Soy ingredients in protein powder, diet and fat loss, cardio vs. weight training, creatine usage

Q&A with Mike Furci

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Q Hey Mike,
I have a quick question. I'm about to start buying powdered protein, and I read that you recommended Metabolic Drive. I was checking it out and noticed in the nutritional facts that it contains or is made with soy. I know you're not very keen on soy, and I trust that you know what you're talking about. So what's the deal with Metabolic Drive, should I be careful of the soy in it or not worry about it?


AI was concerned about this when they came out with Metabolic Drive (formerly Low Carb Grow) a few years back. It is listed as an allergen warning but not in the ingredient list. It is a miniscule portion of protein found in soy for flavoring. By law it still must be listed. There are no negative side effects.

Now, proteins that have soy in their ingredients list should be avoided.

Protein powder

QHey Mike,
I need advice on how to lose a gut once and for all. I run plenty (2 to 4 miles), I watch what I eat and I lift between running days. With school taking priority, my workout routine can hit highs and lows and I may go three weeks without consistent workouts. My goal is to achieve the tapered broad shoulder-flat stomach look, so I do a lot of shoulder and chest workouts. However my stubborn gut is hindering progress towards this goal. I've heeded all the advice on proper diet and exercise but nothing seems to work. I am more than ready to put in the work, but it's disheartening when work doesn't equal results. Any tips on how to attack this challenge?


ARon, yours is an all too familiar plight. Send me a sample of an average day's diet and DON'T LIE. Also send me your workout routine.

Ron wrote back very quickly and I answered writing within his email. I posted it the way I answered because I thought it would better for readers to compare what he currently does with my advice. My answers are in blue.

Diet: Breakfast -- the usual cereal, bagel, waffle, or omelet with juice or milk. (Probably the most skipped meal though; when I don't have time for a full breakfast I usually eat a fruit yogurt cup with a glass of juice or an Ensure/Boost nutrition drink). Lunch is spaghetti with veggie/turkey sandwich, or chicken with veggie stir-fry, something along the lines of a helping of meat and a sandwich. Dinner is similar to lunch; a serving of meat with a sandwich or some stir-fry. My diet is pretty basic with average intake of meats, vegetables and sandwiches. I snack on Wheat Thins or Sun Chips occasionally, but mostly stay away from chips, candy, Starbucks, fried foods, etc. I stay away from fast food as much as possible. I may slip maybe once or twice a month (Subway or Taco Bell).

Although you may think you're eating a clean healthy diet, you are not. Your diet is loaded with carbohydrates, mainly simple sugars. If you keep eating this way you will never get a leaner physique. This is not your fault. Like most Americans you've been fooled by the food industry into thinking the foods you listed are healthy. And like some, you are making a concerted effort to eat "right." Let's get right to the point.

Breakfast: Bagels, waffles, Ensure/Boost, fruit cups and almost all cereals are out. The only cereal I recommend is oatmeal or Fiber One. All that other crap can be eaten once in a great while, but to be eaten regularly will halt your progress because they'll spike your insulin levels. The higher your insulin levels are, the less fat you burn as fuel. Juices are also out. They are barely better than drinking soda pop and also raise insulin levels. Eggs, meats and protein powders are all good for breakfast. I usually put my protein in my oatmeal.

Lunch and dinner: If you want spaghetti, use the low carb variety. Dreamfields is excellent, but it's better to skip spaghetti and use whole grain rice.

Stop snacking on Wheat Thins or anything like it and never ever eat a carbohydrate without eating some protein with it. Eat low-fat cottage cheese or other small meals as a snack.

My workout routine (3 to 5 days per week): I work certain muscle groups each workout. Varying number of sets for each group, and reps remain between 6 and 10, unless I drop the weight which increases the reps to 12 to 15.

Day 1: Chest (sets of flys [3 sets on flat bench, 2 or 3 at 45 degree angle, 2 on a negative slope bench]; shoulder (3 sets of regular barbell shoulder press, 2 sets of decreased weight/increased rep on Hammer Strength shoulder machine); back (3 sets of lat pull down, 2 sets of Hammer Strength machine).

Are you doing all these sets to failure? If you are, you are doing way too many sets. If the sets you have listed are warm-ups leading to a working set you're OK. Forget about decline bench anything. Stick to flat or incline no more than 30 degrees. The higher the incline the more shoulder you use and it doesn't affect your chest any differently. Cut out the shoulder barbell press -- you don't need it. Start out with dumbbell lateral raises. Conclude your shoulder workout with seated dumbbell presses. Instead of doing triceps on Day 2, move them to Day 1. Push-downs with a straight short bar concluding with extensions is fine.

Day 2: Bicep (3 sets regular bicep curls, 2 to 3 sets of concentrated bicep curls on 45 degree angle bench). Triceps (3 sets of regular tri pull downs with rope or bar, 2 to 3 sets extending barbell over my head)

Start Day 2 with your back. Close grip pull-downs with a "V" bar. The palms of your hands will face each other. End with bent-over barbell rows or Hammer Strength if it's a row.

Day 3: Run (2 to4 miles) on treadmill. Ab work afterward: sit-ups on stability ball, 3 sets of 15. At times I may do a quick lift session (30 minutes) of increased weight/lower reps (about 5 reps) before a run. Usually a short chest/shoulder, or bicep/triceps routine.

I may not follow the workout schedule exactly. I may run three days out of the week and only lift one or two days (in this case I usually do a short lift session before a run). Other times I may only run two and lift two to three. It is pretty much dictated by the time available.

The workouts I prescribed above are to be done once a week. There is no need to do them more. And never -– ever! -- sacrifice weight training for cardio. Weight training will do far more for muscle gains and fat loss. Cardio will not preserve, much less increase, lean tissue. Nobody, and I mean nobody, is too busy to get two to three weight training sessions in per week. It takes a little motivation and discipline.

QHi Mike,
I have a questions about the use of creatine. I work out five to six times a week. I'm pretty fit but I've definitely plateaued. I would like to lose 15 to 20 pounds, but then bulk up, so I recently started a pretty hard core weight and core training regimen.

So my questions: I'm interested in taking creatine, but I realize that creatine can lead to weight gain (although I understand most of the time it's actually retained water weight, is that right?). So would I be better off shedding the extra pounds and then taking creatine, or should I start taking it now?

I eat very well, no processed foods, the only sugar I eat is from fruit and vegetables and I only eat whole grain, unrefined carbs. I eat between 250 and 300 grams of (mostly whey) protein every other month. Then I drop down to around 150 grams during the in-between months. There is so much info out there and it seems like everyone has different opinions on the subject.

Thanks a lot for your help Mike.

AColin, What do you mean, you want to drop 15 to 20 pounds and then bulk up? Are you saying "I want to lose 15 to 20 pounds and then gain back 15 to 20 pounds?" It sounds like you are already bulked up. Do you think it will be muscle when you gain it back? Bulking up to gain muscle is a rookie error. "Bulking up" does not speed up the muscle building process. Forget it.

Creatine is perhaps the most researched supplement on the planet. And new data is still mounting on this incredible supplement. Creatine has a whole host of benefits including: increased levels of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1); stimulating satellite cells to form new muscle fibers; increased type-II muscle fibers; and increased adenosine triphosphate (ATP) stores; these all lead to increased muscle mass and strength. The weight you gain with creatine is through water retention in the muscle and most importantly, added muscle. It's good weight.

Muscle drives your metabolism. The more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism, the more fat you'll burn. If getting leaner and adding muscle is your goal, creatine is an integral part of a good program, as long as your diet and training are on track. Remember, supplements will not make up for lack of diet or training.

 It sounds like you're on the right path concerning your diet. Eliminating processed foods is something that you'll reap enormous health benefits from, especially in your later years. If you are still carrying too much fat, start cutting back on fruit and grains. You don't need them for health because carbohydrates are a non-essential nutrient.

Protein, on the other hand, is an essential nutrient. It is necessary to maintain and repair every tissue in the body, and has too many other functions to discuss here. Simply, without protein you would die. Your body will take care of all essential functions with protein first, before it uses it for unessential actions like building muscle. Larger muscles are not essential for good health and are not a priority for our bodies. For this reason it's critical to consume enough protein to build muscle. Although a controversial subject, many to researchers on protein metabolism recommend one or more grams per pound of body weight. I am of the belief through personal experience and more than 20 years of training competitors, that one gram per pound of body weight is the low end. By the way, where in the world did you get the idea to cycle your protein monthly? This is just ridiculous – stop!

What type of whey do you use? If you're going to us a whey protein, whey isolate is the best form. The best time to consume whey is before and after training because it's so readily absorbed and floods the body with essential amino acids needed for recovery. I would recommend you use a micellar casein (MC) based protein during the day and before bed.

Also known as milk protein isolate (MPI) or milk protein concentrate (MPC), MC is derived from skim milk; it's low in fat and lactose. MC is the natural undenatured form of casein – separated by ultrafiltration – without the use of chemicals or heat.

MC provides one of the most impressive profiles that's rich in muscle building amino acids. Because of its coagulating properties, MC has a slow rate of digestion; the body absorbs a steady stream of amino acids over a long period. This not only gives the user enhanced satiety but leads to MC's anti-catabolic properties.

MC contains a high level of glutamine, which is a key amino during times of physical and emotional stress. Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in muscle tissue and is essential for a properly functioning gastrointestinal tract.

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