Ever wanted to know exactly what Lee Labrada did nutritionally to prepare for the Mr. Olympia Contest? We are fortunate enough to learn all you ever wanted to know in this extensive interview conducted by Clayton South. Read On to get all the insights!
Lee Labrada is unquestionably one of the most successful bodybuilders in history. Placing third in his first-ever Mr. Olympia contest and thereafter placing in the top four in the Mr. Olympia for the next six consecutive years, Lee Labrada established a reputation of consistency and bodybuilding excellence.
In 2004, Lee was inducted into the IFBB Pro Bodybuilding Hall of Fame. He has appeared on the covers of more than 100 bodybuilding and fitness magazines and has been featured on CNBC, FOX, NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN and ESPN as a fitness and nutrition expert. Lee is the author of the best selling The Lean Body Promise (Harper Collins.)
After retirement, Labrada founded Labrada Nutrition. In this interview, Lee Labrada shares his extensive nutrition knowledge and reveals his nutrition secrets for building a championship physique.
Clayton South: Lee, lets get right to the chase and give the readers some straight talk about nutrition. How important would you say nutrition is for bodybuilders?
Lee Labrada: Clayton, when I’m asked what’s more important – nutrition or training – I always tell them that they need both. Nutrition and training are similar to the two wheels on a bicycle. If both are in working condition you can go anywhere, but if one is out of commission – if you have a flat tire – you’re not going to go anywhere. So, the nutrition has to be just right in order to support the training, and to get the desired muscle growth that bodybuilders want.
Clayton South: So, to use the example of the bicycle, with a tire there must be a certain amount of pressure and the pressure must be distributed in a certain way to move it forward. Would you say that that’s also true of your diet and that your diet must be fine-tuned?
Lee Labrada: I do, because your diet has to be balanced in order for you to build muscle. In other words, you must have enough calories, the right foods, nutrients and sufficient protein in order to support muscle growth. And, if you don’t have those things, you can train as much as you want and you can train as hard as you want, but you will never see the results that you desire. You must have that nutritional component down pat. Without the nutritional component, you will be spinning your wheels.
CS: As a nutritionist, I know that diet is one of the major areas that people need to work on. Do you think that diet is as understood as it should be and needs to be?
LL: No, I really don’t, and particularly when it comes to bodybuilding. The problem is that there are a lot of myths that persist to this day. If you go into any gym and you ask the biggest guy in the gym how to get big and how you should eat, chances are they will say “just eat everything in sight, and eat as much of it as you can!” That’s well and good if you want to get big and fat, but if you want to put on a lot of muscle as rapidly as possible – which most of us do – then you better understand that the quality of your food calories, and the makeup of your daily diet is just as important as the quantity. So, I think that is one of the areas that is misunderstood.
Another myth is that you have to overeat in order to gain muscular weight, and nothing could be farther from the truth. If you have the building blocks in place, if you have sufficient protein and amino acids to help build muscle and just enough calories – but not an overload of calories – you can gain good-quality muscle tissue without putting on a lot of fat.
CS: Let’s explore that for a moment. For some of the readers out there it may not be clear why overeating a lot of solid food can actually be harmful for muscle growth.
LL: One of the major reasons why overeating is harmful is that it overtaxes your digestive system. Every time you eat, your body has to secrete digestive enzymes and it takes energy to digest food. So, you had better make sure that what you put into your body is of sufficiently high quality so as to provide the nutrients that your body needs. Otherwise you are making your body do a lot of excess digestive work for nothing. You will be storing junk calories. Some types of foods will unnecessarily raise insulin, which is a fat storing hormone, and just wreak havoc on your health in general. High sugar foods are bad for you – we all know that intuitively – but the reason is that they raise the insulin levels too high, and the calories end up getting stored as fat.
Another thing that is really misunderstood, Clayton, is the place of supplements in the diet. A lot of the young bodybuilders are misled by the marketing that they see in the magazines. They’re misled into thinking that what they should do is eating a lot of supplements and not worrying about their food – but nothing can be farther from the truth.
The fact is, any good bodybuilding diet is based on the intake of whole foods – wholesome and naturally occurring foods.
CS: I want to talk about whole foods in a moment, but first I want to explore a little more the idea of cramming in as much food as you possibly can as a means to trigger muscle growth, which as you explained just a moment ago is not the best way to go.
You mentioned that it takes a lot of energy to digest food. Do you think it’s possible that eating too much food can actually slow down your recovery because of the amount of energy that’s needed to go into the digestion process?
LL: No, the number of calories required to digest food is not the main problem. The problem stems from overloading your digestive system with too much food at any one time, which delays gastric emptying. When your stomach is full for a long time, it cheats you out of the higher meal frequency you get with smaller meals eaten throughout the day.
Let me give you an example. Let’s say that a young individual has a nice solid breakfast, but then for lunch he has a T-bone steak, a big potato that has hundreds of calories worth of sour cream and butter on it, and then finishes that off with a big piece of chocolate cake and a glass of whole milk. Well, there could be close to a hundred grams of fat in that particular meal, and it can take that person between six to eight hours before his stomach is fully empty again. So by over eating, that person has cheated himself of the meal frequency he would ordinarily get if he ate lower fat meals. Make no mistake: it is essential to eat about every three hours to maximize your ability to gain muscle tissue.
If your stomach is full of empty calories – for example calories from ice cream or cake or pizza – then you do not have room for the good calories which will provide the nutrients you need in order to enjoy maximal muscle growth.
CS: Let’s talk about something that you mentioned a couple of moments ago. You started to talk about the importance of whole foods.
LL: Well, I think that for anyone who is serious about gaining muscular weight, a foundation of whole foods is absolutely necessary. By whole foods I mean chicken breasts, fish, lean meats and the like for your lean protein intake; vegetables and fruits and beans, yams, oatmeal, whole grain rice and whole grain cereals for carbs; and fish and flax seed oil for essential fats. These whole foods contain not just macronutrient calories but fiber, vitamins, and minerals which are necessary, not only for muscular growth but for health. If your body is healthy, you’re going to get greater muscular growth because your body is going to be nutritionally positioned in a way which optimizes the growth process.
Whole foods tend to break down more slowly, typically, than processed foods, and whole foods provide a sustained release of nutrients which you need throughout the day. So, from my perspective, you need to start by making sure that your whole food intake is correct and then use supplements intelligently to supplement the nutrition base of whole foods.
CS: I want to touch on fiber for a moment because an overwhelming emphasis has been placed on the intake of protein fats and carbohydrates, while fiber and has been largely neglected. Can you talk about the importance of fiber for having a lean body and being healthy?
LL: You bet. The fiber is what provides the bulk for the food as it moves through the intestinal tract. Fiber also slows down the absorption of some nutrients, and it helps basically to move food along the digestive tract. It also promotes healthy gut flora and a healthier intestine in general. A healthy intestine can absorb food more readily, and can eliminate foods more readily (in the case of the large intestine). So, fiber is very important. Just ask any young guy who’s had an overload of protein shakes without taking in enough fiber – it constipates you!
Returning to our discussion about lean protein sources, these protein sources do not have fiber. To get fiber you must eat vegetables and fruits.
CS: So in your view is it correct to say that by diversifying your nutrition plan and using whole foods as the foundation, you could potentially recover faster and speed the elimination of toxins from your body?
LL: Exactly. When you’re giving your body the nutrients it needs in their natural form, your body is going to work at an optimal level of health. This means that you’re going to recover faster, and by recovering faster you are going to grow faster. So these are very important things for these young guys to keep in mind.
You know, supplements have their place. For instance, protein supplements can help you get the 1g of protein per pound of body weight which is recommended for gaining muscle, when you don’t have the time for a whole food protein. And because protein supplements contain protein which has been powdered mechanically into small particles, it is easy for your body to absorb.
CS: this brings me to the next question I want to ask. In your view, would you say then that the debate between whole foods and supplementation is rather moot?
LL: Well, really it is. I think you need both, but I think that if you start with the whole food plan then everything else falls into place. The whole foods is the foundation and the supplements only supplement the diet with missing proteins and nutrients which you find difficult to get through your normal food intake.
For example, I recommend that bodybuilders eat five to six small meals per day. Well, if you sit down to eat a chicken breast at each one of those meals, you’re going to tire of chicken breasts pretty soon. So, that’s why a lot of bodybuilders turn to using protein supplements.
Incidentally, we have a great articles on protein supplements and how you can gain muscle mass faster through the use of protein Supplements.
But, coming back to what we were talking about, supplementation helps you comply with your diet by making it easy to eat frequently during the day. Compliance is a big issue for most people. If you don’t have access to a chicken breast, it’s very easy to grab a ready-to-drink shake (RTD) like one of our Lean Body Shakes, or eat a bar, like one of our Lean Body Bars. It just makes life a lot easier.
CS: Let’s return to your career for a moment. You were always known for bringing an amazingly symmetrical physique to the stage, complete with phenomenal condition. I’ve seen videos of you in competition, and you were absolutely incredible. How important was nutrition to you in building the kind of body that you always had a reputation for bringing to the stage?
LL: In my case, Clayton, it was incredibly important because I wasn’t one of these genetic freaks that could put on muscle just by looking at a dumbbell. So, I always had to watch everything that I ate very carefully in order to gain muscle weight.
I always had to watch everything that I ate very carefully. I was a hard gainer.
I always found it difficult to gain muscle tissue. I had to make sure that my nutrition program was perfect and that I ate every three hours, and that those meals contained the exact ratio of proteins, carbohydrates and fats to optimize the muscle building process. One thing I pride myself on is that starting 12 to 14 weeks out before the Mr. Olympia competition, I would keep track of every single thing that I ate.
That would mean weighing the food, looking up the exact caloric content of the food and knowing how many calories I was taking in on a daily basis. What that allowed me to do was to manipulate my caloric intake by as little as 100 calories per day leading up to the competition, which in turn allowed me to hone my physique down to these crazy low body fat levels. I could do that without losing any muscle tissue because I was so carefully watching every calorie, knowing exactly how things came together and worked in my body.
CS: Using nutrition as the engine that fueled your body, would you say that your nutrition program was more important than your training program?
LL: No, I would say that it was equally important, but I would say that it takes on even more importance when you are competing at the level of the Mr. Olympia. As any of those competitors can tell you, you literally what you eat. And, just a small dietary change can make a world of difference in the look of your physique on the day of the contest.
CS: now that we have outlined in detail how critically important it is to have a fine tuned nutrition program, can you give us a typical Mr. Olympia nutrition plan?
LL: Absolutely. Right off of the bat, you should eat six small meals per day. This means that you will eat one meal every three hours. At each one of my meals I would have a serving of protein that was 1/6 of my total protein intake for the day. I am a 200 pound bodybuilder, so I would take 200 and divide it by six, and the resulting number was approximately 35 grams of protein at each one of those six meals.
Then, in addition to the protein, I would take in very complex carbohydrates in the form of sweet potatoes, black beans and rice, lentils and rice, whole-grain cereal such as oatmeal, vegetables and then some fruit in the form of apples or other low-calorie fruit. Then, I would add my protein supplements and meal replacements plus an assortment of other supplement nutrients.
The idea here was to have small frequent meals throughout the day to take advantage of not only the meal frequency principle, but also the thermic effect. The thermic effect refers simply to the fact that whenever you consume food, your body temperature goes up because there has to be calories burned in order to digest those foods. And, typically, the foods I was eating in preparation for the Mr. Olympia – the naturally occurring proteins and carbohydrates – tended to be very complex and required a lot of energy to digest, which was perfectly okay with me because I was trying to get leaner—superhumanly lean.
Additionally, I would consume up to 1 gallon of water every day in order to keep my body flushed and to keep the muscles nice and full, because as you know muscles are almost 80% water.
These are some of the basic foundational principles that I used getting ready for show.
CS: you mentioned eating every three hours and having approximately 30-35 grams of protein per meal. How did you incorporate your pre-workout protein intake and your post-workout protein intake within the context of the number of meals that you had to eat every day?
LL: Typically, I timed my workouts approximately 1 hour after my second meal. I was fully charged up and ready to go with plenty of energy, and yet the food was almost emptied out of my stomach. That way, I could avoid that tug-of-war between the stomach and muscles which occurs when you don’t give your meal enough time to digest. About one hour after my second meal I would have a small protein shake and immediately eat my next large meal right after that, so that there was no difficulty with timing.
It’s also important to understand that the use of the very fast acting whey proteins was not as common ten to fifteen years ago when I was competing. Supplementation was in its infancy and there was not a lot of whey protein around at the time. Most products were protein blends and a lot of free-form amino acids, so we would take handfuls of free-form amino acid capsules right after training, along with a carbohydrate, and then we would go on to our meal.
CS: One thing that I feel compelled to point out is that you don’t mention the intake of any alcohol. I know that many young bodybuilders and even some older bodybuilders like to drink alcohol, and some of them aren’t aware of its effects…
LL: Well, let’s face it, there are a lot of people out there who like alcohol. But, normally, during this pre-contest stage, I had no alcohol at all. I’ve never been one to drink before a show. Alcohol is basically empty calories, and for a pre-contest bodybuilder who is trying to get superhumanly low body fat, alcohol is a big no-no.
CS: Another thing that I feel compelled to point out is that all of the foods that you mention are very clean foods. You did not mention any processed foods.
LL: That’s exactly right. In fact, we would avoid any kind of processed foods like bread and refined flour products. Sugar was a big no-no. We knew enough back then to know that sugar intake had to be kept at a minimum, because it was super important to keep insulin low. By keeping insulin low, we kept the fat burning process going.
Early on, I convinced myself that if I had anything that was sweet, it would rapidly raise my blood sugar, that would bring my fat burning to a halt. So I avoided that like the plague because I wanted to be burning fat 24 hours a day. I didn’t want to be working for nothing!
Going hungry was difficult enough, but imagine throwing something sugary or fatty on top of that and destroying an entire day’s worth of progress.
CS: Not to mention activating hormone triggered cravings…
LL: Exactly. When you are eating a very clean diet and you insult your body with something that’s very sugary and fatty, it does set off a hormonal cascade that starts the fat storing process and that interrupts the fat burning process.
CS: I also noticed that the foods you would eat pre-contest were low in sodium…
LL: Yes, they were very low in sodium, good observation.
I was never one to salt my food, and I think that foods contain enough sodium naturally. It is a very unnatural thing – a man-made habit – to salt food. I’ve never been one to salt food, and I’ve never had any problems with high blood pressure, or any kind of cardiovascular or kidney problems. Most importantly, I’ve never had any fluid retention problems, particularly on the day of my big Mr. Olympia presentations because of that – because I did keep my foods relatively low in sodium.
CS: It seems like your plan was relatively thorough but simple to follow…
LL: It is a very simple plan to follow, and like all things in life, when you follow the natural approach and give your body what it was meant to consume in the first place – foods in their naturally occurring form – the results can be tremendous because you are optimizing your body and you’re working with nature.
CS: That’s a lot of information for our readers to take in. Let’s try and par it down to some solid take-home points, some rules to live by.
LL: In terms of protein, I’ve always gone by the golden rule of protein that says that you should take in 1 g of protein per pound of body weight. So, a 200 pound man should consume 200 g of protein per day. And then, you should consume approximately 1 to 2 g of complex carbohydrates per pound per day. And, in the off-season when you are trying to gain muscle, you can consume up to 2 g of complex carbohydrates per pound of body weight – that’s a lot of complex carbohydrates.
Before a show, I will reduce my fat intake to as low as 1 g per pound of body weight – as little as 200 g of carbohydrate; but as high as 400 g of carbohydrate in the off-season.
In terms of fat, I always kept my fat intake lower than 15%, particularly before the Mr. Olympia, at which time I would drop the fat intake to below 10%. And looking back, Clayton, to be honest I think that maybe it was a little too low. It was based on the nutritional know-how that we had back then, but if I had to do it all over again I think I would’ve let my fat intake go a little higher, say to 15% and maybe even 20% in the off-season. However, that fat would have come from oily fish like salmon and mackerel or from fish oil and flax seed oil; and maybe even some monounsaturated oils such as olive oil. But, essentially, fat intake should be limited to healthy fats and should not come from saturated fats such as you find in butter and cheese and beef and things like that.
CS: When it comes to protein, there is this constant debate about which kind of protein is the best. And there is an overwhelming sentiment that male bodybuilders should avoid soy protein at all costs. What is your take on that?
LL: You know, I don’t buy that because soy protein is actually higher in some amino acids than whey protein, believe it or not. Soy protein is rich in branched chain amino acids, of which leucine is a key regulatory for enhancing muscular growth , arginine, which may bolster growth hormone levels and glutamine, which is great for the immune system and for recovery.
And, there have been some recent studies that show that a combination of whey proteins or the dairy based multi-blends combined with soy works better than just the whey protein by itself. So, these proteins can complement each other. It’s just that soy has gotten a black eye because in the past the products that were introduced into this marketplace which used soy protein, used very inferior grades of soy protein which were typically used for animal feed or were used to texture food. Consequently, they had a terrible flavor. But, the soy proteins which are available now – the soy protein isolates – are absolutely phenomenal and can complement dairy based proteins. Because of this, we have actually included soy isolate in small amounts in our Lean Body MRPs.
CS: So you wouldn’t recommend getting all of your protein from just one source? For example, if you were to use a supplement you would use a protein blend as opposed to a stand-alone whey protein powder?
LL: Yes. On any given day I will consume egg white protein in the morning because I like having my egg white omelet in the morning. I will consume dairy protein in the form of a protein blend at some point during the day, and that will include some soy protein because it’s typically in the protein blend that I use. Then I’ll consume chicken or fish. So, there you go. There are at least five different types of protein that I will consume in one day.
I think it’s important because each protein has a different amino acid profile, and I’m a believer that just like you vary your complex carbohydrates and your fruits and your vegetables, you could vary your protein intake and get better results.
CS: So the take-home points are: eat clean, get enough protein from a variety of sources, eat frequently, don’t eat too much at one-time, avoid junk foods and alcohol. Anything else?
LL: Yes. A rather inexpensive supplement that is tremendously beneficial but often overlooked because it is not a “sexy” supplement that these marketing companies can make a lot of money on, is digestive enzymes.
The use of digestive enzymes is a wonderful tool to help break down the food that you’re taking in, especially when you’re trying to gain muscular weight and your caloric intake is higher. If you have trouble digesting all of the food, take some digestive enzymes.
CS: It’s interesting that you mention enzyme supplementation because there is a lot of new science which shows that enzymes not only aiding digestion but also exert tremendous anti-inflammatory effects that can combat inflammation, prevent delayed onset muscle soreness and speed exercise recovery…
LL: Exactly. Our Sorenzyme product is an enzyme product that is tremendously beneficial. But the enzymes in Sorenzyme do differ from regular digestive enzymes because they are enzymes that work on a systemic level and address the issue of DOMS.
DOMS affects so many people, and I would say that more than half of bodybuilders are in a constantly over-trained state. And, that’s the reason that they can’t make any more progress – they are training too hard and too often.
Obviously, one of the things you can do is to back off on the volume of training to allow your natural recovery processes to take its course. Or, you can do things to speed up the recovery process. One of the things that we have been finding from our research is that judicious use of enzymes can actually reduce the inflammation associated with DOMS, which increases recovery and therefore increase muscle growth – it can almost double it. It’s tremendous.
Enzymes accelerate your results. If you remove the inflammation associated with delayed onset muscle soreness and the muscle tissue can repair itself faster, you can get into the gym and work out more and work out more often, and you can see faster results. What we have found is that bodybuilders who use Sorenzyme have 63% less DOMS than those who don’t, along with 400% less loss of force between workouts. Sorenzyme is the best kept supplement secret in existence.
You know, enzymes to a work by the same pathway as anabolic steroids, but they are similar to anabolic steroids in that they do speed up the recovery process.
CS: To bring us back to specifics regarding nutrition, when you were actively competing, how was your nutrition plan different when you were trying to gain muscle or when you were trying to get leaner? And, what direction can you give to our readers about making changes to their nutrition program depending on their goals?
LL: I would say that when you are trying to gain muscle tissue, obviously you are going to consume more calories. And then, as the competition comes closer, you try to strip off any unwanted body fat so you are going to want to watch your calories more carefully, so you’re going to consume less carbohydrate calories and less fat calories.
So, I would say that the calories, first and foremost, are the biggest difference between a program that is geared for muscle building and a program that is meant to get you ripped up. However, regardless of your goal, you should still consume 1 g of protein per pound of body weight. What we do, is we just manipulate the carbohydrate and fat depending upon whether we want to gain weight or we want to lose fat.
CS: Let’s expand on this a bit. We’ve established that it’s always important to control insulin levels to prevent body fat gain, that we should keep protein intake high and manipulate the total number of calories depending upon our goal…
Let’s say that we wanted to gain muscle mass. Where would the extra calories come from to fuel this growth? And, conversely, if we wanted to lose body fat, where would we eliminate calories? What nutrients would be manipulated the most in both scenarios?
LL: Fats and carbohydrates would be manipulated in both situations.
For gaining muscle mass, I would add more complex carbohydrates – more yams more sweet potatoes, more oatmeal, more rice and beans, potatoes, and a wide variety of fruits. Also add in some foods which are little bit higher in fat – avocados, some nuts and seeds, or a granola cereal in the morning that might have some good fats in it. So, for gaining muscle mass I wouldn’t watch my fat calories as tightly as I would when getting ready for show. I would add lean beef and fatty fish such as salmon to the diet.
And, when it comes to getting lean in general, I would reduce my overall fat intake as well as cut back on some carbohydrates, all the while keeping my protein intake level steady.
CS: When it comes to manipulating your calories, the prevailing belief is that you must eat a lot in order to gain muscle, and that you must dramatically reduce your calorie intake to lose body fat. What’s your take on this? Do recommend a gradual adjustment of energy intake, or do believe the dramatic changes are most effective?
LL: Well, Clayton, I’m going to give you “Labrada’s Airplane Example.” And, essentially, it goes like this:
If you are on a contest diet, you gradually cut your caloric intake slowly over a period of 12 to 14 weeks, with no rapid adjustments. It’s similar to an airplane approaching a landing strip; you know, it’s just a nice gradual descent until it lands. You don’t wait until you’re over the runway and then nose dive into it, nor do you nose dive into the field and then crawl onto the runway. You just gently reduce the calories – 100 to 200 cal off of the daily intake per week, and get yourself slowly and methodically.
Let’s say that at week one you are consuming 3000 cal per day for the entire week. In the second week you might consume 2800 cal per day during that entire week. And, as time goes on you just gradually reduce the calories weekly and once you get down to maybe 2200 or 2400 cal, you just maintain it there until the day of the show.
Likewise, gaining weight is analogous to an airplane taking off – it’s done gradually. You don’t just get off of the runway and then vertically do a climb. So, what I’m saying here is that you should just gradually increase your calories when you’re trying to gain weight, until you notice if you are putting on too much undesirable body fat. At this point, you would just cut it back a little bit. Contrary to the myth, you don’t just eat everything that’s not nailed down.
CS: And, just to reiterate and reinforced this important caveat, during this whole process regardless of what you are trying to accomplish, you achieve your protein intake steady?
LL: Yes. Protein intake stays constant, water intake stays constant, vegetable intake should stay constant. Just vary your complex carbohydrates and fats.
CS: Now, everyone knows that eating every two to three hours is incredibly time-consuming. It involves a lot of planning and preparation, and then you must transport your meals with you wherever you go. Some bodybuilders go so far as to carry a cooler bag of food with them…
LL: In fact, I do that myself. My wife will cook a week’s worth of food on the weekends, and then she will individually bag the individual portions like the chicken breasts and the potatoes and the rice and beans, and so forth. Then we will put them in the refrigerator so that I can just grab the prerequisite number of meals at the beginning of a day, and put them into my cooler along with some fruit, Lean Body Bars and Lean Body Ready-to-Drink Shakes (RTD’s) Then, I’m off to the races. Planning is essential if you want to be to comply with your bodybuilding diet.
CS: So what if the average bodybuilder doesn’t have the time to prepare all of that food? What can he or she do to comply with their diet?
LL: Well, I think the idea is to find a program that you can live with, something that is quick and easy. I think that any bodybuilder in the morning would have time for a bowl of oatmeal and a protein drink, especially if it’s a ready to drink protein shake – you just open it and drink it. Incorporate a banana into this meal and you have a great breakfast. We also make a great Whole Foods MRP shake.
Midmorning, you can have a protein bar and a piece of fruit. And at lunchtime, you can hit a restaurant and get a chicken sandwich and a baked potato along with a small salad or something of that nature.
In the mid afternoon just as in the midmorning, a protein bar and a piece of fruit or a RTD protein shake or perhaps a cup of cottage cheese with a granola bar. You know, these things are easy to pack and take with you, or easy to pick up at a grocery store or a convenience store or deli.
In my book The Lean Body Promise I even show people how to eat at fast food restaurants if that is what they want to do. Adhering to a bodybuilding diet is possible! The truth is, you can eat at a Burger King, Kentucky fried chicken, a McDonald’s if you know exactly what to order. Obviously, it’s not as good as having a sit-down dinner with freshly prepared whole foods, but it will do in a pinch.
In addition to that, keeping a cooler full of ready to drink shakes is a lifesaver in terms of getting your protein every three hours. Obviously that’s not going to take care of your complex carb intake, but you can have some sweet potatoes or potatoes that you’ve baked and wrapped and keep them in the cooler for easy eating.
CS: Would you recommend using a protein blend supplement throughout the day with your meals?
LL: I think that’s a good idea because with a protein blend you have a combination of both fast-acting proteins – such as the whey protein component – but you also have the slower digested proteins, which tend to release more slowly over a period of hours, such as the casein component of the milk proteins. So, here’s the take away: a protein blend is ideal for muscle building support throughout the day. Whey protein is really best suited when you need a quick shot of amino acids, which from my perspective is limited to right after the workout. For the rest of the day you’re better off with a protein blend like that found in ProV60, Lean Pro8 or Lean Body RTD’s.
For these products we use protein complexes, protein blends, for the very reason that they’re functional foods – foods that bodybuilders can depend on day in and day out to provide long-lasting support throughout the day. And it’s not just about muscle growth, but also about preserving muscle mass. The anti-catabolic effects of protein blends are due to the slow-releasing casein component.
CS: There is a lot of information that people can take away from this interview. Is there anything else that you want to impress upon the readers?
LL: Yes, Clayton, I really would. I’m really bothered a lot by the advertisements that I see in the different muscle magazines for “miracle pills” and “miracle powders.” Of course, the young guys who don’t know any better tend to fall head over heels for these supplements because they sound good, or because they’ve been backed by some little self-funded study which the marketing company has manipulated to support their outrageous claims.
My main worry is that beginning bodybuilders will fall for this misinformation and forget the basics: the things that work and will really get them the physique that they desire.
So, for some take away points: People should base their bodybuilding diet on whole foods and use supplements intelligently to fill in the gaps. Focus on the basics and don’t fall victim to the latest supplement containing minute amounts of pixie dust thrown in just to get the sale.
The final thing I will say to illustrate this point is that there is one product on the market that claims to change your genetics. That’s wonderful! They should probably write to the universities and drug companies which employ the scientists doing gene research to let them know that there’s an Einstein at a supplement company who’s cracked the code! Give me a break.
CS: That’s not unlike something which we saw several years ago with the so-called “myostatin inhibitors” that faded away rather quickly…
LL: Yes, that was a very amusing product. In fact, we took it upon ourselves to contact the researcher behind the “myostatin study” that showed that an extract from a certain seaweed produced effects similar pharmaceutical grade myostatin blockers being clinically tested elsewhere in the world.
So, we got around to talking to this guy, and we eventually pulled it out of him that the stuff was really not everything that it was cracked up to be. We then published the information, and we proceeded to get a nasty letter from the manufacturer of the supplement, threatening to sue us for millions of dollars. The fact of the matter is that it felt good to get the truth out there. You don’t see these myostatin inhibitors much anymore!
CS: This interview has been incredible! Is there anything that we can look forward to in the future?
LL: Well, I’ll tell you what, I am very excited about all of the different and wonderful products that we continue to put out – products that help bodybuilders to build muscle the right way, which is to say working with their whole food diets. We just continue to put these things out, making them taste good, and not only that but disseminating good information. So, I’m just real fired up about being able to help people and to being able to share my 30 years of experience with them.
About the Authors
Clayton South, SPN (ISSA), is a recognized expert in the bodybuilding / fitness industry with over 150 bodybuilding, fitness and nutrition publications to his credit.
Mr. South, a former personal trainer, has worked as the Chief Research Officer (CRO) of a major nutrition company, and he currently serves as a marketing and advertising advisor to many of the major companies in the dietary supplement industry.
As a consumer advocate, Clayton South tests and reviews dietary supplements every day. In this role he is the author of THE SUPPLEMENT FILES – an unbiased, truthful “no-nonsense” inside look at dietary supplement products.
In addition to writing other articles, Mr. South authors CLAYTON SOUTH’s HEALTH FACTS, Q and A WITH CLAYTON SOUTH, and APPLIED BODYBUILDING RESEARCH.
He is a regular contributor to DOUBLE XL MAGAZINE, BODYBUILDING.COM and THE LEAN BODY COACHING CLUB. He has millions of readers every month from around the world.
Mr. South graduated with an Associates Law Degree from Canada’s top college, and is a certified Specialist in Performance Nutrition (SPN) by the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA).
He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lee Labrada is one of the world’s most well-known and celebrated bodybuilding legends. Lee holds 22 professional bodybuilding titles, including the IFBB Mr. Universe. He is one of few pro bodybuilders in history to consistently place in the top four at the Mr. Olympia competition (the “Super Bowl” of bodybuilding) for seven consecutive years—a feat he shares with Arnold Schwarzenegger.
He has appeared on the covers of more than 100 bodybuilding and fitness magazines and has been featured on CNBC, FOX, NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN and ESPN as a fitness and nutrition expert.
Lee was also inducted into the Bodybuilding Hall of Fame, is an Internationally known best selling fitness authos and holds a Bachelors of Science Degree in Civil Engineering. For more about Lee please visit his page here: Lee Labrada’s page.