Due to the awesome response to Rex’s article, we’re thinking of starting a weekly or bi-weekly Q&A column! So if you have a question for him, email [email protected] using ‘PT REX’ as the subject line. I’ll pass them along to him and hopefully we can all get whipped into shape!

Below, y’all asked if he could recommend a particular brand of protein powder:

Rex’s response– You definitely want to buy a reputable brand. But the most important thing is that it’s low in carbs and sugar… single digits in grams. Obviously, as you may already know, eating healthy can be quite expensive and supplements can get very pricey. I recommend stores such as GNC and Supplement Super Store for their variety and knowledgeable staff. If you’re looking for a bargain, check out www.bodybuilding.com. They have competitive pricing. I’m reluctant to recommend a brand as every brand won’t work for everybody. But, if you guys really want recommendations, I will send some to Nikki to post.

Another reader asked about her inability to lose weight in her thighs, despite her success losing it everywhere else:

Rex’s Response– Wherever you hold the most fat is the last place it’ll come off… so that’s actually normal. And many women hold a lot of fat in the lower part of their bodies. It sounds like in your current routine, you’re not doing enough to pull the weight off your legs.

I recommend that you do more cardio and more (light-medium) weight resistant leg work such as leg presses and curls, in high rep amounts (25 or so). This will get the weight off while building muscle. Other great exercises are squats and lunges.


by Rex Thompson

I’m a personal trainer in St. Louis, Missouri and a friend of Nikki and her family. During this time a year, everyone wants the answer to the same question- how can I get in shape quickly?

First, let’s talk routines. We all have routines that we do each day. Every morning you get up, have a cup of coffee, take a shower, get dressed and try to get out the door at a certain time… lunch is a certain time… work is finished at a certain time… dinner is at a certain time… a favorite TV show is at a specific time.

Getting in shape is no different, and in order for it work, we need to fit it into our daily routine. Exercise along with healthy eating should be a lifetime, lifestyle commitment. Change doesn’t happen overnight. Instead of setting a goal such as, “getting into my little black dress by the party”, try structuring the goals around actions. For example, “I will walk everyday for at least thirty minutes”, or “I will replace all my soda with water for the entire month”. This makes it less about appearances, and more about caring for yourself, and creating a new healthy routine.

First and foremost is nutrition. We get ourselves into trouble when we only eat one to three meals a day, when we eat too much at one meal, or when we binge on junk food or starve much of the day. Eating once or even twice a day not only slows down your metabolism, it also forces your body to go into starvation mode. Your body will literally believe that it needs to store carbs (which turn to fat) to keep the body from starving. And our bodies will continue to do what we’ve trained it to do, everyday. So, begin to train your body for eating 5-6 small meals per day 2.5- 3 hours apart, along with a gallon of water per day that equates to 16 eight ounce glasses, or eight 16 ounce glasses or four 32 ounce… break it down to whatever works for you in order to get it all in. It will not only keep your body burning fat (not storing it in the least attractive places) but it will leave you always feeling very full.

Another key component is fiber. Fiber keeps the digestive system flowing. For the bowels to work properly, a daily intake of 25-30 grams, or about one ounce of dietary fiber daily, is required. After the digestion of all proteins, fats and carbohydrates, and the absorption of water and other nutrients in the small intestine, the colon (the last five feet of the intestine) receives approximately one pint of liquid stool together with the undigested fiber. To keep it in simple terms, it is normal for one to have a minimum of two and often three soft, formed easily, passed bowel movements a day, without any effort or straining. It is not normal to miss moving ones bowels on any given day. It is not normal to solve the problem by taking a laxative. If your bowels move daily, but with difficulty or straining, if your stool is dry or hard, or if you don’t move your bowels daily, you need to adjust your diet for the right amount of fiber, right amount of water, limited starches and fried food intake. Benefiber is a good easy source of fiber and it can simply be added to your water… doesn’t taste bad either!

When we deprive our body’s of the proper nutrients, water, fiber and six small meals throughout the day, that’s when dehydration begins to set in. I guarantee that most of you reading this are at least in the beginning stages of dehydration. Symptoms of dehydration are pretty easy to recognize- – if you’re not drinking at least a gallon of water per day then you’ve probably experienced one or all of these symptoms: fatigue, lethargy, irritability, headaches, blurred vision, flushed skin, lack of mental clarity, constipation, back pain, excess weight, high cholesterol, cellulite, water retention, dry hair/skin, and brittle nails. Water is your body’s principal chemical component, making up, on average, 60 percent of your body weight. Every system in your body depends on water. For example, water flushes toxins out of vital organs, carries nutrients to your cells and provides a moist environment for ear, nose and throat tissues.

Dehydration is a condition that occurs when you don’t have enough water in your body to carry out normal functions. Even mild dehydration can drain your energy and make you tired. Every day you lose water through your breath, perspiration, urine and bowel movements. For your body to function properly, you must replenish its water supply by consuming beverages and foods that contain water, and cutting down on beverages that dehydrate (caffeine).

It’s easy to develop these harmful habits that leave us feeling tired, sick, and unmotivated. This leads to less energy for things like physical activity and healthful eating. It’s a vicious cycle.

The good news is, once we are able to recognize these habits, they become much easier to change.

A typical day should begin on an empty stomach, thirty minutes of walking outdoors or at your local gym or track. Thirty minutes in the evening, at least 3 times per week with a day off in between. A good example of an entire body workout to be done at home should consist of push-ups, squats and crunches…a great option for those of us strapped for time and or money. If you decide to join a gym there’s so many affordable options out there today to fit your budget. Find a knowledgeable trainer that not only fits your budget but one you feel comfortable with that has your best interest in mind.

Gym or at home workouts should be done three days per work with a day off in between. It really is that simple!

Unless you’re planning on being a professional body builder, the average person is able to maintain a healthy diet even on the tightest budget. For example, eggs are the perfect protein, and the everyday price at Trader Joe’s is $1.49 for a dozen large. Oatmeal in bulk is also very inexpensive and you can even use it in place of batter or bread crumbs to make healthy baked fish sticks that the entire family will enjoy.

Choose fruits low in sugar and high in antioxidants, the top three ranked are blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries. Mid range sugar level fruits are strawberries, apples and watermelon. Fruits highest in sugar are grapes, banana’s and cherries. With that said, like anything else, moderation is key when indulging.

Top vegetables are those high in fiber and low in sugar such as mustard greens, collard greens, (nix the bacon fat) spinach, and broccoli. Peas are extremely high in fiber, just be cautious of the sugars. Fresh is always best, especially if locally grown, but when funds are tight, frozen is an excellent substitution. Trader Joe’s is very inexpensive and their frozen vegetables are the closet to fresh I’ve been able to find. Beans are very (fresh, canned is to high in sodium) high in protein, and fiber. Beans can be prepared in advance they freeze and thaw very well.

Example meals for one day:

Breakfast– A fresh smoothie in the morning containing berries, plain yogurt and a scoop of a good quality protein makes an excellent way to start the day.

Mid morning snack– Two ounces of deli turkey, 1 stick low-fat string cheese

Lunch– Solid white tuna in water (try substituting the mayo for mustard) and two slices of whole wheat or grain bread

Midday Snack– 1 oz mixed nuts and 1 cup cottage cheese or low-fat yogurt,

Dinner– 6 oz lean top sirloin, 2 tablespoons salsa, 1 medium tortilla, 2 cups green salad, 2 tablespoons oil & vinegar dressing

Evening snack– Two tablespoons of peanut butter with a medium sized apple

When you begin a workout routine you will need to add a pre-workout drink (2 scoops protein mixed with water) and a handful of berries. Post-workout can include another protein drink along with a 20 ounce Gatorade.

When selecting a protein, powder is less expensive than pre-mixed drinks, watch the calories, fat content and sugars. When inquiring, keep in mind it’s not a meal replacement, it’s a supplement to fuel your muscles. Look for a good quality whey protein that will meet all the above criteria.

No matter what your fitness goals are, they can be achieved by simply replacing bad habits with good ones. Just a few simple changes to your daily routine will have you feeling better in no time, and on your way to your best body.

Rex Thompson, CPFT, Personal Trainer

[email protected]

St. Louis, MO