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How do you overcome a strength plateau? Does high-intensity cardio affect your hormones? Chinups versus pullups? What has been my greatest decision? All that and more in this podcast.

This podcast is a Q&A, but it’s a bit different from the kind you’ll typically find here on Muscle For Life.

In my usual Q&A episodes, I take a question from email or Instagram and then fully answer it in an episode of the podcast every week.

However, 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 – My free quiz to answer all your diet questions:

2:27 – What do you do when your strength plateaus?

8:00 – Is Nitrosigine beneficial?

8:54 – Does HIIT training affect hormone levels?

10:02 – How can I increase sales as a newbie entrepreneur? 

13:25 – Why is it difficult to eat for a lean bulk?

15:08 – What is the proper way to get back into training?

16:41 – When do we reduce calories when weight loss has stalled?

18:00 – Does eating very little fat have a negative impact on heath? 

19:26 – Are there any benefits to taking Pulse on your off days?

20:06 – What is the best decision you’ve made in your life?

24:32 – Is wholemeal toast a nutritious carb?

25:04  – Are chin ups better than pull ups?

Mentioned on the Show:

Take this free quiz to get science-based answers to all of your diet questions:

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


Hey there and welcome to another episode of Muscle for Life. I am Mike Matthews. Thank you for joining me today for the 16th installment of my Q& A series where I answer 10 to 20 questions briefly just a few minutes per answer, which is a challenge for me, Mr. Verbosity. And if you want me to answer a question of yours, follow me on Instagram at Muscle for Life fitness.

And every Monday or Tuesday. I put up a story with a ask me anything sticker and people ask me a bunch of questions and I go through them and I answer the ones that interest me the most or that I’m getting asked a lot about these days or That I just haven’t already beaten to death. I haven’t already written and spoken extensively about and I answer them there on Instagram.

And then I bring everything over here onto the podcast for my lovely podcast listeners who don’t use Instagram, which is a smart decision, or just don’t follow me on Instagram, which is probably also a smart decision. So. In this episode, I am going to be answering questions about strength plateaus, high intensity cardio, and hormones, sales psychology.

Lean bulking, what to do if you have taken an extensive break, if you have been out of the gym for a bit and now you want to get back into it, what to do when your weight loss stalls, and more. Before we wade into it, how many calories should you eat to reach your fitness goals faster? What about your macros?

What types of food should you eat and how many meals should you eat every day? Well, I created a free 60 second diet quiz that’ll answer those questions for you and others, including how much alcohol you should drink, whether you should eat more fatty fish to get enough omega 3 fatty acids, what supplements are worth taking and why, and more.

To take the quiz and get your free personalized diet plan, go to muscleforlife. show MuscleFORlife. show slash diet quiz

now answer the questions and learn what you need to do in the kitchen to lose fat, build muscle and get healthy. Okay, let’s start with a question from Ethan Serrano. Ethan asks, what do you do when your strength plateaus? Well, the first thing is to make sure that you are actually stuck. Remember that slow progress is not stuck, especially if you are an experienced weightlifter.

If you have been lifting weights frequently and at least semi permanently. Correctly for, oh, let’s say a year or so, your progress is going to be markedly slower than in your first year, your first six months. Remember that the honeymoon phase is delicious, but you can only add weight to the bar every week or every other week or even every month for so long.

And so if you are making slow progress, if your one RMS, if your one rep maxes are slowly going up on your big lifts, for example, and if you are keeping training logs and you should be, and you see that your performance on your isolation exercises is also slowly moving Upward you are slowly getting stronger on those exercises as well as indicated by your working weights and your rep ranges and your reps in reserve, which I would recommend tracking, which is how many good reps left you have in each set.

So you can really see how hard you’re working in those sets. So if those things are slowly moving upward, and again, you are not brand new to this, you are not stuck. But if you are stuck, if you are. Truly just plateaued now for several months, there are no meaningful changes in your strength, no meaningful changes in your body weight.

Then the first thing you need to consider is your body weight. If your body weight is not changing, but you are in the gym and you are working hard and your programming is at least reasonable, then the first thing you need to try is You just need to eat more food. You need to maintain a 5 to 10 percent calorie surplus, meaning that you want to consistently eat about 5 to 10 percent more calories than you burn every day.

And you should be shooting for anywhere between, oh, a half a percent and one percent of your body weight in weight gain per. Month. So for me, I weigh about 195 pounds and I’ve been lifting weights for 20 years now, and I’ve gained probably 40 to 45 pounds of muscle. There’s not much left for me to gain.

I would want to see no more than a half a percent of my total body weight gained per month. And that’s less than one pound. And that might even be a little bit high at this point. I might want to see something closer to a quarter. Of a percent of my body weight gained per month. And the reason for that is I am about at my genetic ceiling for muscularity.

I probably could gain a few more pounds over the course of a couple of years, maybe three, I could not see more than five. And if I were lean gaining, I would have to understand that a successful. A year of training in which I spend many months in a slight calorie surplus would result in maybe a pound to no more than two pounds of muscle gain.

And so then if I were gaining weight too quickly, unfortunately, it would just be mostly body fat. And so as to minimize body fat gain, I would want to calibrate my calorie intake to produce very slow weight gain. And if you are not just about maxed out genetically, if you still have, let’s say, 10 to 15, maybe even 20 pounds of muscle left to gain, and if you’re a guy who has gained about maybe 20 pounds already, then that would apply to you.

If you’re a gal, you could cut those numbers in half. So let’s say you have already gained 10 pounds of muscle. You probably can gain another 10 ish pounds of muscle. You might be able to gain more depending on your genetics. But in that case, you might be able to again, use that half a percent of your body weight per month in weight gain target.

To dictate how many calories you eat. So that’s the eating more, making sure that you are eating enough food to gain weight slowly. Now, if you’re doing that and your strength and your performance is plateaued, check your training volume. If you are an experienced lifter, just know that anything less than 12 to say 14 hard sets per week is probably not enough to significantly improve.

Any individual major muscle group and so what you will probably have to do unless you have the time and the inclination to spend a couple of hours in the gym every day is you are probably going to have to specialize in one to three major muscle groups in any given training block and really push the volume up to 15, maybe even 20 hard sets per week.

And then do something maybe in the range of 10 to 15 for the other major muscle groups, knowing that that’s probably not enough to make much progress there. That’s probably just going to help you maintain the muscle and strength you have in those muscle groups and maybe gain a little bit. But allow you to focus more of your time and effort on the one to three major muscle groups that you most want to improve in the training block.

Okay. The next question comes from Arte 19 and they ask if nitrosa gene is beneficial. Now, nitrosa gene is a patented form of arginine and yes, it is, but it’s also no better than citrulline. Malate for improving performance and for improving blood flow for the things that we want from a citrulline or an arginine supplement.

And that’s why I have stuck with citrulline malate for legions pre workout pulse. Often, but not always, patented ingredients are no better than non patented alternatives. Often it’s just marketing. Puffery and this nitrosogene product is a good example of that. Beta alanine is another good example. The karnison product is patented, but it is no better than a high quality non patented material.

Next, we have a question from David Benevento, and he asks if high intensity cardio negatively impacts hormone levels like cortisol. No, not necessarily. But if you do too much high intensity cardio, it will cut into your weight lifting performance. It will cut into your recovery because it is hard on the body, especially if it is a high impact or if some or most of it is high impact, like just sprinting outside on pavement, for example.

So if your strength training is your priority, unless you have a good reason to prioritize. Your cardiovascular training, maybe you’re an athlete, maybe you just like to do endurance activities a lot. Maybe you compete in them, for example, but if your strength training is your priority, limit yourself to no more than one hour of high intensity cardio.

per week. And I would recommend individual sessions in the range of 20 to 30 minutes, no more than that. And try to keep it low impact, maybe biking or rowing or swimming. Okay. I am. Rady asks, what’s one thing that increases sales that newbie entrepreneurs often don’t know? That’s a good question. Well, clearly understanding Who your product or service is and isn’t for this is a really big thing.

And this is something that many entrepreneurs get wrong because they assume that their product or service is for everyone. And that is a very effective way to fail in business. Because even if you are selling toilet paper, which Technically, yes, is for just about everyone. You don’t want to try to sell your toilet paper to everyone.

You can sell to many different ones, but each of those ones, each of those segments, each of those groups of people are different, and you need to understand those differences. They have different demographics, they have different psychographics, they respond differently to different appeals. And it’s very important for you, the entrepreneur, to understand that and to understand these people, because again, you’re selling toilet paper, you could imagine landing pages and you could imagine these landing pages being very different depending on where the traffic is coming from, right?

So if one segment that, you know, you can sell your toilet paper to is moms aged 35 to 45. This income level, this education level, and these types of attitudes about, oh, I don’t know, I haven’t looked into selling toilet paper, but the feeling of the paper, like how thick and how fluffy should it be, and the value of it, how much toilet paper are you getting for your money, and maybe the materials themselves are these friendly materials, tools.

Do they have different chemicals in them or are they all natural and so on? Well, that would be one way to sell the toilet paper. And if you did a good job, you would do well with those people. But if you were to take that same messaging and show it to men aged 18 to 25, it’s probably not going to work.

Nearly as well, if at all, you probably will have to go back to the drawing board and go back through that process of understanding who these people are and what type of attitudes they have and what they’re looking for and what they don’t want and so on. So the key takeaway here is for a business to succeed, one of the first things that you have to do is you have to figure out where are you going to find your customers and how will you convince them to buy your thing rather than your competitors things.

And to do that, you have to understand how these people think and how they feel. You have to understand what it’s like to walk a mile in their shoes, at least in the context of your product or service, you have to understand what they are after, what benefits they’re after, what do they like, what do they dislike?

What do they feel is missing? What do they wish someone would do? And so on. Okay. The next question comes from anonymous. Don’t have a note here, but they ask, why is eating enough for a bulk difficult, but overeating and gaining fat just happens. That’s a good question because lean bulking does become a bit of a chore in time.

If you do it correctly. Now, what I mean by that is if you eat a lot of fairly nutritious food, and that is really how you should be lean bulking a small calorie surplus, a lot of nutritious food and a lot of accidental weight gain, though, that occurs in spurts rather than occurring through a small but steady calorie surplus of nutritious foods.

Right. Many people gain most of their fat. On the weekends and on the holidays because that’s when they eat and drink way more than they normally do for many people weekdays are maintenance calories or even maybe a slight deficit and then weekends are a large surplus and then when you zoom out a little bit you see that they follow that pattern for most of the year and then during the holiday season it is just people Carnage, it’s just a rampage of calories and alcohol, and somebody might gain five, 10 pounds of fat just over the holiday season alone, and then go back to this cycle of eating relatively well throughout the week and then eating too much on the weekends, which results in slower fat gain.

So you have this kind of slow accumulation of body fatness throughout the year. And then you have a rapid acceleration during the holiday season, rinse and repeat. Okay, next question is, I don’t have who this is from, but it is, What do I do to get back to my training because I have not gone to the gym?

Since Christmas, and so this is four or five months off my general advice for returning to training after taking time off is if you have only missed a week or two, you should be able to resume where you left off without issue. It takes several weeks of no training for most people to lose a significant amount of strength, and it takes several weeks to start losing actual muscle tissue.

If it’s only a week or two, you should be able to go right back to your normal training weights and volume. And you might have lost a rep or two on an exercise or two, but it should be pretty straightforward. But if you have missed several weeks or more, you’re going to want to reduce your training weights when you get back in the gym, good news.

And that is no matter how long it has been, and no matter how much progress you feel you have lost, you will gain it all. back quickly. You will gain it all back much faster than it took to get in the first place. So to restart your strength training after an extended break, reduce your previous training weights by about 20 percent if it has been one to two months since you last worked out by about 30 percent if it has been three to four months and by about 50 percent if it has been five to six months.

And enjoy the effects of muscle memory. Enjoy what is going to feel like a second round of newbie gains. Okay. The next question again, anonymous, but Mike weight loss stalled. When do we start reducing calories? Wait for a few more weeks. Well. Your weight loss is officially stalled when your average daily weight has not changed by any meaningful amount in two to three weeks.

So 14 to maybe 21 days, so make sure that you are tracking your average daily weight and you can do that in different ways, but an easy way is just to weigh yourself every day and then and then average that every few days. And then if your weight loss has stalled, if your average weight is the same now for two or three plus weeks, you don’t necessarily have to eat less.

Yes, it does mean almost always that you are not in a calorie deficit. It is rarely because of excess water retention. For example, it almost always is just, you’re not And.

To change that though, again, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to eat less to get an in depth answer as to what you should do. Just head over to legionathletics. com search for weight loss plateau and check out an article I wrote called how to break through weight loss plateaus in six simple steps.

All right, moving on to the next question here, which is, could it be negative for the health slash progress to eat very little fat under 30 grams per day? Yeah, that is not going to be a healthy way to eat long term, but it’s okay to do that short term when you’re cutting, for example, If you have a reason to, if you want to keep your carbs very high, for example, some bodybuilders will do that toward the end of a cutting phase, for example, because they are trying to retain every last ounce of muscle that they can, and carbs are better for that than fat.

And they are also trying to retain as much performance in the gym as they can, which, of course, then helps with the muscle retention and carbs are better for that than fat, but for most people, I don’t see a reason to go under 30 grams per day, even for Small women. I would say let’s go no lower than probably 30 or 40 grams of fat per day.

And another way to look at this is most people do best with anywhere from 20 to 30 percent of their daily calories from fat, whether they’re cutting, maintaining or Lean bulking. I have always preferred a little bit lower fat so I can keep my carbs a bit higher when cutting and I have preferred something around maybe 25 to 30 percent of daily calories from fat when maintaining and lean gaining.

Okay. The next question is, are there any benefits to taking pulse on your off days? So pulse is legion, my sports nutrition company, uh, legions pre workout. And to answer the question, no, I think you can just save pulse for your training days, assuming that you’re only off a couple of days per week. So let’s say you are off on the weekends.

And the reason for that is beta alanine needs to be used consistently. To benefit you, that said, if you do sports or cardio on your off days, you might find that pulse helps those as well. If you care about doing better cardio workouts, maybe for sports, for example. Okay. Next question. What is the best decision you’ve ever made in your life?

Question. Well, top of mind is marrying my wife, Sarah, and then not doing anything stupid enough to lose her. Number two is having kids. And that’s kids. Plural. I’m glad I didn’t stop at one. I do kind of wish that we had started a bit sooner and had more. But I have two kids for anybody listening who doesn’t know that.

And I’m happy with two. But Now having had to, I would have liked to have started a little bit sooner and maybe had three or four. Number three on my list is writing and self publishing my book, Bigger, Leaner, Stronger with no following, no connections in the industry, no marketing plan. Or budget, even I just wrote it and put it out there and it was the right book at the right time.

And if it weren’t for that, I would not be talking to you now, I would not have gone in this direction. Number four on my list is starting my sports nutrition company legion because that has helped me reach a lot more people with my educational material, I guess you could say with my writing and my podcast and that’s the stuff that really means the most.

to me. And so Legion has been a great vehicle for bringing people in via supplements and then teaching them that supplements are supplementary by definition, that you actually don’t need any supplements to reach your fitness goals. I mean, the right ones can help, but you really need to know what you’re doing in the kitchen and gym, and that’s how you are going to build muscle, lose fat, get healthy and stay that way for the rest of your life.

And the supplements can only. Help if you are doing these other things correctly and so Legion has helped a lot of people find my articles and find my podcasts and find my books who might not have found them otherwise and it has also put me in a very good place financially and it has allowed me to make good living.

Doing what I love, and it’s now reaching a level of success that represents financial freedom. I guess you could say maybe for the rest of my life, depending on where things go, Legion will do 35 to 40 million in sales this year. I think it’s a straight shot to 50 to 60 million in sales next year. And a business like that is worth 80 to 100 million.

And so at some point in the next couple of years, if I could have it my way, I would bring on a strategic partner, particularly somebody who could help us make retail and international go, because those are almost like new businesses. It’s almost like starting over from scratch. I mean, it’s not, but it really is.

A whole different game, retail and international versus e commerce. And right now we are 100 percent e commerce. So ideally in the next couple of years, I would bring on a strategic partner. Ideally somebody who really knows retail really knows international distribution and they could buy into the business, which could mean a significant liquidity event for me, as they say, and then help.

Legion grow faster. Okay, my fifth and final best decision that I’ve made so far in this lifetime, at least I’ve dropped a few key people from my inner circle who were just dead weight or worse and in a couple of cases I should have dropped them sooner and if I would have If I would have listened to some other people in my inner circle who were saying you need to get rid of this person right away Then I would be further along, I would be further along in my business, I would be further along in other goals of mine, and that’s not me trying to get sympathy or even complain, really, I accept extreme ownership of my circumstances, and I made the mistake of letting certain things go on too long, but fortunately, I did come to my senses.

And abruptly cut ties with a few people who just needed to go. Okay. Rah, Rah, Rachel 79 asks if I would consider whole meal toast, a nutritious carb or more of a treat. That’s a good question. Well, in the eyes of the scientific literature, whole grain toast counts towards your whole grain consumption. And that’s a good thing, contrary to what.

Some people would have you believe whole grains are good for you. So there’s no reason to view whole grain toast as junk or as a cheat or as a treat. You could count that toward your nutritious calories. Okay. Last question comes from Raghav. Coley, sorry if I’m mispronouncing chin ups versus pull ups, which ones are better?

Chins are better for emphasizing your biceps and pull ups are better for emphasizing your back. Well, I hope you liked this episode. I hope you found it helpful. And if you did subscribe to the show because. it makes sure that you don’t miss new episodes and it also helps me because it increases the rankings of the show a little bit which of course then makes it a little bit more easily found by other people who may like it just as much as you and if you didn’t like something about this episode or about the show in general or if you have ideas or suggestions or just Feedback to share, shoot me an email, Mike at muscle for life.

com, muscle, F O R life. com. And let me know what I could do better or just, uh, what your thoughts are about. Maybe what you’d like to see me do in the future. I read everything myself. I’m always looking for new ideas and constructive feedback. So thanks again for listening to this episode and I hope to hear from you soon.

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