Q&A with Joe Giandonato, M.S.

Joe Giandonato, M.S.Q: I’m an avid coffee drinker. Although, non-dairy creamer contains ‘0g fat’, the ingredients list contains the words “partially hydrogenated”. Would it be better to use real milk, which contains sugar and usually fat, as well?

A: Any food products listing “partially hydrogenated” contain Trans fats.  Trans fats have warranted the attention of many medical professionals and the media in recent years, as they have been shown to simultaneously increase LDL or “bad” cholesterol and lower your HDL or “good” cholesterol. Trans fats also may increase blood lipids, namely triglycerides. There are two reasons why food manufacturers use partially hydrogenated oils, first off, they help preserve the freshness of the product, and secondly, adding them helps with making the product more palatable.

I would avoid ingesting Trans fats, as they serve no purpose in one’s diet, unless of course, someone actually wants to risk their heart health. So with regards to your question, toss the creamer in the trash, or find a creamer that doesn’t contain any partially hydrogenated oils, better yet use skim or 1% milk with an artificial sweetener that does not contain aspartame and you’ll be golden!

Q: On days when I have to do both cardio and weight training together, which should come first and why?

A: The order in which to perform different types of exercise depends solely on the needs and goals of the trainee. However, if you’re pressed for time and desire to reap the benefits of both, I would suggest reducing the periods of rest between each set and/or combining exercises by performing supersets (i.e. performing a set of squats followed by a set of glute ham raises).

Q: I’m switching out my “white” carbs for healthier options, such as: wheat, rye, and whole grain. Which is best, and why?

A: That’s a wise choice! However, abandoning white carbs in favor of their darker counterparts have created a lot of confusion amongst consumers.  Whole grain breads, including whole grain wheat and whole grain rye, offer a myriad of benefits, and serve as a better option compared to plain wheat bread, which sometimes is  only slightly less processed than white bread. Whole grains, which are processed even less, contain more intact whole grain kernels, which are comprised of bran, or the fiber rich skin that encapsulates the kernel, the germ, which contains B vitamins and vitamin E, as well as polyunsaturated fats, and the endosperm, which supplies energy via starchy carbohydrates.

Q: I’ve heard that in order to burn fat while exercising, I need to keep my heart rate at 85% for at least 20 minutes. Is this true?

A: At higher intensities, glycogen stores with the body are utilized for energy production, whereas fat stores are utilized at lower intensities, optimally in the 60-70% range.

Q: How do I figure out what my target heart rate is?

A: Using the Karvonen Method, a trainee or athlete can effectively figure out their target heart rate.

Formula: 220 – Age = Age-predicted maximum heart rate

                 Max Heart Rate – Resting Heart Rate = Heart Rate Reserve

                 (Heart Rate Reserve x exercise intensity) + Resting Heart Rate = Target Heart Rate

Please refer to the link below for an easy to use worksheet.


Q: Will interval training be more effective for weight loss than maintaining a steady heart rate during cardio?

A: Interval training, interspersed with periods of rest, will allow you to work at greater intensities over a period of time. Interval training allows you to train all of the energy systems concurrently, thus providing a more complete workout. Excess Post Exercise Oxygen Consumption, or EPOC, is greater following interval training workouts, opposed to traditional steady state cardio sessions. During EPOC, the body is restoring itself to its pre-exercise state, and this process burns a ton of calories!

Q: I’m a female and was wondering if incorporating kettle bell exercises produce a bulky appearance to my muscles, rather than a lean appearance?

A: As a female, you shouldn’t concern yourself with the age old adage of “becoming muscle bound”. Your fellow male gym goers, provided their endocrine system is healthy and robust, are producing a tenfold amount of testosterone than you are. Light kettle bells, often used in conditioning workouts, are used at such a volume, that hypertrophy never becomes an issue. Even if you were to use heavier kettle bells, or engage in a training program consisting of barbell squats, dead lifts, rows, and presses, achieving a “bulky” appearance would be nearly impossible. On the other hand, achieving a leaner physique is possible, with proper nutritional programming and training.

Joe Giandonato is a Philadelphia-area healthcare professional and personal trainer, he holds an M.S. in Exercise Science and has nearly a decade of personal training experience, working with everyone from college athletes to senior citizens. Presently, he trains clients at Broad Street Fitness in Philadelphia, PA, before and after his day job as an office grunt. He is also pursuing a MBA and is a certified as a Performance Enhancement Specialist (PES) through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. More of his content can be found at joshstrength.com, personaltrainersunited.com, and frequency555.com.