Ever have a question about training, fat loss, dieting or motivation?

  • One day you’re crushing your workouts and following the meal plan, and then something happens that trips everything up. Now what?

  • You’re trying to figure out if that gym-bro advice you heard is fact or fiction.

  • You’ve reached that tipping point where you’re ready to shred, but not sure if you’ve got what it takes.


We’ve all been there. You need a little more information, a piece of advice, a bit of encouragement to help you shred fat, build muscle, follow your meal plan, and stay on track. But you want a straight answer from someone who’s been-there-done-that.


Sound familiar? I want to help you. I get tons of questions every day from people via email and direct messages on social media about fitness and fat loss.


Check out this Q&A to get the help you need. (Don’t see your question here? Ask me in the Team RSF Facebook group.)


1. How many reps and sets should I do per exercise to build muscle?

There’s a lot of different ways to set up a training program, depending on your goals. If your primary goal is to build muscle, also called hypertrophy, do 3 to 5 sets per exercise and aim for 8 to 12 reps per set.


2. Why is meal prep so important?

It’s one of the best ways to eat the right amount of calories and macronutrients to lose fat or build muscle. Lots of people try to skip this step, and plan to cook their meals when it’s time to eat. But it almost always ends in failure, too many calories, and weight gain.

Here’s how to meal prep. Buy in bulk. Weigh your food to measure portion sizes. Prepare a week or two of meals at a time, and store in the fridge or freezer. And eating clean gets a lot easier.


3. Why are compound lifts part of most training programs?

Any exercise or lift that requires more than one joint or more than one muscle group to perform the movement is considered a compound lift. But there are a few that do show up in most training programs: bench press, deadlift squats, and overhead press.

Compound movements damage more muscle fibers and stimulate hormones to promote muscle growth and repair than isolation exercises (a single-joint movement like a dumbbell curl).


4. Do I need to cut out all carbs to get shredded?

No. Seriously. This is one of those myths in the fitness industry that has been around forever. Your body uses carbohydrates as its primary source of energy. If you eat a lot of foods high in carbohydrates, and your activity level is low, any carbs you don’t use may be stored as fat.

Limiting carbs can aid in fat loss, but attempting to eat zero carbs almost always ends in fatigue, failure and binge eating, followed by weight gain. FYI – I eat quick oats for breakfast almost every day, sometimes even PopTarts. High-carb and low-carb days, also called carb cycling, may actually help you achieve your physique goals faster.


5. Can caffeine help with training and fat loss?

Yes. Caffeine can help you in a couple of ways. It’s a stimulant that can give you a quick energy boost after about 20 minutes. I recommend having a pre-workout drink with caffeine before a training session (I use 1 UP Nutrition Pre-Workout. Use code RYAN20 for a discount).

Caffeine also acts as an appetite suppressant, and may stimulate metabolism to aid in weight loss. In case you’re wondering, about 400 mg of caffeine a day is the recommended limit for adults.


6. Why do I get an itchy-tingly feeling after taking a pre-workout supplement?

It’s a side effect of an ingredient used in most pre-workout supplements called beta-alanine. It’s a type of amino acid that can help boost muscle performance. If you get an itchy, tingly feeling, cut your dose of pre-workout by a half scoop.


7. How much protein should you eat to build muscle?

On average, aim for 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight or slightly higher. For example, if you weigh 175 pounds, aim to eat around 175 grams of protein per day. Good protein sources include skinless poultry, lean beef, fish, eggs, Greek yogurt, nuts, and protein shakes.


8. When should I test my one-rep max?

Maybe never. A one-rep max is simply testing your strength to perform a single repetition of an exercise. A couple of years ago, I tested my one-rep max on the bench press and set a PR, lifting 440 pounds (200 kg). But it really doesn’t have a big impact on building muscle. If that’s your goal, you want to train in the 8 to 12 rep range per exercise.


9. What should I do if I miss a few workouts and don’t stick to the meal plan?

It’s easy to beat yourself up if you miss a few workouts and your diet goes off the rails. Maybe you got sick, had to travel for business, took a vacation, or some other life event needed more of your time and energy than training and dieting. It happens. 

But it’s no reason to give up. Just give a nod to whatever happened that got in the way of training and diet, and get back on track. That’s it. End of story. You can’t change the past. But you can train hard and eat right today.


10. What can I do to curb sugar cravings?

That’s a tough one when you’re trying to clean up your diet. Why? There’s research out there that suggests sugar may be as addictive as cocaine. Your body and your brain learn to crave it, and need more and more to get the same effect. So when you start cutting out sugar, you need to have a plan. Two strategies that work well..Eat more vegetables high in fiber to help you feel fuller longer and drink plenty of water. There are a lot of other things you can do to curb sugar cravings, too. For most people, after a few days to a few weeks of limiting sugar, the cravings get easier to manage.


11. Why do some people lift slowly?

It’s called time under tension. It’s the amount of time your muscles are working to perform a rep. Let’s say you’re doing barbell curls. You could pick up a weight and crank out 8 to 12 reps fast. Or you could go slow, deliberately taking a few seconds longer to lower the weight and curl it back up. It’s a smart way to train to damage more muscle fibers, and stimulate muscle growth and repair.


12. How much cardio should I be doing?

I recommend at least 30 minutes of steady-state cardio training on most days. Walk, jog, cycle, swim, play a sport. Up to an hour if you have time. If you’re short on time, high-intensity interval workouts of 10 to 20 minutes can also help. Cardio training helps you burn fat and calories, and strengthens your cardiovascular system. 


13. What can I do to stay motivated to train hard and eat right?

I encourage people to remember their “why.” It’s the reason you made a decision to start working out, eating healthy, and making better lifestyle choices. When your commitment feels like it’s starting to fade, go back to that. You’re doing this to improve your health, live longer, boost your confidence, be more attractive. Remind yourself of your goal.

Surrounding yourself with supportive people can make a big difference too. That might be close family, friends, or a training partner at the gym who will hold you accountable, help you get out of bed, train hard, and stick to your diet. But you’ll also find a lot of support, encouragement, and motivation in the Team RSF Facebook group.


14. Is it a cheat meal or a cheat day?

Do yourself a favor and have a cheat meal once a week. One meal, within reason, where you don’t follow the meal plan or spend much time obsessing over calories. Maybe that’s a burger, fries, and a diet soda. Maybe that’s a couple slices of pizza and a beer. Keep it to one meal, then go back to eating clean.

When you don’t do this, it’s all too easy for a cheat meal to turn into a cheat weekend, followed by a week of your diet going off the rails and weight gain.


15. How much water should I drink per day?

Aim to drink 3 to 4 liters of water per day, or about a gallon. That might seem like a lot if you’re not in the habit of drinking this much water. But it’s not that hard if you drink consistently throughout the day, and during workouts. Being well hydrated supports muscle elasticity, growth, repair, and metabolism.


What questions do you have about fitness, fat loss, dieting and training? Let’s discuss on Facebook.