Losing weight while gaining muscle, proper creatine dosage, lower back workout, squats and deadlifts

Q&A with Mike Furci

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QMr. Furci,
I have a problem with working out and losing weight. I started out at 205 lbs, and my goal was to lose 20 pounds. I also wanted to bulk up as I was losing the fat. I accomplished my goal but I wanted to keep eating healthy. I kept doing this and kept losing weight. I was down to 175 lbs, but I felt great. I was wondering what I could do to keep fat off but stay around a certain weight without losing more. I would appreciate your help.


ADo not get so caught up in how much you weigh. Be more concerned with how you look. Weighing yourself does not give a true picture of what's going on with your body. Weighing yourself doesn't show body composition changes, which is what you should be concerned with. Gaining muscle and losing body fat should be your priority. Would you rather be a shredded and strong 165-pounder, or a soft 175-pounder?

Your last statement should have been, "I was wondering what I could do to lose more body fat and gain muscle."

Here is your answer:

Train with intensity. You can train long, or you can train hard, but you can't do both. Do not train more than 60 minutes, not including your warm-up. Keep an eye on recovery ability. If you do not progress with each workout, you're probably doing too much.

Read, A no Nonsense Guide to Designing your workouts, Principles to help you Overcome Plateus, Get Shredded and Protein Rx in the Fitness section archives.

Do cardio sparingly, if at all. If gaining muscular weight is your goal, cardio can be counterproductive.

Eat at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight each day. Try to get more if you can.

I've recently started working out after a hiatus due to school. I had a couple questions I wanted to hear your thoughts on:

What do you think of creatine? Is it effective, and what's the correct dosage? Will the body become dependent on the artificial production of supplements like creatine and Tribex, etc?

I would like to focus my workouts to hit my upper chest, since it just seems to slope out as it goes down. I read your article How to Build Perfect Pecs , but when I do similar exercises for my inner chest, it doesn't feel like it's taking care of it. What can you suggest to take care of that part of my workout?

Ken W.
Pittsburgh, PA.

Creatine hit the market heavy about 15 years ago, and since then it has been the most popular sports supplement of all time. This is because of one reason: it works. Creatine is also one of the most studied supplements there is. It came under fire several years back with concerns about dehydration and cramping. These concerns were put to rest after many researchers found no link between creatine and dehydration among athletes. After hundreds of studies, the claims of negative side effects associated with creatine usage have been put to rest.

Creatine is found naturally in the food we eat. It is found in high levels in red meat. As a matter of fact, this is the main reason why people who eat red meat regularly don't seem to get good results with the supplementation of creatine. Creatine does, however, yield great results for most people.

CreatineCreatine will work very well for about 30 percent to 40 percent of the people who use it. Another 30 percent of users will claim good results. But unfortunately, about 30 percent of all creatine users report almost no effects at all. Many of these people may be getting it in their diets.

Creatine works by giving the muscle cells what they need to store adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is the energy source our muscles use for heavy-duty short-term workloads, like the type used in weight training. Creatine has been shown to increase strength in most people by 10 percent. Endurance athletes will find the use of creatine to be a waste of time because it does not affect that energy system.

When taking creatine, use 20 grams per day for the first 7 days as a loading phase. Do you need to load up? No, but your muscles will reach their saturation point quicker. After the loading phase, use 10 grams a day for 5 more weeks. Take the next 3 to 4 weeks off, and start again.

Your second question is interesting. I've only heard this maybe two other times. Does the body get dependant on artificial production? No. If you take supplements like Tribex, creatine or whatever in the manner they were intended, your body will go right back to where it is genetically supposed to be once you're done taking them. Studies have shown that even those who take anabolic steroids for extended periods of time (greater than a year) noticed that their bodies returned to normal functioning once they got off of the drugs.

Many readers write in inquiring about changing the shape of their body parts, and the chest seems to be the most popular. I've said, and written, hundreds of times -- and I'll write it again: You cannot change the shape of a particular muscle. You can make the muscle bigger and you can make it smaller, but the basic shape will always remain. If we could change the shape of our muscles, every bodybuilder would have huge peaked biceps and thick Arnold-like chests. I don't care what you've read or who you hear it from: there are no magic exercises out there. If you've tried different angles, exercises, and workouts and still notice no significant difference, then you probably are never going to have a big upper chest. Learn to take what you have and run with it. We all want what we don't have.

When I started to get interested in bodybuilding I wanted arms like Arnold. But then again, who doesn't? Anyway, for years I was hell bent on getting that 22-inch arm. After five years of serious training and learning about the physiology of the body, I realized that a 22-inch bicep was not in the cards for me. This realization, however, did not stop me from trying to have the best arms I could. (I'm still trying, by the way.) Do not get discouraged that you're not going to have a chest like Arnold's. Start looking at improving what you have. Use Arnold as motivation, not a goal.

QHello Mike,
I read your ab article, real good stuff. Can you recommend any stuff for the lower back? I recall that with opposing muscle groups, you really have to watch for a balanced strengthening. I should think that this would be especially important with the abs/lower back? I am mainly doing supermans, floor hyperextensions and hyperextensions on the stability ball. Once I'm well into that, then it's on to deadlifts. Any other ideas?


First, let me thank you for the compliment.

What you are doing for your lower back is an excellent way to increase strength and stability. The only thing I could see adding would be weight while performing stability ball hyperextensions. Hold a dumbbell or a plate with your arms extended in front of you. This is a great way to add progressive resistance to this exercise. But remember, without strong abs, your lower back -- no matter how strong it is -- will remain a weak point. It is your abdominal wall that produces intra-abdominal pressure against the anterior (front) surface of the spine. It is this pressure and proper form that keep the spine safe.

Let me also add, start doing deadlifts now! There is nothing better at strengthening the core like deadlifts and squats. They are safe and will give you a base of support like no other exercises.

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