HealthBuilding® Q & A

Question/Topic Index:
  1. Nutrition & Weight Management
  2. Physical Fitness
  3. Sports & Recreation
  4. Health and Wellness
  5. Body Work & Rehabilitation
  6. Disease and Coping

Nutrition and Weight Management
Can You Lose Weight Quicker??

Can you lose weight quicker if you keep your workouts more intense, at a higher heart rate than normal? If you are burning more total calories at a higher heart rate, shouldn't you exercise at the highest tolerable heart rate to burn the most?


I am even more confused because I have read that exercising at a lower heart rate is best because it burns more fat. It's a little confusing. Any input would help!


Thank You!  -- J. Benji

Yes, you can lose weight quicker if you keep your workouts more intense. However, continually exercising at your highest tolerable heart rate is not a good idea. Such exercise can be harmful and it's difficult to sustain.


Even though exercising at a lower heart rate uses a larger percentage of fat for energy, the total amount of energy (i.e., calories) expended during an exercise session is what counts the most when it comes to long-term fat loss.


So, choose an intensity level that you can sustain, and stick with it for the best long term results down the road.


Make sure not to forget to control your caloric intake in your quest to lose fat. Eating too much will ruin the potential results of even the best exercise plans.


Oh, and if you don't already do it, I would recommend getting into a resistance training program. Resistance training will help you to lose fat and gain muscle.


In health, --William L. Elliott, PhD, MS, FT, CPT, CNMT, RMT

Body Fat Loss & Weight Reduction

How much should an athlete cut back there calories to lose body fat? Is there an ideal daily range? If you cut 500 cals one day and 200 cals the next, will you have any energy left?


-- John Wyant, Youngstown, Ohio


A pound of body fat contains roughly 3,500 calories. So, as an example, if you cut your daily caloric intake by 250 calories, and expend an extra 250 calories per day through exercise, you will lose about a pound of body fat per week.


Now, maintaining energy on a calorie reduced diet can be difficult. Since you are an athlete, I would recommend planning your caloric intake very carefully. Try to save up your calories for pre and post workout times. That way, you will be able to fuel your training and recover well. This is also a good motivator to keep your scheduled workouts you can eat more!


Ultimately, you will find a practical answer to your question through trial and error. Keep good records (especially of your caloric intake) and make changes as necessary. Also, keep in mind that losing fat is not fun, it will hurt just like your hard workouts do. If you find yourself slightly hungry, that’s okay. This is a sign that your body is drawing on stored body fat for energy. Mental toughness is very important here. Just keep your athletic goals in mind and you will make it through the tough times.


Keep on HealthBuilding®,  --William L. Elliott, PhD, MS, FT, CPT, CNMT, RMT

Is Sugar Addicting?

Knowing that sugar is a necessity for the body and brain to function, has it ever been proven that certain sugars (ex. candy, junk food) can be physically addicting like a drug? Or would it be just a behavioral disorder or both? I crave sugar even when I am not hungry, is that normal?


-- Malie

Your right, the body actually needs sugar for healthy functioning of the central nervous system (i.e., the brain and spinal cord). So, if you define addiction as something the body needs to function, sugar fits the bill. In fact if you don't eat it, your body will simply end up making sugar (i.e., simple carbohydrates) from complex carbohydrates or non-carbohydrate sources such as protein (a process known as gluconeogenesis).


For healthy people who consume less than 10% of their total calories from sugar, there is no reason to be afraid that it will kill you like other addicting white powdered substances. Of course, you should try to minimize the intake of simple carbohydrates in your daily diet. If you do, you will still get plenty of sugar as your body metabolizes the complex carbohydrates that you consume.


I should mention the fact that research has shown that the regular consumption of excessive amounts of sugar can lead to signs of opioid withdrawal. Here again, this does not pertain to healthy people who consume less than 10% of their total calories from sugar. If you are consuming more than 10% of your calories from sugar, or if you feel that your “addiction” to sugar is abnormal, you should pay a visit to a qualified health care professional to get some advice that is specific to your condition.


In health,  -- William L. Elliott, PhD, MS, FT, CPT, CNMT, RMT

Physical Fitness

How long does it take for someone to "lose fitness" to the point where its noticed? (Ex. Time, perceived effort) Does taking a week or 2 off from running, cycling or working out, really take months to get back into previous shape?


John Wyant, Youngstown, Ohio


Great question ... Athletes have been asking this one for many years. The reason this is an important question is that if you can figure out the answer for your given scenario (e.g., your physiology, your particular sport, etc.), you can optimize your training/recovery ratio.


Unfortunately, the answer is difficult to quantify because of the many factors that are involved (workout intensity, duration, frequency, mode, and diet, to name a few). In general, you will "decondition" (i.e., lose fitness) faster for cardiorespiratory endurance than for muscular fitness.


My best answer is a practical one. Keep good records of your workouts and your diet. After you come back from any kind of break or rest period, you can simply compare your performance (gauged by time, duration, pounds lifted, etc.) and your perceived exertion, to previous workouts.


Hope this helps.  -- William L. Elliott, PhD, MS, FT, CPT, CNMT, RMT

BIA Scales

Hey Billy - I am back and still alive. Completed triathlon in 3.13 which I was reasonably happy with considering it was my first one of any kind. My calves are still sore a week later other than that I am fine so I guess I did something right.


While I was there I saw these tanita iron man weighing scales. I am wondering if they are a bit gimmicky or any good. They claim they weigh body fat to within 2% accuracy of the water displacement method and I am not sure if this marketing or if they have real substance to them. Was wondering have you come across them or any thoughts on them??


Talk soon and good luck in the marathon. -- David Murphy, NMT, Dublin, Ireland

Congratulations on completing your triathlon. That is a an exceptional accomplishment. I ran my first official marathon on September 4 and my legs are still pretty sore. I was happy that I finished and felt good afterwards, but my time was nothing to speak of. Next year, I will probably do it a gain for a time goal.


Yes, I am familiar with the Tanita Ironman scales. BIA (Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis; the technology used in the Tanita Ironman scales) is okay if you are well hydrated and your electrolyte levels are in balance. Otherwise, they can be inaccurate. If you can maintain consistency in your measuring times, electrolytes, and hydration status, you will at least, get decent reliability from such scales.


In health,  -- William L. Elliott, PhD, MS, FT, CPT, CNMT, RMT

Buying A Heart Rate Monitor (HRM)

I'm thinking about buying a HRM. I like the Nike Triax Elite. Can somebody give me feedback?


Thnx!  --F.G.

I don't know much about Nike's HRMs. However, I personally like Suunto and Polar HRMs. If you do any high altitude activity (e.g., mountaineering or snowboarding), I would especially recommend a Suunto. Do your homework and take your time ... I'm sure you will find a good one in the end.


Best,  -- William L. Elliott, PhD, MS, FT, CPT, CNMT, RMT

Sports and Recreation
Wrestling, Weightlifting and Health

My 13 year old son is #1 in state wrestling. He is just a little guy and he currently lifts weights. However, he has recently told me that he really doesn’t like to lift. I assume that he does not like it because he is physically immature and he is not getting the results that more testosterone would produce.


Though I would like him to continue to lift, is it really necessary because doesn’t he need more testosterone to produce significant results? Also, isn’t wrestling a type of resistance training that could take the place of weight training? Most importantly, I do not want him to be turned off in case he may actually want to lift later when he is more mature. For example, some of the wrestling kids who have been training for years have excellent technique but their heart is not in it. They would quit the sport if not for their parents urging.

Your son's accomplishments are awesome! I usually encourage young athletes to lift weights to improve their sports performance. However, since your son has done such an excellent job in his sport, telling him that he should “lift” to improve his sports performance may not work (even though lifting might improve his game even more). I completely understand you wanting him to lift though. While wrestling can be considered “a type of resistance training”, it is probably not an activity that he will continue to do on a regular basis, for the rest of his life. Resistance training has so many health benefits, it should be thought of in the same way as brushing your teeth ... not optional! So, you might try to sell him on the lifelong health rewards of lifting weights. If he gets into the habit now, he may never quit.


Your idea about him not being able to make any significant gains at his age is not necessarily true. There are several research studies that have documented substantial results from resistance training, in prepubescent, pubescent, and post-pubescent boys. Even if his testosterone levels are not at his adolescent peak, he should still make significant gains in strength through improved sensorimotor skill, motor unit activation, and other neurological changes induced by lifting. Additionally, if he can stick with it, he will certainly see some improvements in his body build.


I fully understand you not wanting to him to develop negative psychological associations with the activity. That’s where the fine line of parental guidance comes in, which obviously requires a delicate balance of encouragement, education, positive reinforcement, and a number of other considerations that I'm sure you know much more about than me. Keep me posted on your/his progress with this issue. I'll probably be turning to you for advice on this subject if I ever have kids.


-- William L. Elliott, PhD, MS, FT, CPT, CNMT, RMT

Powerlifting, Cycling and PRs

I am concentrating on getting stronger. I am okay with my bench and feel comfortable with my dead lift but I am horrible with my squat. I don't think that my legs are disproportionate to the rest of my body but they are the weakest. I am not sure if they are big in size but weak in strength because I have built the wrong type of muscle even though I use low gears cycling (the lower rpm). Maybe they are strong but it doesn't show because I cycle/burn them out every day so I can not perform up to max. All that I know is that my squat should be a lot better (but I am not willing to give up cycling every/2 x's per day.) and it is upsetting to me. What to do?


My weight: 138 lb.
BP: 200 lbs
DL: 288 lbs
SQ: 244 lbs

Your numbers are excellent in relationship to your weight. Usually, the squat and dead lift are about the same for a give individual. I don't think your squat being 15% less than your dead lift is out of the range of normalcy. The difference might not have as much to do with strength as it does technique. There are a number of things you can do to adjust your body mechanics and increase your squatting weight. For example, lowering the bar position on your back, will usually allow you to put up more on this lift. Have a good trainer evaluate the mechanics of your squat. That will most certainly be helpful.


Additionally, consider the order that you are doing the exercises in and give priority to the squat, if you aren't already doing so. In other words, do your squatting when you first get into the gym, when you are "fresh." Performing your dead lifts before your squats could easily lead to the 15% difference that you are experiencing. If you ride your bike to the gym or even earlier on the same day, you might experience a decrement in your squat so keep this in mind too.


You're right about the fact that cycling more will hinder your squatting performance. However, if you are not willing to cut back on your cycling then you can't take advantage of this fact. If you are going to enter a powerlifting or strength contest (or just go for a personal record) that involves the squat, perhaps you could just scale back your cycling for a brief period of time. This would allow you to lift more temporarily without neglecting your cycling too much.


Lastly, consider the frequency, intensity, and duration of your workouts. Usually, you can improve your strength on any given lift by manipulating these variables one way or another (Hint: A lower frequency and duration is usually better).


Keep up the great work and keep me posted on your progress. You almost have a 750 lb total. That is exceptional. Be patient and persistent and gains will inevitably continue to come.


William L. Elliott, PhD, MS, FT, CPT, CNMT, RMT

Improving Triathlon Times

Hi Billy - I am about to start training for my triathlon for next year, as like you [with your marathon] I have a specific target of around 2:40 for next year which is shaving half an hour off my time but I think with proper training I should be able to do that. My times were swim 48 mins cycle 80 min and run 58 mins. I need to knock at least 10 mins off each discipline so I was wondering how do I get speed into my events from a training point of view and also not losing my endurance capabilities? Is that an impossible question? I spoke to a girl in the gym and she just wanted to hook me up with a trainer not much use to me. Any thoughts on this dilemma?


Thanks Billy  --David Murphy, NMT, Dublin, Ireland

That's great, your time goal of 2:40 sounds like a reasonable one. With your focus and determination, I wouldn't be surprised if you do even better. However, to improve your times you are going to have to incorporate some speed work into your training. The speed work should consist of shorter, but more intense workouts with time goals attached to them. In addition, you still need to continue doing your longer, slow-paced workouts.


Naturally, this means that you will be putting in more overall training time. Work up to ~50% more than you put into training for your last tri and, if necessary, up to ~100% more. Of course, this means you will need more recovery time. So, moving from "completing" to "competing" can be quite a juggling act and will require you to plan your workout schedule well in advance. Plenty of sleep and good nutrition (like you learned about in my nutrition course) will be imperative with your competition training.


Train smart hard and don't hesitate to contact me if you have any training questions.


Best,  -- William L. Elliott, PhD, MS, FT, CPT, CNMT, RMT

Ride A Bike!

I recently started road cycling, mainly for fitness but also just for fun. I cannot say enough about how well I feel after riding for only 6 months. For those hesitant to exercise because they worry about high impact, stress, and soreness, cycling is a great way to begin to feel well. Push yourself as hard as you want; it's up to you.


I recommend Mike Magnuson's book, "Heft on Wheels." It's the story of one guy who pulled a 180 with his fitness.


Matt Clarke

Thanks for the great activity recommendation ... cycling is an excellent form of exercise and recreation.


Thanks for the book recommendation too! I would also recommend cycling books written by Edmund R. Burke.


Keep on riding, writing, and encouraging!

-- William L. Elliott, PhD, MS, FT, CPT, CNMT, RMT

Health and Wellness
Supplements and Pregnancy

It is David Murphy here from your Dublin class of last month. My wife was asking me about a website called www.[no names mentioned].com and asked me if the products were safe during pregnancy. She is only six weeks at the minute and is very conscious of doing the right thing but needs to lose weight. Bit of a dilemma.


Thanks  -- David Murphy, NMT, Dublin, Ireland


Great to hear from you. I took a look at the www.[no names mentioned].com Web site for you and your wife. I would recommend avoiding these products while she is pregnant, and maybe afterwards too. First of all, there is no research on these products and taking them during pregnancy could cause problems. It's not worth the risk. As a general rule, it's not a good idea for women to take anything that is not known to be safe while they are pregnant or breast feeding. Additionally, the products you are looking at are expensive and my suspicion is that they will do little in the way of helping her to lose weight in the long run.


Tell here to start monitoring her caloric intake everyday. If she is gaining too rapidly, she can simply cut back on her intake a bit. If she is losing too rapidly, she can just add some calories back into her diet. She only needs to take in ~300 more calories per day for the increased energy requirements of being pregnant. Over the course of her pregnancy she doesn't need to gain more than ~25-30 pounds. Also, tell her to exercise regularly at a moderate intensity (at least 30 minutes most days of the week).


Hope that helps. I hope all is well with you. Tell everyone at the National Training Centre I said hi.


In health,  -- William L. Elliott, PhD, MS, FT, CPT, CNMT, RMT

Bodywork and Rehabilitation
(Coming Soon)

Disease and Coping
(Coming Soon)