthy bodyfat percentage. Remember, lean body mass has an impact on your metabolism, so if you are losing muscle, your metabolism will also suffer! Take care and keep training hard! 

Building bigger glutes

I know this might seem foolish to ask but it's true! I am a 5'5", 107lbs woman (30 yr old). I work out 4-5 days a week. I have been strength training/aerobic training for 2 years and my rear needs some bulk. I am currently doing squats & pully kick backs. I have slender frame with hardly any hips so my legs aren't bulky either. Is there any hard core training for this? 
K- Not foolish at all! :) Fortunately, through weight training, you can improve your shape. I believe that squats are the absolute best exercise for building overall leg mass. The lower phase of a squat works the glutes. Train heavy if you are aiming for muscle gain. How is your diet? Make sure you are getting enough!  At the beginnings of my "fitness journey", I too wanted to build my legs up, and heavy squats, leg presses, leg curls, and deadlifts are what I stuck with. Pulley kickbacks are more of a finishing exercise. For the best results, stick with the basic compound-joint movements, where you can train with heavier poundages! Good luck and keep in touch! Sarah 
Thanks for the great advice! I am eating lots of protein in my diet & love veggies so that is not a problem. How do you do deadlifts? I am using 10 lbs with the squats for now with 3sets @ 12 reps. I also do leg presses with 160lbs (3 sets @ 12 reps). Leg curls are difficult sometimes, it seems I am weak in the hamstrings! So kickbacks don't really do much huh? How about doing exercises without weights (like lying on back & sticking one leg out @ raising back, etc.) Do these have any impact or am I wasting my time on 
K- Lunges are great shapers, and you can add weight when necessary. Stick with exercises where you can add resistance, for they will give you the best results, muscle-building wise. Stiff Legged Deadlifts are an exercise where it is crucial to maintain a flat back. Rounding the back as you perform the movement can lead to an injury! Before you add weight, master the exercise with a broomstick or light barbell. Hold the bar in front of you, arms hanging down, shoulders back. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart or a little wider. Keep those shoulders back as you bend forward at the hips, making sure to keep your back flat as you lower the bar towards the floor. The bar should come to a point where it is at the top of your socks or should feel an awesome stretch in your hams! Don't round your back over! Just let your arms hang, they don't have to move. Now, think about digging your heels into the ground as you stand back up, keeping the hams and glutes tight. Stand up without hyperextending the back. 
Keep working hard! Sarah 

Biceps Problem

Q:  I'm having problems with biceps. When I do any type of curls, I get the pump in my forearms only. My biceps aren't responding. I have tried different positions, weight, and speed. Nothing seems to work. I am 44 years old and have just recently began weight traing again. When I was younger I trained regularly. Your help would be greatly appreciated. 
Hello! I have a suggestion that might help you. When you train biceps, pay attention to your grip. Are you gripping the bar/dumbbells so tight that your knuckles turn white? :) Several of my clients frequently do this, and complain of their forearms getting fatigued. It's hard to not do this, especially when you are training biceps heavy. Avoid a "death grip" on the bar/db's, and instead focus on the biceps, concentrating on the muscles contracting and lengthening. Once you have the "mind-muscle" connection established, you will notice a greater focus and intensity in your workouts! It makes a big difference! 

Workout on the physio-ball, a.k.a. resist-a-ball?

Q:  I am in search of exercises to be done on the big resist-a-balls in the gym. 

A:  My absolute favorite is the crunch on the ball. The more you are laying on top of the ball, the harder the movement is! My clients love this exercise - it gives a good support to the back and the prestretch is awesome! Makes those abs sore! You can also stretch out your lower back by laying face down on the ball. Exercises such as dumbbell presses for the chest may be done, the ball makes the environment unstable, so you have to use other muscle groups to stabilize the body. Get creative! :) Sarah