Listen on Apple Podcasts | Listen on Spotify | Listen on YouTube

What’s the best rep range for newbies? Should you do long fasts? How do sleep problems affect muscle gain and fat loss? How often should you refeed while cutting? How can women be healthy while minimizing weight gain during pregnancy? All that and more in this Q&A podcast.

Over on Instagram, I’ve started doing weekly Q&As in the stories, and it occurred to me that many podcast listeners might enjoy hearing these questions and my short answers. So, instead of talking about one thing in an episode, I’m going to cover a variety of questions. And keep in mind some of these questions are just for fun. 🙂

So if you want to ask me questions in my Instagram stories, follow me on Instagram (@muscleforlifefitness), and if I answer your question there, it might just make it onto an episode of the podcast!

If you like this type of episode, let me know. Send me an email ([email protected]) or direct message me on Instagram. And if you don’t like it, let me know that too or how you think it could be better.


0:00 – Join my podcast giveaway!

2:09 – What is your motivation to keep training since your strength gain has drastically slowed down?

7:16 – Would you recommend 8 to12 or 4 to 6 reps for slim newbies during the first steps?

14:19 – What are your thoughts on long fasts done regularly for 48 hours or longer? 

16:26 – How often should refeed days happen?

19:32 – Does sleep apnea have a big effect on muscle gain and fat loss or is it minimal?

20:30 – How can women be healthy and minimize weight gain during pregnancy?

21:17 – Do I need specific gym shoes or do running shoes work?

21:52 – What are some of the signs your body needs to reverse diet?

Mentioned on the Show:

I’m giving away over $1,000 worth of prizes to commemorate the 1,000th episode of Muscle For Life! Join the giveaway here:

What did you think of this episode? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!


Hey and welcome to Muscle for Life. I am Mike Matthews. Thank you for joining me today for another q and a where I’m answering questions that people ask me over on Instagram. Every Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday, I put up a story asking people to ask me questions. I get a bunch of questions. I pick ones that are interesting or topical or that I haven’t already answered a million times before, and I answer them briefly there on Instagram.

And then I bring everything over here to the podcast to expand on those answers. So if you want to ask me questions, Follow me at most life fitness over on Instagram, and look for that story every Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday. And so this week I am answering questions regarding reverse dieting, gym shoes, should you buy special training shoes, minimizing weight gain during pregnancy, sleep apnea, just sleep problems, and how they can affect muscle gain and fat loss refeeding while cutting.

Should. Does it make a difference? And more quickly before we get started, I want to tell you about a special giveaway that I just launched in celebration of publishing 1000 episodes of this podcast a thousand. And to commemorate that illustrious milestone, I’m giving away over $1,000 in prizes. So if you want to enter to win some of those prizes, head over to Muscle for Life.

Show slash giveaway muscle o r Uh, entering is very simple. You simply have to subscribe to the podcast, rate it, and then submit some information to an email address. Takes a few minutes and you’ll be entered. To win. But wait, there is more because just for entering, you are going to get some free goodies.

You are going to get a year’s worth of strength training workouts created by yours, unruly. You are going to get 40 different meal plans for different people of different sizes, and you are going to get a special coupon, a special discount code for my Sports Nutrition Company Legion. So again, head over to Muscle for and.

Alright, the first question comes from anonymous, and all of the questions are going to be anonymous this time because there was a glitch with Instagram. And so I don’t have any information on who asked the questions, just the questions themselves, but here we go. What is your main motivation to continue lifting since your strength gain has drastically slowed down?

And just to give a little bit of context here, most people. Are going to gain most of the muscle and strength that is genetically available to them. So let’s say at least 80% in their first three to five years of proper, consistent, not perfect, but just consistently good training. And of course, good eating goes along with that.

And then you can continue to make progress. You can continue. To gain muscle and strength, but it’s inch meal, it is ounces at a time, and eventually if you keep pushing yourself, you reach the vanishing point, you reach a point where you really are not going to get bigger or stronger, at least in any appreciable amount, no matter what you do.

In the kitchen or the gym, unless of course you get on drugs. But I would not recommend getting on drugs unless you have to, unless you want to be a competitive bodybuilder. And that’s what it requires. Or a professional athlete, and that’s what it requires. But for us, lifestyle bodybuilders, so to speak, us more everyday gym goers, fitness folk who just want to get and stay in great shape, stay away from drugs.

So coming back to the question. What’s my main motivation considering that I have reached that vanishing point of progress? No matter what I do, I am not going to get much bigger or much stronger than I am right now. So for me, The reason I am still in the gym five days per week on average, unless I have to take off a day for one reason or another.

Well, I want to stay strong because a strong body makes a strong mind that thinks strong thoughts, and I think that’s important for survival, especially in the world that we live in today. And. The trajectory that we are facing. Second reason is I want to stay fit because it looks good and it feels good.

And to maintain a great physique and to maintain a strong body, you have to do probably, let’s say two full body workouts per week would be the minimum. Maybe you could get away with one full. Workout per week. It’s possible actually, but you definitely can do it with two full body workouts per week or that really could be an upper lower as well.

You could split it up that way. But what is most important, far more important than the split is volume and intensity. So you want to do, if you wanna play it safe, you want to do somewhere around six hard sets. So those are sets taken close to. Muscular failure per major muscle. Per week if you want to maintain muscle and strength everywhere in your body.

Now of course you can include direct volume. So think of PEX with the bench press as well as indirect volume. So muscle groups that are trained indirectly by an exercise, even if they’re not the focus of the exercise. So in the bench press, think triceps and shoulders. So one set of bench press, I think is properly counted as one set of volume for your pex, your anterior.

Front deltoids as well as your triceps, but I would not, for example, count that as one set towards your lats, even though your lats should be engaged. And so if you need to do about six hard sets per major muscle group per week to maintain a high level of muscularity and strength, you can then start fiddling around with your programming and see that one workout per week, maybe it’s gonna be a long workout, it’s gonna be a tough workout.

It could be done. However, two workouts per week makes it a lot easier. So staying fit requires getting in the gym at least a couple of times per week. And I also, my third reason, my third main motivation is just to stay active. So there’s the strength training and the fitness and the muscle and strength, and then there’s also just.

Moving because sitting in a chair all day, which is what I do otherwise, is not a good way to maintain health, cognition and mood. Getting outside, going for walks helps, getting in the gym, lifting weights helps. I like lifting weights more than I like walking, even though I do go for a couple of 10, 15 minute walks per day.

It is also. Fun. I don’t love every workout I do, but generally I enjoy my workouts. I really enjoy how I feel after I work out, and so I’m in the gym five days per week on average, even though I don’t really need to be in the gym five days per week to achieve my goal, which is to just maintain my physique.

Stay lean, stay strong, but I like it. All right. Next question is, Would you recommend eight to 12 or four to six reps for slim newbies at first steps? The short answer is I would recommend four to six reps per set on all the big compound lifts and slightly more, maybe six to eight or eight to 10 reps per set on some of the isolation exercise.

That are awkward in that rep range. So think about a side raise, a dumbbell side raise. You can do four to six, but it does get a little bit awkward as you get stronger, and you can maintain better form with say, six to eight or eight to 10. Now why? Why do I recommend doing a lot of four to six rep work?

Especially if you are relatively new, not even brand new, let’s say if you are a novice. So that’d be like your first year or even an inter. Weightlifters maybe years two and three as well. You still can do very, very well. Doing a lot of four to six rep work, which of course is the focus of my bigger, leaner, stronger program, and even my thinner, leaner, stronger program for women starts them in a higher rep range.

Starts women who are following the program in the H 10 rep range, but then works them into some four to six rep work as well. And the reason why I like that four to. Rep range is, it’s highly effective at building muscle and strength. So you get a combination there as opposed to primarily emphasizing strength, which would be like doing a lot of ones, twos or threes, or primarily just emphasizing muscle endurance with some muscle hypertrophy, which would be, you know, 10, 12, 15, 20 plus reps per set with four to six, or you could say five to seven, though you’re getting a nice blend of.

Gaining strength and gaining muscle and four to six reps per set is not nearly as exhausting as 10 plus reps per set, especially when you have to take sets close to muscular failure. And when you are doing a fair amount of compound weightlifting, do a set of 10, just a set of 10 on the squat, for example, with maybe one or two good.

In reserve so you can do one or two more good reps before your form is gonna fall apart. Or maybe you’re gonna even fail the rep. Do that and see how difficult that is, and then do it on the deadlift sometime and see how difficult it is. That’s not a reason to not do it. But if all of your training is in that high rep range, I guarantee you, you are not going to look forward to your workouts.

You are not gonna like your workouts if you’re also doing a lot of compound weightlifting. Now, if you’re doing a lot of isolation work, if you’re doing more tradit, Body building type workouts where you are not doing many squats and deadlifts and overhead presses and bench presses, but you’re doing maybe machine alternatives or you’re even separating muscle groups.

So let’s say you are isolating your quadriceps in one workout, and then you’re isolating your hamstrings in another workout. If you’re training that way, doing 10, 12, 15 plus reps per set is still uncomfortable. I don’t particularly enjoy it, but it is not nearly as exhausting as doing that with the compound exercises.

Now, of course, one of the big benefits of doing a lot of compound exercises is you get to train multiple major muscle groups at the same time, so you don’t have to sit in the gym as long as a bodybuilder does. Because the bodybuilder, instead of doing the deadlift, which effectively trains basically every muscle on the backside of your body, that they’re doing isolation exercises for each of those muscle groups.

And that means time. It’s not an ineffective way to train per se, but it takes a lot more time. And I’ve found, and many people who have followed my work over the years have found. They like the four to six rep range. More like they actually have more fun in their training, doing some heavier squats and some heavier deadlifts and some heavier bench presses and overhead presses, and that counts Bigly too.

How much you enjoy your workouts has a big impact on how effective those workouts are because, Generally enjoy your workouts. You are generally going to look forward to them. You are generally going to be focused on your training when you are training, so you’re gonna get that good mind muscle connection.

You are probably going to exert yourself a bit more when you are enjoying your training. And all of those things add up to better results over time. Now, I mentioned earlier that in my book for women. Thinly or stronger. I recommend starting in the eight to 10 rep range and then working into four to six reps per set on the big compound exercises.

And the reason for that is having worked with many women over the years and having heard from many women over the years, they either were intimidated and just uncomfortable starting with that heavy weight. About 85% of one rep max. And slash or they found it very impractical with certain exercises like a bench press where this is where they were starting.

They maybe could press the bar for 4, 5, 6 reps and then they would fail. And with an overhead press, for example, the bar was simply too heavy. They could get maybe one or two reps to start. So what are they supposed to do? Okay, they have to move over to dumbbells. And now again, we run into just an awkwardness.

Uncomfortableness starting with heavier weights, and that’s mostly because women can gain a lot of muscle and strength relative to their size. But women are generally a lot smaller than men and start with a lot less muscle and strength than. Men and that makes heavier weightlifting more difficult and more uncomfortable and more awkward.

So whereas most guys can get in the gym for the first time, this is their first strength training session ever. And they can put however much weight on the bar. Let’s say they’re gonna squat and they’re gonna put 1 35 on the bar and they learn their. and they then get good clean sets of four to six reps with let’s say 1 35.

That’s their starting point, and they start adding 10 to 15 pounds to the bar every week for the first couple of months. Whereas the average woman could start with less weight on the bar, obviously proportionate to their body weight and go for that four to six reps per set. But again, because they are starting with a lot less muscle and.

Then the man, I’ve just found that many women find it more enjoyable to use a bit less weight to start with. Do a bit more reps per set, get comfortable with the exercise, gain a bit of strength, gain a bit of muscle, and then move into the heavier weightlifting. Next question is thoughts on long fasts and done regularly, 48 hours or longer.

I’m not a fan because after about 16 to 18 hours research shows, that’s when we really start to lose muscle and in an absolute sense, it’s not a lot, obviously, but that is when. Our body starts turning to muscle tissue for energy in a major way, and you also start feeling pretty bad. Most people do, at least after 18, maybe 20 hours or so, and those things would be okay.

If we were getting significant health benefits, maybe. Maybe the sacrifices would be worth it, but there are no scientifically proven sign. Health benefits to extended fasts if you also live a healthy lifestyle, if you eat well, if you exercise regularly, if you maintain a healthy body composition, if you get enough sleep and so forth.

Now, some people say that they like to do longer fasts, maybe not 48 hours, maybe like 24 hours simply for the. Discipline for the psychological conditioning, and I understand that. I think that’s a, a valid reason. I think that’s actually a more valid reason than any purported health benefits. Again, assuming that you live a healthy lifestyle, and so if that’s why you do longer fasts, maybe in the past you were very overweight and you had a bad relationship with food and maybe.

You tend toward overeating or you just naturally have a bigger appetite, and you find that by intentionally denying yourself food occasionally for longer periods of time, it just helps you control your appetite, control your eating, control your mind, and your relationship to food. Then go. Just know though that it’s not optimal for your body composition.

Next question is how often should refeed days happen? Just to make sure you understand what a refeed day is. This is when you’re cutting and you eat more food. Basically, it’s normally increasing your carbs in particular, and you can increase your calories up to maintenance for the day. Some people, Even say you should go beyond maintenance.

Whenever I’ve done refeed days, I stopped around maintenance calories and again, primarily by just eating more carbs. Now, individual refeed days are of questionable value unless it’s just psychological, unless you are just doing it because you’re sick of restricting your calories and you really would just like to eat a bit more food, and so you do it however.

Physiologically speaking, individual refi days, meaning let’s say one day per week or even two days per week, or one or two days every other week or whatever, that is unlikely to affect your physiology to cause physiological changes. Research shows that it takes several days of higher calorie and higher carb eating like 3, 4, 5, maybe even six or seven days in a.

And so I wouldn’t recommend upping your carbs and your calories more than probably once every four to six weeks, or it’s just gonna slow down your results too much. For example, if you restricted your calories for two weeks and then increased your calories, Particularly increased your carbs for a week or two weeks, then went back to calorie restriction.

That, of course, will work over the long term, but you just have to understand the cost, the duration of that cut is going to be much longer than if you restrict your calories for four, six, even eight weeks before increasing them. And you don’t have to do re-feed days if you don’t want to. By the way. It’s not like deloading and weightlifting, which I recommend everybody.

Do not, everybody needs to deload with the same frequency and in the same way. But everybody should have Deloads worked into their training, assuming they are doing heavy strength training, which you probably should be doing. If you wanna learn more about that, by the way, head over to legion, search for D Load.

You’ll find an article I wrote. As well as a podcast. But coming back to Refeeding, you don’t have to do this. You don’t have to take diet breaks. You’ve probably heard of that or heard that term, and that refers to, usually it’s a week seven, maybe 10 days, up to 14 days of maintenance calories and. You don’t need to do that.

But some people do find that after a couple of months of consistently restricting their calories, they’re just feeling a bit ground down. And if they take seven days and eat maintenance calories, they feel a lot better. By the end of that week, they’re sleeping better, higher energy levels. Better mood, better workouts, and so forth.

So perfectly viable technique for just improving your consistency with your diet, with your cut overall. Next question. Does sleep apnea have a big effect on muscle gain and fat loss, or is it. Minimal. It can definitely cut into your recovery, which of course is going to cut into your muscle building. It can also increase your appetite.

It can increase the risk of various health problems. Bad sleep is bad. I’ve joked before that if you wanna see what you are really capable of, just start getting eight hours of good. Consistently, whatever you need to do, figure that out. And you are going to feel like a new person if you are not currently doing that.

So if sleep apnea is an issue particularly, you can of course look into C P A P machines. You can consult with your doctor. You can also look at mouth taping. Yeah, you heard me write mouth taping, taping your mouth. At night sounds wacky, and it sounds maybe even dangerous, but it’s not actually. It has helped a lot of people sleep better.

Next question for women. How can we be healthy and minimize weight gain during pregnancy? Unfortunately, it’s really just the fundamentals. I think that’s good news, but some people take it as bad news because that just means regulating calories, staying active, and physically speaking. Emotions aside, and psychology aside, just physically speaking, women do not need nearly as much food as they often think when they’re pregnant.

That eating for two phrase is mostly a myth. And if you wanna learn more about this, head over to legion, search for pregnancy, and you’ll find an article called The Definitive Guide on how to create a Pregnancy Meal Plan, and it breaks it all down for. What do we got next here? Do I need specific gym shoes or do running shoes work?

Well, running shoes are fine for everything but squatting and deadlifting. I would definitely recommend proper training shoes and even squat shoes for the squats and proper training shoes for the deadlifting, and to learn more about that and to find shoes. Work for you. Just head over to legion and search for shoes, and you can find an article called The Minimalist Guide to the Best Shoes for Weightlifting.

All right, last question. What are some of the signs that your body needs to reverse diet? Well, let’s see. The first one would be an insatiable blood lust. That’s common. The second one would be shamonic hallucinations. You gotta watch out for that. The third one is a little bit gross. Orange rectal discharge science shows that that is a clear indicator that you need to reverse diet.

You also should reverse diet if you have a zombie bite because most people don’t know this. But that is the one weird trick for not. Turning and the final sign is SPAGHETTIO’S cravings. Scientists don’t know why, but that means that you need to eat more food. So what I’m saying is you don’t need to reverse diet.

Just head over to legion, search for reverse, and check out the article on reverse dieting and why I generally don’t re. Well, my friend. That is it for today’s episode. I hope you liked it. Thank you for listening, and don’t forget to enter my podcast giveaway in case you missed it because you skipped the intro.

I understand. I normally skip intros two. I am giving away over $1,000 in prizes to commemorate my 1000. Episode of Muscle for Life. And to enter to win, you just have to head over to Muscle for muscle F O r Life show slash giveaway, and it takes just a couple of minutes to enter and you are gonna get some free bonus goodies for entering so you will.

Get a chance to win over $1,000 in prizes. Plus you’ll get instant access to some pretty cool stuff that I think you’re gonna like, including workouts and meal plans, and a special coupon code, a special discount for my Sports Atrition company Legion.

View Complete Transcript