When “Mario Lopez’s Knockout Fitness” was released in stores in 2008, it became a favorite among the health and fitness crowd as well as the curious who wanted to know how this 5-foot-10-inch performer stays so fit. While some might have thought his follow-up book might have been another health-related volume, the handsome 36-year-old penned the children’s book “Mud Tacos” with his sister Marissa Lopez Wong (released in October). The culturally inspired tale about their family and the bond between a brother and sister is sure to entertain while educating youngsters.

The San Diego native enjoyed sports like wrestling in high school, but has gravitated toward entertainment as an adult. Lopez first appeared on television in the 1984 series “a.k.a. Pablo,” but he’ll probably always be associated with the classmates on “Saved by the Bell” which premiered 20 years ago.

Daytime viewers ogled him for four months in 2006 as he portrayed sexy Dr. Christian Ramirez on “The Bold and the Beautiful.” He danced his way into our living rooms on the hit program “Dancing With the Stars,” coming in second in the 2006 to 2007 season, and then went on to star in Broadway’s revival of “A Chorus Line” in 2008.

Lopez is the host of “Extra” and regularly fills in as guest host on “Live with Regis and Kelly,” while appearing on other TV shows such as FX’s “Nip/Tuck.”

Bankrate: I know you are still very close to your mother, talking to her several times a week. What’s the best advice she’s ever given you?

Mario Lopez: She’s given me a lot of good advice. To nail it down, it would probably be: There are no shortcuts, nothing beats hard work and God’s watching.

Bankrate: Thinking back, did you ever have certain dreams that you gave up on only to reclaim them later on in life?

Mario Lopez: No. I just sort of kept going. I just wanted to tackle as many fields as I could and do as many different things as I could. I don’t have any regrets. Wait, I have regrets (laughs) but not professionally at least.

Bankrate: “Mario Lopez’s Knockout Fitness” was a best-seller, but your follow-up book is a children’s story. Do you have any plans to do another fitness book?

Mario Lopez: Actually I’m following it up with a diet book, and I can’t give you too much info really. But it will come out sometime after the children’s book. I think what you eat is so important to your overall health. It’s not just about working out, but what you put into your body as well.

Bankrate: So if I went into your kitchen today, what staples would I always find?

Mario Lopez: Protein muffins, a lot of meat and chicken in the fridge and freezer. I like cereal a lot so there’s always milk. And I like milk in my coffee, too, and lots of fresh fruits.

Bankrate: I know you box, swim and do other regular forms of exercise. Do you engage in sports or incorporate sports into your workout routine?

Mario Lopez: Oh, yeah. I’m going to be playing softball this weekend. I play basketball. I really like playing most sports.

Bankrate: You are often associated with a pretty woman on your arm or who’s vacationing with you. In Hollywood, what woman’s sense of style do you admire?

Mario Lopez: I just did an “Extra” show with Katherine Heigl and she always looks very pretty, stylish and classy. So does Catherine Zeta-Jones. I like those classic looks in a woman. I think Diane Lane takes really good care of herself.

Bankrate: You have a fast-paced career. But in this economic climate, have you downsized your lifestyle at all?

Mario Lopez: I’ve always lived a conservative lifestyle. I haven’t been one to be extravagant at all. I don’t even think I’ve had a big splurge, come to think of it. No wait, I bought an outdoor, waterproof TV not too long ago.

Bankrate: You are in big demand right now as host, author and performer. But you’re in such a tenuous business, do you save for that proverbial rainy day?

Mario Lopez: All the time. When you don’t grow up with a lot of money as I did, you start to think in two ways. You start spending it a lot, or you are very conservative and start saving for a rainy day. I’m a saver.

Bankrate: What award would give you the greatest pleasure in the world?

Mario Lopez: I don’t put a lot of weight into awards. I’ve received some community awards that made me feel good from doing stuff with the Boys & Girls Club. I got entered into their Hall of Fame. That meant a lot to me. But I don’t need accolades or a pat on the back for my work. It’s nice, but the other is more special.

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