On-Cycle, milk thistle, anti-depressant, Wellbutrin, Bill Pearl, creatine, carb cutting

Q&A

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Q: Hey,
I was just wondering what you thought about the supplement made by Fitzogen called "On-Cycle." Is it worth taking or would you stick to creatine and protein products?

A: Hey yourself.
I can't believe that there are supplement companies out there that still use bovine orchic (bull nuts) in their contents. It will do nothing for you. Let me repeat that, it will do nothing for you. I don't care if you eat 10 potato size nuts every day, you'll get zilch results. One of a few ingredient that does work, however, listed in the contents of this product is Tonkat Ali extract, but they list it in conjunction with puncture vine extract, so you don't know how much of it is in the product.

Other ingredients that are proven to work well contained in On-Cycle are milk thistle and saw palmetto. Milk thistle is an excellent liver detoxifier. The clinical efficacy of milk thistle has been clearly established and has been shown overwhelmingly to improve liver function. For all forms of liver problems, dozens of studies have shown a recommended dosage of 400mg to 600mg divided into three daily doses. Fizogen doesn't even contain 25mg of the stuff with a serving size of six capsules! Meanwhile, saw palmetto is an excellent product in treating benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). The jury is out on the exact effect saw palmetto has, but it is believed to lower serum levels of dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is thought to be a major cause of BPH. The recommended dosage is 360mg per day. Fizogen contains less than 24mg. Are you starting to follow where I'm going with this?

I'm not even going to bother with the other ingredients; my mind and your mind should be made up. This product sucks, is expensive at $119.95 per bottle and lasts 15 days. But, to be fair, right now they are offering a buy-two-get-one-free deal that brings the cost down to $79.97 per bottle. With only 15 servings per bottle, each serving will set you back $5.33. Can you see what an absolute and utter rip off this is, even with the deal?

Your next question would invariably be, "what product should I take if not On-Cycle?" I really like and recommend Alpha Male or Red Kat, which are available at www.t-nation.com. These are by far the best testosterone boosters on the market. The one I use more often is Red Kat. I will use two bottles of Red Kat for every bottle of Alpha Male. At $.56 per day for Red Kat you can't beat the price and the results speak for themselves.

And by the way, don't stop taking your protein, but make sure you cycle your creatine eight weeks on, four weeks off.

Q: Hey, it’s me again,
I previously wrote to you about the use of Fizogen's "On-Cylce" and you gave me some great ideas and made some good points...

My next question is about the drug tests. I recently took a drug test and amphetamine and tricyclin showed up as positive. Luckily, this test wasn't from my college but from my physician. I was wondering if you could find out what in the supplement "On-Cycle" could make this show up. LOL. And so you don’t question me, I have never smoked or taking any kind of drugs, haven’t been drinking cough syrup and am also not on anti-depressants! And by the way, I finished my bottle of the product, and how long do you think it will take to leave my system?

I greatly appreciate your help!

A: Hey,
Are you sure it's spelled, "Trycyclin"? Trycyclin is a birth control medication, "Ortho- Tricyclin or Tricycline". Just kidding. Well, my first guess was you had to be taking an anti depressant. A tricyclic drug is a class of anti depressants commonly called TSA's (tricyclic antidepressants). These drugs have been prescribed by physicians since the 1950s. They work by raising the levels of seritonin and norepinephrine in the brain by slowing the rate of reabsorption by nerve cells. As far as testing positive for amphetamines, I would have bet the farm you are taking an anti-depressant called Wellbutrin. Wellbutrin has been known to cause a false positive test for amphetamines. Wellbutrin is chemically related to a diet drug called tenuate, which is considered a non-amphetamine drug purported to be less addictive than the amphetamine class of drugs. These drugs are so closely related chemically, people are getting false positives. But, since you claim you have never taken any kind of drug, I am at a loss. The only thing I can tell you is the drugs you tested positive for have no ergogenic properties whatsoever. There would be no reason for a supplement company to secretly put a tricyclic drug in their formula. You tested positive because the drugs are in your system. You need to find how they got there.

Q: You say,
"Hundreds of award-winning vegan bodybuilders? What fucking planet are you on? There are none! I repeat, none! Now, by award-winning, do you mean local contests with fewer than 10 competitors, all of whom are over 80 years of age?"

Ever heard of Bill Pearl?

A: Bill Pearl, one of the best bodybuilders before Arnold’s era, is not -- I repeat, not -- a vegan. He's a vegetarian who eats egg and milk products. Bill Pearl is not fanatical enough and is too intelligent to even consider being a vegan. So I repeat my statement: Name one, just one, competitive successful bodybuilder who is a vegan. Not only is it not possible to name one because there aren't any, it's not possible to be a successful bodybuilder (or powerlifter, for that matter) being a vegan. Millions of years of evolution and science tell us being a vegan is not the optimum way for us to eat. Accept it and get over it. Go back to handing out flowers at the airport.

Q: Hi Michael!
I was reading your advice to other people and I got good information out of it. I’m a former gym goer and I’m trying to get back to a routine.

I was using creatine (Trac with NDH, the blue bottle). I did not use it properly and I began to get symptoms of a steroid user (acne, bloating, mood swings, abdominal pain & aching knees). I used to take creatine, weight gainer, protein shakes & bars. But I was really misusing the creatine. I drank it 30min before a workout, every time I went to the gym (four times a week). I didn't know about loading phase and all of that. I just kept using it. All the baseball talk about steroids made me wonder if the products I was using contain traces of steroids. So I stopped immediately. I spoke with my doctor about it and he told me that creatine has some minor effects to the liver and that's it. I was worried because of the side effects I was having. I have not used it for over four months now, and the only side effect that I’m still experiencing is the aching knees. But, it's less painful than four months ago. I’m afraid to take anything and I really don't want to take supplements. Is there anything you can suggest so I can get energy to workout? I'm 6'-2" 185lbs 26 yrs.

Thank you!

A: First of all, let me start by saying you are very misinformed. Creatine does not -- I repeat, does not -- produce sore knees, acne or mood swings. Some people may feel a little bloated from the water retention it causes within the muscle cell and most people who experience GI tract problems have them because of the cheap products they buy. Believe me, there are no traces of steroids in your product, and you have not experienced any steroid like side effects from creatine!

As far as baseball goes, don't believe everything you hear on the street, see on TV or read in print. Make no mistake, the players who were and/or still on steroids knew exactly what they were doing. The players who were using Victor Conte's products knew exactly what was in them. Most players, because they have low amounts of grey matter, buy from the black market anyway. Steroids have been in all sports for decades. Athletes from all sports -- including the Olympics, baseball, football, bodybuilding, etc. -- use them simply because they work and the side effects are minimal. Not one death can directly be attributed to steroids. Not that I am condoning their use -- they are still illegal -- but you don't see athletes dropping like flys, do you?

As a matter of fact, life extension clinics run by doctors are starting all over the country selling hormone replacement therapy. When used properly, steroids give people, especially the elderly, a higher quality of life and contribute to a healthy, strong body. There are mounds of evidence to support these facts.

Supplements, whether drugs, herbs, vitaimins, creatine, etc., are made to do just that -- supplement. You need to be eating and training right before you consider taking any supplement.

The next two emails were written by the same person. I answered the first after each paragraph.

Mr. Furci,

I want to say that your articles to me are at the very least thought-provoking. My internal 'skepticism meter' is going through the roof, but most of your advice seems sound enough for me to experiment with and see whether you're telling the truth or not (that to me, seems the best way of verifying claims. You should encourage this behavior more often, in my opinion).

I've recently re-begun some basic exercises, though my goals are purely narcissistic. I'm looking to increase my upper chest muscles so they protrude further than my stomach. Ideally, I'd like to have washboard abs, but your recommendations are a little difficult for me to adhere to, mostly because I'll never give up all my carbs. A nice tasty pasta dinner is one of my favorite foods on this planet.

I would never and have never recommended cutting all carbs.

However, I lost 20-30 lbs last year by watching the calories I took in. I went from 180 to 150 and back up to 160 after the holidays. For reference, I'm 5'7". I believe (possibly mistakenly) that if I continue to watch my calories, I can still have my tasty pasta dinner while eating in my weight in protein grams. This is a compromise that I'm more than willing to make.

Watching calories is not going to get you washboard abs. I can guarantee you that. 100gms of carbs is not processed the same as 100gm of protein. It takes much more energy to process protein, approx four times the amount compared to carbs. Counting calories is old school and doesn't work as well. You'll see when your abs do not show themselves despite you're eating less and less calories.

The trouble that I'm running into is that I'm also severely allergic to eggs and chicken (much more so with the eggs, but the chicken is still unpleasant). Most of heavy protein supplements are either fairly expensive, or contain eggs in them. Are there any good and inexpensive ways for me to get my daily protein during breakfast and lunch? I prefer non-cooking solutions for those, but I'll do whatever is necessary.

This can be difficult. Egg is one of the best sources of protein and many manufactures include it in their products. I would call the customer service lines of the big distributors and protein manufacturers and ask which of their proteins do not contain egg products.

The other problems that I foresee with your advice, is finding my muscle failure. I personally don't know where my failure point is until I've reached it. The natural suggestion is to estimate, but what happens if I'm off? What should I do if I reach failure on the fifth rep? Or what if I don't reach failure on the 10th rep of my last set?

It's trial and error. Let the reps determine the weight you choose. So you reach failure on the fifth rep but need to do eight, no problem. The next workout, lower the weight and visa versa. Once you've trained for a while, you'll get to know your body.

Lastly, the biggest concern I have with following your recommendation is that I'm doing my exercise in the morning. I have a habit of enjoying the use of my arms, and your suggested exercise leads me to believe that actually using my arms for other things throughout the rest of the next day will be very difficult. This is based on my previous non-muscle-failure-exercising making my muscles sore for the next day.

How many days a week are you training your arms? Your arms should be fine for other things during the day. I train to momentary failure every workout and I'm a firefighter, which is a very physically demanding job. Training with 100 percent intensity is not going to hinder your daily activities. If it does, maybe you need to see a gynecologist and get your p_ _ _y checked out.

Sorry this email has gotten so long, but I would like clarification in this area.

No problem with the e-mail length, hope I could help.

Thanks,
Steve

Q: I guess what I'm getting at for carbs and protein is that it seems that the diets you suggest appear to have more proteins than carbs. The diet that I have planned in my mind still has more carbs than proteins, even though I'd be consuming somewhere between 100-150g of protein a day (pending my ability to find an inexpensive, simple & egg-free protein source). My plan was to have a protein drink/bar or two for breakfast, another one or two for lunch, and my usual/normal dinner of pasta/pizza/rice/etc w/ more carbs than protein. Do you expect this to be a problem when attempting to get 'washboard abs'? Or is low carb more important than high protein? For the record, I've calculated my dinners to range between 800-1200 calories (remember, I was/am a calorie counter), with little to no meat.

One more question. Do you believe in whole net carbs calculation? It seems that you take a low carb source, and subtract out the fiber and possibly the sugar alcohol. To me, it seems like a waste of time, since most of the calculations appear to be quibbling for 'pennies on the dollar' so to speak with respect to nutrition.

Thanks for the advice and recommendations that you've given below. They've helped me understand workouts a little bit better.

Steve

A: Steve,
I'm not as concerned with the ratio of carbs to protein as I am with the optimum amount of these nutrients one should consume. Everybody is different. Some (approximately 25% of the population) can handle a good amount of carbs and get lean. The vast majority of the population will end up having to modify the amount of carbs they eat, meaning decrease. If you are not as lean as you want to be you need to decrease your carbs. Protein and fat in the absence of carbs have little to nothing with getting fat. This is a very hard fact for most to swallow.

Steve, not eating protein is a real mistake. The energy used for metabolizing protein comes mainly from fat. People who increase their protein intake burn more fat. And without adequate quality protein you will not build muscle. Muscle is what drives the metabolism. The more you have, the faster your metabolism and the more fat you burn.

Calculating your net intake of carbs is an important aspect of getting lean. Fiber is passed through your system. It is not used as energy. If you do not know what types and the amounts of carbs you’re eating, how can you accurately modify your diet? If my average carb allowance is 200gm/day and 25gm of what I'm eating is fiber, I am only taking in 175gm of usable carbs. This means I can increase my carbs by 25gm. This doesn't sound like a lot, but it is the equivalent of 1cp of oatmeal, a piece of fruit, etc. Currently, I eat 25 - 50 grams of fiber/day. That’s 175 – 350 grams of fiber a week. Even if you only eat 15 grams per day, after seven days that's 105gm, after 30 days that's 450gm and so on.

I like to be accurate. You need to be in this for the long haul. Everything you eat makes a difference. It's what you do over weeks, months and years. Yes, there are the genetically gifted few, and I mean few, who have abs despite what they eat. Unfortunately, this is not you or 99% of everybody else. Many people want abs but just do not realize what goes into getting and, even harder, maintaining them. If it didn't require hard work everybody would have them. Quibbling over pennies on the dollar is exactly what is needed.

Good luck. Let me know how it goes.


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