Ask a Fitness Professional all your Fitness related questions! In this series, I’ll be answering all your fitness related questions in quick-fire fashion.
Here are the questions for this Episode!
- I have not trained with heavy weights in a while, will I lose my strength and muscular gains?
- I’m a complete beginner, how do I start working out? I’m scared that it’ll be too tough.
- Why does my friend lose weight so easily? She seems to eat a lot but is always so skinny.
- Why can’t I diet and be happy? I want to eat my cake, bubble tea and also lose weight.
- Why do people hire fitness trainers? Everything I want to learn is available on the net.
I have not trained with weights in a while, will I lose my strength and muscular gains?
Yes you will, but it is heavily dependent on how long you stop training. In one study  on the strength and power levels of Elite Rugby players, it was found that strength levels can be maintained for up to 3 weeks of detraining! However, the decay rates will increase after (i.e. 5-16 weeks). This means that you should ideally not take too long a break from training (>3 weeks) if you do not want to lose your gains.
The great news is also that it is possible to gain it back quickly due to muscle memory. In another study , a group of women detrained for 30 – 32 week after training for 20 weeks. Their maximal muscular strength and size decreased but not to pre-training levels. The study also showed that retraining for as short a period of 6 weeks could bring them back to trained levels.
So don’t worry too much about losing all your gains as it is relatively easy to retrain to existing trained levels. You can also still prevent or minimise the loss of your gains by continuing to work out even without weights. For instance, utilising bodyweight training is a great way to do so. If the basic pushups and pull-ups are too easy, you can also adjust the intensity of these exercises by working on slightly advanced variations such as with slower tempo or at a different angle. Keep on training so you don’t get too detrained!
- McMaster DT, Gill N, Cronin J, McGuigan M. The development, retention and decay rates of strength and power in elite rugby union, rugby league and American football: a systematic review. Sports Med. 2013;43(5):367‐384.
- Staron, R.S. & Leonardi, M.J. & Karapondo, D.L. & Malicky, E.S. & Falkel, J.E. & Hagerman, Fredrick Hikida, Robert. (1991). Strength and muscle adaptations in heavy-resistance-trained women after detraining and retraining. Journal of applied physiology (Bethesda, Md. : 1985). 70. 631-40.
I’m a complete beginner, how do I start working out? I’m scared that it’ll be too tough.
Firstly, great job on making a change for the better! You should be proud. However if you’re a complete beginner or haven’t worked out in years, I’ll strongly recommend for you to make sure you’re fit enough to exercise. Consider going to see a doctor first to clear yourself for physical exercise, especially if you’ve had any health complications recently.
Now, if you’re cleared and ready to go. What I strongly recommend firstly is to TAKE THINGS SLOWLY. A lot of people try to do too much at once and end up burning out or finding it too hard to sustain their efforts. It’s definitely not sustainable when you’ve been a couch potato for the past 10 years and suddenly make a 180 degree change to workout everyday and eat chicken breast with broccoli!
Start with low intensity exercises such as light stretching and activation exercises, flow yoga, walking and swimming. Try this out for a week before progressing to slightly more intense exercises which can include slow jogs and low intensity bodyweight exercises. If you training on your own, the key is to progress slowly and steadily, making progress week in and week out. If you start off walking for 20 minutes and in one month are able to walk for 1 hour, that is progress and you’re on your way to a fitter and healthier you!
Why does my friend eat a lot but is always so skinny. Is it her genetics?
According to some studies, there are genes that make you more susceptible to obesity or thinness. One study  with over 900 subjects who consumed a homogeneous diet, found that there was indeed a gene (CADM2) which shows up in a higher frequency in overweight and obese subjects compared to those who were not. Without this particular gene, obese mice reduced fatty tissue and showed improved insulin sensitivity. However, the results also showed that the weight variation explained by the a genetic score that was calculated was only a small 2.4%. So these percentages must increase to use this genetic score as a predictive marker of weight loss.
Another study  recruited 1471 clinically ascertained thin and healthy individuals and contrasted the genetic architecture versus the trait of severe obesity. It found that thinness, like obesity, is a heritable trait with a polygenic component. However, the results were based on clinically ascertained participants which met very specific criteria (who were thin and healthy), so these conclusions cannot be straightforwardly extrapolated to the general population. Experiments in animals have also identified loci/genes associated with thinness/decreased body weight due to other factors such as reduced food intake and increased energy mechanisms which also affect thinness. So you can’t just blame it on genetics as other factors such as food intake, dietary habits and activity levels also play a big role!
- Lamiquiz-Moneo I, Mateo-Gallego R, Bea AM, et al. Genetic predictors of weight loss in overweight and obese subjects. Sci Rep. 2019;9(1):10770. Published 2019 Jul 24.
- Riveros-McKay F, Mistry V, Bounds R, Hendricks A, Keogh JM, et al. (2019) Genetic architecture of human thinness compared to severe obesity. PLOS Genetics 15(1): e1007603.
Why can’t I diet and be happy? I want to eat my cake, bubble tea and also lose weight.
This is another very common question that I get all the time. It boils down to a deeper question of what will make you happy. Mental health is as important as physical health. Now, if you are clinically obese, you SHOULD lose weight as you might suffer health complications in the future. But if you’re healthy and in good shape, there’s no real good reason for you to lose a large amount of body fat to be ultra skinny or ripped. That can in fact, be unhealthy.
That being said, you can eat cake, bubble tea and also lose weight. What you need to do is practice some moderation and find that balance. If possible, you can try to:
- Set a realistic timeline for you to lose weight. If you set too short a timeline (eg 4 weeks to lose 10kg), it’s going to be really restrictive and difficult for you to achieve.
- Choose the healthier options. Instead of going for the full cream cake of full sugar bubble tea, choose lower calorie options! They might not taste as good but can help satisfy your cravings.
- Train more! If you workout more and increase energy expenditure, you can afford to eat more!
So, find that balance! It’s ok to not be ripped but still train hard, keep fit and enjoy life a little!
Why do people hire fitness trainers? Everything I want to learn is available on the net.
Great question. I understand that some of you out there are very resourceful and passionate individuals who love training. You don’t mind pouring through forums, YouTube videos and online articles to learn how to train. Personally, I also started from there, reading T-Nation articles when I was 18 and that was one of the factors that helped inspire me to become a trainer ultimately.
However, people like us are a minority. Many don’t have the same passion or just don’t have time to do all the research on training effectively. Many are busy professionals who just want someone to plan everything out for them so that they can just come into the gym, train and achieve their goals. I’ve trained lawyers, directors, managers and they were all too busy with their own work and family life to even think about watching some Athlean-X videos (which are really great by the way).
Some people also want someone (like me) to assist them in their journey because they might want to learn the proper techniques or some of the proper principles behind training. A qualified coach can definitely accelerate the learning process as there is constant feedback
Furthermore, research has found that a qualified coach can help you train more intensely which and bring about better performance. This was mainly because the PT was able to ensure that the trainees were training hard enough and with adequate stimulus and this helped them to be better at selecting proper training intensities for themselves.  
If you need more examples of why some people hire coaches, check out some life testimonials from my trainees here! You can succeed on your own for sure. But you can go even further with a qualified and passionate coach by your side!
- Ratamess NA, Faigenbaum AD, Hoffman JR, Kang J. Self-selected resistance training intensity in healthy women: the influence of a personal trainer. J Strength Cond Res. 2008;22(1):103‐111.
- Dias MRC, Simão RF, Saavedra FJF, Ratamess NA. Influence of a Personal Trainer on Self-selected Loading During Resistance Exercise. J Strength Cond Res. 2017;31(7):1925‐1930.
Hope you guys enjoyed the video and found it informative! I’ll catch you in the Episode 3 of Ask a Fitness Professional next week!