Review: Rob Poulos’ Fat Burning Furnace
Rob Poulos’ Fat Burning Furnace is—at the time of this writing anyway—a popular online bestseller, and is even available in several different languages. It’s not surprising therefore, that I’ve received numerous requests to review Mr. Poulos’ offering, and to put the hype surrounding the Fat Burning Furnace into perspective (since Fat Burning Furnace is retailed through the online processor ClickBank, most “unbiased” reviews are overwhelmingly positive, since the reviewer will earn a nice fat commission if you buy the product).
With that said, I plunked down my credit card, ordered the publication, rolled up my sleeves and got to work reading.
Mt first impression was of the publication itself. It’s a downloadable PDF file (I have absolutely no problem paying for them, as I’m well aware it’s the information contained within that I’m paying for, and not a few dollars worth of paper and cardboard), but it’s an incredibly plain one.
Short of the cover art, the design of this publication is about 8 years out of date. While it does lend itself to easy printing (which may have been Mr. Poulos’ intention although I don’t recall it being mentioned), I’m used to slicker and more updated designs that are easier to read on the computer.
That said, what’s the gist of the publication?”
The first two thirds of the publication is dedicated to presenting and making the argument for Mr Poulos’ training method, offering us the ability to profit from his mistakes, and to learn the “forbidden secrets” the fitness professionals don’t want you to know.
While conspiracy theories make for interesting plot twists in fiction novels, there’s nothing new or particularly special about High Intensity Training (HIT), which is what the Fat Burning Furnace advocates (see my review of Craig Ballantyne’s Turbulence Training).
When it comes to HIT for weight training, Mr. Poulos’ argument is that…
- It is incredibly time efficient, allowing for fast, productive workouts with a minimal amount of time.
- There is no evidence showing that performing more than a single set per exercise is any more beneficial than performing multiple sets. Accordingly Rob’s programs only focus on a single work set per exercise.
There are two problems with this argument…
- HIT workouts are incredibly fast and can be productive, but only when they are performed with maximum intensity. The Fat Burning Furnace is definitely a book for weight lifting beginners, and in my opinion, HIT is not ideal for beginners. As eager and enthusiastic as you may be, there is no way you can come close to working anywhere near your max on any exercise when you have no experience with weights. This takes time and practice. This does not make HIT useless for beginners, of course, but it greatly decreases its effectiveness.
- Contrary to Rob’s assertion, there IS evidence that performing multiple sets per exercise (3 in this case) is more beneficial than performing a mere single set (although much more so for lower than upper body strength). Plus, multiple sets per exercise allows the weight training beginner some critical time to learn the right form and spend some needed “practice” time with each exercise.
When it comes to HIT for aerobics, Mr. Poulos’ argument is that…
- Traditional, “moderate” intensity aerobics signals your body to “store fat” after your workout.
- Low intensity exercise can actually decrease your health, since you are always working within your existing aerobic capabilities, and never “expanding your capacity for work.” This apparently, can reduce your heart and lung’s reserve capacity, reducing their ability to fight off stresses, and can lead to various health problems.
- Heavy use of aerobics can decrease muscle mass, leading to a reduced Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) which is detrimental for weight loss.
I had to shake my head a few times and re-read this material to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating. This is pure silliness. While I’ll explain why I’m a huge fan of HIT for aerobics—even for beginners—and why traditional aerobics are not necessarily the best option for you, consider…
There is evidence (AJP – Endocrinology and Metabolism, Vol 261, Issue 2 E159-E167, Lipids Volume 35, Number 7 / July, 2000) that moderate intensity exercise (in the first case, performed at 55% VO2 max) is both effective for burning fat and maintaining fat free mass. This evidence does not support the argument that traditional aerobics “signals your body to store fat after your workout.”
The first referenced study also reported…
“… a significant increase in VO2 max.”
In other words, moderate intensity aerobic exercise does improve the heart and lungs’ ability to perform work, completely contradicting Mr. Poulos’ argument. And yes, extreme use of aerobics can have a catabolic (or muscle wasting effect), but this is an issue for marathon runners; not the average overweight individual.
I’m not picking on Mr. Poulos here. However, when an author makes statements that contradict well established truths, it’s up to that author to provide the clinical evidence that supports these new conclusions. That hasn’t been done here.
Having said that, why should you avoid “traditional aerobics” and opt for a HIT program instead?
- Traditional aerobics are tedious and boring.
- Traditional aerobics are not particularly good at elevating your RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate) much beyond the time you spend exercising.
- Traditional aerobics does not support the creation of new muscle tissue, which is a critical element of an elevated metabolism.
- HIT programs are suitable for beginners; it’s simply a matter of hopping on the treadmill, and cycling between 30-60 rest periods (where you will walk) and 30-60 high intensity periods (where you will run/jog at the highest intensity you can maintain for that time).
- In comparison, high intensity aerobics are much less tedious, are better at elevating RMR post workout, and can be accomplished in less than half the time of a “normal” cardio session.
The good news here is that for aerobics, HIT is a winner, despite the fact that most of Mr Poulos’ arguments against traditional aerobics are completely unsupported by anything remotely resembling evidence.
What about the diet element of the Fat Burning Furnace?
In many ways, it’s pretty normal stuff; eat 5-6 small meals a day, watch your calories, drink lots of water.
It’s when it comes to the nutrient ratios that things become a little more controversial.
The Fat Burning Furnace recommends a nutrient ratio of 60% unrefined complex carbs, 20-25% protein, and 15-20% healthy fats.
Regular meals are a combination of 1-2 portions of carbohydrates (in the form of unrefined grains), 1-2 portions of vegetables, and 1 portion of protein. Snacks are 1 portion of carbohydrate and 1 portion of protein.
Since vegetables are carbohydrates, I found this a little confusing. In essence, you are eating 2-4 portions of carbohydrates at every sitting.
Protein sources are to come mostly from plant sources, relying on animal protein only occasionally. And there’s another couple of outrageously silly statements to support this argument…
“…even when eating incomplete proteins only (plant sources), your body will manufacture the rest of the amino acids to fill out the complete protein profile.”
Really? Who knew?
You see, amino acids are divided into two groups; essential and non-essential aminos. The body cannot manufacture essential amino acids (that’s why they are named as such) and must obtain them from your diet. If your diet consists mostly of plant protein sources—which are not complete sources of protein, you run the risk of becoming deficient.
If you’re obtaining some protein from animal sources and protein supplements while on this diet, this is unlikely to be the case here. Regardless, it is difficult to ascribe a ton of credibility to the Fat Burning Furnace program when it contains obvious incorrect statements like this one.
“Remember, all protein comes from plants anyway, the grass fed animals just eat it, or eat another animal that did, and we end up eating them.”
Uh… what? So you shouldn’t eat beef because ultimately, it’s just reconstituted grass and plants and hay anyway? Or that beef doesn’t contain benefits beyond those provided by the plants and grass it eats? Either way, it’s a ridicuous statement.
Mr Poulos’ argues against higher protein levels, arguing, “he’s never seen any benefit” from the higher levels advocated by many trainers and the supplement industry in general.
In response to this I would say…
Personal experiences are anecdotal. They are not evidence. And while I would agree that there’s little real scientific evidence that consuming super-high levels of protein will lead to dramatic increases in athletic performance as promised by the supplement companies, there are benefits to increasing protein levels beyond what the Fat Burning Furnace advocates. For instance…
- High protein meals help burn fat by raising post-meal thermogenisis (fat burning) and resting energy expenditure (Journal of American College of Nutrition, 21(1):55-61, 2002).
- People who get a greater percentage of calories from protein (as opposed to carbohydrates), tend to lose more fat and less lean muscle (Metabolism 43(12) 1484-7,1994).
- Higher protein diets have quite consistently been shown to result in greater weight loss, greater fat loss, and preservation of lean mass as compared with “lower” protein diets.” (see Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2006 Dec;31(6):647-54).
- On low calorie (hypocaloric) diets, a high protein diet spares lean body mass and improves glucose oxidation (Metabolism. 1994 Dec;43(12):1481-7).
- Individuals on higher protein diet tend to feel more satiated and experience less hunger than those on a high carbohydrate diet (J. Nutr. 134:586-591, March 2004).
People like myself who are moderately hypoglycemic will find this to be a tough diet to stick to; a focus on carbohydrates (even good ones) keeps blood sugar levels fluctuating and can lead to cravings and hunger.
What’s the bottom line on the Fat Burning Furnace?
Well, like most diets that incorporate calorie restriction and an exercise plan, I have no doubt you’ll see results on this program —especially if you’re just beginning to exercise. And if you’re consuming fewer calories than you expend, you will lose weight, regardless of whether those calories come from fat, carbs, or protein. But high-carb diets (which is what this is) are not the easiest to stick to, and tend to be outperformed by programs that are focused on either higher protein and/or lower carb solutions. That’s what the current science shows, anyhow.
Additionally, high intensity programs—as they pertain to weight training—are not the ideal “beginner” program, for all reasons I outlined earlier (HIT cardio programs are fine). This is why they are rarely prescribed to beginners by personal trainers; not because they are so effective as to put those trainers out of a job in a few weeks.
That being said, the Fat Burning Furnace would not be my first choice as a diet plan (you can read reviews of other popular diets here!). There is some pretty good material in this publication, but there is plenty of completely unsubstantiated nonsense as well. And not a single clinical reference to validate any of the claims or comments.
Ultimately, that makes this diet really difficult to recommend. If, however, you are still interested, you can find out more on the Fat Burning Furnace here!