Cardio and muscle gain, diet and muscle mass, melatonin and sleep patterns, building chest muscles

Q&A with Mike Furci

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Q: My name is Kyle and I am 21. I lift three days a week with cardio work on the off days. For cardio, instead of running, I prefer walking around college. Nothing serious, but with having torn tendons in my ankles in the past, so I try to avoid a lot of direct pressure on my feet. I need to lose fat, and have a couple of things I wish to understand about burning fat. I have been told that cardio will increase muscle atrophy, hindering my muscle gain. So how can I do cardio without hurting my muscle gain? My second is about fat burners -- I wish to avoid them, but if I feel I need help losing fat. Can I take fat burners with a lifting program?

A: Kyle,

It is true doing cardio can be detrimental to your ability to gain muscle. It’s not hard for one to performing too much cardio, hindering recovery from weight training. The body has a finite ability to recover from exercise, and anything you do outside of weight training will make inroads to your ability to develop strength and, consequently, muscle.

Do you need cardio? If you're weight training with intensity, there is no need for health reasons. The weight training will be sufficient for that. Unless you need higher levels of endurance for a job like firefighting, or for sport, forget it. It's not worth it. The calories burned versus the time spent are pathetic. Traditional cardio alone is not going to make you leaner to any noticeable degree. And walking, unless you really enjoy it, is a complete waste of time. Eating right and adding muscle, which increases your metabolic rate, will.

Look at all the women who do hours of cardio classes per week and never change. Having been in this industry for more than two decades, I've seen so many people waste countless hours doing cardio all for not. It’s very simple. Muscle is what drives the metabolism. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn. Three to five pounds of muscle will increase your metabolism from six to 10 percent, depending on your genetics. But if you eat like a hog, you’re going to look like a hog, even if you have great genetics.

The best fat burner right now is Hotrox Extreme. I've been using it for about two months, have not changed my eating habits, and have leaned up considerably. On a lifting program would be best.

Q: Mike,

My partner and I have changed our household into an organic foods environment - organic products, free-range and grass-fed beef, naturally raised poultry and all that. We've eliminated high fructose corn syrup from the pantry and refrigerator (it's in just about everything at the standard grocery store - even in the freshly baked goods there). Thanks for the information on soy products and the phytoestrogens they contain. Taking your advice, I'll be turning away from the soy milk and soy-based protein powders. Are the rice milk products of any health benefit or do they too contain hidden, unwanted elements?

I'm a 42-year-old male who has recently started a very high-stress job. My sleep is suffering terribly (though I had modest trouble sleeping before, now it is far worse) because I cannot get my mind to "shut off." Even if I fall asleep, I wake up several times during the night thinking about work. I've tried all the typical things - writing things down in the daytime or early evening, pleasure reading and downtime before bed, etc., to no avail. I work out erratically due to my schedule, but have begun making more time for a basic weight and cardio routine. Still, I rarely get a good night's sleep. Though I can get a great deal accomplished each day and my work is not suffering, I feel as though my memory is faltering. I'm not sure if this is real or if there's simply too much input to my day and my brain is getting crowded out, so to speak. I work full time and I'm a doctoral student. I love my life all 'round, but I'd really like to get a good night's sleep every night. Any recommendations?


A: Jeff,

Just what I like to hear -- good for you. Soy and high fructose corn syrup are gone from your household; both are garbage and have no business in a human’s food supply. I hope you are watching out for hydrogenated oils and polyunsaturated fats also. They are detrimental to our health. Have you read my article, "Fat, Cholesterol, and the Lipid Hypothesis?" If you haven't, do it. Your lack of quality sleep is a problem for most Americans. Technology like computers was supposed to make our lives easier. What happened? We work more, sleep less and are more stressed out than ever.

I do know you are on the right track. Writing things down, pleasure reading and downtime before bed is the way to go. Everything takes practice. It may take weeks and even a couple of months before there is a noticeable change in sleep patterns. Going to bed at the same time every night is also a great help.

Outside of drug therapy, which doesn't take care of the problem, you could try melatonin. Melatonin is secreted by a pea-sized structure in the middle of the brain called the pineal gland. At nighttime melatonin is secreted to regulate our sleep cycle. As we age, unfortunately we secrete less. Many researchers believe this is why we older folk have a harder time sleeping than young people.

Melatonin is also a potent antioxidant, which reduces free radicals in the body, and strengthens the immune system. Studies suggest that it also hastens sleep and helps to ease jet lag. It's my understanding that there is a lot of research being done, and that there are a lot more benefits to this hormone.

The dosage that seems to work for most people is 3 mg one hour before going to sleep. Good luck Jeff. Thanks for visiting our site. Hope this helps.

Q: Mike, I have to say I really enjoyed your article on dieting for muscle building. I have been working out inconsistently for a while but I just needed a little push and I think you did it. I have fat around my waist I need to loose! I know you are absolutely right about the carbs and protein and fat. I have been eating low carb pasta with steak and I have cut out mashed potatoes and French fries. Now the only real questions I have are these: How much cardio should I do and how long? I like to use the Precore machine for 15 minutes before I lift. Also, I am convinced that my chest does not grow! I know this isn’t the case but it seems that way. Any pointers for a big chest? I am not one to expect overnight success, I know it takes months, but can you get me on the right track?

Thanks a lot for your time.


A: Liam, Glad I was the little push you needed to get consistent. How much cardio? This is actually a complicated question. It varies from person to person just as everything does. You need to ask yourself what your ultimate goal is.

Do you need to have more endurance for a sport, or do you just want to get lean? If you just want to get lean, cardio should be icing on the cake, if used at all. Your first priority in order to become lean is to eat correctly. Without proper dieting it doesn't matter what you do. You can add 20 pounds of muscle over the next several years and never see an ab if you eat like shit.

How do you get started? Take your weight in pounds, multiply by 1.5, and you get the baseline for the amount (in grams) of protein you should consume each day. Also, keep a daily record of what you eat and get an average of the amount of carbs consumed. This will be your baseline for carbs. If you want to cut fat, reduce your daily intake of carbs by 15 percent and replace them with more protein and veggies. See what happens for a minimum of two weeks. If the weight starts to come off and you feel good, keep it there. If you don't loose after two weeks, cut another 15 percent and so on.

Priority two, to get lean, is to add some muscle. Muscle is what drives the metabolism. The more you have, the faster your metabolism will be. Get on a good progressive resistance program and be consistent. Consistency is imperative. If you're going to miss workouts all the time, forget it.

Many people who complain about not being able to develop a chest tend to be what I call shoulder pressers. When doing any type of chest movement they tend to "round" their shoulders forward instead of keeping them back into the bench. This puts more emphasis on the deltoid and less on the pectorals. Granted, some just don't have good genetics to build big chests, however, with proper form and intensity you can always improve.

When doing any chest exercise, keep the shoulder blades back against the bench and do not move them throughout the entire movement. For the next six workouts I want you to try the following workout:

Warm up as needed. Use exceptional form and leave your ego at the door.

Dumbbell flys on flat bench, two working sets of eight to 10 reps.

30 degree incline dumbbell press, two sets of six to eight reps.

Barbell bench press, two sets of eight to 10 reps.

Good luck.

Q: Hi Mike. I was wondering if you have used Biotest Carbolin 19 yet, and if so, what did you think? A mate of mine has been using it for about a month and thinks he is seeing some results, but slowly.


A: Allan, I have tried this product along with most of Biotest's products. I have to say I do like Carbolin 19. I tried it for three months and really didn't feel much different on it. It was when I stopped taking it for a few months that I noticed a difference in how I was recovering.

Q: Dear Mr. Michael Furci,
Our names are Michael Robinson and Jason VanLoon. We are freshmen at Norco High School. We are doing a science fair project on what kind of leg exercises will build the most strength in a month. We have tentatively planned on having one group doing lunges, one group doing wall sits and one group egg-beating in the water using jugs. We wanted your opinion on these sets of exercises. If you think a better type of exercise would be more efficient, would you please let us know? We are looking for leg workouts to build the quadriceps and hamstrings, and looking for ones that do not require any machines or weights.

Thank you for your time.

Michael Robinson
Jason VanLoon

A: Michael and Jason: Very interesting! I'm glad to hear of two young men in high school who are so interested in weight training. I tell you what I'm going to do. I would like you to send me all the results and pertinent information when you are done. I will post your study, the results and your pictures on Also, I would like a few pictures of the subjects performing some of the exercises to go along with your study. We have millions of unique visitors to every month, and I think they would be very impressed with your findings. If you need some help figuring out how you are going to measure strength gains and organize the study, I will gladly give you any input I can.

Now, as far as my opinion on the exercises you've chosen -- nicely done. However, there are a few modifications I would suggest. Single leg squats and reverse lunges would be two good exercises to add to your list. Use the reverse lunge instead of regular lunges. They are much easier to learn and are functionally better. To learn the proper form for these two exercises go to my fitness section under "Exercises of the Month."

Keep me posted.

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