Newsletter frequently asked questions

Every week, I answer a reader question related to fitness, nutrition, or life in general. Below, you’ll find a collection of some of those answers. 

The goal of these newsletters is to share answers to some of your most frequently asked questions, without diving into a lengthy article about it. I’ll continue to write long-form articles on the blog. But this is a way for you to get tremendous value without having to dedicate a ton of your free time.

Use the table of contents below to help explore this page.


Question: I’m trying to limit my calories to 1400 a day. Some days I’m just not as hungry as others. Is it ok to have 1,800 one day and only 1,000 another as long as at the end of the week my calories average out at 1,400 roughly? 

As a refresher, a calorie deficit is created by taking in fewer calories than your body needs over an extended period of time. If you do this one thing consistently you will lose body fat and weight.

If fat loss is your goal it’s totally cool to have higher and lower caloric days as long as you average a calorie deficit over time. Just be mindful of how low and high those days are and how it affects your training, energy, mood, and appetite.

I love this question because it represents what eating in real life is like. There will be some days you’re not as hungry as others. Learning how to identify physical hunger versus mental or emotional hunger can help with this. As does understanding fullness cues or when you’ve had enough to eat.

It’s also a nice reminder that you don’t need to be perfect with your diet to be successful. You’re allowed to consciously take in fewer calories one day if you’d like – and still be successful with losing body fat.


Question: How many calories should I eat a day?

I would need to know a little more about your goals. As well as training and diet history to answer this accurately. But generally speaking, you can approach how many calories to eat in a day like this.

  • Muscle gain: Bodyweight x 16-18
  • Fat loss: Bodyweight x 10-12
  • Maintenance: Bodyweight x 13-15

Note: In my coaching practice I’m finding that obese clients can be successful with a lower calorie range (i.e bodyweight x 8-10) and not have any adverse side effects in energy, appetite, and strength. It’s important to note that these ranges are simply places you could star but it’s always in your best interest to work with a professional.

Example of a 150-pound person whose goal is fat loss.

  • 150 x 10-12 = 1,500 to 1,800 calories per day

The reason for the range is to give you some flexibility while eating instead of obsessing over hitting numbers. This isn’t perfect and you don’t need to be perfect with it to be successful. The idea is to shrink the margin of error.

We’re notoriously bad at estimating how much (calories) we’re eating per meal and per day. By having a rough idea of where you should be, and choosing a method to create awareness around calorie intake you can be very successful.

Some ways to create calorie awareness:

  • Weigh and measure food portions and track calories in an app
  • Read labels and look up nutrition info online for things you make at home and grab out.
  • Use your hands as a way to estimate and monitor portion size
    • 1 palm = 20-30 grams of protein or 3-4 ounces
    • 1 fist = 1 cup
    • 1 cupped handful = 20-30 grams of carbohydrates or ½ to ⅔ cup cooked or medium fruit
    • 1 thumb = 7-12 grams of fat or 1 tablespoon

portion sizes hand portion estimates

It’s a place to start. Use it as a tool to help you create more awareness around what and how much you’re eating.

Monitor progress by weighing yourself regularly, taking body measurements, and using photos. Adjust accordingly based on the feedback you’re getting.

And before someone emails me about calories not being the only thing that matters…

Calories matter most when it comes to fat loss. But other things matter too.

  • Quality of food
  • Building a strong sleep routine 
  • Practicing self-care and stress management 
  • Appetite awareness
  • Noticing when you’re full and stopping eating
  • Macronutrients of the meal
  • And more…


Question: What are the best foods for weight loss?

  1. There
  2. Are
  3. No
  4. Best
  5. Foods
  6. For
  7. Weight
  8. Loss

There is no single food that will cause you to lose weight. Weight loss happens when you create a consistent calorie deficit over an extended period of time.

A calorie deficit is taking in fewer calories than your body needs. This is regardless of the foods that you eat.

Pizza, ice cream, wine, or chicken and broccoli can all be eaten when trying to lose weight.

That doesn’t mean quality does not matter – it does. But the most important thing for weight loss is a calorie deficit.

If I left the answer at that it would be rather disappointing. So let’s go over some actionable steps that might be more helpful.

Get a rough idea of how many calories you need per day

This is not perfect but it’s a place to start.

  • Muscle gain: Bodyweight x 16-18
  • Fat loss: Bodyweight x 10-12
  • Maintenance: Bodyweight x 13-15

Example of a 150-pound person whose goal is fat loss.

  • 150 x 10-12 = 1,500 to 1,800 calories per day

We’re notoriously bad at estimating how much (calories) we’re eating per meal and per day. By having a rough idea of where you should be, and choosing a method to create awareness around calorie intake you can be very successful.

Some ways to create calorie awareness:

  • Weigh and measure food portions and track calories in an app
  • Don’t track but read labels and look up nutrition info online for things you make at home and grab out. Adjust each week based on your progress
  • Use your hands as a way to estimate and monitor portion sizes
    • 1 palm = 20-30 grams of protein or 3-4 ounces
    • 1 fist = 1 cup
    • 1 cupped handful = 20-30 grams of carbohydrates or ½ to ⅔ cup cooked or medium fruit
    • 1 thumb = 7-12 grams of fat or 1 tablespoon

1). Choose less calorie-dense foods more often.

Calorie density can simply be summed up as more food with fewer calories.

More specifically, it’s the number of calories in a given weight of the food. A food high in calorie density has a large number of calories in a small weight of food (i.e. olive oil). A food low in calorie density would have a small number of calories in the same weight of food (i.e. broccoli).

Choosing foods lower in calorie density is important because these foods are satiating and fill our stomachs without adding tons of calories to our diet.

Generally speaking, vegetables and fruit are the lowest in calorie density, followed by whole food starches, animal proteins, and finally liquid calories, nuts, seeds, and oils. Highly processed foods like cookies, candy, ice cream, and fries would also be calorie-dense foods.

2). Emphasize protein and veggies at the major of your meals.

Protein helps control hunger and preserves muscle. Veggies at bulk to your meals which help with satiation. And also tons of vitamins and minerals.

3). Eat foods you like

Your much more likely to stick to your diet if you include foods you actually enjoy. If 80% of these are whole foods – you’re probably in pretty good shape.

Create a shortlist (3-5 in each category) of foods you like and eat those things.

  • Protein: Chicken, unsweetened Greek yogurt, ground beef, salmon
  • Veggies: Broccoli, carrot, spinach, cauliflower, brussels sprouts
  • Carbs: White rice, sweet potato, plantain, apple, raspberries
  • Healthy fat: Avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, grass-fed butter

I’m not sure you need to be told that Lucky Charms are not an ideal breakfast. But that doesn’t mean you can’t eat a bowl on Saturday morning with your kids.

Just create calorie awareness around how much you’re eating. Weigh out a portion and be mindful of it.


Question: I love carbs, how can I eat them and still lose fat?

Overall calories are the most important factor for losing fat. If you consistently eat fewer calories than your body needs, you will lose body fat. If you consistently eat more calories than your body needs, you will add body fat.

It’s not the low carb diet.

When people go on low carb diets like Atkins or Keto it’s not the cutting of carbs that’s helping them lose weight. It’s that they are removing an entire group of food and not replacing the calories.

The same thing can happen if someone decides to go vegan and completely eliminates an animal protein. If they remove those calories, don’t replace them, and it creates a calorie deficit they will lose weight.

The same thing happens when someone starts intermittent fasting and removes an entire meal.

It’s not the diet per se, it’s that they inadvertently reduced their calories enough to create a consistent calorie deficit.

Calorie density

When people move to a low carb diet they often swap calorie-dense processed carbs (and foods in general) with lower calorie whole foods. Which means they are eating less and feeling full, resulting in fewer calories eaten overall.

For example, a donut is often considered a carb. But there’s also a fair amount of fat in one. The same goes for ice cream. When these things are replaced with fruits, veggies, and proteins – calories are reduced.

But what about my friend Sally who gave up bread and lost 15 pounds?

Well, I don’t know your friend Sally but what most likely happened is she was eating a lot of bread, swapped it with vegetables (like a lettuce bun), and reduced her overall calorie intake enough to lose weight.

  • Sally before: ????????? = more calories than she needed.
  • Sally after: ???????? = fewer calories than she needed.

And before someone emails me about insulin. Yes, carbs increase insulin. No, insulin after meals does not lead to fat gain. Only eating more calories does.


You can eat carbs and still lose fat. Calorie balance matters most.

If you want to dive into some of the research. I recommend checking out this review on low carb vs. low-fat diets.

What we are seeing is that there is not a large body of evidence indicating that a low carb diet is better than other diets for weight loss. As long as there is no difference in calorie or protein intake.


Question: What dietary changes can I make to flatten my stomach?

I’m going to assume you don’t have diastasis recti. If that’s true then to flatten your stomach you would need to lose body fat. To lose body fat a calorie deficit is needed.

Below are a few dietary changes that will help with this.

  • Create a consistent calorie deficit. There is no getting around this. To lose body fat (and flatten your stomach) this is necessary.
  • Eat a serving of protein with each meal. How much exactly is up for debate but again, no need to overthink this.
    • 2 palms of protein for most men (40–60 grams of protein per meal) at most meals is a great place to start.
    • 1 palm of protein for most women (20–30 grams of protein per meal)
  • Move your body in meaningful ways. Whatever you enjoy – do that. If you like yoga, do yoga. If you like walking, go walk. If you dig lifting weights, that’s cool too. Whatever you like.
  • Eat mostly whole foods and less processed stuff. Let’s just say 80/20.
  • Read labels to create calorie awareness or don’t buy stuff with a label
  • Eat until 80% full. Always leave a little room in the tank
  • Drink water and limit zero-calorie beverages

Do these things consistently and you will lose body fat and flatten your stomach.

Let’s not over complicate this – it’s very simple. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.


Question: Should I eat late at night or before bed?

I would need to know more about your goals to answer this specifically for you. Are you looking to lose weight, gain weight, neither?

But ultimately it doesn’t really matter. If you want to lose weight the most important thing is creating a consistent calorie deficit (eating fewer calories than your body needs over an extended period of time).

It doesn’t matter what time of day you consume your calories. Your body doesn’t have an alarm that says, “ok, it’s late we should only use these calories to add fat to the body.”

If eating late at night causes you to eat in a surplus, then you’ll want to watch your intake in the evening or adjust throughout the day.

If you want to gain weight the most important thing is creating a consistent calorie surplus over an extended period of time (eating more calories than your body needs). So eating right up until bed could be an easy way to eat more.

Let’s say Freddie wants to lose fat and he knows he knows 2,500 calories is his maintenance level.

Freddie eating late at night:

  • Morning: ??
  • Lunch: ??
  • Dinner: ??????
  • Bedtime snack: ??
  • Total calories: 2,000

Freddie not eating late at night:

  • Morning: ???
  • Lunch: ???
  • Afternoon snack: ?
  • Dinner: ?????
  • Total calories: 2,000

As you can see, calories are kept the same and both approaches would help Freddie lose weight, regardless of whether he ate more at night or not.


Question: I only eat when I have time, and I’m not seeing good results, even though I eat clean.

This is a question that comes up often. In fact, most of my clients come to me already eating pretty “clean.”

First, I would need to know what your specific goals are. Weight loss, lean muscle, strength, maintenance, etc… I’ll assume your goal is to lose fat and build lean muscle and approach the question that way.

1). Clean is a very vague word and could mean different things from one person to the next. Regardless, if fat loss is the goal calories matter most. If you’re not losing body fat it’s likely that you’re eating too much – even if you think you’re not – and even if you’re “eating clean.”

You can eat uber clean and still eat too much and that will stall progress. Let’s say Ash needs 2,000 calories to maintain their weight.

  • Ash eating clean: ????????? = 1,700 calories = Fat loss
  • Ash eating clean: ??????????? = 2,000 = Maintenance
  • Ash eating clean: ?????????????? = 2,500 = Gain

As you can see. In all cases Ash is eating uber clean but depending on how much they eat will determine if they lose, maintain, or gain.

I recommend keeping a food journal for a week or 2 to see how “clean” you’re actually eating. If that doesn’t help, trying weighing portions for a week or two using a food scale and possibly tracking calories for a little bit.

Here’s a simple diet setup guide

2). How are you measuring progress? If it’s only by the scale I would consider taking girth measurements as well as photos. The scale will fluctuate pretty often depending on a number of things (time of day, salt, carb intake, poop, time of the month, and more).

Measurement guide

3). Are you resistance training? You can lose weight without exercise but you can’t build lean muscle without it. Resistance training will create a more aesthetic look that people are after. I won’t dive deep into that here but if you’re interested in setting up a routine use the link below.

Getting started resistance and strength training guide

4). Lastly, a lot of people work week diet. They eat uber clean during the week and create a calorie deficit (for fat loss) but on the weekend calories blow up and it averages out to maintenance or even gain in some cases.

What happens is a halo effect. For 5 or 6 days you ate super clean but that one or two days was more calorie than you thought. It feels like you’re eating super “clean” (which you are for the most part) but that one or two days is stalling progress. Just check-in and see if that may be happening.

Ok, well this got rather long now didn’t it.


Question: If I eat 1,700 calories per day. One day is 200 grams protein, 25 grams carbs, and 78 grams fat, and another day I eat 125 grams carbs, 125 grams protein, and 78 grams fat, is there a downside to the higher carb day? Am I possibly losing more muscle as I lose weight on the lower protein day? On the higher carb day and I am no longer in ketosis?

Ok, there are actually two questions here but I won’t hold it against you ?

First, no there is not a downside to the higher carb day if fat loss is your goal. As I’ve mentioned before, for weight and fat loss the most important part is a consistent calorie deficit over time.

If you prefer more carbs in your diet, cool – go for it. As long as you maintain a consistent deficit you’ll fine.

It’s great that you asked about protein intake, which is the one macronutrient that seems to matter most when it comes to weight and fat loss.

According to this study by keeping your protein intake to 1.2-1.6 per kilogram of bodyweight you could see improvements in appetite, bodyweight management, and reduced cardiometabolic risk factors.

Second, you asked if the higher carb day is kicking you out of ketosis. Probably, but honestly, I have no idea, you can test it. I talk about how in the beginner’s guide to the ketogenic diet.

But unless you want to be in ketosis does it really matter? It most likely won’t influence weight loss while maintaining lean muscle if that is your goal.


Question: What are some simple pieces of nutrition advice that may benefit (almost) everyone? I feel like there is so much conflicting nutrition advice out there, diet wars, and so on.

Navigating between all the different diet philosophies and conflicting information can get rather frustrating and confusing, can’t it?

But, if you take what most diets and science already agree on you’ll have a solid set of guidelines (not rules) that can help you.

  • Eating fewer processed foods is a good idea (think 80/20)Adding more veggies is great
  • Eating protein is good for our health and physical performance. Animal or plant-based is a personal preference
  • Understanding when you’re hungry and have had enough to eat matters
  • Learning about energy (calorie) balance is important
  • Eat more whole foods and less processed foods.
  • Know why you’re eating (physical hunger or something else? Angry, lonely, tired, bored, stressed, etc…)

It’s really hard to overhaul your diet overnight. To apply these principles pick one and spend 2 to 4 weeks focusing on that one thing. Once you’ve built some consistency with it move on to the next.

If you need help use my free Getting started with your diet guide: Improving your nutrition today.

The last thing I would add to this is to strive for good enough versus perfect. Potential clients come to me all the time who have bounced from diet to diet, cut this food out, and that food out. All in hopes of “the best” way to eat.
There is no best way.

You won’t “eat clean” all that time, nor do you have to and that is ok. If you get really good at those 6 low hanging fruits you’ll be pretty successful.

Exercise, workouts, training

Question: How do I build muscle mass better? If I start monitoring my macros, what is the percentage of protein I should get in my diet? Caveat: I don’t want to be bodybuilder type bulky. I want to continuously get stronger.

When most people ask me this question I usually follow it up with a question of my own.

“Do you want to build more muscle or see more muscle?”

The reason is, most people still have fat (not weight) to lose. When they lose fat and see more muscle they’re excited.

If you’re not sure a point of reference is 10-12% body fat for men and 20-22% body fat for women.

body fat percentages in men and women

If you’re not there, lose fat first.

But I’m going to answer this as if you don’t have or want to lose any body fat. If you still have or want to lose body fat my answer would be different.

Part 1: Diet

To build muscle mass better you need to eat in a caloric surplus (more calorie than your body needs). I recommend starting with a small surplus of 300 calories.

One way to determine this is to weigh and track your food each week. If you’re not gaining weight you need to eat more.

Most people want to add muscle without excess fat so

  • Men: aim to gain between 1-2lbs per month.
  • Women: aim to gain between 0.5-1lb per month.

If you want to skip that step you can Multiply your current weight (in pounds) by 14-16 and add 300 calories to it. This isn’t perfect but it’s a place to start.

If weighing and tracking isn’t your thing you can track hand-sized portions. If you’re not gaining, you need to eat more.

Focus on getting enough protein. Around .8 grams to 1.2 grams per pound of body weight.

For carbs and fats, let them fill in your remaining calories based on which you prefer. But a serving of carbs and fats at most meals will make sense. The specific percentage of each won’t matter that much as long as you’re in a small calorie surplus.

Note: I recommend taking photos each month. This is a great measure of progress.

Part 2: Training

To train for more muscle mass all focus on the compound lifts that work big muscle groups. And apply progressive overload. I wrote all about this here.

Be mindful of not doing too much or adding in a ton of excess cardio. Get good sleep and manage stress. You’ll be good to go.

Finally, there are other factors that determine progress. Not only in building muscle but fat loss.

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Training history
  • Experience
  • Genetics
  • And more…

Be patient. This may take a while.


Question: What are the best exercises to lose weight (which exercise help with weight loss)?

Much like there isn’t the best food or foods for weight loss. There isn’t the best exercise or exercise either. And even if there were, what if you didn’t like those exercises. How likely would you be to do them?

The most important factor for weight loss is creating a consistent calorie deficit. This is done primarily by not eating more than we need.

Next would be getting adequate protein. This is needed to maintain lean muscle mass and to help with satiation while eating.

After that would be resistance training. We need to stop viewing exercise as a way to ‘burn calories.” This causes us to think that more is better and gets us away from the most important part of weight loss (see calorie deficit through diet).

When in a calorie deficit (the most important thing for weight loss) resistance training enhances lean body mass. This is important because without lean muscle we lose the aesthetic look most of us are after. Maintaining muscle mass is also important for metabolism and the way we process foods.

Some exercises you could include as part of your resistance training program:

  • Squats and leg presses
  • Lunges
  • Deadlifts
  • Bench presses and push-ups
  • Overhead presses
  • Rows
  • Pull-ups or chin-ups

Feel free to use your bodyweight, dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells, or other pieces of equipment. The most important part of resistance training is progressive overload – which I’ve covered in this getting started guide.

And that brings me to “NEAT.”

Neat stands for non-exercise activity thermogenesis. This is all the activity we do each day that is not intentional exercise. 

There are 24 hours in a day. Most of us can workout intentionally for an hour, 3 to 4 days per week. That means there are 163 to 165 hours each week that were are not exercising. 

Those hours are going to have a much greater influence over the 3 to 4 hours we’re in the gym. Not to beat a dead horse, but…. Create a calorie deficit through diet not exercise.

With those 163 to 165 hours find ways to move your body more. This could be standing more, parking further away from the grocery store, taking the stairs more often. Hell, clean your home more.

I’d also like you to introduce you to a concept called meaningful movement.

The best exercises for weight loss would start with moving your body in ways you enjoy. I call this meaningful movement. This could be walking, dance lessons, beat saber, or other active hobbies.

Consistent exercise is a key indicator and in weight management but does not lead to weight loss alone. It is a way to increase energy expenditure (burn calories). But because most of us are limited on how much time we can dedicate to it there are better ways to create the calorie deficit that is needed to lose weight.

To review.

  • There are no best exercises for weight loss.
  • Create a consistent calorie deficit through diet
  • Get enough protein (a serving with each meal)
  • Resistance training
  • Increase your NEAT or meaningful movement