Day 147 (F, 110527) — Cissus and Gaming the System, Max Capacity Training Day 6

I recently had an email conversation with an old friend of mine about Cissus.  What follows is a modified transcript of our discussion, published with permission.


I am so proud of you and want you to know that have been such an inspiration to me with all your “New John for New Year” postings!  To that end, I am wondering if you can enlighten me on the reason behind using Cissus.  I have Googled the heck out of Cissus and understand that it helps the joints, pain relief, and can be used as a weight management tool.  What I can’t seem to find definitively is reason why it helps with weight. I notice you take it prior to your free meals and would love to incorporate into my program if I think it will help. (I sure would like me some crispy french fries now and again!!)

Any insight you can provide would be most welcome!!

Hey Xxxxx,

It’s great to hear from you again. =)

I don’t know the science behind Cissus as a weight loss supplement.  4HB recommends it based on Ferriss’ personal experience using it in a high-carb environment.  He discusses CQ on p. 110.

My Cheat Day Cheat Sheet lists all of the 4HB suggestions to limit the effects of eating a once-in-a-while high-carb meal.  The same chapter where he talks about CQ (“Damage Control” starting on p. 100) details why he suggests these things, including some of the science behind them.  It’s a lot to do but, if you can manage it, I believe it helps.

My problem is snacking.  All of the Damage Control stuff is centered around meals.  They don’t help as much when I eat a thousand calories or so in between planned meals. If I plan my Free Meal/Day, it works better, IME.

I get my CQ on eBay. I can usually find it for about $30 with free shipping (about half the price from GNC or other vitamin stores).

I go through a bit more than 1/month right now because I try to take some with every meal, Free or not.  If you only use it for Free Meals/Days, one bottle should last quite a while.

I think that when my current supply runs out, about the same time all my supplements run out (PAGG, CQ, greens, cinnamon), I am going to focus on diet and exercise, without these supplements.  I’ll try that for a month or so and see how it works.*

For $30, it seems worth the experiment to me.  I say go for it and see how you feel and what results you get.  If you do, try using the whole battery of Damage Control hacks each time you take a free meal and use your CQ.  IME, they work better in combination than just using the CQ alone.

Thank you for the insight!  I definitely think I am going to by some CQ. Even if I don’t see any actual weight loss results, it actually seems like a fairly decent supplement in general so I figure it can’t hurt!  I loved your cheat sheet and the notion of grapefruit juice and 60-90 seconds of exercise prior to a big meal. Consider it added to my program!

I’ve actually been doing well on my “lifestyle change.” (…isn’t “diet” a BAD word?! ;P)  I have lost 23 pounds since March 3. Basically I have been sticking to a straight 1,200 calorie diet (eaten over six small meals a day) with a ratio of 150 grams of carbs, 26 grams of fat, and 90 grams of protein.  It was a pain to get it all figured out for a while, but now I have things down to a science.  I also do 20-minute interval training every day via Jillian Michael’s 30-Day Shred DVD.  (A bit like your Max Capacity training – lots of lunges, planks, push-ups, weights and cardio blasts)

….The weight just caught up with me as I grew older and when I realized that I got up to the weight I was when I gave birth to [my daughter] – I had that “aha” moment!!  I entered all the foods I ate and realized how grossly inflated all the numbers were in terms of my carbs, sugar, fat, etc!

I noticed that you were posting your journey and thought I could start a journey too!  I did some research and came across the Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle e-book by Tom Venuto and it really opened my eyes to the entire theory of weight loss. Calories In vs. Calories Out.  (Novel idea, huh?!  Who knew!!)  So, I began watching my calories (cutting out my daily VENTI Starbucks hot chocolate!! -weep) and actually…wait for it…EXERCISING!

Anyway, sorry to bore you with all the details…

I like to hear about how things are going for you.  It’s interesting, not boring. =)

I can definitely relate to the “re-learning to shop” phase . . . I did that a few years ago on Weight Watchers and then Atkins.  Now I can glance at most labels and evaluate them within one or two seconds.

And I’m glad I could be part of the inspiration for you to get healthier.  Very cool.  I do my blog mostly to keep myself honest and have a public record of what I am thinking and doing, but this sort of thing really helps me stay committed to keep it going. =)

It’s cool that you’ve found a system which works for you.  While I prefer a high-protein-low-carb / no-calorie-counting approach like Atkins or 4HB, if the Venuto program is effective for you, I have absolutely nothing bad to say about it.  Finding what works is much more important that which thing it is that works.

Heck, if you wanted to eat an all broccoli, beans, and sauerkraut diet and it worked, I’d cheer for that, too (though I may not stand downwind in that case ;-)).

For me, exercise makes me healthier and more fit, but it seems to do little to help me lose weight; diet is much more important for my fat loss.  Not to denigrate exercise – I want to be healthier and more fit – but I have learned not to count on it to drop pounds.

(Remember this past week with more exercise than ever and a gain of 5+ pounds?  Water weight or not, it was still a significant gain after so much running and working out.)

Two things you may want to consider:

1. For me, CQ sometimes causes – um, how to say this delicately? – an increase in potent gastrointestinal gasses.  That’s not always a big deal, but it is the sort of thing that can be embarrassing in public if you don’t know it’s coming.  YMMV.

2. Be careful about using CQ to “game the system.”  Whenever I start using things outside my regular program (a tendency which has happened all too frequently through the years), I almost always stall after starting them.

Looking back, hindsight allows me to see that I was looking for ways to get around the restrictions the diet used to promote my weight loss.  I was, in effect, trying to get around the limits of the system and to return to eating habits which more closely resembled my free-for-all dietary past.  The subsequent plateau almost always ended when I “got back to basics” and quit trying to game the system while still pretending to be using the system.

Your motivation and experience may certainly be different from mine . . . and the CQ may work well for you and let you add a Free Meal or two without adverse effects.

What I am saying is that the 4HB program specifically counts on and encourages a Free Day and these Damage Control hacks. If Venuto’s system does not have something similar, please be careful how you add in an extra-calorie meal, even with the CQ and other Damage Control techniques. I’d rather inspire you to further weight loss than contribute to losing a month’s worth of progress through encouraging bad habits.

You certainly know the diet mindset because I will surely have to be careful not to use CQ as an excuse to go crazy!!  I definitely would need to keep myself on task and not think of it as a way to eat an all-out, last-day-of-my-life feast!  (Which, speaking of, did you not – in that little unhealthy part of your brain – figure that if the “Rapture” was indeed going to happen [not that either of us really believed it would], you might as well binge like crazy?!  I must admit it passed my mind!!)

When I have taken cheat (free) meals, I usually do so within the confines of my calorie allotment.  What ends up being messed up is my macro-nutrient ratio for the day (usually on the more fat and carbs end of things!)  I’ll admit to having a moment like yours where my cheat (free) meal served a good reminder to why I am eating healthy now [link added]!  I felt so tired and bloated after downing a hamburger and fries a couple of weeks ago!  So wasn’t worth it!  I try to maintain portion control and remind myself that “food is fuel.”

I have to say that so far my experience with exercise is that it seems to have helped me lose inches. But, it is hard to say if that is truly the result of exercise since I started following a restrictive caloric intake at the same time I started exercising.  Venuto isn’t a fan of long periods of “steady-state” cardio because he believes more in the concept of building lean muscle to speed your body’s metabolism and burn fat. Yes, he values cardio, but says that doing it for hours on end ultimately doesn’t serve any purpose. (I forget his exact rationale.)  I basically get my cardio though the 2-minute bursts of my DVD workout, and through a daily 2-mile walk (albeit brisk) that I take with my dog.  I prob could push myself more but haven’t yet been able to get my motivation on!!  Don’t you worry, I’ll def keep you posted if I plan on running to Dallas anytime soon! 


I’ll post The results of Max Capacity Training, Day 6: after I complete it this evening.

  • Squat-touch-reach: 11
  • Reverse Lunge: 10
  • Drop Squat: 12
  • Plank: 20
Round Squat-Touch-Reach
Reverse Lunge
Drop Squat Plank
1 11 10 12 20
2 12 10 12 20
3 12 10 12 20
4 12 10 12 20
5 11 10 12 20
6 11 10 12 20
7 12 10 14 20
8 11 10 12 20
TOTALS 92 80

Think you can do better? Take the challenge, do the workout, post your results…


* I’ll still use protein powder/BCAAs around workouts or for a breakfast meal replacement, though.  They are just extra boosts of normal body resources rather than added plant extracts meant to change how the body works so I don’t put them in the same category as things like PAGG or CQ.

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