Real Questions, Real Answers

09/24/2011 09:53 am ET | Updated Nov 20, 2011

I own a gym and am there everyday, working and interacting with clients, answering their questions, and giving them advice to achieve the best possible results. We have more than 300 members, so I'm constantly bombarded with questions.

I always find the questions interesting because I think some should be obvious, while others I just find entertaining, but they're all real questions from real people. I thought many readers might be wondering some of the same things I hear asked on a regular basis.

So, let's get into a few of the more recent questions I've been asked.

Q: If I can't use sugar in my coffee, can I have honey instead?

A: Remember the old song that said, "Sugar, oh honey, honey... Honey, oh sugar, sugar." I hate to break it to you, but they were on to something.

Honey is sugar, so no, you can't have either. You shouldn't start your day off with sugar, whether it's from honey or table sugar.

Of course, as soon as I gave this answer, the client whipped out the expected, "But I can't drink coffee without anything in it and I can't live without my coffee!"

I had to tell her, "Hmm, I guess you don't really want this. If you won't give up the sugar in your coffee to get the body you want, then I can't help you because there will be much bigger obstacles and temptations along the way."

She called me the next day and was so excited because she "survived" black coffee that morning, and now felt like she could do anything.

Q: If I use milk in my coffee, does that count as breakfast?

Café latte: Heavy on the latte, light on the café?

A: This question came up right after a discussion about the importance of eating within 15 minutes of waking up. Breakfast is a very important meal -- the most important, next to your post-workout meal -- because you're "breaking the fast" from hours of sleep.

My somewhat-sarcastic answer was, "I'll let you count the milk in your coffee as breakfast if you'd consider counting it as your dinner, too." I think I got my point across.

Most people would never think of having such a small dinner, but try to get them to actually sit down and have a decent meal in the morning, and they have such a hard time with it.

The bottom line is that you should be eating more calories for breakfast, when you've been fasting all night and you're starting your metabolism for the day, compared to the calories you need at dinner, when you're just going to bed.

Q: Sometimes I'll have beer or a glass of wine along with a healthy meal. Does that mean I'm not following my diet plan?

A: I encourage my clients to stick to their plans 90 percent of the time and splurge (or miss a meal) 10 percent of the time. If you're eating five meals a day, this works out to about three meals each week where you can relax the rules.

Alcohol isn't part of the plan to achieve the physique results you're looking for, but you're welcome to enjoy a glass of wine or a beer as one of those three "relaxed" meals. Just remember that it doesn't count as a "healthy meal" getting you closer to your goals.

I realize that eating grilled fish, steamed vegetables, and a glass of chardonnay seems like it shouldn't be as bad as having a bacon cheeseburger and a Budweiser, but if you decide to splurge, you should have what you want for the entire meal. You may as well spike your metabolism and get some extra calories in during the meal.

There's no such thing as "kinda" splurging or "sorta" cheating on a diet. You're either sticking to the plan for that meal or you're not. It is allowed and I encourage you to relax with 10 percent of your meals and enjoy yourself, so if you decide to make this one of "those" meals, go for it.

Just make sure that you do stick to the plan 90 percent of the time to get your body to change. The mistake I see a lot of clients make is that they do too many of these "kinda-sorta" splurges, but never really relax and have a true cheat.

They end up feeling like they've never enjoyed themselves, but when they review their food for the week, they've really only stuck to the original plan 70 percent of the time, even though they feel like they've been "sorta" perfect.

90 percent of the time, stick to the rules -- eating protein and a fruit or veggie at every meal, saving your starches for post-workout and breakfast, and eliminating processed food and sugar. Ten percent of the time, splurge... and enjoy it.

Q: Is Diet Coke a processed food?

A: I don't know about you, but I've never heard of a Diet Coke tree, and I'm pretty sure that it doesn't come from a plant or grow in the ground.

So, when I say that you should eat non-processed, natural foods... um... Diet Coke doesn't meet that requirement. If you choose to have a Diet Coke, then it's going to become part of one of your 10 percent cheat meals.

Definitely enjoy your Diet Coke, but you may as well do it like most Americans. Order it along with a Big Mac and fries, because you're off the plan so enjoy the splurge, but then get back on track with your next meal.

Stick to no more than three splurges each week (10 percent of your meals), and remember that if you miss a meal, it also counts as one of these "splurges." Missing a meal is just as bad as eating the wrong thing.

Interestingly, I've been asked this same type of question about pretzels and Wheat Thins. Again, there are no pretzel trees or Wheat Thin trees that I'm aware of, even though I have one client who swears that she has a pretzel tree and a Diet Coke tree in her backyard. I bet Bigfoot shows up to water them once a week, too.

Q: Can I go for a walk on my day off from training?

A: No, I'd really prefer that you sit on your butt and watch TV.

What do you think? Of course you can go for a walk! But don't think that living an active lifestyle or going for a stroll around the park counts as "exercise" or as an actual workout. This also doesn't justify having a big bowl of pasta afterwards, or skipping one of your actual workouts.

Living an active lifestyle is part of who you are now. I'm usually asked this because I preach that steady-state cardio isn't the best choice for fat loss, but that doesn't mean I don't encourage you to live a healthy and active lifestyle.

Get off your butt, skip tonight's episode of Idol, and go for a walk!


I hope that at least one of these questions answered something you've been wondering about. Maybe you thought you already knew the answer, and my answer surprised you.

You can agree with my answers or disagree with them, but these are real questions from real people, and these are the real answers I gave them. I wonder what I'll get asked this month. I might have to report back from the trenches again.