What follows is a transcription of about 3/4 of an interview I did with a book publisher. Hopefully I make it into the book because people should probably hear the truth rather than a watered down version of it by better salespeople. The questions are in bold and italics. What do you think?
Does a person have to check with their doctor before beginning a workout program with a personal trainer?
What types of shoes should people wear when working out?
The answer to this question depends on the context of the phrase “working out”, as that means a lot of different things to different people. For classical weight training like squats, presses, deadlifts, and variations of these movements, a pure weightlifting shoe is the best option. These shoes have either 1 or 2 metatarsal straps, an incompressible sole, and an elevated heel (0.5″-1.125″ usually). When lifting weights this is advantageous because none of the force generated by the trainee is dissipated into a “cushy” sole that is commonly found in both cross-trainer type shoes and running shoes. Additionally, the trainee usually finds these shoes to be much more stable. Finally, these shoes allow for proper form that is repeatable and “groovable”. That is, each time you squat-for instance- in a running shoe it might feel and look a bit different because the forces generated are allowed to travel in many directions and they are comparably less stable than a weightlifting shoe. I’ve found that those who bite the bullet and purchase these shoes have much more success when it comes to resistance training. The down side is that there are literally zero retailers that stock these shoes, so they must be ordered online-which can lead to sizing issues. Also, they tend to run between 70-200 dollars depending on the materials used. Fortunately, these shoes are purpose built lifting shoes and will generally last 10+ years with no issues if their use is limited to just the gym.
On the other hand, if “working out” includes things like jump rope, monostructural cardiovascular exercise like rowing, running, cycling, or other modalities (yoga, agility training,etc) then a good cross-trainer type shoe seems to be a nice compromise. These shoes are increasingly becoming more and more minimalistic, which can provide the trainee with more “feel” and proprioceptive feedback from the ground. Moreover, they can aid in strengthening the musculature, tendons, ligaments, and other soft tissue of the lower limb by allowing for slightly increased forces and feedback to be dealt with by the trainee’s foot. A full-on running shoe should be reserved for actual running training as their design does not lend itself well to resistance training or multi-modal type exercise. Chuck taylors are making a large comeback in the training world- and generally I recommend that these be reserved for weight training in those that do not possess weightlifting shoes for various reasons, but they are not appropriate for mutli-modal training sessions.
In short, let your training dictate your footwear. On a resistance training focused session get a weightlifting shoe, they will change your life the first time you squat or clean in them. On days with a more diverse exercise selection a decent cross trainer will suffice. Finally, for road-work and pure cardiovascular training a properly-fitted running shoe is probably the ticket.
Is it true that it’s good to have a “cheat day” where people can eat whatever they want once a week? Why is this a good or bad idea?
In the first example let’s say we have someone who’s been on a specific nutritional protocol for a few weeks and has been spot-on in their compliance. They are getting great results and leaning out nicely. I will likely incorporate a refeed day or meal, depending on how much work we have left to do, the amount of progress we’ve made so far, their gender, age, weight, and training status. Typically in a client embarking on a long term body fat reduction plan we’ll address food quality initially and then move to food quantity once that has been taken care of. The goal for most trainees isn’t really weight loss, but rather body recomposition. If they’re losing 1lb of muscle with every 1lb of fat that isn’t a compromise I’m willing to make since they likely won’t be happy with their results at the end of this transformation. To mitigate this potential muscle loss I employ a few techniques. One is keeping protein levels adequately high so as to provide enough raw amino acids to the body in hopes that any protein metabolism for fuel that does take place is from dietary intake and not muscle tissue. Another technique is to alter the training to a lower volume, higher intensity type. What this means is that I will program the training to involve heavy weights (relative for the person) and decreased sets and reps. Because we are likely in a caloric deficit when we’re looking to drop body fat it’s important to train relatively heavy to give the muscle a reason to stick around. The whole notion of increasing the reps and dropping the weight is precisely the opposite of what someone should be doing when it comes to leaning out. I’ll likely also increase the frequency of conditioning sessions like walking on an inclined treadmill, moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise, and a perhaps some higher intensity intervals- which of course depends on the person. After all of this, week in and week out a person may warrant a cheat day in order to spur progress and prevent stagnation. A few things that can happen when one is compliant with this strict regimen of training and nutrition is that the thyroid can become less active and metabolism can slow down a bit due to the decreased caloric intake and lower dietary intake of carbohydrates -which happens to be the go-to macronutrient for manipulation in most coach’s body recomposition repertoire- and additionally the trainee can become glycogen depleted to the point where training sessions are flat and unproductive. This is where a cheat day or refeed day comes into play. This cheat day will likely include things not typically seen in the diet like pizza, ice cream, burgers, etc or could be what I refer to as a “clean refeed” day where the meals are still comprised of good quality foods like rice, chicken, fish, oats, potatoes, eggs, whey protein, etc but just in larger quantities. At any rate, the cheat day refills glycogen stores in the muscles, bumps up the metabolic rate due to the higher caloric intake, and generally provides a reprieve from the grind of being on strict diet and training program. I generally like these cheat days to fall on heavy training days, or if it’s a single meal, the final meal of a heavy training day.
For someone who hasn’t quite hit the mark when it comes to compliance on a nutritional protocol and is still struggling with consistently hitting the requisite macronutrients, conditioning workouts, and has unplanned deviations from the diet anyway a cheat meal/day is not warranted. For this person we still need to find the correct protocol to get the consistency up when it comes to their diet. When, or if, they do become consistent and start seeing consistent progress then it might become apparent that they need a cheat meal/day or refeed day to keep things rolling. However, I tend to think of a cheat meal as a reward for putting in consistently hard work. You don’t get a pizza just for showing up.
Overall a cheat day or meal can be a very effective tool to mitigate potential metabolism slowing, empty glycogen stores, and psychological burnout from the grind of a legitimate transformation type diet and training program. For more general trainees I like to have unplanned cheats -like a dinner out on the town, a birthday party, etc- where it’s just life being lived. Of course, these things can’t start popping up too frequently otherwise progress will be stalled or even reversed. For this reason it’s important to take a close look at each individual based on their lifestyle, goals, and training status and then go from there.
What are the best types of exercises for getting the fastest results in the shortest period of time?
I would be remiss if I didn’t include some conditioning exercises as people will certainly want to know about that. It seems that in society there is an unmistakable and unshakable connection between the amount of cardio done and the level of body fat someone has. To the lay person you simply MUST do large amounts of cardio to get lean and if you don’t you’ll carry more bodyfat. This is simply untrue. Bodyfat is merely a reflection of someone’s dietary habits. Abs are made in the kitchen, not on the treadmill. However, there is some level of baseline conditioning frequency that is required to activities of daily life (ADL) and to maintain adequate cardiorespiratory endurance levels. Notice I said adequate level, as that is determined by one’s own personal goals, athletic endeavors (if any), and genuine beliefs about what health and fitness entails. For pure conditioning you just can’t beat rowing or an airdyne bicycle like the old Schwinn’s that used to be ubiquitous in health clubs. These trump any elliptical, stair master, or treadmill you can find for the same reasons the barbell movements we discussed above are so useful- they use more muscle mass over a larger range of motion. Sprinting is also a great modality but I caution the readers of this to employ them with reckless abandon- they require that the extensibility of the tissues in your hamstrings, quadriceps, hips, and calves are up to the task of dealing with large forces and high joint impacts. That is why for most, I recommend rowing or an airdyne for pure monostructural cardio conditioning. Other great but less available options include sled pushing, pulling, weighted carries-like a yoke or farmer’s walk, tire flipping, etc.
Of course, there are other goals that would warrant other exercises or the exclusion of these exercises. Additionally, these exercises do require a good trainer or coach to instruct the movements and those are hard to come by. Also, these movement also require the access to proper equipment (barbells, weights, squat racks, etc) which is just not feasible for some people. Finally, these exercises are just plain hard. There is something to be said about the willingness to undergo a legitimately hard workout for the sake of getting results. Those willing to seek out the knowledgeable coach or trainer and actually put in the work are the ones who will get the results they desire and those who won’t will be sitting on the hamster wheel year after year trying to find the secret to getting results.
Is it true that people with diabetes have a harder time losing weight? If so, why is this the case?
If someone needs to quickly lose a few pounds for a special occasion, what’s the best way they can do this?
In addition to working out, what are some of the most beneficial activities to participate in and why are these activities so beneficial/healthy?
Why do people say, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day”? Is there any truth in this?
In my personal opinion, I like the idea of doing three main meals a day and then adding or subtracting layers to these meals or adding another meal altogether if we need to for calories or macronutrients. For instance if someone requires 250g of protein/day, it would be hard to try and get that in three meals per day. At any rate, the three meals a day thing fits nicely with modern conventions of society- and eating a proper breakfast might mentally prepare you to stick to your nutrition plan for the rest of the day, even if it doesn’t really matter.