Unconventional Bodybuilding (Pt.3)

Here are the final two pieces of conventional bodybuilding wisdom that will prevent you from realizing your best physique.

Unless you decide to take the unconventional road.

#4 – You Need to Use a lot of Supplements

I guess that depends on what you define as “a lot”.  Personally, I use protein powders, take a Shaklee Vitalizer pack (multi-vitamin, Omegas, probiotic, and B vitamins), and creatine and BCAA’s during my competition prep.  For a pre-workout shot of energy I typically drink a bold black coffee or I’ll use a pre-workout drink if my friend Rich Fitter has sent me any samples of the latest and greatest.

Whey protein powder, supplements, bodybuilding

The truth is, many top natural bodybuilders (not that I’m one of them) don’t take many supplements.  Most use what would be considered “the essentials” which is essentially what I outlined above.  But of course there are those that do consume virtually anything found on a supplement stores shelf if they think it will add an inkling of more muscle or burn more fat.

protein powder. Supplements for bodybuilders

More often than not, those with the best grasp on their training and nutrition utilize far fewer supplements than individuals that do not.  The conventional—and outright stupid—outlook on supplements is that results can be found in a pill or powder.

As the lyrics from Survivor’s song in Rocky IV so eloquently points out, “There’s no easy way out…there’s no shortcuts home”.

Unconventional bodybuilding would have you thinking and acting like a researcher or scientist.  And like any great researcher you need to control for as many variables as possible before introducing a new one.  That means spending months if not years getting your diet and training dialed-in so that if some new revolutionary supplement is added to the mix you can know for sure whether or not it actually made a difference.

#5 – You Have to Dehydrate to Show More Muscle Definition

This might be THE most misunderstood aspects of bodybuilding even for seasoned bodybuilders.

Answer this question for me: How much of your muscle is made up of water?

That’s right, 75%.  When you deprive or deplete yourself of water the first place the water leaves is the muscles.  Not underneath the skin like most broscience knuckleheads think.

I’ll tell you in a moment the unconventional method for getting water out from under the skin and it doesn’t require the use of diuretics.

But first…

Water makes up three quarters of our muscles size so our goal is to keep as much water in the muscles as we can.

Water, bodybuilding, supplements

The way to regulate water inside and outside the cells is through carbohydrates and sodium/potassium balance.

Each gram of stored carbohydrate holds 2.7 grams of water.  That means the higher the concentration of glucose in a muscle the larger or more fuller that muscle will appear as a consequence of holding more water inside of it.

This is why people who undertake a very low carb diet find their muscles looking flat or have difficulty sustaining a good pump when they train. Without a high concentration of glycogen in the muscles, water has nothing to latch onto.

However this doesn’t mean you can consume copious amounts of carbohydrates either.  The muscles can only hold a certain amount of glucose at any one time.  Exactly how much depends on your body type, muscular size, metabolic rate, activity level, training demands, and what you are accustomed to.

bodybuilding, carbohydrates, supplements

If more glucose is present than what the muscles can store, water now has no place to reside within the muscles so it winds up outside of the cells and underneath the skin.  This situation is commonly referred to as “spill-over” and is a bodybuilder’s biggest fear and the reason they erroneously cut their water intake days prior to competition.

The unconventional approach to carbohydrate intake.

A good starting point is 1.25-1.75g/lb. of fat free mass.  Those who are highly active, have a high metabolic rate, are insulin sensitive, or find their muscles appearing “flat” will need to adjust their carbohydrates higher.  However it is best to methodically make these increases so as to determine the ideal amount for maintaining fullness without spillover.

The other regulating factor in achieving the cellophane skin look is sodium and potassium.

Sodium regulates extracellular fluid activity.  Potassium is responsible for controlling intracellular fluid activity.

Salt shaker

What does conventional bodybuilding logic say?  Drop your sodium so you hold less subcutaneous water, and if you really want to hit a home run pop some potassium pills!!!

When sodium is too low it signals the release of the hormone Aldosterone which causes the body to reabsorb and prevent the excretion of sodium which then results in water retention OUTSIDE THE CELLS!  The more sodium is decreased the more Aldosterone is released and the smoother and more waterlogged the muscles begin looking.

The secret unconventional approach to subcutaneous water excretion is (drum roll please)….

Keep your water intake as high as possible (at least 1 – 1.5 ounces per pound of bodyweight) and keep sodium and potassium intake…NORMAL.

  • 1,500-4,500 mg Na
  • 1,500-2,000 mg K

That’s the secret recipe.  It’s not a trick, it’s not magic.  It is a predictable approach that will leave you looking as tight as a pair of skinny jeans on a Hipster.  Presuming you are lean enough.

That’s right, none of this will make any sort of a difference unless your body-fat is low enough to where you already have significant muscle definition.  Put simply, unless you have shredded shoulders, separation in your quads, or something that at least resembles six pack abs, all the manipulation of water, Na, K, and carbs won’t give you these things.


By and large bodybuilding is an illusion.  But it’s an illusion that’s created by being as lean as possible while retaining as much muscle as possible while at your leanest.  As mentioned at the very start of this series, you don’t simply grow into the incredibly shredded and jacked condition of a bodybuilder.   It’s an endeavor that takes time, patience, and the willingness to turn your back on the herd mentality and take the unconventional approach.

Since we opened this series with a quote I figured we should close with on as well.

When you’re used to being prepared to reject conventional wisdom, it leaves you open to learn more.
– Mayim Bialik

Unconventional Bodybuilding (Pt.2)

Continuing on with our look at the misinformation and misunderstandings tied to conventional bodybuilding wisdom and offering better (unconventional) alternatives.

#2 – You Should Not Eat too Many Carbs, But Should Consume a lot of Protein.


Despite being disproved time and time again, the belief that carbs make you fat has stuck around like gum under a middle-schoolers desk.

carbohydrates, high carb, low protein, low fat, diet

In my favorite aisle in the supermarket…the cereal aisle!

This is a deep topic that deserves its own attention so I am going to avoid going into extensive detail.  I’ll just summarize why if anything you want to be carb heavy for the purpose of achieving the lean muscular look of a bodybuilder.  But first, let’s address protein.

Based on an extensive amount of research protein intake for someone who resistance trains or performs high intensity exercise need to only be 1.6 – 2.4g/kg of fat free mass.(1-6)   Or for those of you that eschew the metric system, around 1 gram per pound of lean body mass.  That means a 180lb. male with 10% body-fat would only need approximately 162g protein per day (even if in a caloric deficit).

Why high carb?

  • Because carbs are protein sparing.  In the absence of carbohydrates or low glycogen levels amino acids are called upon to do “double-duty” and supply energy needs.  This is very inefficient and leaves fewer to perform their primary job of repairing and building muscle tissue.
  • They along with ATP are the muscles primary source of energy for forceful muscle contractions.  Low carb diets leave little immediate energy available for intense anaerobic exercise.7
  • Carbs combined with water is what gives our muscles their fullness and hard appearance (more on this in Pt.3).

#3 – You Must do Cardio to get Shredded

I’ll do anything but cardio!


I am not saying to avoid it if you enjoy it. Or that it can’t assist in fat-loss—especially if you do HIIT or some form of high intensity cardio.8, 9  But the notion that 30-60 minutes of aerobic exercise several times a week to get bodybuilder lean is nonsense.

Thermogenesis is the name of the game and the caloric expenditure needed to trigger can be achieved through exercise or nutrition.  But really, it’s all about nutrition.  You can do cardio to help put you in a caloric deficit or you can choose to consume less calories.  Skip on the four Oreo cookies and you just saved yourself 30 minutes on the elliptical.  I know which option I’m going with!

There’s only a few reasons I’ve come across why some people must absolutely implement cardio to assist with fat-loss:

  1. Flat Ass Syndrome – Nope, it has nothing to do with developing glutes to rival Jen Selter. This is all about the terrible scenario that plagues millions of people which is extreme inactivity and sedentary work.  Put another way, people basically sit on their ass allllllllllll day.  They go to work by sitting on their ass in a car or on a train.  They get to work and sit on their ass in front of a computer for 8-10 hours.  They go home the same way came into work…sitting on their ass.  And then when they get home they sit their ass in front of a television while checking Twitter updates on a tablet. If this resembles your life in some way, shape or form then a little cardio might be necessary to.
  2. Diet is inadequate – Meaning they just have not touched on the proper distribution of calories and macronutrients to make fat-loss consistent or they have not allotted enough TIME to lose the necessary amount of BF.  The latter is very problematic for those competing in bodybuilding or any type of physique contest because the harder one needs to push their diet and exercise to meet a deadline the more susceptible they become to muscle loss.The negative impact is twofold. First, even if you reach your desired weight or degree of leanness you will not look your best.  Second, you will have suppressed your metabolism making it harder to lose more body-fat and easier to regain body-fat.
  3. Metabolic Kick-start – Sometimes you can do everything right and the G.A.S. (General Adaptation Syndrome) goes and spoils it all.  The more easily your body adapts to your diet the tougher it becomes to keep your metabolism elevated.  Adding some HIIT or any form of higher intensity cardio can help provide a different stimulus to cause a metabolic response.

#4 – You Need to Use a lot of Supplements

That depends on what you define as “a lot”.  I personally use protein powder, Shaklee Vitalizer, and creatine and some BCAA’s during competition prep.  That’s pretty much it.

My pre-workout is typically a cup of black coffee or if Rich Fitter hooks me up with some pre-workout samples I might use that for a shot of energy instead.

The truth is, while natural bodybuilders are probably the largest consumer of supplements many of the top natural bodybuilders in the world don’t take all that many.  Things such as protein powders, multi-vitamins, Omega’s, creatine, and BCAA’s are pretty standard but beyond that most everything else tends to be unnecessary if your nutrition and training is on point.


  1. Garthe I, Raastad T, Refsnes PE, Koivisto A, Sundgot-Borgen J. Effect of two different weight-loss rates on body composition and strength and power-related performance in elite athletes. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2011 Apr;21(2):97-104.
  2. Mettler S, Mitchell N, Tipton KD. Increased protein intake reduces lean body
    mass loss during weight loss in athletes. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 2010; 42(2), 326-337.
  3. Pasiakos SM, Cao JJ, Margolis LM, Sauter ER, Whigham LD, McClung JP, Rood JC, Carbone JW, Combs GF Jr, Young AJ. Effects of high-protein diets on fat-free mass and muscle protein synthesis following weight loss: a randomized controlled trial. FASEB J. 2013 Jun 5.
  4. Phillips SM, Moore DR, Tang JE. A critical examination of dietary protein requirements, benefits, and excesses in athletes. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2007 Aug;17 Suppl:S58-76.
  5. Helms ER, Zinn C, Rowlands DS, Brown SR A systematic review of dietary protein during caloric restriction in resistance trained lean athletes: a case for higher intakes. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2014 Apr;24(2):127-38. doi: 10.1123/ijsnem.2013-0054. Epub 2013 Oct 2.
  6. http://suppversity.blogspot.de/2013/06/evidence-from-metabolic-ward-16-24gkg.html
  7. Couto PG, Bertuzzi R, de Souza CC, Lima HM, Kiss MA, de Oliveira FR, Lima-Silva AE. High-CHO Diet Induces Faster Final Sprint and Overall 10,000 m Times of Young Runners. Pediatr Exerc Sci. 2015 Apr 22. [Epub ahead of print]
  8. Falcone PH, Tai CY, Carson LR, Joy JM, Mosman MM, McCann TR, Crona KP, Kim MP, Moon JR. Caloric expenditure of aerobic, resistance, or combined high-intensity interval training using a hydraulic resistance system in healthy men. J Strength Cond Res. 2015 Mar;29(3):779-85. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000661.
  9. Greer BK, Sirithienthad P, Moffatt RJ, Marcello RT, Panton LB. EPOC Comparison Between Isocaloric Bouts of Steady-State Aerobic, Intermittent Aerobic, and Resistance Training. Res Q Exerc Sport. 2015 Feb 12:1-6. [Epub ahead of print]

The Least Understood Stage of Fat-Loss

fat-loss, body-fat, natural bodybuildingWe all recognize that on some level fat-loss is more of a mental challenge than a physical one.  Typically, if you follow a plan you lose body-fat.  The trouble is following the plan.

One of the stumbling blocks that I haven’t heard any coaches or nutritionists talk about (which doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been talked about) that is common among nearly every individual—natural bodybuilder or every day Jane—is best summarized by a recent conversation I had with a female client who is prepping for her first natural bodybuilding contest.

She’s made incredible strides with fat-loss in the past 5 months.  But despite being her all-time leanest and extremely well defined by competition standards she said, “My body looked better when I was a few pounds heavier.” 

Similarly I’ve been told the same from non-bodybuilding clients who although overweight, reached a certain point in their fat-loss where their body looked—for lack of a better term—“awkward”, compared to being just a few pounds heavier.  Mind you they were still overweight at this point.

And I’ve noticed the same of myself during competition prep.  There typically comes a time early on in my prep when despite being leaner I’m not lean in the areas I need it most resulting in that “awkward” appearance.

This is a critical juncture for anyone losing weight because when you’re at this stage it is very easy to abandon what you’re doing.

I mean heck, if you don’t look as good as you did just a couple of pounds heavier, why keep pushing to lose more, right?

However this is the time when you have to ignore the mirror and keep pushing forward.  It’s an unfortunate fact that we lose body-fat indiscriminately.

You don’t get to pick and choose where fat comes off first.  And even more unfortunately, where you want it to come off most is usually where it comes off last.  This is the real culprit and reason for the disproportionate appearance being discussed.

So what’s the point?

The point is, don’t quit!

Don’t allow a momentary inconvenience or displeasure with your appearance prevent you from attaining the physique you desire most.  Celebrate this stage in your fat-loss because it indicates what you really want is right around the corner.

Fitness Professionals in MLM = Not Professional?

I’m stepping away from my usual blog posts about the art of muscle and strength science for a moment to address something that has become a burning itch under my skin.  I’m sure I’ll lose a few of my fitness professional friends over this one, but that’s okay.  And I’m sure I’ll make a few new friends as a result of this, and that’s okay too.

My purpose here is not to rearrange my “friends” list but to explain why I and many others in the health and fitness arena choose to align with MLM (multi-level marketing) companies that produce health and wellness products.

Several times I’ve heard fitness professionals and personal trainers—some of whom I respect immensely—make a statement along the lines of, “If you’re involved in an MLM you should not even call yourself a fitness professional.”

Okay…well…I’m going to challenge that attitude.  And I’m well equipped to because that was my stance for the first fourteen years of my fitness career.  (The past two years have decimated those beliefs.)

On the most primitive level you don’t like MLM’s because you don’t understand them.

And you don’t understand them because you’ve never been involved in one.  Or you had a bad experience with an MLM and feel like you got “burned”.

You think you know how they work but how could you—you’ve never been involved in one.  You only have your perception of what an MLM is and how it works.  That, combined with the bullet points from what others have told you, leads to your baseless belief that “It’s a scam.  It’s a get rich quick scheme.”

I know all the reasons Fitness Professionals think MLM’s are “Unprofessional”.

  • Low-barrier of entry.
  • People in MLM’s are not qualified professionals.
  • It’s a sales job and you don’t like “selling”.
  • It’s a pyramid that preys on people.
  • If the products are so good then why are they not in stores?
  • You can’t make any real money.

I will not dispute that there is some legitimacy to the above claims.  After all, the first thing that turned you off was that your Aunt Debbie started her MLM business in the amount of time it takes you to walk to your mailbox.  Barrier to entry is low.  One needs to be willing to part with a few hundred dollars and start buying the products and voila, you’re in business.

Which leads into one of the primary reasons you despise MLM’s.

You don’t respect anyone who’s not a trainer or fitness professional by trade talking to people about products to improve their health, lose weight or help prevent disease.

“They’re not qualified!” you’ll cry.

And yet half the personal trainers with this nose in the air attitude became trainers following a ridiculously easy online or weekend certification course.  Talk about a profession with a low-barrier of entry—look who’s calling the kettle black.

But if you are one of those that had to work hard to earn your credentials, and consider yourself in the top 20% of trainers, you would actually admire what the top 20% of MLM people do to get where they are.  (It’s not all about getting people to join. More on this later.)

Let’s peel back the layers on the “qualification” issue.  I’ll start by asking, you, my fitness professional brethren a question:  When was the last time you recommended a supplement or suggested an approach to nutrition after reading a few articles, research papers, or books?

Don’t say you’ve never done it.  Truth is, unless you’re a licensed nutritionist, dietetic, or have a background in nutritional biochemistry you are no more qualified than anyone else to educate others on these topics.

But because you investigate these topics and learn from reliable resources that have extensive insight and knowledge, you feel confident in your ability to pass along the information.  You guide people to what you think is best for them—and there’s nothing wrong with it.  As long as it’s you doing it, or those you think have the right to.

(Keep in mind, there’s someone out there smarter and more versed than you who thinks you have no right to educate people.  …Just saying.)

Science and education are what you’re looking for, right?

I can’t speak for every MLM but Shaklee (whom my wife and I have been partnered with for just over two years) does an incredible job educating their distributors and customers.  As you’ll soon see, their entire business model depends on education.

Shaklee has poured millions of dollars into creating in-depth educational programs and resources and staffs over 70 full-time doctors, scientists, and nutritionists at their headquarters in Pleasanton, CA.   Not only are they actively involved in the development of products but they are accessible to distributors and customers to educate them on the products’ use and health implications.

They also host weekly webinars, conference calls, and speak at live events discussing the science behind the products and the results of clinical trials.

Speaking of research…

I find it ironic that so many of my Exercise Science Research Geek friends as I affectionately refer to them don’t demand more from the companies whose products they use.  In their eyes “the research” behind a product is the true worth of a product.

Well here’s a challenge to you all.  Go to your favorite vitamin or health food store and pick a product from five of the companies you believe to be the most reputable.  It could be something as common as a B vitamin or Multi.  Now call the company and request a copy of their clinical trials on that product.

I’ll bet they have nothing to offer.  Maybe except a reference to a study about that type of product/ingredient (but not theirs specifically) and a discount coupon.  My wife has done this more times than I can count—and with companies you all know and trust.

On the other hand Shaklee has over 90 abstracts and manuscripts in peer-reviewed scientific journals to support product efficacy and safety.  They run trials on THEIR finished product before it’s released for distribution.  And if even one ingredient (from a supplier) in a product is not up to their standard they halt production of that product (no matter how popular) until the right one is found.

This coming year (2015) Shaklee will spend $250 million on science and research.  That’s a quarter of a billion dollars just on research.  I wonder how many of your favorite brands are willing to pony-up a quarter of a billion just to improve their current batch of products and develop new ones.

I am not implying this is the standard for all MLM’s but for the one I work with it is.  For me it’s about…

Money spent the way it should be.

Remember bullet point number five: If the products are so good then why are they not in stores?

Someone once asked this of the founder of our company, Dr. Forrest Shaklee back in the late 1950’s.  To paraphrase his response; A product on a shelf cannot tell a person what makes it better or different from all the other products. That’s why you need people—people that are knowledgeable about the product and can communicate what it has the power to do. 

Seems like a rational answer to me.  I know that I do a much better job of explaining to someone in person what training at my fitness studio will do to help them than even the most comprehensive marketing pieces we produce.  You just can’t beat face-to-face communication, especially when you’re discussing someone’s health and wellness.

You’re smart enough to realize that companies spend billions of dollars a year to grab your attention in hopes that you’ll reach for their product on the shelf, right?  And you’re also smart enough to know that half the stuff they tell you is BS.  So I don’t quite understand the logic that, if a product is not on a shelf then it must be poor quality.

The reasons [most] MLM’s don’t spend money on advertising.

  • Instead of spending money on advertising they spend it on R & D.  (Again, Shaklee will invest $250 million next year in this area.)
  • Instead of spending money on advertising or celebrity endorsements they spend it on educating distributors about the products.
  • Instead of spending money on advertising they use it to pay people to spread their message.
  • Instead of spending money on advertising they use it to reward people for business growth.

You don’t bat an eyelash or voice your displeasure over products endorsed by athletes who likely never heard of the company before they got paid to know and talk about them.  Your rational senses tell you there is no reason to believe that the products they are pitching actually work, but you consider using them anyway.

That’s the power of seductive marketing.  It can turn the most cynical person into a buyer in a few thirty-second snippets.  And worse, you know what they’re doing as they do it.

So why vilify a company that chooses NOT to spend millions, if not billions of dollars on deceiving you?

Do you actually trust a paid celebrity over people that really use, benefit from, and are educated on the products they are recommending to you?

Our logic is severely flawed.  …But I guess that’s why marketing is designed to appeal to emotions and not logic.

It’s sales and I’m not a salesman

My sister is in sales and my father was a salesman too.  Both are exceptional at it due to a combination of their personality and drive to succeed.  I’m a personal trainer…I’m not a salesman.  But like so many other trainers I can “sell” the heck out of my services.

Why?  Because I believe in what I do. Because I know with absolute certainty I can change peoples’ lives.  And if you’re a trainer or fitness professional of any kind I know you feel the same way.

Does it bother you that some people don’t buy into what you do?  That they don’t really think your services are necessary to get in shape or be healthy?

Of course not!

You realize that what you do won’t be for everyone and you’re only concerned with those that it is for.  And you are certainly not going to spend your time trying to hard sell people on what you do—if they don’t want your help, it’s their loss.

Well the same goes for the products I recommend and proudly “sell”.

I’ve done my due diligence, I’ve read the research, and I use the products.

In fact, I used them for several months before ever recommending them.

Providing people with proven alternatives that can improve their health and wellness is not selling, it’s my job, and if you are a fitness professional it is yours too.  People come to us because they need the help of an expert.  This is not snake oil sales.  It’s sharing a gift with people that can permanently change their lives.

It’s a Pyramid and preys on people.

This is my very favorite objection fitness professionals cite for not joining an MLM.  The reason is, many are already part of a pyramid.

Wait, what?  Huh?

Yup, that’s right.

Ask yourself what a pyramid looks like?

There is a person at the top and then there are people underneath that person…and then people under those people…and others under them.

The traditional companies we all support are the real pyramids.  Think about it.  Who gets paid the most?  The CEO.  Who next? The Presidents of each division.  Next?  Vice Presidents, then Middle Managers, then Supervisors, and dooooooooooown the line it goes.

Even in small businesses there’s always a hierarchy.  You have one or two owners and then everyone else is “underneath” them, right?

So help me understand the concern about someone earning a percentage from the work you do?  The work they have to spend time teaching you to do.  It’s already happening unless you are the sole owner and operator of your business.  (And the percentage of what’s being made off your work in a “regular job” is no less—often grossly more—than that of MLMs.)

In reality, no one earns anything without adding value.

Anyone who has ever earned a good living in an MLM will tell you that you don’t make money simply by getting people to join.  Your earnings are tied to what happens after the initial purchase.  Specifically, the amount of value you are adding to people’s lives.

The folklores about people signing up their family and friends so they can advance themselves in an MLM and become a multi-millionaire is typically a) complete bullshit or b) a Ponzi scheme akin to The Wolf of Wall Street.  The latter resulting in imprisonment.

I can’t speak for every MLM but in Shaklee we get paid based on the quality and volume of work we put in.  We don’t earn anything if we’re not helping others be successful.   In every way we are like a 24 hour support staff for those we bring into the business.

The super slimmed down version of how my wife and I operate our Shaklee business goes something like this:

  • Someone decides to join our Team and start making a difference in the lives of others and themselves.
  • We then work with them day in and day out to assist in their personal and professional development (notice which one I listed first) and make a full time living from their business if they choose.
  • We then teach them how to do the exact same thing for others.
  • We remain right by their side coaching them every week to grow and achieve their goals.

Interestingly enough this is exactly what I have done with every trainer who has ever worked for me in my fitness studio.  And I’m sure many of you who own a fitness business or any business have done the same as well.  You recognize that your job as the leader is to develop your people so they can better serve other people (your customers).

Oh, and as far as those who bring you into an MLM living the life off all your hard work.  There are thousands of people in Shaklee and other MLM’s, my wife and I included, who earn more than the people who sponsored them into the business.  Because as with any business it’s the depth, quality and commitment to your work that determines earning potential.

If you are not adding value and helping others improve their quality of life, your quality of life will suffer.  That is why those who think this business is all about signing people up never make it long-term.  This business is about connecting with people and being a Quality of Life Ambassador to them.  You can’t be that—and won’t survive—if you con people into joining.

It’s your reputation, I get it.

No one could be anymore apprehensive about joining an MLM than me.  It took me eight years since first being introduced to Shaklee to even consider moving forward with the business.  And even then it took me several months to embrace it (despite the great results I experienced from the products) and make it a bigger part of my fitness studio.

I was fearful of the blowback from clients and colleagues if something was wrong with the products or they didn’t work.  I also didn’t want to be seen as a self-serving pushy salesperson.

The Cliff Notes version of my story is that the science and real-world proof won me over.  As a result, my clients have improved their health and achieved fat-loss, body composition and strength goals more quickly and with greater ease.

Closing Thoughts.

There are bad salespeople, business people, and service providers in EVERY industry and profession.  Does that stop you from using those products or services?

Have you stopped going to all restaurants because the food and service was bad at one of them?  Or did you chalk it up to that being a bad restaurant and move on?

If you’re a fitness professional reading this, I know how you feel.  I felt the same way too.  But what I found—when I set aside my preconceived notions and negative experiences with certain MLM distributors—is that the business is like any other.  The model is completely legit and the quality of products were SIGNIFICANTLY better than 98% of those found on a shelf.

As I said at the start, if you have never been a part of an MLM (or a Network Marketing company as many now refer to them) you have little basis for judging them.  Sure you can continue judging them based on the few (bad) people you know involved in them and say they’re Money Sucking Vampires.  But that would be like people refusing to consider your services because their first encounter with a personal trainer, chiropractor, nutritionist, coach, or whoever was an off-putting experience.

Just (whole) food for thought.  :-)

3 Rules to Get Fit & Stay Fit

It’s not what you think.  Typically articles like this lay out a bunch of crappy no-brainer generalized suggestion disguised as “rules” and either you follow them already or never will.  I couldn’t do that to you because I can’t stand when a writer does it to me.  Instead I’m just going to give you the low down on the “rules for using rules to get fit and stay that way.”   How does that sound?  I only have three of them which means you should get through this quickly so can get back to Facebook and Twitter.

Rule #1 – YOU Write the Rules

Here’s the deal.  Generally speaking everyone knows what it takes to get fit. It’s a widely known fact that eating healthy foods, drinking plenty of water, exercising, and rest can result in a body that looks just as good as it functions.  Where things get murky is in the details.  There are no steadfast “rules” for how much or how little of everything we need so it’s up to us to write our own rules.

Rule #2 – The Rules Must Be Clear

People who are on the exceptional side of the fitness scale are not lucky.  At least–they are no more lucky than those that are on the piss poor side of the scale are unlucky.  The difference is their rules.

I can’t feel sorry for those that have horrible health and are out of shape because they don’t give a shit about holding themselves to any sort of standard.  Not those that are born with disease or a defect, those who control their destiny…like the other 96% of us.  Who I do feel sorry for are those who desperately want to have greater health and fitness but can’t seem to get out of their own way.  They exercise, they eat “healthy”, they sip on their water throughout the day and they even manage to get some sleep each night.  I feel sorry for them because they haven’t yet “got it”.

The differentiating factor between the group that wishes to have it and the group that has it or on their way to getting it, is how specific their rules are.  Here’s an example of “the rules” as explained by an individual from each of the two groups.

The “I can’t seem to get myself fit no matter what I try” individual:

  • Eat healthy most of the time.
  • Do some exercise every day.
  • Avoid drinking too much alcohol.
  • I should snack less and eat smaller meals.
  • I need to drink more water.

The “I have (or I’m on my way to having) a strong and healthy body” individual:

  • I must eat 4-5 times a day.
  • Every time I eat I must have at least 20 g. of protein, 20-30 g. of carbs, and 5-8 g. of fat.
  • I must keep my calories at or under 1,600 a day 5 out of 7 days a week.
  • Only 2 cheat meals a week.
  • I must weight train for 30 minutes on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
  • If I go out with friends I only have 2 alcoholic drinks and then I drink water the rest of the time.
  • Never get less than 6 hours of sleep a night.
  • Drink no less than 64 oz. of water a day.

Don’t we all know two people like this!  One whose rules are vague and bendable and one who sticks to a specific set of measurable rules or guidelines.  It’s not by luck or chance that some people are fit while others are fat.  It’s the rules by which each person lives his/her life that determines the direction they move in.

Rule #3 – If You Don’t Know What Your Rules Should Be, GET HELP

It’s not easy these days to separate the bullshit from the rational diet, exercise and lifestyle advice.  There are certain things which are obvious and backed by years of research, like smoking cigarettes increases your risk for Cancer.  Other things such as the ideal diet or exercise program are not so obvious because there are so many of them.  And the truth is, just as many work as those that don’t work, and some require a lot of time and effort and others are efficient and easy to follow.

Get help from people who follow a specific set of rules themselves and are successful.  What they do may or may not be the perfect fit but at least you can glean from their approach what rules work for you and which ones might need to be replaced or adjusted for your objectives.  Not everyone can comply with all the rules or enjoy the foods on a Paleo Diet thus they will not be successful with it long-term. Finding a nutrition and exercise approach that will achieve your health and fitness objectives and make long-term compliance with your rules agreeable should be the goal.


Rules Can Change

Is it possible to have a different sets of rules depending upon external circumstances?  Absolutely!  My rules for how I eat on vacation are different from my every day rules and those rules are different from my rules during bodybuilding competition prep.  However what’s important to note is how much the rules change based on you circumstances and how often does it happen.

I know people who are excellent when they are home and on a predictable schedule but they also go away every 6-8 weeks for one or more weeks at a time and during such time they are completely erratic with their eating, exercise, and rest.  When they get back home they begin the process of being excellent again but it only gets them back to where they were before they left.  Their condition never improves beyond a certain point and so they remain frustrated.  If they are to make a permanent shift in their condition then they need to adjust their “away rules”.

What Are Your Rules?

If you came here to get some specific answers, some direction on what you need to do differently to get fit and fabulous then you’re probably pissed off at me.  You’re probably saying, “WTF Lipowski, couldn’t you just tell me what the ______ I need to do instead of this pansy ass cryptic shit that makes me have to think?”  The truth is yes I could’ve given you a list of rules but those would have been MY rules, based on what I believe to be ideal for ME.  You need to come up with your own…but if it makes you feel better I’ll leave you with a few of mine.

  • I must consume a minimum of 1 g. of protein and 1.5–2 g. of carbs per pound of body weight each day (off-season).
  • I must take in 25+ g. of fiber every day.
  • I must drink at least 100 ounces of water each day (125-250 ounces during competition prep).
  • I must weight train three times per week.
  • I must log my workouts so I can measure my progress from week to week.
  • I must get at least 6 hours of sleep each night Mon-Fri, and 8 hours a night on the weekend.
  • I can have 2 heavy cheat meals a week in the off-season but none during competition prep (I will have 1-2 re-feed meals instead).
  • I must stay within 10-15 lbs. of my competition weight during the off-season.
  • If I lose my way or overindulge on vacation or during the holidays then I must get back on my diet as long as needed to return to “normal”.
  • I must take my vitamins and supplements every day.
  • I must read food labels and make myself aware of what is in the foods I consume.
  • I must avoid consuming artificial sweeteners or using products containing toxic chemicals.

Although these are not all my rules I think you get the idea and I hope that adopting one or two of them as your own can prove beneficial for you. 


Change is inevitable. No matter how much you try to resist it or run from it, you can’t. Even if you hold your ground and stand still the world around you is changing. If you’re not evolving you’re regressing.

It’s a fact, with each birthday we celebrate we’re getting older.  With that comes the natural depletion of the resources that keep us fit, energetic, and strong.  Of course we’re able to counteract or slow this regression through exercise, nutrition, supplementation, rest, and managing our stress.  However, as our bodies are changing, as those resources are dwindling, we need to change or “revise” our lifestyle choices and actions to stay ahead of the curve.

Change is not always easy but almost always necessary if the objective is growth. We all have room to grow. No matter where we are in our lives, in our work, in our health and fitness, there’s always a next level. The question is, how willing are you to go after it? Do you just talk about it or do you take action? Do you make excuses or make it happen? Do you let fear paralyze you or does your “why” help you to make the necessary changes?

Choose change.


[Poof!] My Shape…Gone in an Instant

You create your fitness plan, you stick to it for 3 months, and then you piss it all away in two weeks. That’s my story and I’m not ashamed of it.  It’s a story that will deliver a massive dose of reality and teach you a lesson if you’re willing to sit here and read it for the next 4 minutes.  As I sit here typing away on my laptop I have to laugh at how quickly I was able to reverse three months of hard work.  Seriously, three months of tracking my food intake and gradually getting my body near competition form, GONE after just 2 weeks of indulgence.

poofThe two weeks were comprised of my wedding and honeymoon so by no means do I kick myself over all the eating and drinking I did.  Heck, Corrie-Beth and I spent 7 of our 10 day honeymoon in Napa Valley and Sonoma so you better believe we were drank a lot of wine!  And the meals were pretty damn good too.

So what was the damage?  A nine pound increase in body weight and all the definition in my abs and arms had disappeared.  Granted at least 3 of the 9 lbs. is retained water which can be eliminated within a week by pushing my water intake up to around a gallon per day but unfortunately the rest of the weight (fat) will take a lot longer to get back off.


I can already hear some of you saying, “But you’re already in good shape it’s not that big of a deal”.  To which I say, “It’s all relative”.  I have certain expectations and standards which if not met or maintained have the same emotional impact as anyone else who looks at them self and is disgusted with how out of shape they’ve become.

I knew it would happen, I’ve been here before.  In the early years of my bodybuilding career I would spend six months prepping for a show only to binge my way out of competition shape in less than a week.  Over more recent years I’ve learned that if I (as well as most people) can keep from letting one day of binging or cheat meals turn into 2, 3, 4, 5 days or more then maintaining that ideal condition that I worked long and hard to achieve is easy and doesn’t require being on point all the time.  But once you start rolling downhill it’s very difficult to stop and the unfortunate consequence is having to start all over.

Fitness PlanThe idea of starting over can be a little demoralizing if you don’t have the proper mindset.  As I said, I would never give up all the great breakfast, lunch, dinners, wine, beer, and spirits I indulged in over the two week wedding/honeymoon period.  In fact I had planned for it.  All the dieting I had done over those three prior months was in anticipation of all I would do and was a way of mitigating the damage.  I knew from the very beginning that at some point I was going to have to “start over”.  Since it is exactly what I expected it eliminates the pain of feeling like “I blew it”.

The situation—and the emotions that accompany it—is similar to saving thousands of dollars over the course of several months or a year for a vacation you’ve always wanted to go on.  When the time comes to actually pay for the vacation the money suddenly disappears from your account, or the envelope of cash you’ve been saving it in.  You knew it was going to happen, and you would never give up the vacation just to hang onto the cash, but you’re still left with that slight bit of sadness that all you saved is gone in an instant.  It doesn’t make the vacation any less enjoyable it’s just an unavoidable feeling…just like putting weight back on that you worked hard to lose. But the great thing is, if you’ve done it once you can do it again and if you’re committed, the next time should be much easier since you already know what to expect.

7 Lessons Learned from the Bodybuilding Stage


When I started my career as a personal trainer at the ripe young age of twenty-two (I really can’t believe I’ll be thirty-six this month.  Look ma’ I made it! J) one of the very first actions I took was to enter myself into a natural bodybuilding contest.  I had wanted to bodybuild ever since I watched Lou Ferrigno as the Incredible Hulk in the mid-eighties television series.  Then of course there were the professional wrestlers in the WWF like Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior who became another source of motivation before I started “investing” what little money I earned at thirteen years old on muscle magazines. But I digress.

My reasoning for entering the contest was two-fold.  First, I always wanted to look like a bodybuilder so it only made sense to do what bodybuilders do…compete.  Second, and the stronger of the two reasons, was to gain experience and knowledge.  I reasoned that if people were going to come to me with the expectation of achieving six-pack abs, defined muscles, or to simply get lean and muscular, then I better know and understand all that goes into the process.

After 14 years of competing it is impossible for me to place a value on the lessons I’ve learned from getting up on stage. What I have gained through those experiences cannot be learned in a book or in a classroom. The lessons can be categorized two ways; physique development and self-development.  While my initial interest was regarding physique development I quickly learned that self-development works in tandem with physique development—sometime preceding it, sometimes resulting from it, and sometimes working side by side with it.

Here are my top 7 lessons learned from the bodybuilding stage:

  1. Fat loss takes time but needs to be approached with a sense of urgency While losing weight slowly is necessary for maintaining a healthy metabolism and ensuring that the weight you shed is fat and not muscle, don’t use this as a reason to get complacent or justify poor decisions about eating or exercise. With few exceptions the metabolism is very slow to get started, often taking 4 or more weeks just to build enough momentum result in consistent weekly fat loss. And that’s if you’re doing everything right!
  2. Track everything.  As the old adage goes, you can’t know where  you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been.  While keeping a food log and keeping track of your calories, carbs, protein and fats might seem like a royal pain in the ass, it is the only way to figure out exactly how much you can or can’t eat without disrupting your fat loss efforts.  Don’t try to guess…it doesn’t work.Journal
  3. Until you change your mind you cannot change your body.  The body has a funny way of following what your subconscious believes to be true which is why I can’t stress enough the importance of developing self-belief and having a positive self-image.  I have never had a competition season in which I didn’t improve upon my condition from the previous season.  I attribute this to first seeing myself better than I once was the previous season and then taking actions on achieving it.
  4. Have a strong “why” It’s easy to stay the course and do whatever is necessary to achieve your goal when you have a clear-cut reason for doing so.  Getting up in front of a bunch of strangers with less fabric covering you than what you would wear to the beach was, and continues to be, a very big reason “why” I’m so intent on not screwing up my diet or missing workouts.  Just wanting to “look better” or “get a little leaner” is not incentive, it’s a wish.  Attach it to something bigger that will keep you doing the not so fun stuff and now you have a why.
  5. This s#%t is hard!  Make no mistake about it, you have to work your butt off and be disciplined to make even minimal gains.  Showing up is not half the battle it’s about 1/10th of it.  You need to constantly outwork yourself in order to make forward progress. Accepting this reality will help minimize frustration when you’re not achieving results at the rate you think you should.
  6. You are always IN-season.  One of the most common traits amongst top competitors is that they focus just as hard on their diet and training in the off-season as they do 3 months before stepping on stage.  By living the lifestyle year round it makes getting into competition shape much easier and faster and makes the damage done by an occasional night out on the town or going out to eat almost World's 2012 (125)non-existent.
  7. Support systems are a necessity.  As stated in lesson #5 this stuff is hard, but it can made much easier, and your likelihood of success is greatly increased by having one or more people working towards similar goals alongside you.  Conversely nothing can thwart your efforts faster than resistance or ridicule from family members or friends.  Be sure that the people surrounding you understand how important your fitness goals are to you and to respect your decisions about the way you eat and how you spend your time.

Competition Shape…Minus the Competition (Lisa’s Journey) – Entry 11

Lisa had texted this pic to me with following, “I’m wearing Melissa’s coat (her youngest daughter). Please note, it’s buttoned”.

[Lisa] Hello December.  The holidays are upon us.  I will start this entry by saying, “Yes Virginia, you can lose weight during the holidays.”  Five months down and 21 lbs. gone.  I lost 3.8 lbs. in November.  I did enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner that included stuffing, pumpkin ale and a piece of apple pie for desert.  However, I woke up the next day and realized Thanksgiving was over, time to get back to my food plan.  I also need to mention that, although I did have the aforementioned treats on Thanksgiving, I had small portions and still recorded everything in my food log.  Last year I continued eating like it was still Thanksgiving straight through until Christmas when I transitioned into eating like it was Christmas through the New Year.  The tears set in on January 2 right after I stepped on the scale.  I am determined NOT to start 2013 the same way.  Mike is doing his part, adding new methods of torture; I mean training so I am never bored!  I am enjoying being able to wear mediums instead of large size clothing.  My daughter Melissa recently told me that she does not care how much weight I lose she will not allow me to wear a bikini.  Hmmmm, sounds like Mom has a new goal.   Might be just what one needs to stay focused.

[Mike] I think it’s easy to see that 2013 will not start off for Lisa the same way 2012 did.  It can’t!  And that’s because Lisa finally has the two things going for her that everyone needs to be successful at transforming their body…and I am not talking diet and exercise.  It is a goal and a plan for completing it.

Just look at the difference this has made between last year and this year.  Last year: no goal, no plan and Thanksgiving turned into a six week free-for-all and an inevitable backslide forcing her to have start all over in January.  Depressing.  Yet this is how it will be for an unfortunate majority of people.  This year: a goal and a plan for navigating through the holidays without depriving herself and a New Year in which she’ll start around 25 lbs. lighter than she was this past July.

Oh and to address the “add on” goal of getting into a bikini…I love it.  What better goal than to make your children uncomfortable about what you will wear in your 50’s that you couldn’t wear while they were growing up.

Competition Shape…Minus the Competition (Lisa’s Journey) – Entry 4

[Lisa] The sun has set on July and I, therefore, have completed one full month of my journey through hell, I mean to health, towards competition shape.  Although I am convinced my scale snickers as I walk by, I decided to step on board, with my eyes open for a change, and see if I could smack the smugness out of my digital friendHmmm, down 5.2 lbs.  Not the 50 I had hoped for but progress nonetheless.  Further, I did wear apair of jeans that prompted the following text message to Mike:

“For the blog!!!!! Just zipped a pair of jeans that I bought months ago with the intention of fitting into them.  Understand I could not pull them up when purchased.  I still hate u but I kinda love you too.”

One must remember to make sure Mike knows he is still causing pain during and after workouts, hence the hate.  If you let on that your workouts are not challenging you will suffer the wrath.  Besides, you would not get away with faking it anyway.

Looking back on July, I have incorporated some positive changes into my eating and exercise program.  While I did eat out about 5 or 6 times, I had grilled chicken or Tuna and stayed away from the bread.  I continue to workout at PURE PHYSIQUE 2-3 times per week.  I have, for the most part, kept my fat and carbohydrate intake to “prescribed by Mike” levels.

My concern is that a little over 5 lbs. just does not seem like very much.  How do I lose at least that much this month?  What do you plan on doing about this Mike?

[Mike]  It’s true, if I feel (or any trainer at PURE PHYSIQUE feels) that your workouts are not challenging then you will feel the wrath.  But contrary to popular belief it is not because we’re sadists.  We simply recognize that the level of effort most people put into their workout is not enough to improve their fitness no matter how long they exercise for or how many days a week they exercise.  Effort is the single most important factor for productive exercise and if you are not being challenged you are not changing.

A loss of 5 lbs. in a month might not seem like much but it is, especially if it is 5 lbs. of body-fat.  Considering that a pound of fat is slightly larger than a can of soup dropping five of them is no small accomplishment and is the reason why in just one month Lisa could fit into pants she could not fit into previously.

When the objective is fat-loss it is best to aim for a loss of 1-2 lbs. per week.  Attempting to lose more than this—unless you are morbidly obese—can result in the loss of muscle tissue which will negatively impact your strength, muscle tone, functional ability, and your metabolism to small degree.  This is the reason why people who lose weight very quickly tend to regain it twice as fast.

If Lisa is able to lose another 5-8 lbs. in the next month and the month after that and continue at this pace then she will undoubtedly reach her goal.  It will not be easy and will require that she continue to make good choices when eating out as well as tightening the screws on her diet by eliminating another 50-100 calories per day.  We will also look to address her activity level by adding 10-20 minutes of high-intensity aerobic exercise on 1-2 non-training days.