In this edition of the Write Up, I answer a lot of my client’s most frequently asked questions. When should I eat carbs? When should I eat protein? How can I lose fat off my upper arm / stomach / butt? I also provide a great progression for learning the kettlebell swing and link to some great articles.

Nutrition – Should I eat carbs? When is the best time to eat carbs?

This ties into the concept of insulin sensitivity. Namely, how well a person’s body responds to the consumption of carbohydrate (starch or sugar). A person with excellent sensitivity will produce less insulin in response to an amount of carbohydrate. A person with poor sensitivity, also called insulin resistance, will produce a higher amount of insulin in response to the same amount of carb. I liken it to alcohol tolerance. The more often you drink, the more you require to feel the effects.

Your body responds best to carbs at two times: 1 – first thing in the morning and 2 – immediately after a work out (preferably strength training). This varies slightly by body type and fitness level. Overall, aim to limit carb consumption (breads, grains, rices, starches, potatoes, corn) to only within that window if fat loss is your goal.

Improving insulin sensitivity has been key to the success of almost all of my fat loss clients. It’s remarkable how much of a difference it can make!

Nutrition – When should I eat protein? How much?

I had a long conversation with a fellow trainer about this. I also answer this frequently for many clients. As I frequently do, I follow Precision Nutrition’s lead on this:

  • For women, aim to consume 1 serving (20-30 grams) of protein per meal (4-5 times per day).
  • For men, aim to consume 1-2 servings (40-60 grams) of protein per meal (4-5 times per day).
  • Plan on consuming a post-workout drink, such as creatine monohydrate and a protein supplement, within 30 minutes of strength training. This will improve insulin response, amino acid uptake, and overall muscle growth.

Remember, increasing lean body mass is crucial for fat loss as it leads to a higher metabolism!

Training – Using the Cable Pull Through to groove a kettlebell swing

I love kettlebell swings. However, many clients have trouble sitting back into their hips (hip hinging). I have several tricks for teaching a hip hinge. The first step is to ensure that you have adequate mobility. If you have difficulty touching your toes, I’d recommend holding off on swings.

The second step is to strengthen the glutes and hamstrings, but also to learn how to ‘sit back’ into the hips. This same movement pattern or skill is needed for deadlifts, both full and partial (Romanian deadlifts). Many exercisers are unable to bend at the hips, and instead attempt to squat with the kettlebell.

A favorite trick of mine is to use a cable or band pullthrough.This is a very back-friendly way to groove the swing. Pull throughs let you really feel what it’s like to sit into the hips. Here is a great instructional video from Competitor Magazine and Eric Cressey detailing the cable pull through.

I know, I know. They look pretty funny.

I follow this up with deadlift practice or some light swinging technique work. I’ll often use the pull through for high reps to build muscle memory and endurance in the glutes and hamstrings. If swings give you trouble, give this a shot for 4-8 weeks!

Training – Will this exercise remove fat from my [insert body part – upper arm, butt, stomach, thighs]?

Spot reduction, the oldest myth in fitness! Simply put, no – you cannot isolate a muscle to burn fat off of that area. Remember, fat loss is a continuous process. Fat is burned from all over the body, as it is stored all over the body. I compare it to emptying a puddle with a straw. You can’t remove fluid from just one piece of the puddle, it drains all at the same time.

That said, exercises will build muscle at the trouble spot. By developing the major muscle groups, the body will appear more “toned”, especially at that body part. As fat is lost, the muscle beneath will be more visible. It’s like the old joke – “Everybody has a six pack, you just can’t see mine!”

If you want to devote extra attention to a specific body part, go ahead! Isolation work can be very helpful in defining and strengthening a muscle group. Just be sure to focus on strength in the major movements as well. It’s hard to find somebody with a powerful bench press or squat that has flabby arms.

Helpful Links and Great Reads

Here are some of my favorite reads from the past week:

Bret Contreras discusses the importance of training with an open mind. I was guilty of adhering to one style as a teenager. Once I became a coach, I realized my mistake. A carpenter needs many tools for his toolbox. The key is to identify the best tool for each use. Click Here to Read

Precision Nutrition provides two great overview of protein:

Click Here to read All About Protein

Click Here to read about Protein Timing

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