Ask A Trainer: Common Questions Answered


I do like to lift weights and post about it, compete at natural pro men’s physique shows, write for fitness magazines, and have a handful of great sponsors.  ALL of this started with me working with clients one-on-one as a certified personal trainer. I’ve had a life long passion for fitness, and I worked to get certified through the ISSA (International Sports Sciences Association) around 6 years ago. I started training immediately with some young guys who started their own personal trainer facility called Elite Training Tulsa. Since then, I’ve received multiple ISSA certifications and was awarded their 2018 ‘Honor Grad’ out of 300,000 trainers world-wide. I am now the manager and head trainer of two Elite Training Tulsa facilities. I truly enjoy watching people change their lives. The biggest reward of personal training for me is when I am able to influence another person to start a career in fitness. I didn’t write all this to brag, but to give you a little background on my professional career before digging into this topic. As a trainer I am asked lots of questions on a daily basis, especially when I go live on Facebook and Instagram which I try to do often. Whenever I do steady state cardio I go live to help take my mind off the cardio, but also to connect with like minded people all across the world. I have followers on social media from all across the world from the USA, Europe, India, Pakistan, Africa, and everywhere else. There are a handful of questions that I am asked repeatedly, and if that many people have these same questions…I was thinking maybe some of you have them as well. Here are some of those questions and my typical answers.

Question 1: How do I lose body fat? Sometimes asked more specifically, “How do I lose fat in my belly or chest?”

We cannot target fat loss. Where we carry body fat as individuals is based on genetics, so blame mom and dad (LOL!). Some may have a bigger stomach and thin legs, or wide hips and a small waist. We all have our personal problem areas where fat will develop first, and sometimes it’s also the last place to go. The methods to reducing body fat are the same regardless where its located. The best and healthiest way to lower body fat levels is a three point attack. Firstly, eat in a clean calorie deficit which means slightly less than you need to maintain your current condition. Lean towards more natural foods over packaged processed foods. I am going to include drinking water in here as well. Secondly, do some resistance training working all the major muscle groups in your body. Building a little muscle will help your body be more efficient at burning fat when you are not working out. Some of you might worry about bulking up too much. You will get to a place you like before it ever gets out of hand. Resistance training is typically the missing element when people are trying to lose fat. Thirdly, do some cardio for heart health and to burn additional calories. To summarize: eat in a clean calorie deficit, do resistance training, and cardio. The combination of the above three points will have the biggest impact on your body.

Question 2: How do I build muscles? Sometimes asked more specifically, “How do I build big arms or a chest?” 

Anybody can increase the size of their muscles with proper nutrition and intense resistance training. When someone has been training and not seeing results, typically one or both of these elements are not being done correctly. Eating wise you have to bring in enough calories at the proper percentages of protein, carbs, and fats. I generally will start a new muscle building client off bringing in protein at 1.5 grams per pound of body weight, 0.65 max grams of fat per pound of body weight, and 2 grams of carbs per pound of body weight. In terms of percentages a good starting point is 40% carbs, 30% fat, and 30% protein. When it comes to lifting weights, following a structured and progressive program is always better than just performing random workouts. Equally as important is sticking to the same program for an extended period of time and not changing programs often. At the minimum pick 3-4 exercises per muscle group, do 3-4 working sets, and lift in the 6-12 rep range. After a warm up, sets should be done to failure while maintaining proper form. Check out my other article “Beginners Guide To Muscle Building” for more detailed information.

Question 3: What supplements should I take?

This is often the first question people ask me and it should be one of the last. I think many people have a misconception that a ‘supplement’ is all that is needed to reshape the body. If one isn’t eating properly for their goal and working out consistently supplements are a waste of money. But if you are eating right and working out yes, supplements can help you a little with energy, strength, and recovery. I work hard enough in and out of the gym on my fitness that a ‘little’ help is important to me so I do take supplements. An extraordinary lifestyle requires extraordinary nutritional support. I personally exercise for health first. I won’t do ‘whatever it takes’ to add a little muscle if it will compromise my health. So when looking into supplements please research and educate yourself. Don’t just take any product thrown at you. I prefer to use products that are third party tested for label accuracy and safety, contain no artificial colors or flavors, and use quality patented ingredients.

The first supplement I would recommend to anybody is a quality post workout fast digesting whey protein. This can be helpful regardless your goal. Whey protein is ideal for recovery after an intense workout, but can also be used between meals as a snack.

Question 4: Can you provide me a diet plan?

I get asked this question almost daily. Nobody can just give you a diet plan without a lot of information and time creating it. I would need to know at the minimum your gender, age, weight, how you are eating now, how you are exercising, your daily schedule, likes and dislikes, allergies, and possibly see photographs. Then it would take a good amount of time to put all that together properly. People get paid to do this type of work. If someone was to give you a free ‘diet plan’ right away I would be very nervous about its legitimacy. I would suggest hiring a dietitian for a detailed nutrition plan for you, or a personal trainer with certifications in nutrition for guidance. There are programs online that include nutrition protocol for various fitness goals. When trying to lose fat or build muscle there are three elements that work together and depend on each other: nutrition, resistance training and cardio. For the best results, guidance in all three areas need to synergize and be personalized for the individual.

 Question 5: How much cardio should I do?

This is very similar to the previous question. Giving someone cardio suggestions without knowing much more information would simply be an unhelpful guess. I do suggest everyone do some cardio for heart health. Moving our bodies is always a good thing. People typically ask about cardio because they want to lose weight. Yes, you will want to do some cardio, but don’t forget the importance of eating properly and doing some resistance training. When I am cutting for a fitness competition I start by doing HIIT cardio 7 minutes three times a week and steady state cardio 20 minutes two times a week. But again, this fits with how I am eating and lifting weights.

Question 6: What are your thoughts on fasting?

I think that fasting isn’t bad and helps some people. It is rather extreme and difficult to sustain. Most persons can benefit simply by eating cleaner, and developing good eating habits that can become a lifestyle for longevity. Fasting is too aggressive for me personally so I never do it. When I am working to get lean my goal is to lose only one pound a week and to retain as much muscle as possible when doing so. I can easily do this with a gentle carb cycle. Because I feel fasting is extreme it can be used in extreme situations. If someones job depends on meeting a lower weight by an upcoming date fasting may be a ‘tool’ to help get that done. Just make sure you get professional guidance when attempting to do intermittent fasting, since most people go about it the wrong way. It can be useful in certain situations, but only if done correctly.

Michael Wittig, ISSA CPT
IPE Natural Pro 3x Champ
Fitmark Athlete
All socials: @WittigWorks

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