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Q1: How to Fix Uneven Abs

I was doing side planks and noticed I could hold one side a lot longer than the other. Is it possible to have uneven abs?

A. Not only possible, but likely. “It’s quite common to have left-right asymmetries within your body, both from a movement-pattern standpoint and a strength standpoint,” says Neghar Fonooni, RKC II, CK-FMS, ACE-certified personal trainer and general manager of Optimum Performance Training Institute in Columbia, Md. “An example of a strength asymmetry is when the right arm is stronger at pressing a kettlebell overhead than the left,” she says. “The solution could be as easy as increasing the volume of pressing on the less-strong side to help close up the gap. It is no real cause for concern.”

But a movement asymmetry, on the other hand, is a dysfunction worth correcting to reduce injury risk and improve training efficiency. “Rather than thinking of this as ‘uneven abs,’ think of it as one side being better connected and more stable in that movement pattern than the other,” says Fonooni. “The side plank is not merely an oblique exercise: It requires a lot of muscles working together to control alignment.” Since there could be an underlying issue preventing you from connecting properly, Fonooni suggests seeking the help of a professional who’s educated in movement assessment and correction, such as a certified Functional Movement Specialist (FMS). If that’s not possible, search for and perform the exercises on the “self-movement screen” on the MyFMSTV channel on YouTube.

In addition, evaluate your training as a whole. Are you feeding that asymmetry by allowing one side to progress while the other is stagnant or even regressing? Fonooni suggests you do a little extra work on the less-strong side. She further recommends starting on the less-connected side, then switching to the more-connected side, and then returning to the first side as one complete set.

Q2: Sweetened Recovery Drinks

Is it better for my recovery drink to have artificial sweeteners of real sugar in it?

A. Let’s back up a step: “First, assess whether you even need to use a recovery drink with sugar or extra carbohydrates in it,” says Tom Nikkola, director of nutrition and weight management at Life Time Fitness in Chanhassen, Minn. “This depends on the type of workout you’re doing, your current fitness level and your goals.” Those who are in great physical condition and are looking to optimize recovery from workouts so they can train again as soon as possible are the ones who stand to benefit from postworkout simple carbohydrates, including sugars. In that case, says Nikkola, the ideal, fastest-absorbing form of postworkout sugar is glucose — not sucrose, lactose, fructose or natural sugars, such as honey or various syrups.

People pursuing weight-loss goals, on the other hand, should control their postworkout carbohydrate intake more cautiously. “After a workout, your body burns an elevated level of fat for fuel. But consuming too many postworkout carbs can shut down this function,” says Nikkola. “A better alternative for those seeking to lower body fat is to have a little protein and fat after a workout, with a limited amount of carbohydrate.”

Nikkola prefers drinks with just a little natural sweetener like stevia. Don’t reach for artificially sweetened drinks, though. Most no-cal, no-carb sweeteners come with their own problems. (Read for “Poor Substitutes” to learn more.) So if you just want a little flavor and thirst-quenching, try throwing an orange slice in your water bottle

Q3: Increasing HGH and Testerone

Is there a natural way I can increase my levels of human growth hormone and testosterone?

A.Great question — both are important for building muscle, reducing signs of aging and promoting overall health. And you can indeed increase your levels of both. “First, get lots of sleep. A full eight hours a night naturally increases your human growth hormone [HGH] levels,” says Bal Rajagopalan, MD, double-board-certified orthopedic surgeon and fitness expert who’s based in Beverly Hills, Calif. He also recommends lowering and off-setting stress by “chilling out” and “laughing a lot,” because stress hormones released from our pituitary gland decrease HGH levels.

And testosterone? “Intense exercise such as interval training spikes your testosterone,” says Rajagopalan. “Plus, maintaining a lean, healthy body will keep your levels higher in general.” He also recommends snacking on nuts, since the monounsaturated fats are thought to stimulate testosterone production.

Start doing these things as early as possible, he adds: “Our levels of testosterone and HGH decrease dramatically by our 30s. If you nurture them early on, you’ll have an easier time maintaining both.”

Jen Sinkler

Jen Sinkler, PCC, RKC-II, is a fitness writer and personal trainer based in Minneapolis. Her website is

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