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I’ve churned through over 100,000 emails, social media comments and messages, and blog comments in the last 6 years.

As you can imagine, some questions pop up more often than others, and I thought it might be helpful to take a little time every month to choose a few and record and share my answers.

So, in this round, I answer the following three questions:

  1. What’s the best weightlifting program for natural bodybuilding?
  2. Is cryotherapy a good way to boost post-workout recovery?
  3. How many calories should I eat to lose weight?  

If you have a question you’d like me to answer, leave a comment below or if you want a faster response, send an email to [email protected].

Recommended reading for this episode:

Episode Transcript:

[00:00:07] Hey, Mike Matthews here from Muscle For Life and Legion Athletics. And in this episode, I am going to do something new, something that I’m going to do every month, and that is answer questions, do a Q&A. You see, I have churned through over one hundred thousand emails, social media comments and messages and blog comments.

I mean, you really put that all together. I mean, it’s over one hundred thousand emails sent and received in my inbox alone. So, yeah, it might be upward of 150,000. But anyways, I’ve gone through a lot of communication in the last six years or so, and as you can imagine, some questions tend to pop up more often than others.

And they change too, depending on how the overall discussions in the health and fitness space are changing. There are some evergreen ones which we’re going to get to. Two of the questions in today’s episode are just going to be evergreen, but then one is a bit more topical, something that people are talking about these days.

And so I thought it would be helpful if I took some time every month and chose a few questions and then shared my answers. So that’s what we’re going to do here.


[00:01:15] And in this round, I answer three questions. One is, what is the best weightlifting program for natural bodybuilding? Evergreen, of course, something that I’ve been asked since day one and probably will be asked for the rest of my life. The second question, is cryotherapy a good way to boost post-workout recovery?

Cryo and cold exposure, in general, are pretty popular these days, still very topical. And so I thought I’d be a good one. And then number three, how many calories should I eat to lose weight? Evergreen and on many people’s minds.


[00:03:14] Welcome to another video podcast. And in case you’re wondering or have wondered why I call these videos that I do video podcasts. The reason is I post the videos to my YouTube channel and then I post the audio of the videos to my podcast. Which, in case you didn’t know, I do have a podcast. And if you want to learn more about the podcast, just head over to

So anyway, in this video podcast, I’m going to change things up a little bit and do something that many people have been asking me to do, and that is to do a simple reader/follower Q&A, where I answer questions that people have asked me via social media email and so on. And I’m going to do one of these Q&A’s a month.

So if you want to get one of your questions answered on the YouTube channel/podcast, simply ask it. However, you best like to communicate. You could again, you could put it as a comment down below in this video or other videos. Obviously, I can only get to so many YouTube comments, but there’s a chance that yours will get seen. And in many cases, I will try to answer the question right there.

And if it’s a question that I also think would be worth answering publicly, I would make a note. So you don’t necessarily have to wait until the, you know, next month or who knows how many months of videos would go by before your question would be featured? Often you can get an answer fairly quickly. The best way to get answers, just so everybody knows, is email, [email protected].

That is the most efficient way for me to communicate with as many people as possible. And so, anyway, the point is, send your questions along and I will do my best to answer them. And as I am going through answering questions, I’m also going to be cherry-picking ones, again, that I think will be productive to answer publicly.


[00:05:08] Okay, so let’s go to the first question. I don’t have a note as to where this question came from, but I’m going to start paying attention to that going forward. I believe this came from Instagram, but I don’t have the user name. However, I am going to start noting this stuff down, so people will also get shoutouts on my YouTube channel, my podcast.


[00:05:25] So the question is, what is the best natural bodybuilding program? And I like that question because while it sounds simplistic and it sounds kind of like a newbie question, it’s actually not. It’s a question that many intermediate and even advanced weightlifters ask me fairly often.


[00:05:41] And so my answer is the best natural bodybuilding program, first and foremost, is going to be one that you can stick to over the long term. And that means it’s going to be one that you enjoy, that fits your lifestyle, and is designed around your personal goals. Now, there is a caveat there, though. It needs to be one you can stick to, but then it also should be designed around certain non-negotiable principles related to muscle building in strength gain.


[00:06:16] Now, what I mean by that is, we know, for example, that mechanical tension is the primary mechanical driver of muscle growth. Mechanical tension is more important than cellular fatigue and it’s more important than muscle damage. So you’re going to want a program that acknowledges that and therefore maximizes mechanical tension over time. Otherwise known as progressive overload. Which is simply increasing the amount of mechanical tension produced by your muscles over time. And, of course, the most effective way to do that is to add weight to the bar over time, to get stronger over time.


[00:06:56] So to that point, then, a well-designed natural bodybuilding program will have some sort of progression model built into it. It will, over time, challenge you to go from lighter weights to heavier weights within whatever rep ranges you are working in.


[00:07:15] So progressive overload emphasizing mechanical tension non-negotiable. A good bodybuilding program is going to be built around progressive overload and mechanical tension, regardless of training, frequency or volume or intensity. However, rep Ranges, which I just mentioned, that’s an example of a negotiable point. You can gain muscle and strength in a variety of rep ranges.

There is a point where you get too high and it becomes very impractical. For example, I would say anything over 12 to probably 15 reps gets pretty impractical, especially with compound exercises. And the reason for that is: you’re going to have to be taking most of your sets close to technical failure.

And that is very hard to do if you are working in high rep ranges. It’s very hard to do because it’s very painful. It’s terrible. For example, just try doing a 20 rep squat, barbell squat, and try ending within two or three reps of technical failure. You know, with two or three reps left in the tank. Good luck.


[00:08:15] That said, though, you can do quite well in bodybuilding, working in a variety of rep ranges, and it’s hard to say that there’s one single rep range that is best if we’re talking about anything ranging from, let’s say, the three to five rep range to the 10 to 12, or 12 to 15 rep range.


[00:08:33] And a couple other points that I feel are worth mentioning. Now, if we’re talking non-negotiables for best bodybuilding, best natural bodybuilding programs, such a program is going to have you train each major muscle group once every three to five days and is going to emphasize compound exercises, multi-joint exercises that involve multiple major muscle groups over isolation, which are single joint, mostly just relying on one major muscle group.


[00:09:47] Okay, next question. What’s your opinion on cryotherapy, splurge or save your money? I would say save your money unless you don’t care about the cost unless you have enough money that the cost doesn’t matter. But even in that case, I actually wouldn’t recommend it as a regular thing if you are also trying to build muscle or gain strength as quickly as possible. 


[00:10:11] And the reason why I am not an enthusiastic supporter of it is: it’s not going to make much of a difference. I mean, there is some evidence that it can reduce muscle soreness a little bit if you do it after workouts and it might be able to speed up recovery a little bit. However, there are a number of studies that show that cold water immersion, like taking an ice-cold bath, is much more effective and free.


[00:10:38] Now, the reason why I wouldn’t recommend cryotherapy or cold water immersion as a regular thing if you are trying to gain muscle or strength as quickly as possible, is by blunting the post-workout inflammation that occurs in the body, you are also going to blunt muscle growth over time because that response is part of the muscle-building process. 


[00:11:01] And that’s been shown in research as well. It’s not just some hypothesis. And it’s also worth mentioning that one study showed that simply taking a 10-minute walk after exercise was just as effective for promoting faster recovery as cold water immersion.


[00:11:17] And as someone who has been taking cold showers almost daily for a year and a half now, simply because I kind of enjoy it, it helps wake me up in the morning. I know there are no real physiological benefits because it’s not extreme enough, basically. Even I would rather just go take the walk than do the cold water immersion because, for those of you who don’t know, true cold water immersion is intense.

You’re talking about a bathtub of water at about 50 degrees, give or take a few degrees. I think it’s like 50 to 55 degrees is probably the normal range. And then you’re talking about 10 minutes of immersion up to your neck. That rough. So, yeah, if I can just take a 10-minute walk and get the same recovery benefits as the ice bath, I’ll take the walk.


[00:12:06] Now, we also know, thanks to a few studies, that cold water immersion is more effective for promoting faster recovery than whole body cryotherapy. So while we don’t have a study that I know of that compares just a 10-minute walk to whole body cryotherapy, it is reasonable to assume that the walk would be probably more effective. And once again, I’d rather just go for a walk than do a cryo session or pay for a cryo session.


[00:12:34] Okay, next question. My friend says to lose weight, I should be eating no more than 1,200 calories per day, how do I know this is the right amount of calories for me? And the reason why I wanted to answer this question publicly is twofold. First, to address the idea that a certain number of calories is always too low for some people and this is usually among women.

And so what you’ll have is: you’ll have, let’s say, a woman who’s smaller, she’s petite and weighs 130 pounds. Right? Her body fat percentage, let’s say, is 25, 26 percent. She wants to get down to 20 percent. Nothing wrong with that, nothing unhealthy about that. But because she has a small body and doesn’t have very much muscle, even if she is kind of muscular, there’s still, in an absolute sense, not going to be much muscle there because she’s small.

And because she is probably not spending 10 plus hours a week in the gym, she has to eat what sounds like a pretty low number of calories every day to consistently lose weight and lose fat. Now, for that person, it maybe 1,200 calories. She might be able to eat a bit more, but it would probably range from 1,200 to maybe 1,500 calories per day. Again, depending on her basal metabolic rate, which is a bit of genetics is in play there, as well as body composition. And then, of course, there’s physical activity level.


[00:13:56] Now my point is: some people would hear that – let’s just say it’s 1,300 calories,  that’s the number that allows her to lose a half a pound a week, let’s say. To maybe three quarters a pound a week in the beginning. Some you would hear that and they would say, “oh, those are poverty calories, poverty macros.

You should never have to eat fewer than 1,500 calories a day to lose weight. Starvation, dieting,” blah, blah, blah. No, they’re wrong. Some people, especially small people who don’t have a lot of muscle and who aren’t tremendously active, they don’t get to eat very many calories when they want to lose weight.

And even if they’re just shooting for the standard, you know, about one percent, about a half a percent to one percent of your body weight per week. For some women, that does mean eating 1,300, 1,400 calories per day. Whereas others who are larger or more active or who just have naturally higher metabolisms, they may be able to eat 1,600, 1,700, 1,800 calories a day and lose the same amount of weight.


[00:14:54] So that was the first reason why I want to answer that question just to make that point, that 1,200 calories is not necessarily off-limits just because it sounds like a low number. And the second point is just, okay, how to determine how many calories you should be eating to lose weight.


[00:15:10] First, I’m going to mention that I have an article that you may like over at If you search for “calories”, you will find it. It’s titled something along the lines of “How to Know How Many Calories You Should Eat Every Day” and has a calculator and stuff. So you may want to go over there.

But I wanted to say here, that for most people, this is equally applicable to men and women, cutting calories are going to be around 10 to 12 calories per pound of body weight per day. And so that’s a simple rule of thumb that you can use to set up your own cuts if you want to just keep it simple. You could start at 12 calories per pound of body weight per day and see how it goes.

Adjust accordingly. And it’s also good for judging advice that other people are giving you. So if somebody is telling you to eat 15 calories per pound of body weight per day when cutting, it’s not going to work. Unless you are tremendously, tremendously active, it’s not going to work.

And on the other hand, if somebody is telling you to eat seven or eight calories per pound of body weight per day to cut, that’s unnecessary. That would be starvation, dieting. That’s where I would even say: nobody needs to go that low.

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