Build muscle and lose fat, veganism and weight loss, soy and muscle gain

Q&A with Mike Furci

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Q: Hey Mike,

I am a 31-year-old mother of four whom has had two c-sections, one which was 15 months ago. I have been on a diet for a few months now and I have dropped my weight from 180 lbs. to 161 lbs. I can not get the fat around my stomach to go away, nor can I get the ugly pouch that hangs to go away because my stomach muscles have been cut due to the c-section. What can I do about this?

I exercise six days a week. My workout consists of step aerobics and cardio blast by Cathy Friedrich. Firm Fitness is a tape that I have where I do cardio, Taebo and strength training. I also do 72 minutes of strength training when I don't do one of these tapes twice a week. One week I mix up my routines, and the next week I do strictly Firm Fitness with strength training.

Should I not do the firm fitness six days a week, because it has strength training? How many days should I strength train? Should I lift heavy or light, or can I mix them up? The 72 minutes of strength training is done with heavy weights. I feel like I'm not losing the weight fast enough. I was told that walking is the best thing I could do to see fast results, is this true? I want to buy the Abs of Steel tapes to see if it would help me with my ab problems. Are there any tapes you recommend? I can not afford to go to the gym. Please help me out I am so tired of this weight.

Thank You,
Ingried Buggage

A: Ingried,

First, let me start by saying congratulations on your results thus far. It's harder than people think to get in shape. I'm impressed by your determination. Ingried, the number one thing you can do to lose excess fat is to gain muscle. Muscle is what burns fat as fuel. Muscle drives the metabolism. The more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism is, and the more calories you burn.

What is the optimum way to build muscle? Progressive resistance weight training. Your goal should be to build strength. Weight training cannot be done every day. If you are following a total body routine, perform it twice per week. If you split up body parts on different days, three days per week is fine.

Protein in ChickenDiet is also very important. Protein is essential, not only for health but for building muscle. Without it your progress will by stopped. Lowering your carbs is key. There is no debating this issue. If you continue to eat a diet higher in carbs you will not loose fat. The more carbs you eat, the higher your insulin levels will be. Insulin is the fat storage hormone and blocks utilizing fat as fuel.

Think of cardio as icing on the cake. There is no need to perform it everyday. However, on the days you do cardio, the more intense the better. By the way, walking is a waste of time. It's very low in terms of intensity and does almost nothing as far as burning calories and getting lean is concerned. We are made to walk. If walking gives you a workout, how out of shape are you?

Just remember, you're doing a lot of work and not seeing the results you want. The answer is not more work. More is not better. The answer is improving the quality of your work.


Q: : Hi Mike,

I hope this is the appropriate venue for such a question. I'm 20 years old, 180 lbs, and 6-foot-2. About a month ago I began running, and it's been really enjoyable so far. Right now I do three miles over 30 minutes three to four times a week. I'm now eating well, but I'm eating vegan, as I have been for two years. I'm a great example of how veganism and health don't necessarily coincide!

In any case, I'm simply looking to become slimmer. I'm not interested in bulking up in any real way. I ride my bicycle nearly everywhere, so my legs are muscular, but my upper body is not.

So I have a couple questions. Is my veganism going to inhibit weight loss? What kind of light weight training should I begin? Am I exercising enough? Also, I see you hate soymilk. I suppose I should switch to a vitamin B12 supplement, as I've been hearing that soy may not be so great for a while now.

Thanks for your time,

A: Adam,

Thanks so much for taking the time to visit and email your questions. By slimmer I'm going to assume you mean leaner. Without question you need to weight train in order to reach this goal. Do not worry about getting too muscular, it's just not that easy.

I hear this all the time, "I want to lift weights but I don't want to get too big." First of all, the level of motivation and the type of intensity and diet that is required is not going to be possible by the average person. Not that they can't, they are just not motivated enough to put that type of commitment and time into it. Putting on muscle is not an easy task.

A lack of the right foods in the diet will make gaining muscle more difficult. The most important macro-nutrient for building muscle is protein. Protein builds and maintains every type of tissue in the body. Being a vegan, unfortunately, will hinder your progress, especially if you're consuming soy products.

Is soy a "complete" protein? Yes, however its quality is pathetic. It's very low in sulfur-containing aminos methionone and cystine, which will hinder muscle building. Another way soy will inhibit gaining muscle is that it lowers testosterone levels in males. This is unavoidable because of the phytoestrogens contained in soy products. The consumption of 25g per day of soy products has been shown to cause hypothyroidism. As soy consumption goes up, so does thyroid disease.

Adam do yourself a favor and stop this vegan insanity. At least become an ovo lacto vegetarian. Although I would like to see you eat healthy animal products, I know some people feel strongly about killing animals.


Q: Hi Mike,

I am a novice who just started working out at the gym. I mainly want to build a stronger upper body with a focus on the chest (pectorals). I have been reading about several different exercises that can help me achieve this, including the bench press/flys and free weight flys like the ones that you mention. However, in almost all situations, my arms tend to give before my chest even gets close to getting a decent workout.

Is there a way I can isolate the muscles in my chest to work harder, or is it just that I'm doing the exercise somewhat wrong, and placing too much strain on my arms.

Please help. Thanks in advance,


A: Jay,

DumbbellIt is possible you are performing the exercises wrong. If your triceps are giving out prior to your chest, try abducting your elbows. In other words, move your elbows away from your body.

You can also try pre-exhausting the chest with the routine below.

A1. Flat dumbbell flys, 6 to 8 reps with no rest, then proceed to:

A2. Barbell incline at 30 degrees, 6 to 8 reps
Perform 2 to 3 sets with 2 minutes rest between them

B. Flat dumbbell presses, 6 to 8 reps by 2 sets

C. Chest press mach 6 to 8 reps by 2 sets

Let me know how this works.

As far as the rest of your body goes you need to also focus on balance. Without training opposing muscle groups you are ensuring injury. Your entire upper body needs to be trained, not just your chest.


Q: Hi Mike,

I was reading your replies to some emails and your answers are absolutely correct and, as in all good science, can be tested and measured. Before I mention the veggie, I was training on a three-day split doing about three or four exercises for each body part with heavy weights and getting nowhere. When I stripped back my routine, I started making gains. I haven't changed my new routine for about six months and I'm making gains every week, yet there are guys making gains following my old routine and it suits them perfectly. People need to take the information available and then work out what's best for themselves. I never go to total failure, yet I am able to up my weights and reps each week, no problem.

As for the simpering veggie, I used to own a Health Food store and there was a huge trade in vitamin supplements for vegetarians (especially B12!). The reason I write has less to do with scientific fact than an article I read in the UK version of FHM magazine some time back. The journalist was in Texas for barbecue competition (big stuff there, apparently) and there were guys there cooking sides of beef, of which the whole process took two to three days. The journalist asked one of the cowboys, who ate meat as a staple part of his diet and who competed regularly, if he thought he could get by just as well being a vegetarian. The reply was, “Ain't no vegetarian can kick my ass!” Fantastic!

Oh yeah, early man didn't start making tools and communicating until he started eating meat.

Good work fella!

Maurice, Belfast

A: Maurice,

Thanks for reading and taking the time to express your views. Belfast, Ireland! Ireland is a place I’ve always planned on visiting. It’s such a beautiful country and what’s not to like about the people?

If you ever have any questions or comments feel free to write back.


Q: Mike:

I enjoy your column.

Are you familiar with Pete Sisco and his training principles? What's your opinion on them?


A: Phillipe,

I am familiar with Pete Sisco’s training philosophy. I also believe in brief, infrequent workouts if needed. However, I'm not so sure you can make gains with one set per body part every 30 days like he prescribes. I have tried decreasing the volume and frequency of my workouts, as well as have many clients over the years, and found that most will start to regress once they go beyond 11 days between the same body parts. It has been my experience that most people will continue to make optimum progress working every body part once every six to eight days.

One thing is for sure, everybody responds differently. What works for one, may not work for another. This is where the "art" of one-on-one training comes to play. The vast majority of trainers haven't the ability, let alone the knowledge, to individualize programs. It takes a little more work in order to find what truly works for your client. But I am of the opinion they are paying for individualized training and that's what they should get.

Phillipe, it's not going to hurt you to try different programs. Make sure you keep detailed records so you can see what works and what doesn't.


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