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Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle

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Has anybody tried Tom Venuto's Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle program?  It sounds like a good program, but since it's in e-book format, you can read just a little to see if you want to buy it.  I'd like a few opinions before I download it.  I have quite a bit of weight to lose (starting weight 187, goal 119).

Edited Oct 27 2013 12:13 by spoiled_candy
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34 Replies (last)
I have downloaded the book, and I find the information very useful. 

It is, however, a LOT of information, so it's taking me a while to digest it all.  It seems to follow sound principles, and give some good advice on a lot of weight-loss vs fat-loss principles, which is what I was looking for (who wants to lose muscle?).  It's very comprehensive, and a good one to have in your library, IMHO.

His approach is similar to Body-for-Life, which I started a couple of weeks ago (although I am not following it as closely as perhaps I should to get the best results).  I have already seen results, although not so much on my weight - but my body looks different, and people have noticed!  I only have about 5-10 lbs to lose; sometimes I wish I had more to lose so I could see more results! :p
I think most of the people here suggest following this e-book. Especially I think if you ask tgpish or spirochet, they sould be able to provide you with a better insight.
I've downloaded it and it is a really great book. Some of it is such an overload of information it is kind of hard to take in, but it's worth it. This book is for someone who truely wants to change their life. It isn't just a quick diet book. 
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i was very impressed with the reviews of the book, read the free part of the book which i found decisively UNimpressive (completely patronizing in tone + annoying that it came in 12 installments that you had to wait for when none of them took more than 30 seconds to read each; why waste the time of opening + downloading so many installments for a bare minimum of info, none of which was very informative?).  i was planning on using the book for purposes other than it was written (it was a weight loss book), i had written asking them a very specific question, and one of their representatives wrote back with an overly cheerful, patronizing response that made me doubt that she had even READ my question (since it didn't answer it AT ALL - i'm pretty sure it was a stock answer), so i never bought the book.  the whole way i was dealt with was too much of a turn-off.  is the book really that good?  i can't understand why someone smart enough to write a really good book would market it in a way that would be so cheesy and grating.
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msspeech, it's the single best drug-free guide to losing fat while preserving muscle I've ever seen.  That doesn't mean there aren't others just as good, but if there are, I haven't seen one.  It's a solid, complete, healthy program, covering all the necessary pieces:  nutrition, eating habits, motivational techniques, how to perform and interpret objective measurement, cardio and resistance training.  No fads, no quick fixes, no scam, just the most effective drug-free stuff you can do that actually works.

There is a ton of info in the book, and that's the most common criticism from people who own it.  OTOH, as the months and years go by, you'll find that some of the info you skimmed over before is suddenly of great importance to you.

At heart, the book delivers what it promises:  it spells out what bodybuilders and fitness model actually do to cut fat while preserving muscle, and in more detail than you thought you wanted to hear ;-)

BTW, two things that are important to note:

  • Many web programs are really come-ons to sell you a line of supplements or equipment later.  Venuto has nothing like that to sell.  He does have a pay "members only" web site, and that appears to be his only "back end" promotion.  The marketing for that is much less obnoxious, and he says up-front that all the info you need is in the book you already bought.  I didn't buy a membership, so can't say more about that.
  • I bought the ebook about 3 months ago, and so far have received no new related spam, so I believe he's not selling my email address either.
erinzz, Internet marketing is obnoxious, and the marketing for this is no exception.  They market this way because, alas, it works.  If he went to a "dead tree" publisher it could be different, but ebooks are in fact hard to sell (few succeed -- but without publishing costs and just trivial distribution costs, the few that do succeed are gold mines for the authors).

The breathless, over-the-top ad copy for this book is pretty much par for the ebook course.  It gets worse -- for example, check out Matt Furey's ("Combat Conditioning", etc) site, but don't give him your email address unless you have a professional interest in collecting reams of ultra-hard-sell marketing email :-(

BTW, while the BFFM focus is on fat loss, he makes clear that much of it also applies to muscle gain:  eat much more but pretty much the same stuff; maybe boost protein; keep on weight training; and slash cardio work to a minimum.  About 80% of the book is about nutrition, and that's actually most of the "knowledge battle" for achieving either goal.
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when i wrote to them i already knew that the book could be used by people who were trying to build muscle (i had read the FAQ section of the website; i wasn't going to waste their time if I didn't have to).

i wrote explaining that i was trying to build muscle but that my metabolic needs were already elevated beyond that which could be explained by my age, height, weight, gender, muscle, activity, etc (5'7" 126 lb female without a ton of muscle eating 4300 cals day to maintain; even illness, imo, can't really explain caloric needs THIS high - diarrhea is 85% under control + the only real explanations left are that night fevers are burning too many calories + that my metabolism was too high to start with), asked if the book had any info on calculating protein needs in this situation (doctors have given me 3 different answers on this), and also asked whether there was any info on how to 'rev down' the metabolism because i had read his article on damaged metabolisms (anorexic ballerinas and such who yo-yo diet and are later unable to lose weight) where he gives tips for revving it up, but didn't indicate the possibility of having a damaged metabolism in the opposite direction + how to rev it down.  the answer i got from them answered neither of these ?s (which were basically yes/no questions - i didn't expect them to tell me the answers right there, just to tell me whether the book could help me) + instead i got an email like "this book is GREAT for people trying to gain weight.  Tom tells you EVERYTHING you need to know - how much to increase your calories by [uh, i was asking if there was a way to rev DOWN my metabolism!], which foods to eat, and what exercises to do" with a bunch of quotes from satisfied customers.

but after hearing your glowing recommendation, tgpish, i'm getting out my debit card
I got this book about 2 months ago and it is the best book ever, so much info in there, well worth the money If you have any questions let me know.

- Cindy
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erinzz, it's unclear to me whether the book can help you.  Learning more can't be a bad thing, but it's aimed at people without medical problems, and those can make huge differences.

I'm acutely aware of this at the moment because a dear sister recently died after a relatively brief battle with aggressive cancer.  Even back when only one tumor showed up on PET and MRI scans, she was losing weight at a fast clip despite consuming about 5000 calories a day.  She was losing weight at a dramatic clip just following doctors' advice, and the best advice I could make up beyond that (buying high-calorie powdered supplements so she could cram more calories in) only manged to slow the weight loss.

Your problems aren't as severe as that (thank God), but BFFM doesn't address medical problems at all.  As its FAQ says,

The use of diet and nutrition to control metabolic disorders and disease can be a very complicated science and that is not the purpose of my programs. 

I wish I knew the name of a doctor who could help with that, but I don't.  Have you tried looking for a clinical nutritionist?  IME they general know more about how diet and eating habits affect the body than most doctors -- which isn't surprising, since that's what they specialize in.

Anyway, at 5'7" and 126 pounds your BMI is well over what's considered underweight:

Body fat percentage is (IMO) a far more useful statistic than BMI, but can't be computed from weight, height and gender alone.  Do you know yours?  It's extremely useful to get that measured at least monthly, and Venuto harps on that too.

About protein, Venuto is a bodybuilder, so don't expect a low estimate from him ;-)  "A gram per pound per day" is vanilla in those circles, and he doesn't hestitate about going that high, or even higher.

There's nothing in the book direclty about reducing BMR.  Instead you could deliberately avoid tips for increasing BMR.  For example, you were asking about HIIT earlier, and for fat-losers one of the great attractions of HIIT is its much greater effect on boosting post-exercise BMR than moderate-intensity aerobics.  Draw the obvious conclusion about doing HIIT for someone trying to keep their BMR as low as possible.

Similarly, Venuto emphasizes that getting protein from real food is a better idea than getting it from liquids, primarly because the process of digesting real food burns a lot more calories.  For you, I'd say that's a reason to get more protein in liquid form, or even from amino acid tablets (essentially pre-digested protein).

And so on.  You can effectively turn some advice on its head, and that should be pretty easy because the book is good at explaining why various advice is given (in fact, that's one of the reasons it spends so much time on nutrition -- he doesn't have a "one size fits all" approach, so spends much more time explaining than dogmatically prescribing, and that's a harder job).

OTOH, some things seem impossible to get around.  Building muscle requires keeping your body in an anabolic state as much as possible, and frequent small meals are a major aid to that.  But frequent small meals also boost your metabolism.  You could "injure" your metabolism by eating just one big meal a day, but then you'd also severely impede your ability to grow muscle.

If I were you, I wouldn't worry too much about gaining fat while you're growing muscle.  Getting body fat percentage measured regularly will tell you if/when the amount of fat is getting out of hand, and with a high BMR switching to a fat-loss phase when that happens should (well, in the absence of disease) be relatively easy for you.  Swithcing to a very mild calorie deficit then (say, cutting 5-10% off maintenance level) is by far the easiest way to preserve muscle while losing fat (although, again, disease processes can complicate that, and I'm no help with that if so).
Thank you all very much.  It makes a lot of sense.  (And I'm glad not to spend money on a gimmick.)

And, tgpish, very sorry to hear about your sister.
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msspeech, thanks for the condolences!  The best way to thank me for advice is to improve your own quality of life --  you're my surrogate sister (or brother) now, so helping you is all I have left ;-)

If you buy the book, you're probably going to be overwhelmed by all the info at the start.  Don't worry, just go thru the book at your own pace.  Here are some pieces (some simple, some essential) to get started quickly:

  1. Use this site to track everything you eat for at least a week, without trying to change anything.  There are three purposes:  to get you much more familiar with the actual calorie and nutritional content of the foods you normally eat; to get a very clear idea of your current calorie intake; and to find out what percentage of your calories come from each of carbohydrates, protein, and fats.  You'll be aiming at changing all of these eventually, but at the very start it takes practice to learn what all this means and how to keep track of it all.  But take heart, you won't have to do this forever :-)
  2. If you're not drinking at least 8-10 glasses of plain water (not 0-cal sodas, fruit juices, "sports drinks" ... plain water) a day, start moving toward it.
  3. Get your body fat percentage measured.  Objective feedback is vital, and this is the only way to know how your fat and not-fat weights are each changing over time.  It's probably best if you can find a trainer (at a gym, or a personal trainer) to do this, but there also ways to do it at home.
  4. Start strength-training, preferably with free weights, but machines are fine if you're more comfortable with that at the start.  Aim for 2 or 3 whole-body workouts per week, on non-consecutive days, never more than an hour per session.
If you read the book in order, you won't get to strength-training until the last chapter, but after nutrition it's actually the most important thing for sane (muscle-preserving) fat loss.  Although for some reason this doesn't penetrate the public consciousness, strength-training + diet is actually much more effective than cardio + diet both for losing fat and for preserving muscle.  It's better still to add cardio work too, but best to get the most important pieces in place first.

Enjoy the journey!  It's great fun making progress, and knowing (from measurement) you're on the right track.

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At the start my sister had only one detectable tumor, and she still had most of her strength (and she was in good shape, so that was considerable for a lean woman).  She was eating every hour then, and could get about 3000 from food, + another 2000 from calorie-dense supplements I found for her.  The next time through the PET+MRI scans, the original tumor was dead, but new ones had sprouted "everywhere" -- leg bones, soft tissue in the arms, a breast, back, liver, and skull.  It was devastating, and by then she had gotten so weak that only palliative radiation was tried thereafter (massive doses to rapidly shrink those tumors causing pain, but killing healthy tissue too).  Her ability to eat diminished throughout.  During the last two months, it was a triumph if she could get down 500 calories in a day, even just liquids.

The good news (heh -- that's rich ;-)) is that she was able to stay at my other sister's house the whole time, and she was almost always completely lucid until the last week.  At the end she fell asleep while an old friend was visiting, then simply never woke up again.  So at least that was as peaceful a way to go as could possibly be, and I'm glad of that.

She couldn't have weighed more than 80 pounds by then, but was a few inches shorter than you, so I'm amazed at your fighting spirit!  Her thighs became thinner than her knees, and fighting back from something like that must be hell.

Oh well ... BF% can be measured in a few minutes at worst, a few seconds if you get a $20 Accu-Measure caliper and do it at home.  It's important for you to know how your fat and non-fat weights are changing over time, even more than for most people, yes?  It's true that the mirror doesn't lie, provided someone else is looking at your reflection ;-)  Some fat and muscle is completely invisible even to them, like visceral fat (under the abdominal muscles).

It's also needed because nobody knows enough to out-think everything in advance.  That's impossible.  For example, I don't give any thought to how many calories I burn through exercise, because it's simply irrelevant:  measurement tells me whether I'm losing too much muscle, and if I am I eat a bit more and do a bit less cardio.  If I'm not, but am not losing fat either, I eat a bit less and boost the cardio a bit.  Etc.  The details of the path ahead aren't clear to anyone, but measurement is the key to making corrections.  Nobody can explain how to keep your balance on a bike either, but once you get close, constant feedback tells you what needs to change as bumps in the road knock you this way and that.  "Playing it by ear" is as good as it gets, but that's very good if you develop a good ear.

The same goes for protein, although you're sure in an extreme situation there.  But small differences matter anyway:  try 1 g/lb/day for a few weeks and get measured.  Then try 1.2 g/lb/day for a few weeks and get measured again.  Did the rate of muscle gain increase?  Then boost protein again for another few weeks to see what happens. Or if it didn't, drop protein a bit for another few weeks and see whether that reduces gains.  It's apparent that nobody can tell you how much you need, but that doesn't mean it can't be discovered over time.

It's possible to do a nitrogen balance study to measure the amounts of protein consumed and excreted.  If you excrete more than you consume, the difference was wasted (edit: heh, that came out all wrong -- it means your muscles are likely wasting away, to the extent of the difference).  If you consume more than you excrete, the excess is presumably being put to good use -- that's called "positive nitrogen balance", and is something bodybuilders crave.  Alas, there's no convenient way to do this test.  Protein is excreted in urine, feces, breath, and even through the skin, so a good nitrogen balance test has to be performed while you live in a metabolic laboratory for days.  That's what it takes to get a definitive answer.  It's much better to learn to live with being unsure ;-)

For most people, HIIT may burn more calories than lower-intensity work.  Not during the exercise, but after, due to higher and longer-lasting boost in metabolic rate.  The "9x as much fat burned per calorie expended" figure only counted the calories burned during exercise.  This is complicated too.  Of course some cardio work is essential for health, and all other things being equal of course you should do the kind you like best.  Whether or not HIIT burns more calories for you is again something you probably can't know in advance but can determine by experiment (what happens to your fat and non-fat weights over a few weeks if you do HIIT or if do something less intense)?  But if you're making reasonable progress doing HIIT, that's great!  Keep it up.  If and when measurement says it's no longer working, then's the time to try something else.

The studies on yo-yo dieting mostly don't support the common views on it (including mine): .htm

Part of that says there's no evidence that it damages metabolism.  And I believe that, provided they don't lose significant muscle mass along the way.  Losing muscle certainly reduces BMR, which is what the combo of diet + cardio (w/o strength training) buys.  I suspect the studies are too broad to make this distinction, and most of the yo-yo dieters I've known don't do any intentional exercise.

You have my blessing to skip the "deluxe edition" :-)  I bought it, because I have disposable income ;-), and enjoyed Venuto's writing before I bought his book (he's written lots of articles elsewhere).  It might be useful for some to hear him explain the same points 10 different ways to 10 different people, and because of that it's not a bad idea to buy it.  At least one of the interviews was much more about building muscle than losing fat, but you can get a more organized account of his views on that by following the links to free articles here: nuto.html

There's a lot of free stuff by other authors on that site you might be interested in too.

BTW, I'm skeptical about that site being what it claims to be.  Almost all the items reviewed there are e-books, and that misses a ton of classics on the subject glaringly conspicuous by absence.  I suspect the site is really a joint marketing scheme.  Nevertheless, much of the info is good, and you can't beat "free" for price.  Venuto's book contains a good lightly annotated bibliography of the true classic books on muscle-building.
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  I ordered the book, but have not had the time to more than skim over a little of the information and recipes. I'm trying to complete my BA in Electrical Engineering during the next 2 semesters and am very dedicated to that task.  Almost all of my free time is spent with homework and chores. At my age it's all I can do to keep up with my reading and assignments.
  The information I have gleaned so far is very good and Tom writes the material in a way that seems to inspire and urge the reader on.  I received links to 2 things recently. One included a free perusal of their Burn The Fat Inner Circle members-only website. I found some useful information there and a free recipe for oatmeal-apple pancakes which sounds delicious. Another email included a free link to a 1 hour MP3 of Tom being interviewed. The audio quality is poor, but Tom once again provided good information and motivation.
  The free sneak preview is open to non members and the public so it might be useful to check it out.

I think it will work for me, eating more small meals sounds good, I just need to find or make the time to read the book then make a plan and follow it... ;)

PS: I ran into problems trying to purchase the book and emailed the web site support.  Fixed the problem myself by temporarily disabling my super picky A-V Security program.  The cool part is how surprised I was to get an email reply from Tom himself !!!

edit: revealed way too many personal details about self that would make it quite easy for anyone who knows me in "real life" to identify me.  easier to just delete than go back + try to edit out comments that were sprinkled throughout whole post (since i was just asking ?s and tgpish was the one handing out useful information, i don't feel that this is any real loss to others).   
Although for some reason this doesn't penetrate the public consciousness, strength-training + diet is actually much more effective than cardio + diet both for losing fat and for preserving muscle.  It's better still to add cardio work too, but best to get the most important pieces in place first

This is so important, I just wanted to repeat it! tgpish you rule.
man, with all the crap i have to do as soon as i actually 'wake up', i don't want off the internet quite yet!  one more ? first:

i met a woman a couple weeks ago who lost 20 lbs and has about 110 to go (she's depressed right now b/c her cousin had the bariatric surgery and lost 70 while she only lost 20 but she can't have the surgery because of some complication she didn't explain very well [she gave me a long list of medical problems, almost all of which i thought would aflict a very large percentage of people who required the surgery.  whatever the reason, no surgery]) + asked for advice b/c she feels she's doing everything right (in the apartment complex gym where i work out, i appear to be the only thin person, so people assume that i have good advice for them - it's funny because i've been thin my whole life - real advice on losing weight usually comes from those who've been fat, lost, and kept it off).  i don't know about her diet - she says 1900 cals a day, that's all i know.

but my ? is this:  she works out 7 days a week - cardio everyday on a stationary bicycle for about 45 mins, and 2 days a week she weight trains (usually three days apart), and i'm happy to say, she actually weight trains WELL (the gym has many limitations, but she does everything one should do to build muscle, not to "tone", and she does it heavy [for her] in the correct rep ranges, with pretty much ok form - i was impressed considering that she's a beginner, more than 100 lbs overweight, and just picked up the weights and started working without any help) - i was wondering if she (and really anybody else who is similarly situated, that is, doing a lot of cardio and some heavy weight training on the same days spaced out through the week) wouldn't be better off following a modified zig-zag diet: five days zag (all cardio, maybe 1800 cals instead of 1900, but i'm not really sure about that part), two days zig (all weights, no cardio, up cals to 2200-2400).   i read dr squat's article, so it seems to be that doing it this way would reset her metabolism, allow her to build more muscle (and thereby boost her metabolism more), etc.  but that was written for people who want to seriously build muscle AND lose weight - for people who JUST want to lose weight (that is, muscle building is a means to the end rather than a major component of the end itself), are there any studies showing that the benefits of the zig phase offset the extra calories/lack of cardio?  Intuitively, or just based on everything i've heard/seen/read, i know that this has to be the case (or should be), but i'd like something to back it up, but because i think she'll be resistant to the idea of upping calories and not doing cardio.  should i recommend to her that for her zag days, she increase her cardio so that her total weekly cardio output remains steady (not necessarily in time - that would be an hour a day - but in energy output perhaps, because i think that's how she measures things; or maybe suggest to up the intensity level or do intervals?  or is it enough for zig-zaggers to do the 5 days as they normally would without worrying about balancing out their zig days?  i would think the latter, since the zig days serve their own function, but i'll recommend to her whatever you think. 

i very much want to help this woman, but it may be a challenge.  i'm still trying to convince her that spot reduction is a myth. 
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Erin, thank you for your kind and generous assessment of my online personna -- and I'm not actually an asshole in real life either ;-)

Jeez, you're carrying more burdens than any 3 people "ought to" suffer.  I hope your kids make up for some of that!  Unless they're evil ;-), they'll turn out fine.  All kids squabble, and can even appear to hate each other at times.  But over time, employers come & go, friends come & go, lovers and even mates can come & go, but your siblings remain your siblings for life.  They've seen you triumph, and they've seen you crap your pants, so love can't help but grow over time -- the best thing you can do for their relationship is not leave them a big inheritance to fight over.  My parents died flat broke, and that worked wonders for us :-)

Most lifters who stop cold don't even start to lose significant muscle mass before about 2 weeks of utter sloth go by.  IOW, stress over missing a weight session is far more damaging to most people than actually missing the workout:  stress raises cortisol levels, and cortisol is highly catabolic.  So if you did lose muscle mass in such a short time, and didn't have a dozen other things screwing up your metabolism :-(, I'd blame it on high life stress rather than taking a break.  I take at least a week off every 2-3 months deliberately, and it doesn't hurt a bit.  To the contrary, planned time off is part of most periodization schemes (planned ways to vary training load and intensity, to avoid over-training beyond the beginner stage).

It's also possible to increase strength while losing muscle.  Beginners on a poor diet often demonstrate this clearly, as much of initial strength improvement is really due to neurological factors.  Click here a good read.  This isn't limited to beginners, but it's less clear for non-beginners since the rate of progress slows.  For example, I slothed myself into needing to lose a relatively enormous amount of fat, and while my lean weight hasn't varied by more than a pound over the last 2 months, I've grown at least 20% stronger in all my lifts over the same time, and 40% stronger in some.  Since it's not due to new muscle, that has to be due to neural and cellular adaptations.  To be fair, years ago I was much stronger still, so I'm regaining strength here rather pushing to new all-time bests (and regaining goes faster & easier than gaining the first time).

If you can do 4 dead-hang pullups, you're strong!  That's about 20 more than most women can do ;-)  Tying it into the last paragraph, here's a very effective way to increase the number of pullups you can do, although I expect it's most effective for people who can get up to at least 8 when they start it.  It's again aimed more at improving neurological factors than increasing muscle size.

Cravings are a mystery to me -- although I generally believe the body "knows what it's doing", it can very confusing.  For example, while my sister was degenerating rapidly, I had enormous cravings for high-fat foods.  I didn't pay any attention to my own eating, and gained at least 25 pounds of blubber in 2 months.  By that point I was shocked to discover my "diet" had become almost entirely buckets of fried chicken, ice cream, cashews, and chocolate bars.  That's what she should have been eating :-(

But that's extreme, and was surely more emotionally driven than physically.  Asking Google for info on "crave salt" turns up a lot of goofy pages ;-)  Are you getting enough water?  "8-10 glasses a day" is standard, but you need more than that due to higher protein consumption.  You also need extra potassium and calcium to "deal with" the increased sodium intake.  Your body may be craving salt as a way to trick you into drinking more water -- but can't really guess.

Something to try is using sea salt instead of manufactured salt.  Salt "in the wild" has a lot more stuff in it than just sodium and chlorine, so there's some reason to suspect that an evolutionary-created salt craving is really aiming at some of the other stuff that naturally comes with natural salts.

The one "standard cause" that doesn't apply is that your body is trying to replace salt lost thru sweat, since you don't get this craving after sweaty cardio sessions.  I'd try asking your doctor -- and ram down a protein shake anyway.

The consistency of calipers is rotten to excellent, depending entirely on the consistency of the person doing the measurement.  The $20 Accu-Measure caliper is plastic, which is relatively insensitive to heat and humidity variations.  It incorporates a simple but clever mechanical gimmick to ensure that the same pressure is used each time.  The person doing the measurement still needs to measure in exactly the same place, and at the same angle, and with the calipers at the same distance from the other hand's pinching fingers, and at the same distance between the top and bottom of the skinfold, each time.  This takes practice, but isn't exactly rocket science ;-)

Here's an article with tips for increasing consistency.  One they don't mention there can be very useful:  on a site that doesn't normally show through clothes, use a marking pen to put dots on the "pinch points".  This removes all guesswork from one of the variables so long as the marks last.  I wouldn't recommend going so far as getting a tattoo there ;-)

About "dead treee" books, there are 100s on muscle-building.  They're a hoot, especially when you get one that insists only "their method" can possibly work ;-)  Anything written by "a really big guy" probably qualifies as a classic:  authors like Bill Pearl, Fred Hatfield (I think you already know him as "Dr. Squat"), Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Dave Draper are well worth reading.

OTOH, there aren't any real "secrets":  to get huge, eat huge and train like a crazy (but smart!) woman.  I immediately thought of you when I stumbled into this story a few days ago:

Do what he did ;-)  He says he gained 25 pounds in one week (of hellish training and eating), about 13% of his initial bodyweight.  Unfortunately for us, he didn't get any BF% measurements, so hard to say how that breaks down.  Creatine (and he took tons) all by itself can cause significant weight gain, but it's initially just water weight.
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Erin, the best thing that lady could do is buy Venuto's book -- she's exactly the intended audience (wants to shed fat as quickly as safely possible while preserving muscle, and doesn't suffer irrational fears about cardio work or weights).

The problem with "zig zag" approaches is psychological:  they take "too long" -- people with a lot to lose (or gain) get too frustrated by seemingly glacial progress.  Note that Dr. Squat's article suggests losing only 2 1/2 pounds of fat per month, via quite mild calorie restriction most days.  Nothing wrong with that for someone with enough patience, and indeed the slower the change the more likely it is to last.

But it's more patience than I have ;-)  If your friend crunches the numbers, she'll find that 110/2.5/12 = 3.67, over 3 1/2 years to reach her goal.  While it won't be easy to do, she probably could reach it in one year with minimal muscle loss.

The idea that she could be depressed about not getting bariatric surgery strikes me as sadly funny :-(   Because the people getting such surgery have been unable to learn natural ways of keeping fat off, studies in that field often define "success"as keeping (just) 50% of the excess weight off over time.  Anne Collins summarizes some depressing statistics here: -loss-surgery.htm

I don't think she mentioned this, but people losing fat so rapidly are typically also left with large flaps of hanging skin, and isolated large pockets of fat.  Their mortality rate improves, but nobody could want to be left looking like that.  Your friend shouldn't envy her cousin if there's any way for her to meet her goal without such surgery, no matter how long it takes.
i read the venuto article - i'm still regaining all old muscle (still haven't regained it all; doubt that i ever will b/c, well, i'm not a teenager, don't have great equipment or the time to put in, but i've probably gained 1/2 of it back - it was the last 25% that took the amazing amount of effort to gain in the first place, and i'm not even sure it was worth it then! i'm still so amazed by the powers of muscle memory, how much easier it is this second time around - really makes me feel less bad about slothing it up the last almost-decade or so and losing it all, and glad that i put in those couple years as a teenager!) - as far as varying lift loads goes (i guess i'll stop rolling my eyes at the teenage boys who load up all the plates they can barely lift three millimeters on the bench press just so that they lift it once), do you do your 1-5 rep lifts on different days than your regular 6-12 rep sets?  do you actually notice that the neurological changes they induce leads to strength that's helpful the next time you're doing sets in the 6-12 range (i can't imagine how it wouldn't be, just wondering if you actually notice it)?  does it completely ruin this effect of doing a set in the 1-5 range by turning it into a drop-set (which is what i normally do whenever i can't get off more than 5 reps cuz the weight's too high), or can i see it more of a 'best of both worlds' thing (yeah right)?

do you use the accu-measure calipers?  which model (there are several different models - some for as cheap as $8 including shipping on ebay and amazon for new - not used - ones)? according to the article, that's the only brand to buy if you're gonna be testing yourself (is that because of the pressure-click thing?) - in theory, my kids could test me (ha! if i wanted to traumatize them for life! i doubt that anything would be quite as horrifying to my son as me standing in my bra + underwear with the calipers saying 'honey, i need you take a few measurements. let's start with my thigh'), but i'd rather not put them through it.  i would assume that the better models are the ones that allow you to test more spots than just the arm - of course, if one is testing him/herself, that could actually add to difficulties of achieving accuracy between readings b/c there'd be more spots to test (more areas to screw up, get the wrong spot, etc.) - how do you do it? just the arm? 

buckets of fried chicken and chocolate bars?  with your disposable income, you should've been eating high cal, high fat food that actually tastes good!  everything is a matter of taste of course, and i suppose that fast food restaurants wouldn't be billion-dollar busineses if lots of people didn't like them, but when done right, i find that almost everything tastes better when it comes out of an oven, pan, or bowl instead of a wrapper, bucket, or jar.  if you're ever in n. california + want a decent hi cal, hi fat meal, let me know (i'll take you on your word that you're not an asshole in real life either :)).

hmm, i'm on some meds that suppress cortisol, opiates mainly (oxycontin round-the clock = 160 mg B.I.D., plus dilaudid or fentanyl PRN for breakthru pain) - they suppress cortisol levels by decreasing the adrenal gland's response to ACTH stimulation (but, there's evidence that chronic pain causes increased cortisol levels - like stress - so in these cases, they may partially just be 'bringing levels down to normal' but of course, we don't know what these patients' 'normal' levels were before they developed chronic illness + pain!), but they also suppress testosterone (thru decreased gonadotropin - LH, FSH - production, this also means suppressed progesterone in women; i haven't menstruated in years, a side effect of opiates that is well-known among pain patients on high enough doses and, of course, heroin addicts - pleasant enough for someone like me who wants no more children.  of course, amenhorrhea is very common in HIV+ women - 25% have it, and once body weight drops to 90%, it's nearly half, so i shouldn't go blaming the opiates.) - i'm not sure how this balances out in terms of muscle building (i know that the immunological profile is just horrendous).  i've had the tests done of course + they're not that bad (that is, not bad enough to be considered 'androgen deficient', or really even that close) - but for purposes of muscle building, how do you weigh the positive effect of having low cortisol against the negative effect of having low testosterone?  i mean, it's not like i can just stop taking opiates but to a certain extent i can tweak it up or down.

should i periodizing?  never even though about it! where's a place to start?  it sounds good b/c it sounds like it might save time!

before, i was working one body part a day, 6 days a week (i don't count abs as a body part b/c i only spend about 3 minutes on them, do them at home whenever i have 3 minutes + nothing else to do, like when i'm waiting for the bathtub to fill up, only do them when i feel like it, and don't really care b/c they're not gonna add much to my muscle mass; plus, i have practically no visible fat on my stomach [not where i carry it] so if i do 3 minutes of abs once a week, the results are immediately visible - more bang for the buck doing 8 squats or even 8 bi curls than 500 crunches).  now i'm trying to do 3 bodyparts a day b/c i'm stressed for time + work fewer days a week.  the problem is that my workouts are taking FOREVER.  my one-bodypart workouts took about 30-60 mins (legs takes 60; shoulders takes 30; everything else inbetween) - my 3 bodypart wrkouts (legs/back/bis, then chest/shldrs/tris) take 2.5-3.5 hours each, which is more than 45 times 3 (the difference is largely because of breaks b/w body parts to eat + smoke). 

i could probably cut out some of the exercises i'm doing, but i'm not actually doing an abnormally large number of exercises (my leg routine takes longest + it's just squats, extensions, deadlifts, curls, lunges, calf raises; as another example, for tris it's underhanded pull-downs, either skull-crushes or overhead extensions, dips, inclined extensions on the cable, kickbacks).  the problem is that i take long rests in between my sets.  i just seem to fatigue easier than other people (and it has to be either illness-related or medication-induced because i did not have this problem as a teenager and i'm only 25 which isn't THAT old - i asked my MD what could be causing it, and he was like, 'are you kidding me?').  no matter how fresh + rested i am, how long it's been since my last work-out, after my first set, if i take a break of less than 2 minutes, it's like i will still be feeling the failure from the last set and will either only be able to do 2 or 3 reps or will have to significantly decrease the weight i'm lifting.  if i wait 2 or 2 and half minutes, though, i'm fine.  it's very annoying, though, because i'm wasting a shitload of time doing nothing and feeling very lazy.  as a teenager, i had to practically force myself to wait a whole minute for my next set because i was raring to go after a few seconds.  here's my question for you:  is it better to wait under these circumstances?  i think i heard somewhere that you only wanted to wait 90 secs max b/w sets b/c your muscles will get cold or something.  what's the bigger benefit - doing your sets with a normal (or minimal) amount of time between them or waiting long enough that you can actually do a decent set (normal number of reps, at least as heavy as the first set, preferably heavier)? 

i don't even do warm-up sets b/c of this whole waiting + fatigue thing. i've also been just famished during these longer workouts - i eat about 800 cals immediately before my workouts (i don't do the whole 'wait an hour' thing b/c if i do, i find myself hungry 5 minutes after i start lifting) - any more + i'd be uncomfortably full.  i'm always hungry before i finish lifting, so i brought a few tupperwares of pasta, garlic bread, an egg salad sandwich, and half of an apple spice cake, and ate it all, every time i got hungry, which was all the time - 3140 calories in 3 hours! it was unbelievable!  

that bodybuilder's crazy! of course, i'm only eating 1500 cals less than he did (and  weigh more than 1/3 less than he started out, so i'd have to probably go way over his numbers).  i'm not sure i'm comfortable with the idea of 'dieting down' - i lose weight pretty quickly and put it on much more slowly.  i would consider dialing down for a couple of days, but even in just 10 days of eating probably about 3800 cals/day, i lost 5 lbs (doesn't make sense in terms of calorie deficit, especially factoring in no exercise) and haven't gained back any of it despite real vigilance (and a 150 calorie increase over my prior calories - not huge increase just b/c i'm feeling maxed out - i have been adding a few extra calories wherever else i can, though, without counting them [because once i count them, it goes into my daily total, and that's X fewer calories i have to eat that day - so if i usually eat 1000 cals for breakfast and one day i eat 1100, it never actually helps me get 100 extra cals in by the end of the day b/c i'm just generally sick of eating and lazy! so i'll add extra chocolate chips to a lava cake or extra cheese to pasta and not count it so that i don't get into that "i'm X calories away from my goal; i don't have to eat any more" mindset]), so there's no way i'd drop my calories very low for 2 weeks - i don't think the gains would make up for it.  i also don't think i could get enough calories without carbs (we don't eat meat - i get plenty of protein from soy, some eggs, protein powder, cheese, milk, etc.  when you consider how many cals i eat, it's not hard to get 150-200 gms protein/day, which is about what i've been doing, but i see no way to cut out carbs and get even 1500 cals unless i were to just drink olive oil or something).  i'm not sure my goal's even to get "huge" (not that that's even possible; when venuto described power-lifters as "not looking as strong as they are" i feel like that describes me - even in my teens, when i was very strong, for a girl that is, and could lift some very heavy weights, i still didn't look it! i was 'cut' but not big! actually, this might be perfect evidence of what spirochete is always saying - that there's no such thing as 'toning' because i had tiny, cut muscles which is i think what people want when they say they want to be 'toned', but i was lifting HEAVY!  then some women would sauter in and start lifting for the first time in their life, do bicep curls on the machine with 10 lbs or whatever, and their arms would be bigger than mine!  and this was even though i was lifting heavy - for me, but also compared to women weight-lifters in general, although not all of my muscle groups got equally strong.  legs were amazingly strong, back was very strong, bis were somewhat strong, tris were ok, chest wasn't great (i could only bench a little more than i weighed for 10-12 reps after 3 years of training, and i was pretty light!), shoulders were just absolutely terrible.  is there any 'secret' to training for people like me, who are doing the right rep range and get strong but don't look as strong as they should?  i'm not sure it's even a bad thing for women to be strong without having huge muscles, except that strength without muscle to back it up is of absolutely no use for the next time i get sick and start wasting.), but 'bigger' - yes.  if there were guarantees on gaining it back as big as he did (25 lbs in 1 week is just amazing! i can't help but be skeptical, like really skeptical, b/c it's almost national enquirer type material, gaining 25 lbs in one week, unless he's fudging his numbers so that his pre- weight is the weight he was at AFTER the 2 weeks of dieting down, after he lost a ton of water weight on lo-carb), i'd do it, but i don't think it would work on me and i also don't want to play "extreme dieting" games with my immune system.  

for training purposes, is it better to do more pullups with your arms not extending as far, or to do fewer pull-ups, doing them dead-hang, or doing them somewhere in between (or maybe doing something like a 21 - a couple of just the lower 1/2, a couple of just the upper 1/2, a couple full reps dead-hang; although i'm not at the point yet where i could do that)?  is it even a pull-up if it's not dead-hang?   pullups with a weighted vest?  yeah right!  i tried doing them with 20lbs of ankle weights + was not successful.  they are incidentally the most difficult exercise i've ever done + afterward, i have the distinct feeling that a herd of horses has just trampled over my back and that if there were any kindness in the world, someone would be arriving right about now with an epidural.   my son has taken pity on me a few times and rubbed my aching back.  i have really not experienced this sort of pain from lifting, that i can remember, from any other exercise, ever.  they are still my fave exercise though.  i wanna get to 10 before school starts (i have a bit of a fantasy that on the 1st day of the semester, when everyone asks, 'what did you do over the summer?' i can just pull out a chinup bar and knock out 10! that'll make up for the fact that i'm like, the only person i know who did not do something incredibly impressive academically or professionally the last 2 months.  plus, they all remember when i weighed 95 lbs so it would be doubly impressive.  just a fantasy.  i'm not an attention whore, just an old-fashioned slut ;).
questions about the lady i met at the gym (i ran into her on fri; i told her about this forum so if you see a woman named andrea, that may be her). 

the 20lbs she lost was in 6 months (i keep forgetting to ask when her cousin had the surgery, but i think it was less than that time ago, because i know they had to lose part of the weight before the surgery, to show that they were 'serious').  i know that she counts calories, but i think that her counting is probably off.  she exercises, she claims to eat 1900/day, and i just can't imagine that if that were true, she wouldn't have lost way more than that, since she's about 150 lbs overweight (her goal is 180 - she has 110 lbs to go).  i've also heard the figures on people underestimating portion size when they aren't either measuring or weighing it (when it's the end of the day, i don't want to eat any more, but i'll feel bad if i don't make it to my calorie quota, i use the trick of 'rounding up' - "oh, i just ate 1/3 of a cookie, well round it up to half a cookie; half a cookie? just round it up to a whole one! lets see... a whole cookie has 270 calories - lets round that up to 300! 300 calories brings me to 4560 - better just round that up to 4600!" and so on - so 90 calories in real food becomes 340 in my log, but i know i'm doing it.  the best purchase i ever made was a digital drug scale (oops! sorry, "jewelry scale" is i believe the way it was being advertised at the head shop in berkeley where i bought it [because we all know how much college kids enjoy weighing their noserings] and i'm sure that the bongs were just 'statuettes', the rolling papers were for tobacco, and the guy behind the counter had a mild case of ADHD and was so jolly because it was his birthday! it was marked down from $75 to $10) - it is so much more accurate at weighing food than the kitchen scales where you put the food in the little tray and the needle bounces to a number.  it's good because it doesn't let me cheat + eat less + it weighs in grams or ounces, so i'm not always dividing by 28.  if she doesn't buy herself a scale in the next couple weeks, i'll likely buy one for her, because something's gotta give here - if her calorie counting were right, she would almost have to be losing more weight. 

anyways, she wanted to know, if she's going to have a donut every once in a while, when's the best time to eat it so that it doesn't turn to fat?  i know that the right answer's probably never, but didn't want to say that so i said i'd get back to her. i was thinking either before lifting weights or right after but wasn't sure which one, or since right now she's doing cardio after lifting (i finally got her do do weights first instead of the opposite), right after lifting but before cardio? (also, if it's right before cardio, that might make her think, 'do i really need this donut?')

that brings me to another question - i told her to eat right after lifting, and read (i think it was your post) about the muscles wanting to be fed right after.  if someone is doing their cardio right after their lifting, should they take a break to eat in between?  i guess the advantage of doing so is that you're feeding the muscles + they want it.  however, i've also heard that one of the best times to do cardio if your goal is fat loss is right after lifting (only better time i've heard is early AM) b/c you've depleted glycogen stores + have to turn to fat as energy (or catabolize your muscle, but no one ever mentions this!) - one might think that eating between lifting + cardio, though, might ruin this effect somewhat, depending how long digestion takes?  so what do you think? for me, i would obviously eat (i eat right in the middle of my workouts - my goal's not fat loss).  but for someone like her, what should she do?  will anything she eats just go straight to the muscles since they're hungriest for food or will it prevent her from burning maximal fat? and is this a reason NOT to do weights before cardio (or not to do them in the same session)? if one must do them in the same session, what's the right way to do it?

i know that she binge eats "every once in a while" - according to her, around 4000 calories.  that's only 2000 more than a regular day - can an occasional binge really screw a person up that much?  i wouldn't think it would make a huge difference in the long run.  i just don't see how eating twice as much as usual isn't an aversive experience.  after a binge, the best thing for her to do would be lift weights like crazy, NOT cardio, right? i mean, it's like, her one opportunity to actually work with a surplus - why put it to waste? but after she lifts weights, if psychologically she is feeling badly about herself and wants to burn off some of what she ate (it seems to be hard for people to accept that in the long run, muscle helps them lose fat more than an hour of burning calories - they like to see those 'calories burned' on the monitor), can she then do some cardio?  if she only has these rare opportunities to lift weights with a surplus, you don't want her to then be over-doing cardio if that'll be counterproductive, so it's important for her to know if it's okay or not. 

why does zig-zagging have to be slow? i guess i was just thinking (let's keep this simple - the numbers are obviously not realistic, i just want whole numbers to work with), if a person would otherwise lose 1 lb/week eating 1000 cals/day doing cardio 5 days a week burning 200 calories and on two of those days also lifting weights, why not put the weightlifting on separate days from the cardio, keep the total calorie expenditure for the whole week the same:   800 on days doing cardio, 1400 on days doing weights (plus 2 days of 900 cals and no exercise - this can be tweaked; 1000 cals on no-exercise days and 1300 cals on days doing weights perhaps, but you get the point); then, since you only have 3 cardio days, you burn 333 cals instead of 200 - calories in/out over the week would be the same as before, but it would seem that you have the following benefits: you're resetting your metabolism on your heavy days instead of keeping a constant deficit, having two heavy days in a row might allow for a better "reset" than spacing them out, and you'd probably build more muscle than just lifting twice a week on top of your cardio while in a deficit.  would you lose any less weight?  obviously the numbers here are fake, but as long as they add up to the same caloric deficit over the week, you're building more muscle, wouldn't you lose more weight?  i guess the problem is that on the low days, you might be dangerously close (with calories so low plus a lot of cardio) to being 'too low' - if your steady deficit was already as low as you could go before hitting that "1200" number (for women), then adding more cardio + lowering further would seem to be not an option - would that really be the case, as long as you're only doing it for three days before cycling back up (i mean, doesn't it take a while before you're actually in starvation mode) - and might not the benefits of actually building muscle on your heavy days outweigh any catabolization you experienced on your light days?  how many dieter/exercisers are actually bumping up against that starvation mode floor?  or is the problem that to build muscle, you have to eat SO much more than you're eating while in calorie deficit that there's simply no way to make up the difference during that week?

most importantly, how do you manage to be "almost perfect" in sleep, eating, etc. (that was from your post in another topic) and still have the time to read every article + book on fitness/muscle-building AND answer all of our questions here?  i was about to suggest lack of sleep, but that wouldn't be almost perfect!

edit: deleted paragraph with personal details about my life
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