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Burn The Fat Feed The Muscle Interview

Kostas Mar of Bodybuilding Applied.Com
Interviews Tom Venuto

Why did you decide to write Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle (BFFM)? Was there something missing from the fitness industry?

Itís not so much that something was missing from the fitness industry Ė all the information you need is out there. The problem is that all the info is out there in bits and pieces. No one had taken all the pieces and put them together in one place yet. Thatís part of what prompted me to create Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle (BFFM). I wanted to give to others the type of complete A to Z fat loss resource that I wish I had when I first started Ė one that didnít leave anything out and one that wasnít just a promotional vehicle for product sales.

Many authors write great and accurate material on isolated aspects of nutrition, weight loss and fitness topics, but completely miss the big picture. Itís a common flaw in most fitness and weight loss programs to pull one piece of the puzzle out of the larger picture and put that single piece up on a pedestal by itself as the ultimate secret to fat loss. Itís easy to create an entire program around one research-backed principle or one nutrient and make it look like a breakthrough.

That one piece may be an important and legitimate part of the bigger picture, but in isolation, itís ineffective. Itís kind of like trying to build a house with nothing but a hammer. Your hammer is an important and required tool, but without the rest of your tool kit, you arenít going to get much construction done.

To succeed at permanent and healthy fat loss, you canít put all the emphasis on one factor. You need a balanced and comprehensive approach with four pillars supporting your efforts: 1) Balanced nutrition with an emphasis on natural whole foods, 2) weight training, 3) cardiovascular training and 4) mental training, which includes goal setting, motivational techniques and self image modification. If any one of these pieces is missing, your chances of long term success are greatly reduced.

For example, you can be on the best diet, weight training and cardio training program in the world, but if you have a negative self image or subconscious programming providing some kind of pleasure or reward to you for staying overweight, you will sabotage yourself every time. Itís like people who stay sick because they start getting attention for the first time in their lives. On the conscious level, they want to get well, but on the subconscious level, they like the attention, so they stay sick.

What kind of results can someone expect when they start the BFFM program?

Consistent results every week...and permanent results, because this isn't a diet, it's a lifestyle! If you use the goal setting and feedback formulas I wrote about in chapters one and four of BFFM, youíll get very steady results week after week. You donít have to spend most of your time stuck at plateaus.

I recommend losing only one or two pounds per week. Some people can lose more, especially if they have a lot to lose, but whatís most important is that itís consistent every week and itís 100% body fat without lean tissue losses.

The result you want is fat loss, not weight or water loss. Fast weight loss is easy but its nothing to brag about. The faster you lose weight, the more likely you are to gain in back and the more likely you are to lose lean tissue. This is so well documented itís virtually indisputable, but almost everyone is still guilty of falling for claims like ďlose ten pounds of fat this weekendĒ or ďlose 30 pounds of fat in 30 days.Ē

If you patiently focus on slow, steady fat loss every week, youíre much more likely to succeed in the long run and thatís the goal of the BFFM program.

Are you worried that people will think you are against supplements and supplement companies?

If someone is upset because of my position on certain subjects, such as the scams I expose in weight loss and bodybuilding advertisements, or my belief that thereís too much emphasis on supplements, I could care less. Iím not going to sugar coat my opinions just to get approval from the powers that be.

Someone once called me an ďoutlaw bodybuilderĒ because Iím in the fitness and bodybuilding industry, but at the same time, I donít really want or care to be a part of the mainstream scene. It made me laugh, but I guess itís true.

There are lots of bodybuilders and fitness professionals who are very cautious not to say anything to rock the boat because they donít want to jeopardize their chances of getting sponsorship, magazine publicity or endorsement contracts. I donít want sponsorship or endorsement contracts and Iím perfectly happy keeping a low profile as long as I can still get my message out there.

I tell it like it is and I donít care what other people and other companies think about me. I also donít care if some magazines donít want to publish my articles- I can still reach people through the Internet and my newsletters.

I only care about how well Iím serving my customers and clients. If my clients are getting results, motivation and a good education, thatís what counts. If my clients and customers feel that Iím falling short somewhere, then thatís the only thing that would worry me.

What response have you had from people about the book?

The response to the book has been great and Iíve gotten positive feedback from a really diverse group of people. I know that no single program could ever be perfect for each individual, but since I avoid giving rigid prescriptions and I teach people how to customize their own diet and training programs to their goals and body types, BFFM has a very broad appeal.

Some BFFMíers were already lean and wanted to get ripped, while others had 100 or more pounds to lose. Some are 18, some are 68. Some are men, some women. Some have been training their entire lives, some have never set foot in a gym before. Some were bodybuilders, some were just casual exercisers. Some were even vegetarians. The range of people who have used the program successfully and sent in positive feedback still amazes me. It definitely isnít just for bodybuilders.

What is your opinion of the Body For Life (BFL) program and other popular diets like Atkins for example?

Body For Life is a good program. It covers all four of the pillars required for permanent fat loss: motivation, nutrition, cardio, strength training. The weakness in BFL, in my opinion, is the heavy push for supplements and dependence on powders over real food. Another drawback is the fact that itís not individualized Ė BFL gives essentially the same program for everyone.

Atkins works for a lot of people in the beginning, but in the long run it has the same pitfalls as most other diets. The failure rate after 12 months is almost as bad as any other diet. Thereís not enough emphasis on training either. My November 2003 newsletter reviewed the Atkins diet in great detail, including the new studies that came out over the past year. You can check out the entire thing in my newsletter archives on my Fitness Renaissance website at Just click on newsletter archives and check out November 2003.

As for other popular diets, I discuss many of them in BFFM, and I plan on doing reviews on some of the newer ones Like South Beach in my website articles or in upcoming issues of my monthly newsletter.

Are you planning on doing any television promotion for the book or will it just be through the internet?

Itís possible. But if I have to give up creative control or compromise my program to be in ďinfomercialĒ format, then no, youíll never see me on one of those shows.

To have a successful infomercial, you have to tell people what they want to hear, not what they need to hear. Youíve heard the saying, ďGive a person a fish and you feed them for a day, teach them to fish and you feed them for a lifetime?Ē Thatís true and thatís what I teach. The infomercial marketing people say, "Sell them the damn fish Ė you make more money that way!"

Do you consider yourself to be a fat loss guru?

Letís just say my specialty is helping people lose fat and gain muscle. All my research and self experimentation since I started training 20 years ago has been focused on learning how to lose fat more effectively. My techniques have proven themselves over and over in the real world for thousands of my clients and Iíve used the same system myself to reach a body fat as low as 3.4% naturally.

There are plenty of areas in the health and fitness field where Iím not an expert and donít ever plan to be. I think itís better to specialize than try to be a jack of all trades. For instance, I donít write programs for sports conditioning, injury rehab or fixing health problems. There are lots of skilled professionals in those areas and I just refer potential clients to the appropriate professional if I canít serve their needs best myself.

But when it comes to bodybuilding, fat loss the natural way, I know my craft as well as anyone.

What is so different about the BFFM e-book? What does it have that other diets donít?

A lot of things; I pretty much give the whole story on the website at Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle but the two things that are most different are integrity and completeness. The completeness part I already mentioned: I say this because BFFM covers all four pillars necessary for permanent fat loss.

I say integrity because Iím not scared to speak up about whatís really going on in this industry.

I also say that because thereís nothing else to sell. After you buy most diet programs, youíre then told that you have to buy a truckload of supplements, pills, bars and shakes to make the diet work. So the money is not in book sales, but in the ďback endĒ sales when they sell you all their supplements, which are re-consumable products youíre supposed to use every day for life, providing them with a never-ending stream of sales.

I have no intention of ever selling supplements as a profit center or getting involved in the supplement industry any other way. A company could stick an endorsement contract right in front of my face and I would either laugh at them or politely turn them down, depending on what I was asked to endorse.

The purpose of my BFFM program is simply to provide honest information and motivation to empower people to discover their strength within themselves, not to look outside themselves in a pill, bottle or needle.

Are you planning on writing any other nutrition or training books?

Oh yeah. I have several already in the works and even more in the planning stages. I plan on doing a new fitness book and sending it to a publisher to be published as a hard copy through bookstores, and all the traditional channels. That project might be a challenge depending on what the editors are looking for, because as I already mentioned, Iím not going to change my message just to conform to what sells the most. On the other hand, a new book like that might be a huge winner in this day and age because I like to think that the public is so sick and tired of being lied to and ripped off that theyíre ready for the unadulterated truth, even it itís not what they wanted to hear.

I plan on self publishing more e-books as well. Currently Iím working on a Q & A book series, but I canít give any details yet. Letís just say it will be unique.

Iím also working on an outline for a bodybuilding training book that is going to be written from a completely different angle than anyone has ever approached yet. Down the road, I see myself doing some writing on the subjects of motivation, behavioral change, personal growth and business success.

How much cardio do you do to achieve the amazing number of 4% bodyfat each year?

In the off season I keep doing cardio, but not a lot; usually 3 times a week 20-30 minutes for maintenance. When the pre contest ďcuttingĒ period starts, around 12 to 16 weeks out, I kick it up to 30 minutes seven days per week. Combined with the nutrition, this usually does the trick, but I adjust my cardio volume, frequency, and duration according to my actual results on a weekly basis.

If my body fat doesnít drop enough, I might increase the intensity and or the duration to 45 minutes. In the past Iíve done as much as 60 minutes per session, but for the last few competitions I rarely went over 40-45 minutes per session at moderate to moderately high intensity. Sometimes I do two shorter sessions a day, one in the early morning and one at night.

Thereís no pre-set formula; volume is always adjusted according to my results and I do as little as it takes or as much as it takes. These days I donít seem to need as much as I used to, which is probably because I stay leaner in the off season than I used to. Itís a lot easier to drop from 9% body fat to 4% than it is from 15% to 4%. Thatís because of the time factor involved. The longer youíre on a severely restricted diet, the more your metabolism slows as months go by and the less effective your diet and cardio becomes.

So what you want to do is shorten the duration of your cutting cycle by maintaining your discipline and staying leaner every year. Itís the typical amateur bodybuilder that pigs out and binges for an entire week after a show and gains a lot of fat in the off season. The pro enjoys a reward meal after a show, but takes the attitude that thereís no off season and discipline is the highest virtue.

Were you always so lean?

No way! Iím not naturally lean at all. Getting lean is hard work for me and staying lean takes constant effort on my part. If I let my training or diet slip even a little bit, my body fat shoots right up. But Iím thankful for this because I think if it were easy for me, it wouldnít have driven me to work hard, research, experiment and become so curious about the process of fat loss. And if I hadnít done that, I wouldnít be able to share what I learned with others.

If someone is naturally lean, they probably wonít be able to teach others how to get lean because they never had to struggle to learn how to do it themselves. Thatís called ďunconscious competent,Ē which is when someone can achieve a goal but they donít know how they did it. To be a good coach, you have to be ďconscious competent,Ē which means you can achieve a goal AND you know exactly how you did it so you can explain it to others.

Are you satisfied with the immense response your book has been getting from the public?

Itís a good start. Iíve received a lot of really good reviews and many of them were a surprise, because they were from people I had never met or spoken to before.

Itís nice to get good reviews and hear positive things, but Iím not so concerned about what the critics say either way as I am about how well my information is serving my customers. The testimonials and success stories keep coming in every week so thatís how I really know Iím on the right track.

Are you planning on publishing BFFM in hard copy instead of an e-book and why did you choose the e-book format instead of hard copy?

Actually the first edition of the book was only available in hard copy. It was self published and printed in 3 ring binder manual format. I sold it exclusively from my fitness renaissance ( website in that format from August 2002 to May 2003.

The problem was that only having a hard copy made it difficult for international customers. Shipping a 3 pound manual to Australia or Asia for example, costs over $20 for airmail and takes 5-7 business days, plus customs delays at times. Because of this, the majority of my customers were in the United States for that first year. The e-book makes the information available as an instant download almost anywhere in the world.

So in May last year, I set up a separate website just devoted to the e-book at Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle and I chose to handle the online orders, because their system is set up to take orders from over 100 countries. The result of putting it online was amazing. Within six months after itís release as an e-book, Burn the Fat, feed the Muscle was rated by Clickbank as the #1 fitness e-book on the Internet and orders had come in from 76 countries.

There are other advantages to an e-book and e-publishing. When you buy a book from the bookstore, if a new edition is released, you have to buy the book all over again. The e-book can be updated frequently and I can send all the updates to my customers by instant email for free. Currently Iím on the second edition and working on the third.

The Internet also lets me stay in touch with my readers through my newsletter. Everyone who purchases the e-book gets my newsletter monthly which keeps everyone updated and motivated.

Another benefit of the e-book, which I will take full advantage of in the next edition, is the unique features of digital publishing that are impossible to use in conventional publishing. In an e-book you can insert hyperlinks to other websites and resources that would be of value to your reader. If youíre reading the e-book online, you just click on the live link and youíre instantly transported to the website.

You can also use video, animated graphics, and calculators. For example, you could put a calculator in your e-book and by typing in a few variables like your age, lean body weight and activity level you get an instant report of your calorie needs. This is already in the works for the third edition due out in 2004. And who knows what new types of technology are going to come out.

Will you sell the book in different languages in the future as it becomes more popular around the world?

Iíve already been approached to have the book translated into Spanish, Italian and Arabic, but we havenít started those projects yet. Iím sure in 2004 we will move forward with foreign translations in those and in other languages. Right now Iím working out all the legal and administrative details before getting started. Iím also working on the newest edition of the book before we move forward with translating.

Since you published the BFFM e-book have you gotten any negative comments from supplement companies and their representatives? Do you get in "trouble" for being so honest?

Not at all. How can you get ďin troubleĒ for being straightforward and honest? In fact, Iíve had some very positive discussions and correspondence with supplement company owners and distributors. Those selling quality products with truthful advertising are thankful for what Iím doing. Unfortunately, they are in the minority.

Besides, Iím not against supplements, I just believe in emphasizing whole food and exercise first and supplements last. I believe in empowering people to believe in and look inside themselves, not go on a misguided quest for some type of weight loss or muscle building ďholy grail.Ē

If a supplement company makes proven, quality products that are of real benefit to their customers, and most important Ė they are honest in their advertising regarding the claims they make for those products - then thereís no reason I would make negative comments about them or vice versa.

But if a supplement company sells snake oil or uses misleading advertising and they know it, then I have no hesitation about exposing that to the public in my articles and newsletters as a consumer advocate. If they donít like that, what can they say? The people selling junk know theyíre selling junk. The FTC is probably eyeballing them too. The problem is, the FTC is notoriously slow. One hundred million dollars worth of worthless electronic ab stimulators were sold before the FTC ruled that several manufacturers of these products were making false and unsupportable claims in their advertising. The same is true with supplement sales.

How do you feel when you read people's success stories with the BFFM program?

Thatís the best part. Reading the success stories is what makes it all worthwhile. The feeling you get from helping others is the best feeling you can have. You get happiness and fulfillment in your life by losing yourself in the service of others. And if you help others to succeed and get what they want, you canít help becoming successful yourself.

This exclusive interview courtesy of Kostas Marangopolous of Bodybuilding Applied. No reproduction permitted without permission. Visit Kostasí website at (And be sure to check out the forum; Kostas has a very active, informational, and well-moderated forum).

Click here to learn more about Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle and fat loss expert Tom Venuto.

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