Questions and Answers
By John P. Hussman, Ph.D.
All rights reserved and actively enforced.
Q John, I'm very interested in
what you wrote about various foods being treated differently by the body. I have spent
some time over the past few weeks searching for scientific studies of this nature. Are you
able to supply some reference information that I can review?
A Thanks for your note. There's
increasing evidence that the same number of calories can have different metabolic
consequences for muscle gain and fat loss. This effect is mainly related to high glycemic
vs. low glycemic carbohydrates (my main page has more information on these). The early
studies were done on animals. For instance, a 1998 study in Journal of Nutrition found
that high glycemic diets trigger significantly higher levels of fatty acid synthase (FAS)
- an enzyme that increases the number and size of fat cells. High glycemic diets also lead
to excessive insulin secretion, which increases fat deposits as well.
The two most interesting human studies appeared just last year. In one (Archive of
Pediatric Medicine, 2000), patients were split between two diets - a low glycemic diet
versus a low-fat diet (no exercise protocol in either). Those in the low glycemic group
lost a significant amount of fat weight, while those in the reduced-fat group actually
gained. Both results were highly significant statistically.
The other is from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2000). Subjects were put
on a reduced calorie diet which was either high-glycemic or low-glycemic. Now, as you
know, when you restrict calories significantly, the body tends to respond by slowing its
metabolism. What's interesting is that resting energy expenditure declined by fully 10.5%
with the high-glycemic diet, but only 4.6% with the low glycemic one. Further, nitrogen
balance was significantly more negative in the high-glycemic diet (negative nitrogen
balance -> muscle loss), while leptin (which regulates appetite) was higher.
In short, there's increasing evidence that the same number of calories in the form of
low-glycemic carbohydrate has significantly different metabolic consequences than
high-glycemic carbs. High glycemic diets seem to result in more fat deposition, higher
instability of blood sugar, greater appetite, and a tendency toward muscle loss.
Hope that answers your question. Good Luck! - John
Q It's so wonderful to find a site
like yours. Now I know that there are others out there having difficulties also. My
problem is that the fat is not coming off. After reading all your information, I think its
that I'm not eating enough calories. On my first try of the BFL program, I was eating the
6 meals/day and 2 of them were Myoplex shakes. About half way through the program, I was
losing muscle. I completed the program but with unsatisfactory results. I have only
decreased my body fat by 3%. I recently tried the Atkins 'Induction diet' and that didn't
help either. I was doing the 20 minutes interval training but felt it wasn't enough. I am
very, very frustrated - frustrated to tears but I won't give up because I want to lose the
fat. Fat has been a problem all my life and I'm sick of it. I want to be thin, fit and
healthy - for life. Please help me.
A I get over 500 hits a day on
this site, and about 100 e-mails a week. Yeah, some people have real difficulties with fat
loss. But everybody seems to believe that they're somehow a special case. If it
makes you feel any better, you're not unusual. So let's look at your very common problem.
First, there is only one reason you're not losing fat. And that is that you are not
creating a persistent caloric deficit. If you burn more calories than you take in,
you're going to lose fat. The way to do that is to focus on the deficit itself - not just
on eating less, and not just on exercising more. You have to focus on keeping a gap
between those two.
Unless you do this consciously and plan carefully, this is very difficult to do. Here's
why. There has been a series of articles in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
with research on what's known as a "set point". Basically, an individual's set
point determines how quickly the body will defend its energy stores. If you experimentally
overfeed athletes so that they gain weight, their bodies go into hyperdrive. Their
appetite decreases, they feel warmer because the body burns off the energy (which releases
a lot of heat), and it takes a much higher level of intake just to maintain that extra
weight. That's a low set point. The body wants to go down to a lower weight, so it becomes
very inefficient at storing energy. It even wastes energy as heat (thermogenesis).
Overweight and obese people tend to have higher set points, particularly if they've
been struggling with weight all their lives (as you have). If they try to dramatically
restrict their calories, they'll become very hungry, their metabolism will drop, and their
body will start defending fat, even to the point of destroying muscle (the same way you
toss cargo off of a plane if you're too low on fuel). Take it to an extreme, as in
anorexia, and the bodyfat percentage actually rises while muscle and vital organs
are destroyed. In the first 5 days or so of fasting, your body will consume about 0.8
pounds of muscle per day. Don't do unbalanced things like Atkins either. As I note
on my main page, humans are at the top of the food chain because of their incredible
ability to adapt to their environment. That means that if you're going to lose fat, you'd
better work with your body rather than against it.
Let's take two overweight people with high set points. Pat drops caloric intake down to
800 calories a day, mostly carbs, and does enough activity to burn 1800 calories a day.
Terry drops caloric intake only to 1400 calories a day with a good amount of protein, and
does 2400 calories a day of activity. Both have caloric deficits of 1000 calories a day.
Who burns more fat? One might think the answer is "equal", but one would be
wrong. Pat's body is going to revolt by becoming very efficient at storing fat. The
1000 calorie deficit is going to be achieved by destroying muscle. In contrast, Terry's
body never perceives a fasting state. The 1000 calorie deficit is going to come primarily
from fat stores. The result will be fat loss of about 2 pounds a week. The scary thing is
that on the scale, Pat will probably lose more weight initially, since it
takes about 4 pounds of lean muscle to provide the same amount of caloric energy as 1
pound of fat. That's why bad diets can be so seductive. In general, adults
should not reduce their caloric intake below about 10 calories per lean
pound (scale weight minus fat weight) except under the advice of a physician.
So how do you lower your set point? You've got to do three things to convince your
body it needs to burn fat as energy, rather than defending it:
1) Raise the number of calories you burn, significantly, and chronically (meaning just
about every day)
2) Increase protein intake, while keeping carbs high quality (oatmeal, potato, brown
rice, Granny Smith apples, and whole grains rather than white bread or simple sugars).
Simple sugars kick your insulin up, which causes your blood sugar to crash soon afterward,
so your body feels a stronger need to defend its fat. The only time to have high-glycemic
carbs is within 90 minutes after an intense workout.
3) Monitor your caloric intake carefully, but don't drop it significantly below BMR
(9 calories per pound of lean bodyweight may be slightly below BMR, but is
acceptable). Preferably divide across 6 meals a day. When you don't try to starve
yourself, the body perceives less need to hoard energy in the form of fat. And again, if
your meals aren't spaced too far apart, your blood sugar never crashes.
If you're working out daily and holding your true caloric intake
near or slightly below your BMR, you're going to lose fat.
Remember, your metabolic rate is driven by three things: BMR which you increase by
gaining muscle, unrestricted physical activity (UPA) which you increase by exercising and
other activity (take a walk, take the stairs), and thermal effect of food (TEF) which you
increase by dividing your daily caloric intake into small, frequent meals.
It's not that your metabolism or genetics are bad. It's just that your body
seeks equilibrium or "homeoestasis", and establishing a set point is one of the
ways humans have survived on the planet.
Let's review. Don't take your caloric intake dramatically below BMR. The composition of your
nutrition is crucial. Studies show that if you restrict your calories without
substantially increasing your protein, your nitrogen balance is much more negative. That
means you lose muscle easier. So you should make sure that you get about 30% or more of
your calories from protein (a gram per lean pound daily will do that nicely). You
shouldn't severely restrict carbohydrates, but protein intake is essential.
You've also got to increase the efficiency with which your body burns stored fat. The
intensity intervals are excellent for that. For those with high set points, it also means
tweaking the aerobics (educated opinion). Some people with low set points get very fast
fat loss results with just 3 of the 20-minute aerobics sessions a week. But the higher
your set point (which is whatever your body has adapted to over the years of yo-yo dieting
and other abuse it's gone through), the more the tweaking can help, in my opinion. The
morning workouts on an empty stomach are also useful, but if your schedule just can't
accomodate that, just make sure to wait about 2-3 hours after a meal before doing the
aerobics. I try to be very clear on this site about what is fact and what is educated
opinion. The tweaking is my opinion, but I also get dozens of notes back telling me it's
So remember, what you're trying to to is expend energy without ever giving your body a
signal that it has to defend its fat stores. You do that by keeping your calories
in the area of your BMR, keeping protein intake at 30% or somewhat higher, choosing
high-quality low-glycemic carbs, eating 6 meals a day without very long spaces between
them, and tweaking the aerobic activity.
In my own experience, there is one sign that may tell you it's working. You may tend to
break a light sweat about 20 minutes after meals, particularly those containing
carbohydrate. You might not experience that, but if you do, it's outstanding. Do that for
a few weeks and let me know if it helps! And watch those tears. You gotta get tough. Best
Q Hi John, Excellent site!! I have
a question about cellulite. I have it and HATE it!! I am thin-5'6" 122 lbs. but I
have major cellulite on my buttocks and it's now creeping down my leg. I have been told I
can't ever get rid of it and can only stop it from getting worse. Is this true? I truly
appreciate any feedback you can provide.
A First, cellulite is simply skin
dimpling which occurs when connective tissue is overwhelmed by fat deposits. The medical
literature doesn't say it is permanent, or that you can't do anything about it. Rather it
says there is "no topical medication or manipulative process to which advanced
cellulite visibly responds". Topical medications are basically creams and such, while
manipulative processes are things like massage. These approaches are trying to get at the
cellulite from the outside-in, and yes, that's a losing battle. But you're not doing that
are you? You're working on changing your body from the inside-out. Now, even though you're
thin elsewhere, you do want to work specifically on fat loss, and some of the tweaking on
my page will help. The weight training will also help, by building firm new tissue under
the skin. This is not something that's in the literature, but it's clear from the
experiences of people like Kelly Adair. It certainly wasn't hopeless in her case. Again, I
think the "cellulite is hopeless" notion is widespread precisely because
everybody wants a magic lotion instead of working on transforming from the inside-out.
Hope that helps! [Back to Q&A Index]
Q Hi John. Thanks for all the
support you've offered all of us on the program! You probably haven't heard this one
before. I think I have the fat gene. Practically everybody in my family is overweight, and
though I feel infinitely stronger on BFL, I've been disappointed in my fat loss. Do you
think my problem could be genetic?
A Actually, there are several
genes that have been given the distinction of the "fat gene". One codes for a
substance called "leptin", and is referred to in the literature as the "ob
gene". Leptin is one of the factors that regulate appetite and activity level.
There's a particular strain of mice that lack the leptin gene, and they have voracious
appetites and become very obese (hence the "ob"). But in studies of thousands of
obese humans, none have been found to have particularly low levels of leptin, and the
genetic defect has been found in only two human subjects. So the leptin gene is a
The other primary "fat gene" codes for "beta-adrenergic receptors".
This one is more credible as a potential problem. One of the ways that the body regulates
energy expenditure and thermogenesis is by releasing chemicals that stimulate those
beta-adrenergic receptors. If the receptors are faulty, the signal to "burn fat"
is weaker. The question is "how much weaker?" Well, the faulty gene is found
frequently among the Pima tribe, which has been studied extensively. Pimas with one faulty
gene typically have base metabolic rates (BMR) about 50 calories lower than expected,
while two faulty copies result in an average 80 calorie shortfall daily. Now, you might
think that's not much. But do the math: holding dietary intake constant, a 50 calorie
shortfall in daily caloric burn leads to about 5 pounds of fat gain a year.
Normally, the body regulates appetite and activity levels so that caloric intake and
expenditure are within about 10 calories daily, on average. That's an incredible
and underappreciated marvel of science, but it's also a pain if you want to lose fat
through diet-only or activity-only programs. The body simply adjusts the one you've
neglected, to maintain its "set point".
So, in the event that you do have the "fat gene", you're talking about
something on the order of 50 to perhaps 80 calories a day, which is hardly going to stop
you from making progress if you're carefully limiting your portions, training with
weights, perhaps tweaking the aerobics, and being careful to maintain a reasonable level
of activity during the day.
From the notes I receive, the two primary causes of slow fat loss are insufficient
aerobic activity and "portion creep" - underestimating the number of calories
you are really consuming. So most people get good results by either adjusting their
caloric intake (with a preference for low glycemic carbs rather than high glycemic ones -
except after workouts), or tweaking their aerobic output. Remember, focus on the caloric
deficit. In addition to that voluntary physical activity, building muscle also raises your
base metabolic rate.
Bottom line - you shouldn't let concerns about the "fat gene" slow you down.
Hope that helps! John [Back to Q&A Index]
Q Hi John, Do you have any advice
for people who do long distance running? I'm training for a marathon. Thanks!
A Thanks for your note. As you
already know, too much cardio can work against muscle gains. If you look at marathon
runners closely, you'll notice that almost all of them have gaunt, almost emaciated upper
bodies. That's because the body responds to severe glycogen depletion by using protein for
fuel. The long duration also raises cortisol levels. If you're going to run long
distances, you've got to defend that muscle.
For starters, on any run that's going to extend for more than about an hour, you should
plan to take some sort of easily digested carbohydrate supplement about the 1 hour mark.
Your local running store may have more suggestions than I do - but a basic carbohydrate
gel should suffice. I also think that an immediate protein supplement after your run, say
a scoop of Precision Protein, can also help to defend against muscle catabolism after a
long or intense workout. Betagen works along the same lines too.
A good running book will take you into more detail on training for specific distances
than I can in a short answer, but do try to include some longer duration intervals, a few
steep hills, and explosive force exercises such as jumping (up and down, side to side, one
leg to another) to improve your "kick". Good luck! John [Back
to Q&A Index]
Q Hi John - My question is on my
free day, should I also try to count my calories? If I have 2 cheat meals, and one is a
banana split, how bad is this going to hurt me? I have a hard time being totally devoted
on my free day, too. I have to have a couple of treats. Thanks!
A You don't have to rigidly count
calories on the free day, but be aware that you're not going wild. I've heard so many
people saying that people are advising them to totally pig out on the free day, and it
just isn't so. Not if they want to lose fat. You don't really want to go a whole lot over
1.5-1.7 times your BMR, but that's not likely unless you're consciously going wild. A
banana split is fine. A chocolate bar is fine. Pizza is fine. Enjoy them without even one
guilt pang. Just don't eat all of them 6 times a day. Aerobic "tweaking" can
also help the fat loss. Also, you don't have to follow the 6 meals a day plan on
your free day either, but you're less likely to over-binge if you do eat regularly. And
just as a sidenote, this may not happen, but if it does it's a good sign: Be aware of how
you feel about half an hour after eating that banana split. If you break a light sweat
after eating a carbohydrate treat, it's a good sign, because it signals that your
metabolism is in high gear. Try to eat a modest, balanced protein/carb meal about 2-3
hours afterward though, to keep your blood sugar from crashing after that initial rush.
Hope that helps! John [Back to Q&A Index]
Q John - The site is great! Do you
have any insight on how to prepare for "after" photos? I start week 11 tommorrow
and was wondering if I should do anything different in the last couple of weeks?
A 1) Extend the aerobics sessions,
still no more than 20 minutes of intensity intervals, but you can tack on as much as 25
minutes of moderate activity to the end to get lean in the last 2 weeks. DO NOT start
doing aerobics sessions or other high-intensity workouts 2 or more times a day. You'll
totally wipe out your glycogen and your muscles will look flat as pancakes.
2) Restrict carbohydrate intake modestly about 3 days prior to your photo shoot,
sharply 2 days before your shoot, and most of the day before the shoot. That will deplete
your glycogen and you'll drop water weight fast, so you'll look more "cut".
(Each gram of glycogen binds to several grams of water. This is why Atkins dieters who
restrict carbs seem to lose weight so fast - but it's nearly all water).
3) Now, that glycogen depletion is going to start flattening your muscles out too. So,
the evening before the shoot, do one last aerobics workout and follow it with high
carbohydrate intake. In an old issue of Muscle Media, Bill recommended a couple of bowls
of fruit loops (I'm serious). The sugar intake will be grabbed voraciously and
preferentially by the muscles. So your muscles will be pumped with glycogen, but you'll
still look lean.
4) IF you don't have any cardiovascular, pregnancy, lactation, or other pharmaceutical
issues, you may decide to use NWB (Natural Water Balance) starting 2-3 days before your
photo shoot. NWB is a powerful herbal diuretic containing dandelion root and a number of
other ingredients to prevent potassium depletion. (Diuretics that don't spare potassium
can give you a heart attack). DO NOT use it for more than 4 days, and DO drink about 2-3
glasses of water each time you take it. That may seem counterintuitive, but if you
restrict your water intake, your body will do EVERYTHING it can to retain water. The only
time you want to keep water intake somewhat low (but still drink some) is the morning of
5) Don't severely restrict sodium until the very day before your photo shoot. Same
reason. Your body will fight back and you'll look puffy.
6) The morning of the shoot, do about 20-30 minutes of weight training to hit every
part WITHOUT overly depleting your glycogen. That will leave the muscles with a good pump.
Follow it with a carbohydrate snack like an oatmeal cookie with a little water.
7) Don't do a bunch of goofy shots where you look like you're trying way too hard to
flex a particular muscle. Pleasant, confident, energetic shots in relatively normal poses
8) SEND ME THE PICTURES! One of the BEST things about doing this site is the success
stories and Before/After shots I get. They make all of this worthwhile.
Good luck! John [Back to Q&A Index]
Q I'm doing everything in the book
and I'm not losing weight. I think my metabolism just doesn't work with this, and I'm
about to give up. What now?
A From the thousands of notes I've
received, the only significant metabolic problem I've seen is undiagnosed hypothyroidism
(rare, but worth mentioning, and there's a section on hypothyroidism further down on this
page). Assuming this is not the problem, my question is this: Give up for what
alternative? As I note all over my site, the combination of aerobic training, strength
training and balanced nutrition is the single most effective way to lose weight,
gain muscle and increase fitness. So if this isn't working yet, you've got to make
it work. Otherwise, in Porter Freeman's words, you're rushing to the grave. So I can give
you some good advice and motivation, or I guess I can point you to a good undertaker...
The good news is that I am absolutely certain that you are making progress,
even if it's not evident in the "external" measurements - mirror, calipers,
scale, etc. I've just received far, far too many notes to believe otherwise -- people who
were frustrated and a little unsure, but persisted and wrote me back with outstanding
results. Some of them also posted similar notes in my guestbook. Listen, you all have
written me thousands of notes. So two things I know for sure are that 1) it's not
unusual to get frustrated and 2) if you stick to it and understand what to tweak (all on
my main page), you will succeed at this.
The only variables you can change for fat loss are these:
1) caloric intake (preferably near, but not dramatically below your BMR)
2) increased activity (tweaking by adding extra aerobics of moderate intensity)
3) metabolic enhancement (intensity, intensity, intensity, Phen-Free for
thermogenesis, balanced meals at regular intervals, lots of water, Betagen to reduce
muscle catabolism, striving for a "personal best" during each weight training
The trick is to focus on the caloric deficit - the difference between the calories you
take in and the calories you burn. You should have a pretty good idea every day of what
that deficit is (if you're working out daily, your burn is about 1.5 times BMR). You
should be extremely careful that you aren't underestimating your calories (research
suggests that people who report difficulty losing fat typically underestimate their true
caloric intake by about 40% on average). If you want to lose fat, you have to plan and
keep records of exactly what you eat every day.
I've seen notes from people speculating about their metabolic rate being low, their
genetics being bad, and so on. More likely, their portions are creeping up too much, they
have sedentary jobs, or they have high "set points" which can generally be fixed
with a little aerobic tweaking. When researchers talk about genetic and metabolic
differences, they're hardly ever talking about differences of more than 10% between
"slow" and "normal" individuals. Even if your muscle mass is severely
reduced, the reduction in metabolic rate is never more than 30% (since my
calculator factors in lean weight, it tends to pick this up anyway). That means that even at
relatively low level of activity, you'd still burn about your BMR in calories daily
(normally people burn about 1.3 times BMR at normal activity levels). So as long as your
caloric intake is near BMR, adding activity will generate fat loss. Maybe not as fast as
somebody who has a lot of muscle, but you will lose fat. It doesn't matter who you
are. So no complaining about bad genetics and slow metabolism. Just keep at it.
That's all you can do. From my experience and the notes I've received, most people are
capable of doing more than they initially believe. But in the end, those 3 things are the
things to focus on for fat loss: caloric restriction (not dramatically below BMR), increased
activity, and metabolic enhancement. You can succeed at this. And you will. Good
luck! John [Back to Q&A Index]
Q I love your site! I was
wondering what your opinion was on how to modify the BFL program while pregnant or
lactating. I know it's important to not go above a certain heart rate so I don't think the
20 minutes HIIT will work. What do you suggest? Also, I'm concerned about hitting a 10
with the weight lifting, especially when I'm farther along. I'd love to hear your
A Thanks for your note! There is a
lot of research that supports the conclusion that healthy women (no cardiovascular risk or
threatened premature labor) can perform sub-maximal, moderate intensity exercise without
jeopardizing fetal health. Women who engage in moderate intensity aerobics typically have
slightly higher birth-weight babies than those who have either sedentary or very high
intensity activity. High intensity, anaerobic exercise is another issue. Though there is
little demonstrated evidence that high intensity work is harmful, the medical
journals generally concur that "women should be advised to avoid anaerobic training
such as sprinting and interval work during pregnancy."
Aerobic exercise typically increases the oxygen reserve available for the baby in the
first two trimesters. However, that increase is reduced later, leading to the conclusion
that "maternal exercise may present a greater physiologic stress in the third
So far as weight lifting is concerned, keep in mind that in addition to being an
anaerobic activity, the concentric portion of weight lifting generally causes a brief
spike in blood pressure. A study in the journal Birth notes: "Evidence suggests that
weight-bearing exercise produces a greater decrease in oxygen reserve than
nonweight-bearing exercise. Furthermore, to maintain a heart rate below 140 beats per
minute during pregnancy, the intensity of weight-bearing exercise must be reduced." On that basis, I would suggest that any weight-training be done with very low weights and
higher repetitions, so that it more closely resembles moderate aerobic training.
I know that there's a real urge to get going on this program right away, but during
pregnancy, your body is doing such an important job that it's essential to put other
considerations on hold.
Once the baby is born and you're recovered from childbirth, you can start kicking the
intensity up. If you're breastfeeding, remember that human milk has a high fat content,
which generally means that mothers will lose fat faster while lactating than not. It's not
the time for diets that are highly restrictive in fat though, since the developing nervous
system is sensitive to fatty acid deficiency. One thing I would recommend for lactating
mothers on this program is to take about 6-8% of daily calories in the form of essential
fatty acids - olive oil, refrigerated fresh-pressed flaxseed oil, or perhaps a mix such as
The use of supplements such as Betagen and Phen-Free are typically discouraged for
lactating mothers. I'd probably also wait to take aspartame-containing products such as
Myoplex. The aspartame doesn't concern me typically, but I'm always more cautious when
babies are concerned. I haven't seen reports of damage from any of these supplements, but
clinical studies of non-essential supplements are never done on infant populations. You
just don't want to do anything that could interfere with the highly sensitive neurology of
The bottom line is fairly simple. This is one of those times in your life that belongs
to somebody else, so do everything you can for the baby, and deal with the bodyfat later.
A typical, healthy baby is a joy. But I'll tell you a secret. The other ones are too. In
any case, do everything you can to give it the best start possible. Best wishes, John [Back
to Q&A Index]
Q I just found the section on
tweaking the BFL program on your website - -it made me feel immeasurably better! I wanted
to do more cardio but was afraid to because I didn't know how to go about it. I have one
question--I have stuck to this program by the book--haven't cheated once, carefully
monitor my portion sizes, haven't missed one workout and I reach my high points. What in
the heck do all those people in the book DO to look like Meagan Brunner or Kelly Adair!?!
A I haven't talked with Meagan
Brunner, but she said in an interview that she and Jamie were very careful about portion
sizes throughout their programs. Kelly Adair basically did more aerobic activity than
3x20. As I note on my page, she never did more than 20 minutes of the high-intensity intervals, but she typically did aerobics 4-6 times a week at some level. For instance,
she often worked out in the morning, and added 10 minutes of moderate activity (or maybe
just walking) to the end. Then later that day, she often went rollerblading with her
daughter and husband. Her husband Rockett told me it was like a scene from the movie "Shane", where he would be left behind calling "Shane! Come baaaack!".
I really do believe that if you tweak the aerobics carefully (using Phen-Free before those
workouts if it's appropriate for you), and maintain that daily intensity, you'll
see a significant change in how your body adapts. So you're on the right track. Keep me
posted! John [Back to Q&A Index]
Q John, Mine is not a question so
much as it is clarification. You say level 9 & 10 shouldn't leave you gasping for air.
Especially the last 20 seconds of my "10" minute, I'm sucking wind harder that a
Hoover. When I get off the Stairclimber not only am I toast but my legs are wobbly (even
after level 5 for a minute). I thought that was the point - extreme exertion? BTW - Great
A Thanks for your note. The point
of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) isn't so much to cause extreme exertion.
You want a well-focused effort to go above the lactate threshhold, so that you're
challenging your anaerobic systems. More simply, you're trying to drive the body to
deplete its glycogen stores. As one report puts it:
"Studies indicate that the high-intensity portion of the workout demands so much
quick energy that the body does not have stored sugars and carbohydrates left over. This
may stimulate the body to metabolize fat in what might be termed the
The studies indicate that this afterburn can raise your metabolic rate for as much as
21 hours. So yes, you should be breathing hard, and your muscles should burn by the end of
your 10. Wobbly legs are fine. But if you're audibly gasping as if you've been held
underwater, dizzy, or unable to maintain balance, you've gone beyond challenging your CP
and lactate systems, and have crossed over into cardiovascular and pulmonary stress. If
you're healthy, it doesn't do you any good, and it's downright dangerous for people who
are unhealthy or have undiagnosed heart problems.
So there are extremely good benefits in using the high intensity, and you should
be working very hard during your high points. But no screeching, audible gasping. Hope
that helps! John [Back to Q&A Index]
Q John, My BMR is 1,396. How can I
consume 6 meals a day on that low of calorie intake? I weigh 126 and have 14.5 percent of
body fat. I want to get the body fat to 9 percent or so. I know I need more calories than
that! What and how much should I consume? I run a lot, for fun instead of the short 20
min. workout. Thanks
A That's your BMR. Some people get
really mad at that calculation, and occasionally even write mean-spirited comments because of it. That's unfortunate, because I'm just here to
help. I've heard fat loss success stories from as little as 9 calories per lean pound of
bodyweight to as much as 1.3 times BMR. For you, that's an "acceptable" range
between about 1100 and 1800 calories. There is no "perfect" number, but for
fat loss, I'd shoot slightly below the middle of that range. At even a moderate level
of activity, your body burns about 1.3 times your BMR, and in the BFL program (at good
intensity, using the interval training and high points in your weight sets) you'll burn
closer to 1.5 times BMR. In other words, if you want to keep your weight the same on the
BFL program, you can eat about 1.5 times your BMR. If you want maximum fat loss,
target your intake somewhat closer to your BMR, "tweak" your aerobics based on
the suggestions on my main page, keep your daily intensity on track, and maybe use
Phen-Free. I wouldn't drop the interval training. By the way, a small chicken breast, a
small baked potato, and a salad with low-fat dressing would be about 230 calories. That's
just about the size you're shooting for if you're eating 6 times a day at your BMR. A
Myoplex lite is 190 calories, so you can add a chunk of fruit or a splash of skim milk and
be just fine. Again, though, the BMR is just a ballpark. Hope that helps! John [Back
to Q&A Index]
Q Hi John! I'm doing the program
as a vegetarian. Is there anything you would advise for keeping my protein up?
A It helps if you aren't totally
vegan, and can include foods derived from milk and eggs. If that's not the case, then by
necessity, the staple is probably soy protein, which you can have in tofu, Boca Burgers,
and other texturized forms. So far as soy-protein isolates are concerned, my understanding
is that they vary significantly in terms of amino-acid profile. In the March 2000 Muscle
Media, Brett Hall R.D. notes that the best of these is Supro brand, from Protein
Technologies (a division of Ralston). The Supro is very complete in that regard.
As far as beans, rice and lentils go, be sure to remember that they are higher in
carbohydrate than in protein. For example, most beans have about 2-3g of carbohydrate per
gram of protein, and rice is closer to 10g of carbohydrate per gram of protein. So in
order to get 1 gram of protein per lean pound (which I would suggest on the BFL program),
it's almost essential to supplement with a soy protein isolate or other high protein
source. If you're targeting your protein intake to about 1 gram per lean pound (at least
30-40% of your calories), and your overall caloric intake is consistent with your fat-loss
goals, the carbs will work themselves out, so you don't have to be analyzing the whole
diet gram for gram.
If milk and eggs are included in your diet, you've got a much wider range. On the
whole-food side, there's egg protein, which gives you a lot of variety itself, and casein
protein (cottage cheese). Cottage cheese is digested slowly, and it has properties that
help to reduce muscle breakdown (for example, high glutamine content). It's a great choice
for your last meal of the day. I'd definitely include it in your dietary mix, even though
Zig Ziglar says "I have found it to be universally true that 'aint nothin' but fat
folks eat the stuff".
Whey protein is also derived from milk, and is the key protein source in Myoplex. It
has an excellent amino-acid profile, with a high concentration of branched-chain amino
acids that are integral to muscle growth. It also has immune-enhancing properties, so is
good to include if you can. EAS derives the whey protein from micro-filtration and
ion-exchange, which keeps it intact. Brett Hall, a vegetarian, suggests that you try to
get a balanced variety in your protein supplements, and he shoots for an equal ratio of
soy, whey and casein proteins, with egg whites (or egg-beaters) as an additional whole
food source. Hope that helps! John [Back to Q&A Index]
Q Hi John, I am doing well on my
program. The problem both I and my husband have is lower back pain. When lifting, we use a
weight belt to support our backs, but we have noticed that for our crunches we can't use
the belt. We both experience lower back pain during the abs exercises. My husbands pain is
excruciating. His back bothers him for awhile afterwards. Mine is not so bad and stops
hurting after I finish my crunches. Any ideas of exercises to strengthen the lower back?
A I'm glad you're using weight
belts. Not only do they protect the lower back, they also make you look more imposing.
When I started wearing one, people would jump off the equipment whenever I seemed to be
waiting, which was hilarious. A 6-inch width will help, but just make sure it's relatively
snug and not loose. As you get stronger, gradually reduce your use of the belt, since the
belt slightly reduces your abdominal development.
If your husband has excruciating back pain, be absolutely sure he's doing his leg
exercises in proper form, which may be a hidden issue. If either of you repeatedly feel a
shooting pain down or numbness in either of your legs, you may have sciatica, which is
caused by disk pressure. Often it goes away with 3-4 weeks of rest and basic nonsteroidal
treatment such as Advil. Also, do a "straight leg" check: lie down, extend one
of the legs, and raise it up. If you feel a lot of pain doing that, it can also be a sign
of disk pressure. Those are things you should check with your doctor about. As for
reducing general back tightness and pain, I'm not convinced you want back exercises as
much as stretches. Here are the ones I use.
Lie on the floor with your back on the ground. Pull your knees up, holding your legs in
the pocket behind the knees, and pull your chest up toward the knees gently. This isn't a
crunch, but a stretch. Breathe deeply and relax. Repeat that, gradually trying to bring
your knees in toward your chest. But don't bounce or strain. Do it about 5-6 times.
Lie on the floor with your pelvis against the ground. Push up with your arms, still
keeping your stomach on the ground, so you are gently bending your back toward the
ceiling. Focus on relaxing the lower back. Hold - again, don't bounce or strain - and then
go back down. Repeat that a few times, going just a little more each time, but never
straining the lower back.
Put a pillow on the floor, and rest your right knee on it. Put your left foot in front
of you, so your left knee is bent at a right angle. Now, push your pelvis forward, so you
start to feel a stretch in your right quadricep (the front of the right leg). Do that
several times, focusing on the stretch, and the slight forward movement of the lower
spine. Repeat that with the other leg.
Do those stretches before your crunches, and in the evening. If you stretch in the
morning, be very very gentle, since the back tends to be tighter and the disks more
hydrated at that time. Also, when you do your crunches, your lower back should never leave
the ground. Rather, your rib cage should move in toward the pelvic bone, and your lower
back should press into the ground, while the shoulders only move a few inches off the
floor (more on that in the abdominals discussion on my Q&A page). Best wishes and good
luck! John [Back to Q&A Index]
Q John...Wonderful site and VERY
informative. There has been a question floating around our Yahoo club about Aerobic
activity in the morning, on an empty stomach versus the afternoon. On line of thinking is
that if you do enough activity to burn (example) 300 calories, then it doesn't matter when
you do it. I was hoping you could clarify this for me. I do my aerobic solution in the
mornings, but I would like to post some viable information to the club. Any help would be
A OK. First Law of Thermodynamics:
Energy is neither created nor destroyed, only converted from one form to another. Second
Law of Thermodynamics: That conversion is never 100% efficient.
When you do aerobics at a relatively high level of blood glucose, your muscles are
fueled directly by their existing glycogen, and by the glucose in the blood supply, which
is fine. When you do the aerobics at a lower level of blood glucose (in the morning, or a
few hours after your previous meal) the muscles have less of a supply to work with, so as
your muscle glycogen gets depleted, two things happen. 1) your body has to replenish the
glycogen by converting free fatty acids, which means that the enzymes responsible for "lipolysis" become more active. As Covert Bailey puts it, "you become a
better butter burner". And 2) the replenishment of that glycogen has taken a longer
path. Food that you previously ate that was first converted to fat (never 100% efficient)
then has to be converted back from fat to glycogen (never 100% efficient), and then burned
as energy in the muscles (really inefficient, with 60-70% expended as heat). So by doing
the aerobics on lower blood glucose (not too low or you'll get dizzy) you condition your
fat-burning enzymes and expend a little extra energy on the back-and-forth conversions.
That, by the way, is also why you wait about an hour before eating carbohydrates in
particular - you want the glycogen replenished indirectly, through lipolysis, rather than
directly through intake. As I explain on my main page, there's increasing evidence that
leucine intake (no carbs) immediately after intense training can help muscle synthesis. So
if you eat anything, go for a protein powder high in "branched chain amino
acids". Precision Protein (ion-exchanged whey) is a good choice. Hope that helps!
John [Back to Q&A Index]
Q Hi. I love your site. I just
received my BFL book today and I'm excited about the program. Can you possibly tell me
where you got the info on too much aerobics causing protein breakdown? I mentioned to the
trainer at my gym (he has a master's degree in exercise physiology) and he never heard of
it. Of course, maybe he was asleep that day :-)! Thank you.
A One source is Wilmore &
Costill, Physiology of Sport and Exercise (1999): "Attempts to perform large amounts
of high intensity training can have negative effects on adaptation. The energy needs of
high-intensity training place greater demands on the glycolytic system, rapidly depleting
muscle glycogen. If such training is attempted too often, the muscles can become
chronically depleted of energy reserves. When the training load is too intense or the
volume of training exceeds the body's ability to recover and adapt, the body experiences
more catabolism (breakdown) than anabolism (buildup). We cannot overstress the importance
of designing training programs to include both rest and variation in the training
intensity and volume in an effort to avoid overtraining and chronic fatigue".
That, in a nutshell, is why the high-intensity aerobics are limited to 20-minute
sessions, 3 times a week, and the resistance training should not exceed an hour. As I note
on my main page, there is some tweaking you can do on the aerobic side, but it's only
advice I would give to someone whose primary goal is fat loss).
A few other useful notes from Wilmore & Costill (a great physiology book):
"Numerous studies have shown no significant differences in improvement between
athletes who train with typical training volumes and those who train with twice the volume
(training conducted twice a day instead of once a day)".
"For fat loss, resistance and endurance training is most effective. Resistance
[weight] training promotes gains in fat-free mass, and both resistance and endurance
[cardio] training promote loss of fat mass. As a final point, a balanced diet is, of
course, essential. When severe (very-low-calorie) diets are followed, much of the weight
loss that occurs is from water, not fat. Most severe diets limit carbohydrate intake,
causing carbohydrate stores to be depleted. Water is lost along with the carbohydrates,
exacerbating the problem of dehydration. Also the increased reliance on free fatty acids
can lead to ketosis, which further increases water loss".
So on the nutrition side, the balanced combination of protein and carbohydrate is
essential. If your main goal is fat loss, you should skew your intake *slightly* toward
more protein and less carbohydrate, and if your main goal is muscle gain, you should just
skew your intake toward *more* of both. I've seen people doing really counterproductive
modifications to this program. Except for the very minor tweaking I've noted, depending on
whether the main goal is fat loss or muscle gain, I wouldn't modify the BFL program much
at all. It really is a well-structured program. Hope that helps! Best wishes, John [Back
to Q&A Index]
Q Hi John, I am a 50 year old
female. 5'2" I'm in week 9 of the program. My stats after 9 weeks are as follows:
Body fat: Start 32.7%, now 30.5%
Weight: Start 136, now 128
Muscle: Start 91.6, now 89
Fat: Start 44.4, now 39
I have lost approximately 9 inches. I am following the program to the letter with my
eating and exercising. I don't understand why I continue to lose muscle. What am I doing
wrong? I was told to add an additional carb to my first two meals, which I have done for
the last 1 1/2 weeks, but I'm still losing muscle. I have two Myoplex Lite Shakes a day,
plus 4 whole food meals. I'm going by portions only. I believe I'm taking in about
1200-1400 calories/day. Is there anything else I can do to continue my fat loss but also
increase my lean muscle? I'm still flabby and can't really see any muscle definition at
all. When will my legs start to firm up? I'm ready to give up but I've been told I could
see major results in the last 4 weeks so I plan on sticking with it. I'll be so
disappointed if I don't see better results at the end. I've worked so hard on the weight
training only to continue to lose muscle. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks. Your articles are great.
A AAACK! If there's one statistic
that is least reliable in this whole thing, it's the muscle change calculation. The reason
is purely mathematical. Here's what's going on. The muscle change figure is the difference
between two numbers, both which are small in comparison to total body weight:
Muscle change = Scale change - Fat weight change
For example, if you've lost 7 pounds on the scale and you've lost 9 pounds of fat, the
muscle change would be -7 - (-9) = +2.
The problem is that anytime you take the difference between two small numbers,
relatively minuscule estimation errors can lead to dramatic changes in the final
calculation. To see this, go ahead and weigh yourself and calculate your lean weight
change. Now go and eat a meal with 2 glasses of water. Now weigh yourself and calculate
your lean weight change again. Your body fat reading didn't change, so congratulations,
you've just put on about 3-4 pounds of lean weight. I'm not trying to be cute here - I'm
trying to demonstrate how sensitive and inaccurate the lean weight change calculation can
be, and why you should take it with a grain of salt until the numbers are significant
relative to your body weight.
And it's not just scale weight that throws off the calculation. I don't care how you
measure body fat, the higher the level of bodyfat, the larger the range of error. Figure
+/- 1.5% is common. To calculate your lean weight change you need 4 figures: starting bf%,
ending bf%, starting weight and ending weight. You've got 4 separate calculations, all
with small estimation errors. Do a calculation that requires all of them together, and the
estimated change in your lean weight can be off, easily by 3-4% of body weight, and
Here's my bet. At a lean weight of 90, 62 inches and 50 years of age, your estimated
BMR works out to about 1160 calories a day. Figure your caloric use on the Body-for-LIFE
program at about 1.5 times BMR, and you're probably burning about 1750 calories a day. At
a caloric intake averaging 1300 a day, you're running a daily deficit of about
450 calories a day, which suggests to me that you're losing just under a pound of fat a week. At 9
weeks in, a typical woman with your stats, following the program closely, would have lost
about 9 pounds of fat and gained a few pounds of muscle. That suggests to me that you
should have lost about 6-7 pounds on the scale, and you've actually lost 8, so maybe
you've only gained a pound of muscle instead of 2-3, but I strongly doubt that you've
actually lost muscle on this program.
Alright, now that we've done some damage control, let's see what we can do to bump that
muscle gain higher. I don't think the extra carbs are doing you a favor. Skewing your
intake toward more carbohydrate than the BFL program suggests will cause greater variation
in your blood glucose and insulin levels, which will actually work against fat loss and
muscle gain. But don't go too far the other direction either. If your main goal is fat
loss, with some muscle gain, you should eat balanced meals but biased *slightly* toward
more protein than carbohydrate.
Now, on the training side, I'm going to stress this again. Muscle growth is triggered
by hitting peak intensity with which the muscle is contracted. Make sure that in EVERY
workout, you pick one set in each exercise that requires your muscles to overcome a
resistance they have never overcome before. That may mean adding some extra weight to your
set of 6, adding 2 extra reps to your normal set of 8, or adding a little weight and an
extra rep to that last set of 12. But every workout, every exercise, pick one of those
sets to go beyond what you've done before. If you do that consistently, then over a period
of a couple of weeks you'll be able to up the weight on the whole sequence: 12, 10, 8, 6,
12 and compound set of 12.
For the legs, you should add an exercise that works several groups simultaneously -
preferably the leg press or squats. But be careful to learn proper form, don't curl up
your back, and don't let your knees move past your toes. The legs will firm up partly from
muscle tone, but also largely from fat loss, which is already underway.
I'll tell you something right now though. If you let your short term results determine
whether you stick with this program or not, you might as well sell everything you own,
take the money to Vegas, lay it on the line and yell "Come on, seven!". Because
I can't tell you whether you'll see a dramatic change in the next 4 weeks or not. If you
don't, and you quit because of that, you'll be losing as much as if you bet your life on 7
and the dice come up 9. You've got to make the decision to stick with this no matter what.
My guess is that the program is working just fine and that your stats are getting in the
way of recognizing that. If you study the research, you'll find that this combination of
cardio, resistance training and proper nutrition is hands-down the best program to
increase fitness and reduce some really ugly health risks. So if this program isn't
working for you, you've just got to make it work. And again, my bet is that it's working
just fine. Give it time, watch your portions, have a goal for each workout and a set for
each exercise where you go beyond, and you're going to do just great. And I'm expecting an
update from you about 4-8 weeks from now. Good luck! Best wishes, John [Back
to Q&A Index]
Q Hi John, Wanted to get your
opinion on testing bodyfat. Purchased a Tanita bodyfat monitor with the dual mode
(adult/athlete) and was wondering if you had an info on these. They suggest that you use
the scale in the evening, having not exercised or had anything to eat or drink for about
2-3 hrs. My understanding was that you should weigh yourself first thing in the morning
but according to Tanita your body is dehydrated at this time and will not give an accurate
reading. Ex: Yesterday afternoon bodyfat was 24%; this morning bodyfat 30% using the
athlete mode. There is about a 6% difference (higher) using the adult mode. Any
A Yeah, the Tanita monitors can
vary a lot, depending on whether you've exercised recently or not, how much fluid you've
taken in, etc. I'm not thrilled with them. Evidently, if your resting heart rate is 60 and
you've been exercising 5-10 hours a week, Tanita says the "athlete" mode is
appropriate. But my inclination is to think that if you're starting from a relatively
sedentary level, the athletic mode lead you to estimate too low. The Tanita has the
benefit of "objectivity", but I'm actually not convinced that body fat is so
precisely distributed that you can get a true reading of total body composition from the
bioelectrical impedance of the thin layer of tissue at the bottom of your foot. In any
event, the trend will be the important thing. I'd actually keep 2 readings - one using the
Accu-Measure or Slim-Guide (my favorite) calipers and one using the Tanita. Never let
those two meet, because you'll get confused and frustrated. More discussion on calipers -
and instructions on using them - further down on my Q&A page. The individual readings
will vary by the day, sometimes by an amount enough to make you scream if you take them
too seriously. So graph them on a chart, and just look for a discernable downward trend in
the peak-to-peak (or trough-to-trough) readings that you get over a period of weeks - that
will give you a much truer reading than the one you get on any particular day. Also
remember to take your waist measurements, which may indicate loss of "visceral" fat in the abdomen, which isn't always captured by other methods. [Back
to Q&A Index]
Q Hi John -
The problem I am having is not eating the 6 meals, but eating them without them running
too close together. I'll eat while I'm working and sometimes I get interrupted and my meal
can take an hour to eat. Is that a problem? I was also wondering about snacking on
veggies. Is it okay to snack at anytime of the day as long as its on celery, carrots,
cucumbers etc. or are you supposed to be going without anything between meals?
A The point isn't so much to choke
down 6 meals, hell or high water, but to eat regularly. If you've waited 4 hours to
have a meal, you don't make up for lost time by having your next two meals an hour apart.
As far as the meals go, the essence of "grazing" as Bill calls it, is to eat
carefully limited portions of high quality foods, but frequently. See, when you eat a big
meal, your blood sugar rises and that blood sugar gets invited into the cells. So a few
hours later, you end up with low blood sugar instead. That causes your body to start
scavenging protein. So it rips the nitrogen off of amino acids and says "Fine. Good
enough", and you start losing muscle (technically, you've induced a "negative
nitrogen balance", which is what a lot of restrictive diet programs do). It certainly
won't hurt your results by eating your meals in smaller portions and more frequently, so
long as you're not having long skips between them, and you're keeping your overall intake
on target. As for nibbling on veggies, go right ahead. Again, more frequent is fine, as
long as you carefully limit the overall intake. It's the big meals, and the long fasting
between them, that causes the peaks and troughs in blood sugar so detrimental to protein
synthesis. Hope that helps! Good luck - John [Back to Q&A Index]
Q I am 5'6" and weigh 193
lbs. Since beginning BFL I have gone from 41%BF to 30%BF. When the figures were broken
down I ended up at 135lb lean and 58lbs fat. I am small boned. I am very proud of that
muscle. At 57 years of age I never had any muscle before. However, I really think I need
to lose the extra body fat and I don't believe I need to gain more muscle. What
modifications should I make to my program to reach my goal? I am diabetic, now controlled
by diet and exercise most of the time. I have doctors approval for this program. My doctor
is supportive but not knowledgeable about the program. He is just delighted that after 2
years of working hard with me to change my body things are finally happening again. Before
that I would get someone to drive me to the Y and they would lower me into the pool with a
sling. Now I can do the BFL program. So what do I do? How can I dump the fat without
increasing the muscle? Thanks, this old lady appreciates your input.
A Here's my take. First of all,
it's GREAT that you've been doing this program. I have another section in my Q&A page
on diabetes & BFL too. Now, as far as the muscle gain is concerned, I think it's still
essential that you get part of your intensity from weight training, as it will accelerate
the fat loss even if you think of it purely as an exercise (not to mention the metabolic
requirements of the muscle). But since you don't want to add significantly more mass, we
want to shift your training toward higher repetition and lower weight, so you're training
your "aerobic" slow-twitch muscle fibers, rather than causing hypertrophy
(excessive growth) in the "fast-twitch" ones. So when you weight train, I want
you to change those sets of 8 and 6 into sets of 10 repetitions. And rather than focusing
on maximal contraction and "burn", I want you just to focus on breathing deeply
and aerobically while you do those sets. That will emphasize the fat loss more than the
fiber growth. Finally, remember that pound-for-pound, muscle is about 5 times more compact
than fat, and rather than being a weight that your body has to carry around, muscle helps
to support and strengthen your posture and bone density. So don't be scared of muscle
growth, but we can attenuate it by focusing on higher repetitions and lower weights. Hope
that helps! Good luck - John [Back to Q&A Index]
Q John, Thanks for the excellent
information on your site. A question about heart rates: I'm 42, male, 5'10" 180 lbs.
and spent 20 years in the Army. During any type of running, my heart rate has always been
in the 170 - 185 range which all the books say is too highfor my age (even when I was 35).
I've never experienced any discomfort with this other than breathing hard. When I retired,
I bought a polar monitor which verified my pulse readings. When I run, I'm exercising way
beyond the "70 % or 80 %" MHR which are the recommended zones. And I don't have
to sprint to get my rate up there. 9 or 10 minute miles do it. Do you see any problems
with this? I also notice that I sweat a lot more than others. During PT runs, my gray
tshirt is absolutely saturated with sweat; while others have a ring around the collar and
under the arms. Any connections? I'm now a police officer and Swat team member so fitness
ain't just a wannabe; it's a gottabe for me and my team members. I'm in week 4 and working
it. Believe me we appreciate all your hard work on the research you've done. Thanks
A Boy, apart from the 20 years in
the Army and slightly more Swat team experience, you sound just like me. Seriously, I
think we have what Covert Bailey calls "Kawasaki" hearts, as opposed to the
slower "Diesel" variety. My heart rate also goes beyond the tables and I get
just soaked, so there may very well be a connection (probably heat dissipation), but I'd
have to research it to get a firm answer. Because heart rates vary more than those heart
monitors seem to assume, I prefer to gauge intensity by breathing and "comfort
level" - my 6 and 7 are "conversational" - breathing deeply, but able to
carry on a broken conversation. My 8 gets some extra "push" and
"bounce" to it, and it takes me just out of my comfort level. A 9 gets me winded
and produces a "burn" in my legs by the end of it, and a 10 is the highest level
I can sustain for a full minute without gasping as if I've been held underwater (i.e. no undue cardiovascular or pulmonary stress). Those reference points let me gauge my
intensity even if I'm running with a stopwatch. Now, since I've got some heart history in
my family, I got an echocardiogram done before I started, but assuming you don't have
those concerns, I can tell you that those heart rate tables do seem to be "averages", and that some of us fall outside that range, just like the tails of
a bell curve. Hope that helps! Good luck, and may you always be safe out there. Take care
- John [Back to Q&A Index]
Q Hi John, We are currently doing
Tae-Bo for our aerobics, but I'm worried that we won't get the results we desire as
quickly as we would with other methods. We do it first thing in the morning on an empty
stomach, eating about 1 hour after completion. The workout has varying levels of intensity
ranging from a 4 to a 10 and are about 20-25 minutes long. Do you have any suggestions?
A Thanks for your note. I think Tae-Bo is a great workout - like Covert Bailey says, the best exercise is the one you'll do, so if you enjoy it, keep it up. That said, I'd really
like to see you doing at least one of your cardio workouts using the
specific intensity pattern in Bill's book. It's effective to challenge your lactate
system, but in order to know that a 9 is a 9, you have to have a clear idea that you'll be
doing it for 1 minute, and that when you're doing a 10, it's the highest level you can
sustain for a full minute (without gasping, of course). I would think it's harder to do
that if you don't know how long a given period of intensity will last. If you can manage
to regulate that intensity so you are challenging yourself, feeling a burn near the end of
your 9, getting "active recovery" after that 9, and having sufficient warmup and
warmdown, then the Tae-Bo will be effective, but it just seems harder to get at all that
if you're not totally in control of the activity. Hope that helps! [Back
to Q&A Index]
Q I work with a trainer about once
a week for lower body workouts, 'cause they are SO hard and I just can't push myself in
the way he does. He is a very good friend of mine and has a killer body, so he obviously
knows something about training. He is very excited about The Challenge and wants to help
in any way he can. However, he has several opposing views from Bill's. First, he does not
want me to take a free day and he wants me to do cardio everyday. And since I am lifting
so much heavier weight than before, I am only doing one muscle group a day.
I know that either way I will see improvements, as my eating will change drastically,
but which way is faster? Are his ideas wrong or bad for me? I guess I just don't
understand how "less" cardio can be "more" improvement. And how
important is the free day?
A OK, here's the deal. Your friend
is probably more buff than I am (but I'm catching up!), so he's done something right. And
he can definitely show you proper form, which is a great asset. As for following the
program, I'll just focus on what the research suggests and let you make up your own mind.
First, even if you are targeting fat loss, I wouldn't do intense aerobic activity every
day - too much will cause protein breakdown at a time you're trying to build new protein.
The intensity intervals are going to generate a lot of metabolic changes and improve your
lactate tolerance (byproducts of anaerobic exercise), which will both speed your fat loss
and improve your lifting ability. As I note on my main page, my opinion is that you
can add as much as 20 extra minutes at moderate intensity after your intense 20-minute
session, and a longer-duration workout (no high points) on your free day. That's 4 aerobic
workouts a week already. But if you really want to do some aerobics every day, I'd
just add a little 8-10 minute, moderate ride on an exercise bike (more like a ride around
the park than a workout), which will keep you revved. And if you're doing all that, PLEASE
get enough sleep, and skip the extras if you don't feel totally rested. The last thing you
want to do is to overexert yourself, and then lose 3-4 days of intensity because you're
out with the flu.
In terms of muscle gain, you've just got to remember that muscle building is based on
peak-intensity, not duration. It really is the one set you do at a weight you haven't
experienced before that triggers the adaptation. Now, if you want more size, you might go
12, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2 and then a compound set of 12 at a different exercise, and make sure
that those very low rep sets are at high weight. Anthony Ellis finished each body part
with just 1 or 2 reps. And Abb Ansley would finish his chest workout with a single
eccentric rep. In any event, pick one of those sets in each workout to push to a higher
weight than you've done before, and pretty soon you'll be able to up the weight on the
As I note on my page, weight training just isn't an endurance sport, so you shouldn't
focus your whole workout on a single group. Just stress the muscle, and in at least one
set, try to overcome a resistance that the muscle hasn't experienced before. Then do your
compound set, focus on the contraction, get a good burn, and move on to another body part.
By focusing the whole workout on one group, you're actually guaranteeing that you'll never
hit that brief overload that gets the job done, because your muscle glycogen will be
tapped out far before the workout is over. For that reason, I'd definitely shoot for at
least 3 body parts per workout, which is still a small number.
Finally, as far as the free day goes, I took two modest free meals a week (usually 2-3
slices of pizza, or a meal out with my family), and that seemed to work well for me. After
a while, food just stopped being "recreation". You certainly don't have to
overdo the free day, but done modestly, it does keep your body from sensing a fasting
state, and so ironically it may help to keep your metabolism up.
The bottom line is that Bill's program will work with zero modification, so I really
don't think it helps to tweak it too much. The changes I've mentioned are consistent with
the physiology behind the program, but that's about as far as I would stretch. Hope that
helps! John [Back to Q&A Index]
Q John, I am 3 weeks into the
program and I am concerned because I am eating two Myoplex deluxe meals a day, and I am on
the size and strength program. Can you be on this program and be trying to lose fat too? I
am at 232 lbs. age 35, height 78". I calculated my lean mass at 172 lbs. and my BMR
at 2051. So that put me somewhere in the neighborhood of 1720 - 3280 calories needed daily
(minimum to maximum). I figured I needed to lose 1.5% body fat a week to get to 8%, but
how many calories should I be eating daily?
A Gosh, I wish I was so tall.
Thanks for your note. Figuring 1.5% bodyfat loss per week, you're targeting something
close to 3.5 pounds a week in fat loss, which is pretty aggressive, but feasible given
your height. My guess is that you'll lose some water weight as well, so you probably can
get away with a bit less than that. But on the basis of 3.5 pounds a week targeted fat
loss, even a high burn of 1.6 times your BMR is 3280, minus 3.5 x 500 = 1530 calories a day target intake.
That's below your BMR, and also below 10 calories per lean pound, so that few calories for
a guy like you would create a risk of muscle loss. You're better off tweaking the aerobics
higher than cutting calories lower. When you're targeting aggressive fat loss, you can
still get muscle gains, but you don't want to drop dramatically below BMR, because then
your body will start scavenging protein to make up the difference. With a modest tweak to
the aerobics, even 2000 calories a day should get you where you want to be. Let me know
how things go. Hope that helps! John [Back to Q&A Index]
Q Hi John, Your website is
fantastic! It is clearly a motivational tool for those of us who have tried many programs
in the past but got discouraged to soon to continue. I'm finishing up my 4th week. My main
concern is that about 1 1/2 hours after my evening meal, which usually consists of chicken
or fish, potato or sweet potato, and veggies, I am having a Myoplex lite pudding. Will
this interfere with what I want to achieve since there are carbs in the Myoplex? Thanks
for your help,
A There are some people who say
that carbohydrates are more fattening at night than at other times. That's not true. The
real issue is that carbs (particularly simple sugars) lead to an initial rise in blood
sugar, that triggers the release of insulin, which knocks on the cell doors to let the
blood sugar in. So high carbs lead to an initial rise in blood sugar, a rise in insulin,
and then a plunge in blood sugar, so that you are a little hypoglycemic by morning. Since
your brain cells can't store sugar, low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) can give you the
shakes. Low blood sugar may also lead your body to scavenge protein in order to create
glycogen. So lots of carbs at night, particularly sugars, tend to work against muscle
growth. That's why extreme carbohydrate restriction such as the Atkins diet can also lead
to muscle loss. My favorite late-night meal is low-fat cottage cheese (for protein) and an
apple (for carbs). Both are metabolized slowly, so you get through the "fast" at
night without triggering an insulin rush or compromising protein synthesis. Hope that
helps! John [Back to Q&A Index]
Q Hi John. Thank you for such a
great website. I am in the middle of week 10 and just had my body fat tested. I am a
5'10" female, 37 years old. When I started the program 10 weeks ago, I weighed 139
and tested 19.8% bf. Now I weight 131 and have 17.5% bf. Only half of what I lost was fat.
I want to increase muscle size. I think I need to gain weight in order to gain muscle, but
I don't want to gain fat. While I feel like I am reaching my 10's, I haven't seen
significant progress in the amounts of weight I can lift nor have I seen any great muscle
growth. And I still seem to have a layer of fat covering my muscle definition (if it is
there). I am eating about 1800-2000 calories a day, taking Phen-Free on cardio days,
BetaGen 3 times a day, two Myoplex Lite shakes per day, and 1 tbs of flax seed oil per
day. I hope you can help. Thanks!
A Nah, you don't need to gain
weight to gain muscle. My bet is that your starting bf reading was a little low. You
haven't lost 4 pounds of lean mass on this program. I doubt that you've actually lost
muscle on this program. As I note in another section of this page, the muscle gain figure
is easily the least accurate. Your BMR is a bit under 1400 calories a day. Your probable
caloric burn on this program is just about 2100 calories calories a day. At 1800 calories
of daily intake, that gives you a caloric deficit of about 300 calories a day, which would
work out to roughly 0.6 pound of fat loss per week. My guess is that your daily deficit is
actually closer to 400 calories a day, which would give you 0.8 pounds of fat loss a week,
and 8 pounds of fat loss in 10 weeks, which is what I think has probably happened.
Very simply, if you want to lose more fat, you need to create a greater caloric
deficit. Period. An aggressive fat loss target would shoot for 1100-1400 calories a day,
which is reasonably within your BMR. Since you want significant muscle gains, I'd shoot
closer to 1500-1600 total.
On the weight training side, try this. For every body part, you are doing 5 sets of a
primary exercise, then 1 set of 12 as part of a compound set. Now, there's no way that
you'll consistently be able to add even 5 pounds to every one of those sets without going
to failure too early or introducing improper form. So here's the key. In every
workout, and for each body part, I want you to pick one of those sets
(preferably the set of 8, or the set of 6), and either raise the weight or raise the
number of repetitions beyond what you've done any time before. Just on that one set. For
instance, in a given exercise, you might have done 30/12, 35/10, 40/8, 45/6, and 35/12
last time. This time, do something like 30/12, 35/10, 40/8, *50/6*, 35/12, or replace the
(40/8, 45/6) with (*45/8*, 45/6), or the (40/8, 45/6) with (40/8, *45/8*). The point is
that every workout reaches a little higher than you've ever reached before. There's no
better way to increase your strength than that. Also, if you're really interested in
growth, you can replace that last 35/12 with 2 short, high weight sets to really stress
those fast twitch fibers, such as 50/4, 60/2, then immediately to that different compound
exercise for 12, and make it burn. Follow it up with a meal about an hour after that
weight workout. I really don't like all of the major modifications people seem to be
trying with the BFL program (some are really terribly counterproductive), but these small
changes are consistent with the science behind the program.
The bottom line is that for the fat loss you need to create more of a caloric deficit,
which means slightly smaller portions and modestly increased aerobics. For the weight
training, you'll only increase your strength and lifting capacity if you go at it
incrementally, but in every workout. You really will reach your goal if you stick to those
targets. Hope that helps! John [Back to Q&A Index]
Q I have almost given up on
finding an answer, this is the last time I plan to ask anyone so I am sure hoping you can
I gained 40 pounds about 4 years ago after stopping smoking and beginning estrogen
treatment for an early menopause. My weight before the sudden gain was about 135, I am 5'8
and currently 49. Since gaining the weight I have tried everything to get it off. Nothing
works. When I read about the Body for Life Program, something clicked, I knew it was the
I have been following the program like it was a religion and had 100 percent faith in
it. I have just begun week 10, I hate to say, I have not lost one pound or one inch. I am
doing everything the book says, I have called the EAS people, I have discussed it on the
Yahoo Body for Life Clubs, no one has an answer. Do you have any recommendations for me?
Do you know of others with this problem? How can it be that there are not changes. I am
very confused. I appreciate any help you can give me.
A First, let's start with
your confidence in this program. If you lose confidence, it will creep in to sabotage your
results in all kinds of ways. It's important to understand that this combination of
aerobic and weight training is absolutely the best combination for you. It's clear that
you have some challenges, because in general, estrogen therapy does not prevent the gain
in fat and the significant loss of lean body mass that takes place after menopause. That
said, you've got a lot to look forward to. Here's why.
Consider the research: "An exercise program for menopausal women that includes
both aerobic and resistance training may prevent or relieve problems such as
cardiovascular disease, obesity, muscle weakness, osteoporosis, and depression."
(Journal of Ob. Gyn., 1990). "Low lean body mass can be improved by increased
physical activity. The effects of an intervention program on body composition can be
masked if only body weight or BMI is measured. The effects of physical activity were more
profound in postmenopausal than in premenopausal women, and estrogen use had beneficial
effects on body composition." (Am Journ of Clinical Nutrition, 1999).
If this program isn't working for you, we've got to make it work, because the combination of aerobic and weight training just can't be beat. Now
notice that statement: "The effects of an intervention program on body composition
can be masked if only body weight or BMI (body mass index) is measured". That means,
quite simply, that you should get that damned scale out of your house as if it was a dead
rodent. Look, you know how much you weigh. So now I want that scale in the trunk of your
car for the next 4 weeks. I'm serious. Order the Accu-Measure or Slim-Guide caliper from
www.bodytrends.com (both about $20), and go through the notes on my Q&A page on how to
use it. That's the only measure, besides your own feelings of well-being, that I want you
to use. I've got both calipers. The Accu-Measure is easier to use and has better
documentation, but it's more susceptible to "pilot error". The Slim-Guide is
clunkier, but I get more consistent readings with it.
So now that we've established that you have to stay on this program (unless you
just want things to deteriorate, which you don't), and that quitting is not an
option, let's figure out why the results aren't showing. I've seen more than a few notes
similar to yours, so I can already tell you some good news. You are getting
results, whether you can see them or not. As the research indicates, it's just not so easy
to measure the effects on your body composition from the scale, and if you've got a long
way to go, the mirror won't be friendly either. You'll certainly see improvement, but
until your fat percentage gets closer to 20%, the areas that always looked too fat will
still look a little fat.
But let's go on the assumption that the results are too slow in any case. There can
only be one reason - you're not creating a persistent caloric deficit. Either your caloric
use is lower than normal, or that your caloric intake is higher than optimal. If we give both
of those a nice kick in the pants, you're going to get results. There just isn't any way
you can't. But you've got to focus on the deficit, not just eating less, and not
just exercising more.
First, aerobics. Let's try a moderate tweak first. For the next 4 weeks, I want you do
1) Add 10 minutes of extra, moderate aerobic activity after your 20-minute workout.
2) On your free day, do 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobics, with no high
3) Try to use two different aerobic exercises a week, such as treadmill one
time and exercise bike another time. It's best if you move your arms too, so grab a couple
of light weights and get the whole body moving.
We're going to leave your weight training alone. Just be sure that you actually can't
do an extra repetition after your final set of 12. If you can, you should be using a
little more weight. Challenge yourself, but keep proper form and don't strain.
Now the intake side. Again, I'm not asking for 12 weeks. Just 4.
1) Your BMR is about 1300 calories. On your regular days, I want you to average
1200-1400 calories total. That works out to up to about 220 calories per meal. A can of
tuna in water is 110, a medium potato is about 100, and some lettuce with low-fat dressing
makes up the difference. A Myoplex Lite with a splash of skim milk or a small chunk of
banana is about 220. That's a meal, and you should schedule 6 of those - one every 2 1/2
hours or so. Notice how a "meal" does not mean a big plate full of food. But you
do get 6 of them.
2) Here's where you're going to throw something at me. No more than 1.7 times BMR on
your free day. If you prefer, instead of a free day, you can plan 2 free meals during the
week. Let's define a free meal as something like this: Big Mac, fries and a milkshake, or
3 slices of pizza, a salad, and a slice of apple pie a-la-mode. Two of those a week.
Doesn't matter if you have them on the same day or different days, but only two between
any Sunday - Saturday period. I can't stress enough that those two, specific and
still-limited meals are the only times you should deviate from a 225-230 calorie meal.
3) The only fatty acid I want you to take is CLA (about 20 calories in 2 capsules, two
times a day). No 450 calorie doses of flaxseed oil. Not now, anyway.
And that's it. Just for 4 weeks. Yes, the extra aerobics mean a bit less muscle growth,
but the extra energy expenditure will be greater than the metabolic needs of that a little
extra muscle anyway. The lower caloric intake is the other half. Look, if you're not
getting fat loss, then you're not generating a caloric deficit. It's that simple. Trying
only to restrict calories or only to increase energy use won't work. The single best way
to get that deficit going is to push the expenditure up a little and the intake down a
little. Moderate changes in both add up to a major change in the difference - the deficit
- and that's how you'll jump-start your results.
I hope you'll pop me a short e-mail and let me know how you're doing. It was your
idea to make me the last person you ask. I'm glad you did. Now that I've invested in you,
I'm counting on you to see this through. Don't give up! Best wishes, John [Back
to Q&A Index]
Q Hi John! I have insulin
dependent diabetes and am doing the Body for life program, gently at first. I've had my
stress test and my doctor say's it's OK. Anyway, after I did my aerobics today, my blood
sugar was off the charts! What's going on? Do you have any advice for diabetics on the
program? Thank you for all the information!
A Thanks for your note! First, I'm
glad to hear you did the stress test, which is essential for diabetics over 35 who are
thinking about this program. As usual, let me preface this by saying that I'm not a
physician, but you knew that.
Here's what's going on. In typical individuals as well as diabetics, intense exercise
causes a 7-fold increase in glucose production, and a smaller 4-fold increase in glucose
utilization. For that reason, intense exercise creates hyperglycemia (very high blood
sugar). Now, normally, the body also raises the insulin level in the blood, so glucose
levels return to resting levels about an hour after the workout. Because of the inability
of insulin-dependent diabetics to generate this increase in insulin, the higher blood
glucose can last for several hours. And we're talking numbers at 400 and up, compared to
the normal 70-120 range. For that reason, it's important to monitor blood glucose during
intense exercise programs, and the insulin dose and carbohydrate intake should be carefully
adjusted based on the blood glucose response to the various workouts. My guess is that
you'll reduce the glucose spike by doing your workout in the mid-afternoon, before a meal
and before your insulin typically peaks. Trying to counter a bigger spike with insulin,
after the fact, may leave you hypoglycemic a few hours later. It will probably also be
much trickier to get it right if you work out first thing in the morning. While the
morning workouts are helpful for typical individuals, they aren't crucial.
In general, as long as proper precautions are taken to prevent hypoglycemia, diabetics
can get the same benefits as nondiabetics. The program, and particularly the intense
weight training, should not be done by diabetics who have proliferative retinopathy
(which creates the risk of vision loss), hypertension, cardiovascular problems,
ketoacidosis, or uncontrolled diabetes. It's important to know of any potentially harmful
diabetic complications. You checked with your doctor, which was absolutely the
right thing to do.
OK, now the good stuff. With those precautions in mind, the research indicates that
increasing physical activity is safe and does not result in an increase in hypoglycemic
episodes. Best of all, the Body-for-LIFE program, combining both aerobic and strength
training, could be considered the best overall exercise regimen for diabetics,
according to the research. Just be sure to ease gradually into it, so you can get a better
prediction of your body's response to the increased level of physical activity.
This from the journal of Diabetes Education (19:4, 307-12): "Resistance training
may provide physiologic benefits to the individual with diabetes that, in some cases, may
equal or exceed those gained through aerobic training. These benefits may include improved
blood lipid profiles, increased absolute left ventricular wall contractility, decreased
resting blood pressure, improved insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance, improved
glycemic control, improved muscular strength and endurance, and increased bone and
connective tissue strength. By utilizing a combination of aerobic and resistance training,
the individual with diabetes experiences a more comprehensive exercise program that can
improve most areas of health and physical fitness."
Hope that helps! John [Back to Q&A Index]
Q Hi John - I bought the
AccuMeasure fat calipers and the instructions say to only measure the suprailiac. I want
to get the most accurate measure and I know that there are other places to check but don't
know what they are or the equation for final body fat. Can you help at all?
A Thanks for your note. Typical
sites are the back of the upper arm (over the tricep, taking the fold vertically as if you
were pinching the tricep), the front of the upper arm (over the bicep, vertically ), the
subscapular (the back slightly below the shoulder blade, taking the fold at a 45 degree
angle, along the line from the opposite shoulder to the nearest elbow), and the suprailiac
(the side of the waist, just above the point of the hipbone) In order to do the sites
other than the suprailiac, you have to have someone else taking the measurements. You then
take the sum of the measurements at all four locations, There are entire tables for the
multiple measurements, which have hundreds of entries.
You really don't want to know what I think is "fun". Just for fun, I
statistically reduced the standard Durnin & Womersly data into the best functional
forms I could estimate. I got a 99% fit for both the men's and women's data, so my
formulas will be pretty accurate within a fraction of 1%. ln( ) refers to the natural
logarithm, which is one of the functions on any good calculator. "Sum" is the
sum of the 4 readings: tricep, bicep, back and waist (which will range anywhere from 18 to
Women: Fat % = 11.91 x ln(Sum) + 0.0442 x ln(Sum) x Age - 23.54
Men: Fat % = 10.32 x ln(Sum) + 0.0657 x ln(Sum) x Age - 27.03
For readings from the suprailiac only, the best functional form turns out to be
quadratic. Using M as your suprailiac reading in millimeters, my estimated formulas
(extremely accurate, thank you) are:
Women: Fat % = 1.223 M - 0.0134 Msquared + 0.124 Age + 6.07
Men: Fat % = 1.378 M - 0.0174 Msquared + 0.213 Age - 5.84
Yeah, that's a plus 6.07 for women and minus 5.84 for men. Hey, you asked. I just run
Click here to interpret your suprailiac measurement automatically
Remember, when I say "accurate" I'm talking about how close my formulas come
to those tables with hundreds of numbers. As for getting an accurate read from your
calipers using just the suprailiac, go through these directions step by step.
With your right hand, pinch the skin on the knucle of your left middle finger. Really.
Look at it carefully - that's a skinfold. just 2 layers of skin over each other.
Alright, now turn your left hand over, and pinch the lower third of your middle finger
(the fleshy part at the bottom). That's *not* a skinfold - there's too much tension in the
skin to get a true layer-over-layer fold, so you're catching all sorts of tissue
Now go to your waist, in a straight line up from your right leg and above the tip of
your hipbone, and grab as much as you can of that love-handle with your whole left hand.
That's *not* a skinfold either - you're catching a lot of tissue in between, and you don't
have a true layer-over-layer fold.
Finally, take left thumb, and either your forefinger or the first 2 fingers, and pinch
that love handle again. Now pull it outward away from your body, and wiggle it between
your fingers for a second. Still holding that fold firmly, take the jaws of your caliper
and set them about a half-inch from your fingers, and close the calipers. Hold the
calipers alongside your waist like you're reaching for your 6-gun, rather than at a 90
degree angle to your body. You now have a skin fold between the calipers, and even if you
try that 3 or 4 times, you should still get roughly the same reading. You'll get a
slightly different reading if you do the left side of your body rather than the right, but
the difference should be pretty consistent. [Back to Q&A Index]
Q Hi, John!! Thank you for such an
interesting web-site. I have been on the Body for Life Challenge for 5 months now. I've
gone from 23% body fat down to 17% (last time tested was over a month ago). Anyway, I was
just wondering if you could shed some insight to me on Flaxseed Oil? I've been hearing
alot of people talk about it and wanted to know what you think. They say it doesn't have
calories, despite what the label says. Besides losing more body fat, I have Crohn's
Disease and have heard that Omega 3 helps to keep the symptoms maintained and Flaxseed has
Omega 3 in it (?). Is this something I should be taking or is it just a waste of money?
A Thanks for your note. Yeah,
Eskimos seem to have lower incidence of inflammatory bowel disease, thought to be linked
to omega-3 consumption. The studies between that and Crohn's disease are a little bit
controversial, but there's no evidence I've seen of any negative effect.
This from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. My notes are in brackets [ ]: "n-3 fatty acids have antiinflammatory, antithrombotic, antiarrhythmic, hypolipidemic
[fat loss], and vasodilatory properties [i.e. generally good for blood circulation]. These
beneficial effects of n-3 fatty acids have been shown in the secondary prevention of
coronary heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and, in some patients with renal
disease, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn disease, and chronic obstructive
pulmonary disease. Most of the studies were carried out with fish oils [eicosapentaenoic
acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)]. However, alpha-linolenic acid, found in green
leafy vegetables, flaxseed, rapeseed, and walnuts, desaturates and elongates in the human
body to EPA and DHA and by itself may have beneficial effects in health and in the control
of chronic diseases."
So essential fatty acids can be useful, especially if you have Crohns disease, but they
do have calories. You can certainly use them, but don't cut your regular caloric intake
far below BMR so you can add the extra oils. If you take them, take them as an add-on.
I've seen the claims that EFAs have zero calories too, but here's my information.
First, it's true that long-chain saturated fatty acids are not well absorbed by the body.
So the caloric content actually absorbed is less than the standard 9 calories/gram
measured by burning fat. EFAs are considered long-chain, but they are by definition
polyunsaturated, so their absorption is higher. But even when you look at fat substitutes
such as caprenin (a cocoa-butter substitute high in behenic acid, a long-chain saturated
fat), you're looking at a nutritive content of about 5 Kcal/g. Ditto for a number of
others. Olestra is close to zero, but only because the long-chain saturated fat is
chemically bound to a sucrose molecule, which makes it impossible to be transported by the
gut (the process is called "esterification", so olestra is quite literally a
polyester. How scary is that?). A 1999 article in the Journal "Lipids" also reports a caloric content of 5.36 Kcal/g for a mixture of long- and medium-chain
triglycerides chosen specifically to reduce gut absorption. The absorption of flaxseed,
sunflower, sesame and medium chain triglycerides is better. That's what's in Udo's Oil,
So it's one thing to say, correctly, that 9 calories/gram overestimates the "true" caloric content of EFA supplements. But I would guess 5-8 is a closer
shot at the truth. There's just no independent clinical evidence I've seen that the
caloric content is zero, and certainly none that EFAs are thermogenic (that their intake
actually causes a caloric deficit). About the only things that do that are celery and
For fat loss, the main factors I'd target are careful portion control, an aerobic
tweak, and daily intensity with strong high points. The bottom line is that the main
things that will determine your success aren't in a bottle, but both HMB and omega-3's can
be effective supplements. Depends on your budget. If these are a stretch for you, I don't
consider them essential. But they aren't what I'd consider a waste of money either. Hope
that helps! John [Back to Q&A Index]
Q Hi - My husband and I are at the
beginning of week 11 and while we have not seen the dramatic results that the book shows
we have seen results and truthfully have reached the goals that we set in the beginning.
But since we haven't seen the dramatic results my husband is wanting to change the routine
up and go for the burn out on the individual exercise and I don't think that it's best for
us to do that. We tried yesterday and it felt very strange, and I couldn't even finish it.
We are going to continue with the program, and know that sometimes it does take a few
times in the contest to get those results. Do you have any advice on how to change up the
routine so that we are keeping our muscles guessing without leaving the structure of
Bill's plan? Any help that you can give us would be greatly appreciated.
A Thanks for your note. First,
it's important to understand that the pictures in the book look like that mainly because
bodyfat has dropped below 10% for the men and below about 16% for the women (women
shouldn't shoot for less than 12%). Those last few pounds have a real effect on muscle
Regarding the training, it depends on what you mean by "going for the burn".
It is absolutely counterproductive to do the entire aerobic workout at an extreme level of
intensity, because you make it anaerobic. Think about that carefully. If you are
constantly trying to burn more energy than your body can actually accomodate using oxygen,
your body switches to anaerobic glycolysis (burning sugar without oxygen) and that creates
lactic acid buildup. That's what you feel as a "burn" in the muscles. The
problem is that if you do that for more than about 2-3 minutes at a time, the acidity
really builds up in the muscle, and the cells have an awfully hard time producing
meaningful amounts of energy. I'm betting that that's why you "felt very strange, and
couldn't even finish it". Now, you do want to go for the "burn" so to
speak, modestly on your 9 and more fully on your 10, but ONLY on your 9 and your 10. We're
talking 2 minutes of burn, tops.
On the weight training side, it's ESSENTIAL that you "go for the burn" on
your maximum weight of 6 reps, and on the compound set of 12+12. As I note on my page,
your muscles grow, not from many, many sets at moderate effort, but from the one set where
they have to overcome a resistance (in proper form) beyond what they have become
accustomed to. Those earlier sets of 12, 10 and 8 are also critical. The first set of 12
is a warmup and stretch, so you don't injure yourself (take that risk seriously if you
decide to scrap it). The 10 and the 8 also "prime" your muscles and
neuromuscular coordination for those very high intensity sets.
The bottom line is this. If you want to look like the pictures, it's more important to
limit your portions as I note on my page, and continue with the daily intensity, because
that will force your bodyfat percentage down to produce definition. The intervals of high
intensity are also critical, because they provide the stimulus to adapt, and keep your
metabolism revved up. But there's no evidence that inducing a constant lactate
accumulation (i.e. a persistent "burn") will do anything but generate
hyperacidity in the muscles, protein loss, and an inability to produce meaningful amounts
of energy. The daily intensity is what you are going for, and if you're really honest
about hitting strong 9's and 10's, where you really reach into yourself and produce good
intensity, there's no need to try to overload the whole workout.
Finally, if you want to increase "muscle confusion", make sure to vary the
speed of the repetitions and occasionally shorten the time between sets. Also, be sure to
change your set of exercises every 4 weeks (even, as I say, as little as changing from
flat dumbbell presses to incline dumbbell presses). If you haven't used barbell exercises
yet, your muscles are in for a nice surprise too. Also, make sure you do some
"reverse" positions for the upper body exercises. For example, bicep curls with
palms facing down (which build up your brachialis muscles underneath the bicep), and
tricep cable "pushdowns" where you hold the bar with palms up, straighten the
arms, and contract the triceps hard. Grab a book that pictures some of these and explains
proper form. There are a lot of exercises you can use to keep those little fibers on their
toes. Gosh, that's a lot... I hope it helps! Best wishes, John [Back to
Q Hi! Thanks so much for your
article. I really enjoyed reading the scientific reasons why BFL works. I do have a
question. My lean weight is 133 lbs. - I rechecked my diet and I seem to intake about
1,500 calories a day with 156.5 g of protein, 155.5 g of carbs, and 34g of total fat, with
12g being saturated fat. I'm not sure what I could leave out except my one glass of OJ and
one glass of milk a day. Any suggestions? I find with my current calorie intake at 1,500
if I don't eat every few hours I feel very lightheaded and jittery. So I am afraid to go
fewer. Any input you have would be really great.
A Remember that for women, your
caloric needs are a little less dependent on your lean weight, and there's no need to ride
the absolute minimum base metabolic rate. You should be able to achieve your goals with
1500, but don't go way below BMR in any case. You can kick your fat loss higher by
tweaking the aerobics up modestly as I note on my main page, but I wouldn't go for any
major restriction in calories. From your comments, it sounds like you've got a touch of
hypoglycemia. One thing you should do is lean your intake slightly more toward
protein and a little bit less toward carbohydrate. If your interest is fat loss, that
dietary composition will help. Another thing which will help significantly is to make sure
your carbohydrates are "complex" rather than "simple". Simple
carbohydrates are detached from fiber and are converted to glucose very quickly (measured
by "glycemic index" which runs from 0-100). High glycemic examples are white
bread (69), white rice (72) and corn flakes (80). They're metabolized very fast, push your
insulin levels up, cause blood sugar to rush into your cells, and then leave you with low
blood sugar well before your next meal. That's why you get the jitters. Even wheat bread
(72) is usually just white bread with a little fiber added. The Myoplex Lite bars have
less protein and more simple carbohydrate than the shakes, so they can leave you hungry
sooner if you're hypoglycemic. The Myoplex Lite shakes, however, are excellent. For your
whole food meals, it may help to choose more complex carbohydrates that are much more
closely bound to fiber, such as oatmeal (54), whole brown rice (66), wheat spaghetti (42),
and apples (39). You mentioned orange juice - I'd rather see you eat an actual orange (40)
instead - again, because the carbs are more closely bound to fiber. You can also add
casein protein such as cottage cheese, which also metabolizes slower. By the way, as your
last meal of the night, cottage cheese and an apple is the hands down winner, in my view -
both are metabolized slowly so there's less of a "fast". Try those suggestions
first, and if your jitters seem to go down, you can level the calories off a bit.
Otherwise, remember that even if your caloric intake is stable, the extra intensity will
create a caloric deficit and will help you to lose weight. So it's important to get that daily
intensity, regardless of what you decide with the nutrition. [Back to
Q I found your website very
helpful. I am 25 and weigh 168 with 12.1% bodyfat. I'm in my 1st week of the Challenge. I
want to get down below 8% bodyfat, but primarily I need to put on some mass. I've been
doing Bill's workouts where you do all of the upper body muscles on one day, and then all
of the lower body muscles on another day. I was thinking about doing Bill's workouts for
the first 3 weeks to lose bodyfat. Then I was thinking about gearing my workouts more for
putting on size (i.e., using heavier weights, less reps, and doing chest and shoulders one
day, back and biceps one day, and legs and triceps one day (instead of ALL of the upper
body muscles on the same day). Do you think this is O.K.?
A I wouldn't completely drop the
aerobic conditioning after the first 3 weeks, since it is crucial in improving your
overall fitness level and metabolic efficiency, but if you want to concentrate on muscle
gains, you can certainly emphasize weight training. For pure mass, you can concentrate a
little more on higher weight, lower rep sets to stress the fast-twitch fibers, but don't
completely abandon your slow-twitch guys. Be sure to include "compound" exercises such as squats and barbell presses, which force a lot of recruitment and
stabilization in the muscles surrounding the ones you are trying to work. But be extremely
careful about your form, and use a spotter. As for the schedule, I think you'll probably
get better results if you don't mix upper and lower body parts in the same weight training
session. The reason is, for example, that working your triceps naturally recruits some
amount of shoulder and bicep strength, and therefore reduces the extent of full recovery.
I'd rather see you doing weight workouts 4 days a week, 2 upper body (but concentrating on
different parts) and 2 lower body. So upper, lower, different upper, different lower,
making sure to hit every body part at least once and possibly twice a week. That will
allow better recovery. [Back to Q&A Index]
Q Thanks so much for your website.
I am a 43 year old woman. I have lost 70 lbs over the past three years by changing my life
to healthy habits. This includes 4-5 days of 30-60 minute cardio sessions a week and 2-3
days of strength training. I want to lose the bodyfat that I have been hanging on to for a
year now. I seem to have reached a plateau I can't break out of. I am pretty sure the
Body-for-LIFE way of eating is going to do the trick.
I have 2 questions. I am a little hesitant about the shorter cardio workouts.
Everything I read by fitness and body building women professionals seems to say that for
women to reduce body fat we must include long 45-60 minute cardio sessions 2 or 3 times a
week. I think I could get real used to cutting back on my cardio times, but it makes me
nervous to change as I'm terrified I could pack on bodyfat again. Do women really have
long term success with such short cardio workouts?
Question #2....I love using a heart-rate monitor for my workouts. It lets me know
exactly where I've been. Is there a breakdown anywhere of what your heart rates should be
during Bill's cardio workouts?
A From the notes I've received,
3x20 works great for some people, and just isn't enough for others. It is crucial to hit
the 9's and 10's for that shorter cardio to be effective. It's exactly that high intensity
that keeps your metabolic rate high long after you finish exercising. Doing much more than
20 minutes of the intense cardio, every other day, will get in the way of your
muscle gains. If you need significant fat loss, I would at least tweak the aerobics by
adding additional minutes of moderate intensity, as noted on my main page, until you get
to your goal. But more than that and the EAS police are going to come knocking.
As for heart rate, because individuals vary greatly as far as heart size and capacity,
it's probably best to gauge your intensity by breathing intake. At a level 6 or 7, you
should be able to carry on a broken conversation, but not long sentences. At an 8, you'll
have more breaks but still able to converse. At a 9, you should be somewhat winded by the
end, not gasping, but breathing deeply and rhythmically. And of course, a 10 is the
highest effort that you can sustain for a full minute, still without gasping, but
definitely challenging yourself. It's that constant challenge that will keep you from
plateauing. If you instead do the same workout week after week, year after year, your body
gets very efficient at it, and the pressure to adapt is gone. It's best to vary your
cardio workouts between 2 different exercises (say, stationary bike one day, and treadmill
on alternate workouts). Again, the variety and intensity is what gets you fit. Ditto for
your strength workouts. If you're doing the same exercises you did 5 weeks ago, or haven't
added any weight in 3 or 4 weeks, it's time to change the exercises or add more weights.
You have to push your body to adapt, and that's how you'll break out of your plateau. Hope
that helps. [Back to Q&A Index]
Q Hi John! I have fibromyalgia and
am also on anti-depressants. I am wondering if the Body for LIFE program will be helpful,
or whether all this work will be in vain. Any ideas? Thanks!
A Here's some info on fibromyalgia
which may help. The research I've seen tends to prefer a two-pronged approach to
management, including both physical activity and stress-reduction techniques, either
through relaxation therapy or other means. Anti-depressants are one of those "other
means". If you find them helpful, stick with them. You might be able to gradually
reduce your dose as your physical condition improves, but check with your doctor.
Physically, individuals with fibromyalgia seem to have a 20% or so reduction in
strength at the major joints such as knees and elbows, and the weight training will help
there. They also tend to have a lower lactate threshhold, so unless you train that, you'll
tend to operate at a less-than-maximal level of effort. The interval training aspect of
the aerobic exercise is exactly how you train that to improve. There's also some evidence
that the muscles have a reduction in high energy phosphates (CP, if you've read my web
page), so supplementation with creatine, maybe through BetaGen, may be helpful, but that's
a guess on my part. The bottom line is that the exercise will be a little more of a
challenge for you, but the fact that it's more challenging is an argument that you should
do it, to train yourself, rather than avoiding it and getting increasingly less fit.
A few other notes from some of the research I've read, mainly from Rheumatology journal
articles on fibromyalgia:
"Normal muscle metabolism during exercise and no muscle damage after physical
activity are reported from recent studies. Since pain may be exacerbated by physical
activity, many patients become physically inactive, with possible development of reduced
"In the long run, fibromyalgia patients who exercise report less symptoms than
sedentary patients do. Thus, exercise should be aimed at preventing physical inactivity
and improving the patients' physical fitness."
"Among a variety of self-directed treatment approaches, aerobic activity was the
overall most effective treatment, despite being subject to the most sceptical patient
attitude prior to the study."
"Fibromyalgia patients can undertake an exercise program which includes aerobic,
flexibility, and strength training exercises without adverse effects."
Hope that helps! Please pop me a note after several weeks just to let me know how
you're doing. Best wishes, John
Follow up: "I wanted to say thank you for giving me information on the Betagen and
the creatine. I have been taking the Betagen and have successfully stayed off all my pain
meds so far !!!! I am feeling better and stronger every day !! I have a lot less pain in
my muscles since I started. Here I go into my 5 th week on BFL ... I have lost 8 pounds
and I am fitting into a size smaller !! Pain and drug free and looking forward to going
the rest of my life with strength instead of a quiting attitude ... Thank you
Man, it's great to get notes like that. John
Q Hello, I loved your article. It
really helped me understand how the body functions and why this program really works. I
would like to know if there has been anyone on this program with hypothyroidism that has
had success, or if you think people with hypothyroidism could have success on this
A Several people have written to
me about hypothyroidism. The thyroid is responsible for regulating BMR (your base
metabolic rate), and is underactive in 5% to as many as 10% of overweight individuals.
Hypothyroidism can reduce BMR by about 30%, but mercifully, the body responds to the lower
energy demand by reducing appetite accordingly. So although it's commonly believed that
the condition is responsible for weight gain, the clinical research suggests that the most
common symptom is just 5-10 pounds of fluid retention, particularly evident in facial
puffiness. That said, when hypothyroidism is undiagnosed and untreated, it can be
difficult to lose fat, because the body resists the attempt to create a caloric
deficit. Again, it's an issue only in a small proportion of people on this program, but
here are some of the symptoms, not all of which necessarily appear. Almost everyone has
some of these, but in hypothyroidism, they tend to appear together as a "syndrome": facial puffiness in cheeks or under eyes (not just pudgy, but a sort
of swelling), oversensitivity to cold (need to wear sweaters more than others, etc), dry
flaky skin, brittle nails, constipation, thin or coarse hair, fatigue, drowsiness, lack of
interest in daily activities, brain "fog", poor memory, ringing in ears,
enlarged tongue, depressed libido, gravelly voice due to thickening of vocal cords, and
apnea (for instance, feeling as if you need to yawn in order to get a full breath).
Fortunately, hypothyroidism is easily treated, and since you have been diagnosed, I'm
assuming you're also taking your prescription, which will normalize your BMR. The
physicians I've discussed this with indicated that when treated, hypothyroidism should not
interfere with your success in the program. In fact, a number of people have written me,
saying that after being properly diagnosed and treated for hypothyroidism, their progress
soared. Here are the main medical issues to look out for, as I understand them. First, you
should be sure that you are fine in terms of cardiovascular health - in some extreme cases
of hypothyroidism, the heart may become enlarged, and then you need to get advice from a
doctor on whether the exercise is OK. Second, after you start the program, you may
experience a modest increase in symptoms - that's probably due to an increase in metabolic
wastes in the system, which the thyroid is partially responsible for scavenging. So you
want to drink plenty of water and make sure your synthroid dose is appropriate. If you are
extremely fatigued, it may be on the safe side to make sure your heart checks out.
The bottom line: if your cardiovascular system is fine, your heart is not enlarged, you
are taking your synthroid and your TSH is between 1 and 3 (no more than 4) you can
exercise like normal on the BFL program and expect to see good results. Again, I'm not
a medical doctor, but that's the general information I've gathered. [Back
to Q&A Index]
Q Thank you so much for your
article and website. You clearly put alot of energy and effort into getting the
information out to all of us. It is very much appreciated! For last 20 years I have done
weight training and cardio work. In the last year and a half I have been training
vigorously in my cardio work, working out 5-6 days for a minimum of 1 hour (weekends
longer). I did include interval training. I feel good, but my body does not have that
chiseled, defined look. My question is regarding the cardio. I love to take part in
endurance cycling of 65+ miles. In addition, I am a snow and water skier, so I generally
do that one day per week.
My thoughts were to do something like this:
Monday - weight training
Tuesday - 1 hour spin class incorporating intervals
Wednesday - weight training (as specified in the program)
Thursday - 30 minutes stationary cycling using intervals
Friday - weight training
Saturday - skiing
Sunday - 1 1/2 - 4 1//2 hours of cycling at 60% heartrate to build endurance.
What do you think?
A That's a lot of cardio.
The real issue, though, is that you're combining long duration with high intensity, and
that's going to compromise recovery. Long, hard aerobic workouts the day after weight
training will also reduce the ability of the muscles to repair the stress they've endured.
For that reason, those workouts will tend to get in the way of significant muscle gains.
That may be why you haven't got a "chiseled" look despite all of the workouts -
the underlying muscles of endurance athletes sometimes become emaciated, particularly in
the upper body. I'm most concerned about that endurance ride because it's going to raise
your cortisol levels sky high. If possible, try to have the endurance ride after a
no-workout free day, and 2 days after your upper body workout. Follow it up with a meal
featuring both protein and high-glycemic carbohydrates. Your legs will get enough work
even with 1 weight session a week, but you want to avoid emaciating your upper body due to
all of the endurance aerobics. In other words, maximize the recovery period after that
upper body workout. This is an area where a little extra recovery goes a long way. The
research suggests you'll probably actually build muscle strength and endurance by allowing
yourself more recovery at some point in the week. [Back to Q&A Index]
Q Hi John! I was wondering if I
should be doing extra on my abdominals? Doing the sit ups that Bill recomends just doesn't
seem enough. I thought that maybe doing more sit ups on some of the aerobic days or even
on my day off might help more. Please tell me what you think. Thanks!
A Abdominals and calves don't have
huge metabolic needs, and since they don't flex major joints, it's harder to create as
much stress as with other muscle groups. So training these two groups more often, as much
as daily, is fine. One thing you really want to concentrate on is CONTRACTING the
abdominals. The January 2000 issue of Muscle Media has a good article by Shawn Phillips on
this. The object of a "sit up" isn't to sit up. Rather, you want to begin the
motion by contracting your abdominals, while pushing your back flat on the floor. Try to
pull your rib cage in toward your pelvis. That contraction will force your
shoulders to rise up off the floor, but the shoulders and head should slightly follow,
not lead the movement. When your shoulders have been pulled about 4 inches off the floor,
contract your abs hard, then lower yourself vertebra by vertebra onto the floor. Shawn
Phillips advises to lie down on the floor, put your feet up on the bench, a few inches
apart, toes pointed into a little "steeple", knees at a 90 degree angle and
pointing to the ceiling, and spread slightly apart. That will focus the contraction on
your abs and prevent other muscles from being recruited.
Since you can't really change the weight your abs are using (unless you're doing cable
crunches), it's that contraction that makes the sets work. I usually do 2 sets of 12 with
feet up on the bench, 2 sets of 12 with knees bent, contracting the abs so both my feet
and my shoulders were pulled off the floor, while still pushing my back into the floor,
and 2 sets of 12 on an incline board with my feet under the pads, staying in a vertical
position and contracting the side abdominals to pull my right elbow in toward my left knee
and vice versa. It's possible to do the movements with no real contraction and no results,
or you can focus on contracting those abs and obliques enough to have them screaming after
12 reps. More contraction is better than more repetitions. [Back to
Q Hi. I just started the program
and am feeling very weak in the legs. I have done a lot of swimming over the years, but am
just starting to train with weights. I've read the instructions in the Body-for-LIFE book
for doing the leg exercises, but I could use a little more guidance. Any suggestions?
A I expect that having been a
swimmer, your arm muscles are better developed than your legs. Clearly, it will be
important to put some stress on those muscles. Though the leg muscles, and particularly
the hamstrings, do respond well to heavier weights, it's also a good way to strain your
lower back if you let your pelvis rise too much on the lying hamstring curl. Similarly, on
the leg extension, excessively heavy weights can put stress on the knee, particularly if
it's untrained. So rather than piling on too much weight, make sure to really CONTRACT the
muscles and go SLOW. By the time you reach the 8th or 9th rep in your last 12, and in your
compound set (the two combined being your "high point"), you should feel a real
burn. It's at that point you want to make absolutely sure that your form is good - abs
tight, lower back straight, etc (since that's also the point you don't want to hurt
yourself by straining a muscle). On the last 2 reps, the burn usually gets so bad for me
that I have to switch to "Lamaze" type breathing : hee-hoo hee-hoo (since
the kids were born by C-section, at least somebody got some benefit from
It may also help to vary the "pointing" of your toes. Pointing your toes out
places the stress on a different part of your muscles than pronating your toes up toward
your knees. You'll generally put more stress on the hamstrings by pointing the toes out.
And since the hamstrings are actually stronger on the eccentric move than the concentric,
you can even add a little extra weight, do the concentric rep with toes in and then extend
the toes on the eccentric part. Go slow on both the concentric and eccentric, and really
contract those muscles at the top of the move. Remember to eat as recommended, and go a
little easy on the aerobics session the day following your leg days, so you don't get in
the way of muscle gains. Hope that helps! [Back to Q&A Index]
Q Thank you for such an
informative article! I have been on the program for four weeks and have gone from 35% to
30% bodyfat! I had despaired of ever losing the weight I put on with my fifth baby but I
am very pleased with the results. I was especially intrigued by what you said about fat "coming off in sheets". Can you give me more information about this?
A Your fifth baby? I'm
amazed you even have the time to do the 20-minute workouts. Congrats on your results. On
the subject of fat coming off in "sheets", there's nothing particularly complex
about it - it's simply that the body does not preferentially reduce fat in the vicinity of
the muscles being worked. For instance, TV commercials love to tell you that if you use
this or that ab-cruncher, you'll reduce abdominal fat. The truth, however, is that you'll
strengthen the abdominal muscles and burn a little intramuscular fat there, but any
overall fat loss is taken uniformly from all over your body. When your body needs energy
from lipolysis (fat burning), it sends out a general signal to mobilize fatty acids into
the bloodstream. That signal doesn't target any particular area, it just says "I need
to burn fat", and takes it from anywhere it can. That's why you can't "spot
reduce". Again, you'll strengthen particular muscles by exercising them, but the fat
comes off uniformly. [Back to Q&A Index]
Q First of all, I think your site
is amazing. I am following the program and have really stuck to it. I am almost at the end
of my 2nd week and I have actually gained a pound. I am a 29 year old female. 5'4 and
136lbs. My body fat is 22%. I am a personal trainer and I understand logically all the
things you have said. But to actually gain a pound? It is very frustrating. I am trying to
lose 10lbs of body fat. I know that is very realistic because I have just put on this
10lbs. in the last year and a half. Can you give me any words of encouragement? I would
really love this program to work. I love the way it makes me feel and I think Bill
Phillips and all of the support like this website are wonderful.
A Yes, I've heard from more than a
few people who have actually gained (scale) weight their first few weeks. Your body is
probably not at all used to the strength training and the change in metabolic wastes, and
is hoarding fluid. But your body is great at adapting to changes, and will adapt to this
too. As I mentioned on my page, the creatine in the Betagen also tends to hydrate the
muscle cells (that's good, but it sure doesn't make the scale friendly at first). One
thing you can do is to buy a pair of calipers. Accu-Measure calipers (better documented
but more sensitive to user error) or Slim-Guide (clunkier, but more consistent and the one
I prefer) cost about $20. You can get either at www.bodytrends.com, and that will help to
track the fat percentage. But even the caliper readings have estimation error, so the
readings aren't of much use until the change is significant as a percentage of total body
weight. In any case, I certainly wouldn't put too much emphasis on two week results,
because a lot of fluid volume changes happen then. From this point on, you should get a
better read, but the scale is probably the worst way to measure progress. As long as you
are hitting the right intensities, carefully limiting your portions, and feeling generally
warm and a little sore all day, the program IS working, whether you can see it right away
or not. Stay with it, and let me know how you're doing when you finish your 7th week. [Back
to Q&A Index]
Q You have some really good stuff
on the website, and I truly appreciate it. Perhaps, you can clear up a few preconceived
notions I have. An old roommate of mine is a bodybuilder. He does 3 to 4 exercises per
body part, whereas Bill suggests doing one exercise for 5 sets, and 1 different exercise
for that same body part for the last set. I've spent 3 weeks on the Body For Life program
and, because I want to get big and muscular, I'm considering adding 2 more exercises. Do
both schools of thought achieve the same results?
A The main thing that builds
muscle is stress on the muscle fiber, and the subsequent recovery in a nutrient-rich
environment. My impression is that as you extend your routine to 3 or 4 different
exercises per body part, you start distributing the fatigue across various portions of the
same muscle group, rather than concentrating it on a single set of fibers. That extra
recruitment of muscle groups means that you have to spend more time so that you stress
them all. And if you're trying to keep your workout under an hour (so that you don't "bonk" your energy sytems), that means you can do fewer body parts per workout.
The bottom line is that yes, you can do more exercises per part, but since the main goal
is to stress the fibers, so you'll also have to distribute your workouts over a longer set
of days before you've hit every body part you want. [Back to Q&A