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Some answers to questions asked by those who've viewed this site thus far (to read other questions and answers, go to www.cherylrichardson.com/forums):

Food Allergies

Q: Is it possible that food allergies could affect how I feel when I train? Is it true that allergy-causing foods could keep me from losing weight?

A: Because many foods contain additives, i.e., chemicals, hormones, and dyes, you may be consuming some that affect how you feel when you work out.

The foods that you're most allergic to are oftentimes those you most crave. Common allergy-causing foods include both wheat and yeast, as well as sugar and dairy foods, like cereal, milk, and eggs. Mushrooms, coffee, corn, and fruit can be problematic, too, but by no means are they the only foods that can cause an allergic response.

If you are, in fact, having symptoms caused by allergies to certain foods, you're apt to experience lethargy, loss of energy, and fatigue. Headaches and gastrointestinal ills are also a common response, as well as flushing, bloating, increased perspiration, and rapid pulse. These are the types of symptoms that are most often "UFOs" (Unidentified Fitness Obstacles). And yes, they can sap your energy, cause weight gain, and limit your strength.

The following test can be used to assess your response to particular foods:

Coca's Pulse Test for Food Allergies

1. Take your pulse before you consume the food that you wish to test.
2. Maintain a relaxed position in a place where you don't feel stressed.
3. Wait at least twenty minutes and then take your pulse again. If your heart rate is ten beats higher (or more), an allergy may be the cause. There are other, more exacting tests you can use to confirm your results. To learn about other options, consult a physician or N.D. (naturopath).

Weight Loss

Q: Name the most common UFOs with regard to losing weight.

A: Although there are many common blocks that can keep us from losing weight, I've found that the problem often stems from one of two common themes:

1. Snack amnesia. I've found that people tend to "forget" how much they snack between meals. They also underestimate how many calories are in snack foods. When researchers had people guess the amount of calories they consumed, they found that many we're eating more than TWICE what they assumed.
2. Snack denial. I've also found that people tend to deny how much they eat ("I seldom eat very much between meals" or "I don't often eat this much food"). Or, they tend to rationalize the "benefit" of certain foods ("bacon is high in protein" or "bran muffins are low in fat").

If you can relate to any of this, you may want to keep a food log. If you write down everything that you eat, you may spot a troublesome trend — one that you might be oblivious to or are hesitant to admit.

Training to Muscular Failure

Q: When performing resistance movements (using machines or lifting weights), is training to muscular failure the only way to reach my goals? Is a maximum effort essential? Can I get good results doing less?


A: It depends on what your standards are and how you define "good results." If a slight or moderate change is what you consider a good result, you don't need to train to failure - you can achieve modest goals doing less. However, to achieve optimum gains, it's best that you work to your max, provided your movements are always performed in a manner that's proper and safe.

You'll observe a certain degree of change regardless of how you train, but in general, the greater your effort is, the greater that change will be. To accomplish muscular failure, DO NOT STOP until fully fatigued. When performing a set with machines or weights, do as many strict reps as you can.

According to some fitness experts, training this way isn't such a good thing. Many claim that the research in favor of training to failure is scarce, and that training with less intensity helps to prevent injured muscles and joints. However, in my experience, training to failure means better results, and as long as you're training correctly, there is no appreciable risk. In the thirty plus years that I've trained with weights (and kept a meticulous record), I've had all the proof I need that training this way leads to greater gains. Working with clients has underscored this; their gains have been greater, as well.

Training to failure will maximize gains in muscle mass, strength, and tone, unless, in the course of doing so, the following errors are made:

  A muscle group is maximally stressed more often than twice a week
  You train the same muscle group (maximally) two or more days in a row
  You perform more sets than you need to or an exercise is performed wrong

While training to failure can be the key to achieving your best result, you should not push yourself in any way that is awkward or uncontrolled. In other words, STOP if you're using poor form or feeling unreasonable pain. Also, if you train sporadically (or have not done much training with weights), you'll need to give your body a chance to adjust to whatever you do. You may also have emotional blocks that affect how you tolerate stress, in which case you must know your limits and train at a slower, more comfortable pace.