The Fit 5


For all of our fans who shoot us questions on our Facebook page, this one is for you. Each week, we will tap into our pool of editors and experts to help with any questions or challenges you are having with your fitness regimen. This week, we asked Sean Hyson C.S.C.S., Group Training Director for Muscle & Fitness and Men’s Fitness magazines, to answer some of your questions. Be sure to read up on all of Sean’s articles here on or in Men’s Fitness and Muscle & Fitness magazines each month. You can also catch Sean on Twitter

1.) The Ab-Solute Truth — asked by Umberto Ali Is the crunch/sit-up really an effective exercise or useless for toning abs?
“Both exercises will work the abs but the sit-up is tougher and activates more muscles. If you don’t have lower-back problems, do sit-ups.” — Sean Hyson
2.) Overnight workout query — asked by Peter Jones I work a graveyard shift — should I be exercising and eating any differently than people who work during the day?
“As long as you can get a restful sleep for eight to 10 hours a day, it shouldn’t matter. While it’s not the body’s natural rhythm to be working during night hours, you can adapt to it. Seeing that you get enough rest during the day will help.” — Sean Hyson
3.) Is Protein Powder a Must?— asked by Michael Landstrom I quit protein powder a year ago because of expense and wasn’t sure if it was a waste of money. I work out four times a week. I eat a decent amount of protein from food, but not the quantity in grams I would get with a protein shake. Am I shortchanging my recovery by not taking the powder? I eat nuts, chicken, and dairy, but not in huge amounts.
“Protein powder isn’t a must. You should only consider it if you have trouble getting the amount of protein you need (about one gram per pound of your body weight) from food, or when it’s not possible to eat food. A good powder can make getting protein more convenient, and may even cut down on your grocery bill since you won’t have to focus as much on consuming whole foods. It’s up to you.” — Sean Hyson
4.) What’s up with the ketosis diet — asked by Anmar Sultani Is the ketosis diet method effective and does it have side effects? Is it recommended?
“A ketogenic diet is an effective way to lose fat. There is no evidence that it’s dangerous in the short term (inside of six months), but it is a restrictive diet that will require a lot of discipline. Lower your carbs to 50 grams per day—lower may be even better—and don’t skimp on fat. Eat plenty of green veggies, too. Constipation can be a side-effect of low-carb diets if you don’t make an effort to get enough fiber.” — Sean Hyson
5.) The night shift conundrum— asked by Matt Edgar How do people like police officers (I am one) who work midnight/overnight shifts lose weight? What is the best way to diet and what times should you eat? Should you exercise in the morning before you go to bed or later in the day when you wake up?
“Try a low-carb diet as suggested above. The best time to exercise is any time you can do it consistently, so if you work nights, you might try to get it out of the way before your shift.” — Sean Hyson
1.) The Sweet Truth — asked by Darrin Brown I am a little confused from all of the sources that I have been reading. Are artificial sweeteners worse for you than table sugar? Is the higher insulin level they cause worse than the 18 calories per teaspoon that you get with using regular sugar in coffee or any drink?
“Artificial sweeteners have been shown to cause problems, including cancer, in test animals. However, the research suggests that humans would have to consume an enormous amount (more than anyone could reasonably take in in a day) to be put at the same risk, so you shouldn’t be too concerned. If your goal is to lose fat quickly, you’ll have to cut your carbs. Artificial sweeteners (or sugar substitutes in general, such as stevia, which is natural) will make your diet a lot more palatable. It would probably be wise to limit your consumption if you’re serious about your health, but don’t worry yourself sick. Artificial sweeteners such as sucralose do not raise insulin levels so they won’t lead to weight gain.” — Sean Hyson
2.) Back in Shape — asked by Nick Vorres If you’re already dealing with an injury, particularly in the lower back, what is an effective workout program that includes strength training and cardiovascular exercise to help with the healing process?
“It depends on your injury, but the safest advice is the old adage, ‘Train what is trainable.’ If something hurts your back, don’t do it, and do something else that doesn’t hurt it. Squats, deadlifts, bent-over rows, back extensions, and situps will probably cause you pain. Instead, you could do lunges, step-ups, pullups/pulldowns, and planks. Training your core will help rehab your back and prevent future problems. As for cardio, running and cycling may be too much for your back. A stairclimber or walking may be more appropriate.” — Sean Hyson
3.) Best Time for Water? — asked by Richard Zinck Jr. When is the best time to drink water? Before, during or after a meal?
“There is some research on digestion that suggests you shouldn’t drink water with meals as it may dilute your stomach acids. Assuming you don’t suffer from any digestive problems, you can drink water whenever. A glass or two when you get up can help control hunger throughout the day, and you should certainly drink water liberally before, during, and after workouts.” — Sean Hyson
4.) What’s More Efficient? — asked by Johno Bubb As long as you train your forearms and grip strength separately, are straps a good idea for specifically creating a strong back?
“If you train your grip and forearms directly as you said, yes, you can probably use straps on back exercises to lift more weight and train your back harder. However, performing rows and deadlifts without straps allows you to train grip, forearms, and back at the same time, and that’s more efficient. It’s also a more functional way to train, as those three areas will improve together. If you get in the habit of training back with straps, you may not be able to do activities in life that require back strength without your grip failing on you first.” — Sean Hyson
5.) To the Heart of the Matter — asked by Brady Price Just started using a heart rate monitor to better my performance when running and cycling. Now that I have this tool, how should I utilize HR zones?
“To improve aerobic endurance (your ability to perform low-intensity work like a jog for a long period), work at 65%–75% of your maximum heart rate. This is between 120 and 150 beats per minute for most people. This activity should be done for 30–90 minutes. To improve anaerobic endurance (your ability to produce repeated powerful efforts over time), you’ll need to train around 90% of your max—such as a sprint—and rest until you recover to 120–130 beats per minute. Repeat for 15–20 min.” — Sean Hyson

Got a question for our editors/experts? Hit us up on Facebook — we’re listening . . . 1.) Drop the Belly Fat — asked by Thomas Wheeler

“To lose fat you need to diet. To diet, you need to cut calories, mainly from carbs. Your fat may be coming off in some areas faster than others, but that’s genetic. Nothing you can do to redirect it. Just concentrate on losing more fat and you’ll get there eventually. The macro ratio you have is good for general health or building muscle but that’s too many carbs to lose fat. To make it simple, cut them back to 30 grams or less per day. You’ll lose fat fast like this. Once a week, have a day where you eat a bunch of carbs to refuel.” — Sean Hyson

2.) Best Shoes for Weight Training? — asked by Dennis Hylton

“Flat-soled shoes like a Converse Chuck Taylor are great to lift in. So are Vibram Five Fingers (those wacky toe shoes) or wrestling shoes. Running shoes , or any footwear with a squishy sole or a big heel is going to hurt your leverage on certain exercises, reduce your strength, and even pitch your body forward. That can cause the wrong muscles to get involved in a lift and throw off your form. Of course, this means injuries can result too. If possible, train barefoot. You’ll strengthen your feet and that will pay dividends on every exercise.” — Sean Hyson

3.) Now What? — asked by Lee Finch

“Don’t train more. Train more efficiently. Three days a week is fine. You can do full-body sessions or an upper/lower split. Focus on eating more calories and carbs calories and carbs, and cut back on cardio. Put your cardio at the end of your workout or on a separate day.” — Sean Hyson

4.) Calorie Burner — asked by Jorge Kream

“Contrary to what may seem logical, overweight people do tend to burn more calories than thin people. The more weight they carry around, the more of a tax it is on their systems to survive (a bad thing). However, some of that weight is muscle mass, and that burns more calories too (a good thing). The reason a heavy person may be muscular but not lean is that he/she is still eating more calories than are burned.” — Sean Hyson

5.) Forgetful Body? — asked by Health Boyer

“Muscle memory should “kick in” all by itself. If it’s been a while since you trained or performed a certain exercise, you won’t be able to do it as efficiently (you won’t be as strong) as you once did, but you’ll improve quickly. It takes a little more than a week of not doing a lift for your central nervous system to start to “forget” how to perform it well. It sucks, I know . . . ” — Sean Hyson

Got a question for our editors/experts? Hit us up on Facebook — we’re listening . . . 1.) Leg Builders — asked by Keith Croney

Squat and deadlift. Learn the proper form (you can find it here on and perform three sets of five reps. Do the squat twice a week and the deadlift once. Add weight each workout.” — Sean Hyson

2.) Post-workout Cardio — asked by Adil Kason

“You can do cardio after you lift but if it was a particularly brutal session you might not be able to give it your best effort. If this is the case, try to do cardio several hours before or after lifting, or on a different day entirely.” — Sean Hyson

3.) Energy Boost — asked by Michael Ryan

Caffeine may help you, but try this: eat few or no carbs all day until you’re ready to train. You’ll keep your sympathetic nervous system revved up, and that will make you more alert and anxious to train. If you need more of an energy boost, have some fruit or sweet potatoes in the day before training, but avoid high-glycemic foods like bread or pasta. Take in most of your carbs after training.” — Sean Hyson

4.) Recovery Methods — asked by Top Doctors Labs

“Make sure you’re eating enough—about a gram of protein per pound of your body weight and 2x your weight in carbs if you want to gain muscle. Get eight hours of sleep per night and use a foam roller before sessions and in between. You can also take contrast showers—turn the water really hot for a minute and then really cold, and repeat.” — Sean Hyson

5.) Recovery Time — asked by Thomas Lhamon

“Try a four-week cycle. Gradually add weight or increase reps every week for three straight weeks (so, three hard weeks) followed by a de-load week. In the fourth week, use about 80% of the loads you used in week 3 and do one or two fewer sets for each lift. It should feel pretty easy. When you restart the cycle, you’ll feel refreshed.” — Sean Hyson

Got a question for our editors/experts? Hit us up on Facebook — we’re listening . . . 1.) Top-Heavy Training — asked by Ishmael Nicolas Perez

“These people will develop numerous muscle imbalances that will increase their risk of injury. Regardless of what muscles any guy wants to build, he should always train all of them equally. That releases more hormones for overall muscle growth and prevents imbalances that both look bad and lead to problems.” — Sean Hyson

2.) Eating for Bulk — asked by Wes Collier

“Your primary concern should just be to eat more. Get more calories in any way you can. Add healthy oils (olive, macadamia nut) to your protein shakes—this will add a lot of calories without your even noticing. Eat plenty of carbs too, primarily from potatoes, sweet potatoes, brown rice, and oats. Aim for 2 to 3 grams of carbs per pound of your body weight per day.” — Sean Hyson

3.) A Running Question — asked by Zach Gray

“No. Your diet will do most of your fat burning for you if it’s set up right. Limit your carbs to right after you workout. On days you don’t lift, don’t eat any (except for vegetables). Some running (three days a week for 20–45 min) can help you burn fat but more than that could risk over-training. Try running short sprints or jumping rope. Those activities will spare muscle mass while speeding your metabolism.” — Sean Hyson

4.) Battle of the Bulge — asked by Jason Weaver

“There is no exercise for this. You just need to tighten up your diet more. If you’ve hit a fat-loss plateau, it usually means you need to eat more. Go two or three days eating lots of starches throughout the day. Then go back down to zero carbs (except around your workout). This usually shakes up the metabolism.” — Sean Hyson

5.) To Eat or Not to Eat — asked by Andrew Davies

“It depends on the workout and your goals. If you just lifted weights and you’re trying to gain muscle size and strength, some KFC is ok. (Don’t forget, you can make moderately healthy choices at fast food restaurants—I.e., you can opt for a chicken salad over a greasy bucket of wings.) If you just did cardio, you can probably wait a few hours until you have better food options. If you lifted weights and your goal is to get lean, bad food isn’t permissible at any time, so just wait til you can eat something better. While it’s true that you need to replenish glycogen and amino acid stores after hard lifting sessions, you don’t absolutely need to do it immediately to make progress. A healthy, balanced meal eaten two hours after a workout is usually a better idea than a fat, starch-laden one 15 minutes afterward.” — Sean Hyson

Got a question for our editors/experts? Hit us up on Facebook — we’re listening . . .