This being my 25th year in the fitness industry; I thought I’d share some of the most common questions and misconceptions that I hear repeated year after year.

I don’t want to bulk up.

With strength training, microscopic fibers in the muscle  become more dense as they become stronger. This generally changes the shape in that the muscle becomes more “cut” and defined as the increases in metabolism cause you to lose body fat. Remember: Your metabolism stays elevated longer after a good bout of strength training than it does after cardio!

I just want a routine that I can do on my own.

You do not want to repeat the same exercises every time you work out. Your heart and skeletal muscles stop learning; you stop progressing. You do want a routine when it comes to making the time for exercise. For example: you want to know that Tuesdays and Thursdays you will go to the gym and do a strength workout (with as much variety as possible) – and that Monday and Friday you will go for a walk, or use exercise equipment at home or at the gym. Pre-schedule 3 times/week for cardio – or smaller bouts daily (twice/week for strength).

I’m going to do the Zone diet to jump start my weight loss.

Any diet that restricts certain food groups are never recommended (except under doctor supervision and with specific health concerns.) The only reason anyone ever has “success” with any diet is because they are restricting overall calories and/or because they are paying more attention to what they are eating in general. Unfortunately, the vast majority of us know how to eat right and that we need to exercise – we just prefer the notion of a quick fix or magic bullet. We are so sure that if we just skip a meal; we can “save” some calories for later. It doesn’t work, does it? [SEE “DIET” BOX]

Am I getting enough cardio to lose weight?

If you find you are not losing weight with your current regimen; try this: assess what your baseline is/has been for amount and intensity of the cardio you have been doing – and then find a way to take it up a notch. If you are just starting out, find activities that are manageable but still feel like some work. You may have to do shorter bouts until you build up strength. If you have been working out for a while – choose a different machine or activity; work at a higher intensity for at least some of the workout, and/or increase frequency.

I’m active in my daily activities – do I really need to do regular cardio and strength, too?

That is like asking, “I put gas in my car and drive it daily; do I really need to do maintenance on it?” Yes, your heart and skeletal muscles need to work to stay functional. Do yourself a huge favor and do as much as you can now. It only gets harder as you age. As mentioned earlier in this article; your body needs to keep learning – teach it new activities, increase the time or intensity or sessions per week.

And my all time favorite!! I know I just need to eat fewer carbs!

Carbs are not the enemy. I can debunk any claim you send me. Excess calories are the enemy. High fat and high cholesterol calories are the enemy. (Lack of activity is the enemy.) Choose a variety of foods and keep the high fat/high cholesterol foods to nil or minimum. Ask any “slender” person what the bulk of their diet consists of and they will tell you: whole grains (carbs), fruits and veggies(carbs), and probably healthy proteins (carbs). If you are convinced that carbs are your problem – try saying instead that “white flour and white sugar” are your problems.

Buying products that claim to increase energy.

Please do not be fooled by these claims. You get energy from calories. A label that claims increased energy is a false claim (unless it contains caffeine or another stimulant). The problem here is the different uses of the word energy. Energy to a nutritionist means calories; to a layperson means that they feel wide away and lively. You get energy (fuel) from any calories, no matter where they come from. To truly achieve “alertness and liveliness” from eating; choose foods that are calorie dense*, low in sugar and eat within a healthy calorie total for your needs. To achieve what we think of as “energy”: fuel up with healthy choices, move, get enough sleep and manage stress.

*(example: soda is not calorie dense – you are filling up on water, sugar, artificial sweeteners and chemicals.)