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General Questions

  • Should I purchase an exercise bike? Will it help me lose weight?

    I believe that an exercise bike can be an excellent investment into your health and wellbeing.  I actually purchased one for my family not too long ago because they would rather exercise at home than join a gym.

    They aren't too expensive and can be very effective for increasing your level of fitness, improving your health and assisting fat loss.  The beauty about a home exercise bike is that they are easy to use, convenient, comfortable (so long as you have a well-padded seat lol) and effective.

    When choosing a piece of cardiovascular exercise equipment, one of the most important factors is to consider what you will enjoy using most.  Some people hate treadmills, others dislike bikes - it's ultimately a personal thing.  At the end of the day, if you don't enjoy using it, there's not much point in making the purchase.

    With regards to the effectiveness of an exercise bike (or nearly any machine for that matter), it is only as effective as the level of effort you invest into your exercise.  This includes factors such as the amount of time and exertion/intensity.  If you enjoy using the machine, you will most likely yield far better results than any other machine.

    Speaking personally, the only cardio machine that I really use is the exercise bike - because it's fun (well at least I think so :P).

  • I am overweight and want to get a flat stomach. Will ab exercises make a difference to my appearance? Or should I not bother with them?

    No and no. No, it won't make a difference to your appearance until you lose weight. No, you should bother with abdominal (and other) exercises. I'll explain.

    Envisage your stomach as two layers. Layer one (the bottom layer) is muscle - your abdominals. Layer two (the top layer) is fat.

    Initially layer one is extremely thin, because we don't naturally have well defined abdominal muscles. By doing certain abdominal exercises, you can stimulate layer one to increase in size. Now essentially you could make layer one as large as you like, but if layer 2 is covering it up (ie. the fat) - you're not going to see a single thing. It is essentially a blanketing effect.

    Consider the two photo's below taken during my transformation:

    Jay

    In both photo's I have a very similar amount of muscle mass (as I had been lifting weights prior to the first photo for a while). The big difference is the amount of fat I am carrying. On the left you can see that I have a layer of fat covering up my midsection. As a result, you can't see too much in the way of abs. Strip all that fat away and you get the photo on the right.

    The reason why I suggest that you do perform resistance training is twofold. Firstly, it will encourage muscle growth which will assist fat loss by speeding up your metabolism. Secondly, once you do eventually lose the fat, there will be some good looking muscles already there! It takes a long time to build muscle compared to losing fat. Start now so you can build some solid foundations for the long-term.

    It should also be noted that females will not experience nearly the same effect from weight lifting that males will. So, by performing abdominal exercises you cannot expect to obtain the definition in the abdominal muscles that I have. Females will tend to see more of a 'toned' effect.

  • I am on a low carbohydrate diet. Will I be able to build significant muscle?

    There are two key factors when it comes to building muscle mass - training and diet.  Both are essential parts of the equation.  If one is not up to scratch, then you're wasting your time.

    It is possible to cut down and build significant lean muscle mass simultaneously.  However, for an adult male to do this on an extremely restricted carbohydrate (and calorie) diet, this is not a realistic goal.  The reason being that carbohydrates will facilitate protein synthesis (ie. assist building muscle).  By depleting yourself of carbohydrates (and calories) you will lack energy and your ability to recover from sessions will be severely hampered.  If your body cannot recover effectively, then it will not be able to build lean muscle mass - period.

    The primary goal of ketosis is to lose fat, not to build muscle.  For an adult male, once you reach a certain carbohydrate daily consumption threshold, you cannot realistically expect to build significant amounts of lean mass.  I am speaking both from theory and experience when I say this.

    Also just for your information, all muscle is built outside the gym - lifting weights is simply a tool to stimulate this biological process.

  • How do you calculate the calories that you are eating and burning?

    I am very analytical by nature, but after spending a long time trying to derive how many calories I actually expend...I concluded that it's a complete waste of time lol

    What I do personally is look at my calories in by totalling my caloric intake throughout the day. (I get all the information off the food database on this site). This also gives me an indication of protein, carbs and fats. Then I will implement this diet over a number of weeks with a consistent training program and see what results from it - eg. fat gain/loss, muscle gain/loss, high/low energy levels etc. After this trial period, I can determine whether or not that diet, combined with a particular training regime, results in the desired outcome(s). From there, several tweaks can be made according to my goals.

    I prefer totalling my caloric intake so I have figures I can look at. These figures are treated in a relative fashion though. Due to this, there is no point in trying to determine an absolute figure for energy expenditure as it will have no meaning at all.  Plus, it is nearly impossible to determine an accurate caloric expenditure due to the seemingly infinite variables that must be taken into consideration.

    I know Josh Dickinson uses portion sizes rather than calorie counting. He will simply increase or decrease portions depending upon results. Same line of thinking behind my approach - both are relative methods of dealing with caloric intake. However I like to look at the numbers so I can establish a more accurate measure of any increase/decrease in what I consume.

    I have found that a more empirical approach through trial-and-error has yielded far better results than trying to determine precise calories in and calories out.

  • I want to tone my chest. Are there any magical tricks?

    Congratulations on your fat loss thus far.  Unfortunately there are no magical tricks when it comes to improving your physique.  It all comes down to a combination of training smart and training hard.

    As I have previously mentioned here, toning/sculpting/shaping is essentially two things - "building muscle" and "losing fat".  Quite frankly these are just fancy terms.  Once we understand the basic processes behind them, obtaining that 'toned' physique isn't so complicated after all.

    Now let's get into a bit more detail.  In order to 'tone' your chest you need to lose fat and build up your pectoral (chest) muscles.

    Losing fat from your chest

    If you want to lose fat from your chest, you will need to lose fat from your entire body.  It is impossible to lose fat from one particular area of your body naturally (this is known as the spot reduction myth).  Your body will naturally choose where fat is lost from, and in what order - unfortunately you have absolutely no say in the matter.

    How to lose fat?  A combination of a sound eating plan and cardiovascular exercise.  If you are not losing fat then you are either not performing the right amount (or type) of cardio and/or you are not eating effectively (eg. too much, bad meal timing etc.).

    Building muscle on your chest

    Muscle performs differently to fat - you can actually choose what muscles you want to grow.  So in order to build your pectoral muscles, you need to perform effective resistance based exercises in order to stimulate muscle growth.  The whole idea behind lifting weights is to lift a heavy enough weight in order to tell your muscles "hey, you're too weak - get stronger!".

    A big mistake could be to only train chest, resulting in a disproportioned physique.  I would highly recommend taking on a full body program so your entire body grows together.  Whilst this looks much more appealing, it also essential for injury prevention.

    Again, a sound eating plan is essential when building muscle.  If you don't eat effectively, your body will not have access to the nutrients required to build muscle.  This will result in a lot of wasted time and effort.

    So that is a very basic overview of how to obtain a 'toned' effect.  If you take a look at my transformation here you can see what changes are possible by following a sound eating and training plan.

    I highly recommend you read an article of mine entitled "The Art Of Adaptation".  This article provides an overview of how to stimulate your body to change.

    Hope this is of help.

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