WYWS – Mailbag, Fitness Gimmicks… Ranting

I didn’t want to turn yeahmanh.com into a personal fitness training site but that’s what it’s become as of late. I have this love/hate relationship with the fitness industry… I love to educate and have discussions about training and whatnot but I hate what the industry has done to unsuspecting consumers. They prey on the uneducated and the uninitiated with promises of you fitting in your jeans from the 11th grade and 16-pack abs. Prime example? Any one of the Google ads on my page will promise you a number of these impossible feats.

Even more annoying to me are “personal trainers” who literally steal the money out of their clients’ pockets while promising results that they can’t deliver due to lack of any credible and useful knowledge. The majority of them are a mockery to trainers who have spent their entire careers on learning the nuisances of the human body from anatomy to physiology to biomechanics and even program design. Personal training to them is a means to make some money while they pursue their dreams of becoming actors and musicians.

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Oh Tony Little, you wascally wabbit, you…

I used to be an NSCA Certified Personal Trainer until I was fed up with these jokers. No matter all the education, workshops, conferences, training, etc. that I had gone through, I felt like I could never dispel the negative connotations attributed to trainers because of these so-called trainers. Just because you look like you work out doesn’t mean you know how to be a personal trainer. In fact some of the most respected trainers in the industry look nothing like the athletes they train. That’s why I will never apologize for insulting the likes of Jillian Michaels and Bob What’s His Face on the Biggest Loser.

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Everyone, please watch this and tell me you’re ok with what she’s doing, not only as a trainer, but as a person. You know, if you’d like, you can pay me so I can degrade you, make you feel worthless, and make you a bulimic… who cares that I don’t know a damn thing about training, right?

My eagerness to educate and empower is what drives me to continue to train and write about all this. Do I know everything? Absolutely not… and I still feel as if I barely know anything. But I do question everything and everyone, hoping to arrive at the best solutions and answers.

Anyhow, like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I didn’t want to turn this into a personal fitness training site so this will be the last post on the topic for at least a month or so. I think so many people have confined me to this box as a personal trainer that I sometimes feel forced to write about it. The site was meant to be my personal space to share all the things that interest me: photography, cooking/baking, tech, community service, etc. and that’s what I plan on sharing more of from here on out.

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This is probably what started it all… damn you Chrissy from Three’s Company!

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Goes to show that fitness gimmicks transcend all language boundaries. Wear one of these and you can literally sweat away all that fat around your stomach. I wonder how come they haven’t made this into a full body suit yet… hmm, I might be on to something…

With all that out of the way, let’s get down to the nitty gritty with my answers to questions that readers have asked since my posts on “How to Become a Fat Burning Machine, Parts I & II

I’ve gotten a good number of questions and I’ve chosen a few to answer. Keep in mind though that what I say may or may not work for you. Everyone is different and what works for one person might very well be ineffective for another. The way your body metabolizes food, the way it responds to strength training or cardio training, etc., it all varies with each individual person.

So let’s get on with it…


Brandon asks, “When your body uses fat stores for energy, where does it pull from first? Is it based on the body parts you’re training, or is it a universal pool of fat stores across your body?”

You cannot pick and choose where you burn fat. The general rule is that the first place you gain weight will be the last place you lose it. This obviously sucks because we generally gain weight around our stomachs and asses. You have to think of fat as several layers of full body suits. When you’re burning fat, you’re essentially taking off these layers. However, there has been research stating otherwise where you’re burning more fat in the areas that are actually doing the work. How much truth there is to this? I have no idea… but I do know that the more muscle you have, the less visible your cellulite.

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Don’t get me started on chicks who want to lose weight everywhere but their asses. I can understand how a lot of girls want to have nice asses but please don’t substitute a nice one for a fat one.  All you girls who cater to NBA/NFL players and Hip Hop superstars, I’m specifically talking to you.  Unfortunately, or fortunately for these particular girls, the last place you’ll likely to lose any fat is around your ass cause (now say it with me) the first place you gain fat is the last place you’ll lose it…. so you girls who crave this still might be able to pull yourself a rapper, an NBA player… or at least a dude with a car! And you won’t have to mess with Ray Ray’s broke ass no more!

It's hilarious to me that there are some girls who strive to lose weight everywhere but their asses cause they know certain types of dudes love it.

It's hilarious to me that there are some girls who strive to lose weight everywhere but their asses cause they know certain types of dudes love it.


Deanna faces a dilemma that both guys and girls experience. Her situation: “Basically my status is I’m trying to gain weight (a little fat in the curvy areas would be great!) without getting pudgy everywhere else and also toning the rest of my body. This has been rather impossible for me! So if you have any advice I’d really appreciate it! Thanks!

Just like you can’t pick and choose where you lose weight, you can’t pick and choose where you gain it either. Girls often ask how to gain weight and still look “toned”. You can go the route of consuming more calories than your metabolism requires to gain weight. The drawback to this is you can’t control where the weight goes. Personally, I would recommend you increase your caloric consumption and combine it with strength training. With a proper diet and strength training program, you can achieve the curves you’re looking for as well as keeping yourself “toned”.

Guys on the other hand always want to get bigger and more “cut”. Unfortunately, you can’t achieve both looks simultaneously. You have to focus on one or the other. Bodybuilders go on a bulking phase where they are consuming a ton of calories and lifting for muscular hypertrophy. They then follow it up with a cutting phase to shed unwanted fat and water weight. Again, a proper diet and strength training program will allow you to gain the mass you need. Most people make the mistake of not lifting the appropriate volume for size and then compound those mistakes by not eating enough calories to feed their growing muscles. Once you achieve your desired weight and/or size, you can refer back to the “How to Become a Fat Burning Machine” posts and put the info there to good use.

Professional bodybuilder Lee Priest, bulking and cutting phases.

Professional bodybuilder Lee Priest, bulking and cutting phases.


Marcie, an aspiring NASM trainer, asks some good questions and brings up some good points.  She gets pretty detailed with her questions so I’m gonna break it down by paragraph:

“It sounds like the program you put together advocates for training at 50%-70% intensity, which is basically a low-intensity (Zone 1) work out. I agree, there is a “fat burning zone,” but that zone is so low that our bodies don’t burn a whole lot of calories in it — it’s not really all that magical as people make it out to be. I like how you recommend some progression in the program, but it also sounds like the program calls for long “boring” bouts of the same type of cardio so that our bodies can become efficient and burn more calories…”

People are usually familiar with a “fat burning zone” only because they see these words somewhere on a piece of cardio equipment. The equipment manufacturer basically uses an age predicted heart rate max to determine this very broad zone for anyone who jumps onto one of their machines. Their understanding is a low intensity workout will yield the highest rate of “fat burning”.

What I’m trying to make everyone understand is that with proper training, you can essentially make your fat burning zone your entire heart rate range. Once you become efficient, you no longer have to endure long and boring bouts of low intensity cardio to be in your fat burning zone. You can train high intensity, intervals, sprints, etc. and still be utilizing fat instead of primarily just carbs. Refer to the graph in Part II to see what I mean. It’s unfortunate I don’t have a before and after of the graphs to show you that with proper training, fat utilization in Zones 3 and 4 actually increase (the high intensity zones).

You are right in saying that we don’t burn a significant amount of calories in our lower intensities. I mentioned that the higher the intensity, the more calories you expend overall, but less of these calories come from fat. If your goal is to lose weight, then burning as many calories as possible is the way to go. But if you are trying to rid yourself of fat, then all you’re doing is diminishing carb stores, which you have to replenish (because your body will always need these immediate energy stores, think of fight or flight), therefore negating some of your caloric deficit. Don’t confuse losing weight with burning fat.

“This is actually contradictory to my reasoning. Once our bodies adapt, they become more efficient and actually end up burning less calories (principle of specificity or Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands, or SAID principle — check out nasm.org). My next step would be to progress to interval training to enhance the anaerobic threshold and actually train in all three HR zones to maximize caloric burn and the potential for EPOC (exercise post oxygen consumption). The only real way to “burn fat,” is to burn more calories than we consume — bottom line, right? We can’t really do this if we let our bodies adapt to the same “long boring” exercise…”

You always hear that once your body “adapts” to a certain exercise, that your body no longer responds to that exercise. This is true of strength training (and the correct term is accomodation; you actually want your body to adapt but you don’t want it to accomodate) but is not the same for cardiovascular training. Our goal is to make cardio so easy that it doesn’t require energy from our immediate stores. The more efficient we become, the easier the work, and the more fat we burn. Because the work becomes easier, we can run harder for longer and this is where and when we’ll be burning more calories.

Progressing to interval training is a great idea, but you need to implement it correctly. Without building a solid aerobic base, you will not become efficient at oxygen consumption so the high intensity runs won’t yield the fat burning results you’re looking for. I mention that after you build a solid aerobic base that you can start implementing interval training and high intensity cardio into your workouts to train these higher zones. If done correctly, your training will yield not only high caloric expenditure at these high zones but also higher fat utilization (compared to when you were untrained). But if you train anaerobically from the get go, all you’re doing is burning your precious carb stores which your body will need to replenish. That means that whatever you eat after your workout, your body will suck up and store the carbs again.

I didn’t want to get super technical and get into EPOC but since you brought it up…

I’ve mentioned in Part I that no matter what you’re doing, you will always be using carbs for energy (from the anaerobic energy systems: phosphagen and gylcolytic). The amount of oxygen you need increases during this stage until you reach a steady state of oxygen uptake. This anaerobic contribution of energy is known as the oxygen deficit. After you’re done working out, your oxygen uptake remains at a higher level compared to your pre-exercise state and will need to return to it’s normal levels. This is known as EPOC (excess postexercise oxygen consumption), the oxygen uptake above your pre-exercise levels that is required to bring you back to normal levels. Why do you want to elicit EPOC? Because your are continually burning calories during this phase and, amongst other things, you are ridding your body of metabolic waste (culprit of soreness, not lactic acid like everyone thinks). EPOC will occur after high intensity exercise but keep in mind, the higher the intensity of the exercise, the shorter the duration of that exercise.

Graph on the left shows low-intensity, steady-state exericse metabolism. Graph on right shows high-intensity, non-steady-state exercise metabolism.

Graph on the left shows low-intensity, steady-state exercise metabolism. Graph on right shows high-intensity, non-steady-state exercise metabolism.

You mentioned, the only real way to burn fat is to burn more calories than we consume. I think this is where you missed my point. A caloric deficit does not mean you are burning fat, it just means you are losing weight. You can go on a high intensity run for 15 minutes and burn more calories than you would at a low intensity run but that doesn’t mean you’re burning more fat. That’s why the title of the post is “How to Become a Fat Burning Machine” and not “How to Burn a Lot of Calories So You Can Lose Weight”.

“I think you’re totally right in the sense that by improving our cardiovascular endurance, we will be able to utilize more of our fat stores during workouts, but by sticking with the same type of cardio workout after workout can lead to a plateau (not to mention the potential for overtraining and muscle imbalance)…”

Again, you want to stick with the same modality so that your body gets used to it. Your body needs to recognize this as easy work to utilize fat as energy. By switching modalities, you are just confusing it. This is not the same for strength training though so you can’t apply strength training principles to cardio training. As far as overtraining and muscular imbalances, I don’t think anyone would even bother using the program I set up on my post to even get to this point. That’s where the importance of a knowledgeable trainer comes into play… how are you designing the cardio program in conjunction with the strength training program? Are you doing high intensity runs the day after a heavy leg day? What about gait? Muscular imbalances? A good trainer would know how to assess and account for all these variables which there are millions of. A good trainer will be able to recognize these and program for them. Unfortunately, the word program is nonexistent in 99.99% of all trainers vocabulary and knowledge.

show hide 6 comments

Mixshow - Fucking bad ass post dude.

You gotta write on what you know / what you feel passionately and opinionated about.

Erin T - Keep the fitness posts coming! I love ‘em just as much as the recipes!

Sara - Hey Quoc…

Ok so I just finished reading all of your fitness articles and they were extremely interesting to read… I of course have some questions or confusions….

1. I completely understand the whole “eat often” idea and agree that it makes sense. What I find about MYSELF are two things… 1. I dont have a schedule (as an elementary teacher) that allows me to stop and snack whenever I want, and 2. I am not sure what qualifies as a good sized “small meal”, and 3. I feel like I am often not hungry when it is time to have that next small meal.

2. As someone that is cooking for just themselves, I wish there were more cooking ideas/recipes that are not intense to make, since I am someone that is up at 5:30 packing lunch for school and gets home late and wants a quick dinner….I clearly dont have time for a sit down breakfast….so I need some help.

3. I have been working out non stop for 5 weeks now…and numerically I feel as if I havent changed…which is extremely frustrating for me right now. I am strength training and doing cardio, and have a twice a week trainer, so what am I doing wrong?

Ok…that is my rant for now….


yeahmanh - Sara…

1. Let’s say you wake up at 6am. The first thing you should do is eat a good breakfast. 9am, you should have a snack (fruit, yogurt, etc.). 12pm is lunch time so you should be able to eat again. 3pm, school is done and then you have another snack. 6pm, you’re at home, dinner time. 9pm, snack before bed. Easy!

Figure out how many calories you need to consume then divide it into the number of meals you’re gonna eat throughout the day. Example:

Breakfast = 400-500 calories
Snack 1 = 100 calories
Lunch = 400-500 calories
Snack 2 = 100 calories
Dinner = 400-500 calories
Snack 3 = 100 calories

Once you start eating small meals you’ll get used to it. I’m not a dietitian or anything but feel free to consume a snack even if you don’t “feel hungry”. I hope to post an interview with a dietitian here soon.

2. I should start posting recipes other than just desserts huh? I usually cook enough food to last me the week and pack it right before bed every night. I’ll set aside food that I want to cook/eat in the morning so that it’s easily and readily made. It just takes some planning… but once you get into it, it’s super easy.

3. A of all, don’t get fixated on numerical changes… you’ll drive yourself nuts. B of all, I can’t tell you what you’re doing “wrong” if I don’t know what it is that you’re doing. Does your trainer have you on a program? And by program, I mean a regimented program that is planned in advance of your workout where he’s keeping track of time, reps, loads, volume, etc. Not what he tells you to do when he sees you. When you’re working out on your own, how hard are you working. What are you lifting? Is it difficult? Easy? What kind of cardio are you doing? How long? How hard? There are a lot of variables we need to consider. Holler at me!

M - hi Quoc,

Your fitness posts are really interesting!

You mentioned strength training and accomodation. Can you provide some insight/guidelines on strength training (how often, when to increase weights, etc).


yeahmanh - M,

What are your goals? Hypertrophy? Strength? Endurance? Power? The goals you set for yourself will determine what training variables need to be manipulated. The load, volume, reps, sets, rest intervals, etc. all vary according to what you’re trying to accomplish.

If you have a specifc question to ask, send me an email through the Contact button. I’ll have a post up on strength training in the near future. Gotta get a bunch of posts on photography, cooking/baking, and community service out of the way first!

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