Interview Conducted By Bob Kupniewski
Editor’s Note: Another SOLID human being with the drive to succeed and he isn’t just preaching stuff he read online on Pubmed, but is actually obtaining a PhD in the field! Read on, be inspired, and be great! Thank you Pete for the epic interview!
Bob: First and foremost could you tell us a bit about yourself, what you do, your accomplishments (Contest History) and your credentials?
Pete: I am a 26 year old graduate student from Champaign, IL working on my PhD in Nutritional Sciences at the University of Illinois. I have a B.S. in Biochemistry with a Nutrition minor and an M.S. in Biology with a Physiology Concentration all from the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse.
On the bodybuilding side of things, I have been training for 10 years and in that time have gone from a 125lb weakling at 16yrs old to an NGA Pro Natural Bodybuilder. I have competed in 7 natural bodybuilding contests over the past 8 years. Here is my contest history:
2004 NANBF 10,000 Lakes:
4th Novice – Medium
2006 NANBF Eagle’s Wings Bodybuilding Contest:
1st Novice – Medium
2nd Open – Short
Best Poser Award
2006 NANBF Best of the Midwest:
2nd Open – Medium
2008 OCB 45th Parallel:
2nd Open – Tall
2008 NANBF Mr. Natural Minnesota (IFPA Pro Qualifier):
1st Open – Medium
2012 NGA Titan Classic (NGA Super Pro Qualifier):
1st Open – Lightweight
Open Overall Winner
Earned NGA Natural Pro Card
2012 NANBF St. Louis Natural (IFPA Super Pro Qualifier):
5th Open – Short
Bob: What first got you interested in bodybuilding or nutrition?
Pete: I first became interested in bodybuilding by talking to bodybuilders at a gym I trained at in high school. I was a small 125lb 16yr old kid who got my bodyweight up to ~150lbs within my first year of training. I continued to grow and some of the bodybuilders at my gym asked me if I ever thought of competing. I decided to do my first contest and began dieting in January of 2004 at a 170lb bodyweight. I took 2nd out of 2 in teen and 4th out of 5 in my novice class, so basically dead last, but I was hooked and the rest is history.
Bob: What is your generic guideline for training? Do you feel there should be a major difference between pre-contest and offseason regarding volume, frequency, and intensity? If so explain?
Pete: My major guideline for training is that an individual needs to incorporate some form of progression and periodization into their training protocol. Early on in training, progression can be made simply by adding more weight to the bar, but eventually other training variables, such as volume, intensity, frequency, time under tension, etc., will need to be utilized to ensure progression. In addition, progression needs to be periodized to allow for proper recovery.
I don’t feel there should be a huge difference between pre-contest and offseason training because what was done to build the muscle in the offseason is what is going to keep the muscle during contest prep. However, there is some evidence in the literature that slightly less volume may be needed to maintain gains than was needed to make them which may suggest that trainees could slightly reduce volume during contest prep. In addition, a slight reduction in volume during prep may help recovery while in a caloric deficit; however, I have not personally experimented with this approach so I can’t comment on its effectiveness. Overall, I think that compound lifts and heavy weights should be the focus of a training program, regardless if a bodybuilder is in the offseason or dieting for a contest.
Bob: What is your general stance on nutrition as far as macro composition in any of your clients’ diets? Do you differ them much between pre-contest and offseason?
Pete: My general stance on nutrition, whether in the offseason or during contest prep, is to keep food as high as possible while still making progress towards your goal. As far as specific macronutrients go, I would recommend 1g/lb protein in the offseason. This recommendation is much lower than most bodybuilders consume; however, if you look at the literature, even this amount of protein intake is more than enough when in a caloric surplus. I typically recommend 20-30 percent of calories from fat in the offseason and then fill in the rest with carbohydrates. Personally, I keep my fat around 20 percent in the offseason and go a little heavier on the carbs because I have a fast metabolism and really respond well to carbs; however, if someone was a little more carb sensitive I think increasing fat up to 25-30 percent and pulling carbs down a little is probably a good idea. Overall, the goal in the offseason should be to gain weight slowly (1-2lbs/month) and the exact quantities of food consumed will depend upon the person, their goals, and their metabolism.
During contest prep, my primary theory is to keep food as high as possible while still losing weight at a reasonable pace (ideally 1-1.5lbs/wk or less). For macronutrients, there is some evidence in the literature that as body fat deceases, amino acid oxidation increases which suggests that an increased protein intake may be needed, especially as body fat reaches extremely low levels. Eric Helms is planning to do a study to look at protein requirements in extremely lean dieting athletes and I’m really curious to see what he finds. I typically still recommend fat at 20-30 percent and filling in the rest of calories with carbohydrates for non-refeed days during prep. On reefed days, I recommend a slight decrease in protein and fat intake with a large bump in carbs. As I mentioned previously, my body responds very well to carbohydrates and I find that during prep, I lose weight after every refeed day. However, not everyone responds the same.
Overall, diet plans need to be tailored to the individual with the overall goal of keeping food as high as possible while maintaining a reasonable rate of fat loss during prep or slow weight gain during the offseason.
Bob: What different things do you utilize on your clients as far as refeeds and cheat meals go, and what are your thoughts on utilizing those in both (offseason and pre-contest)?
Pete: I am not a fan of giving a dieting bodybuilder a cheat meal. If I am deep into a prep and you were to tell me to go have a cheat meal or that I had X number of hours to eat whatever I wanted, I can almost guarantee you I would put on 5-10lbs. There is just no way to control what a person consumes when you give them a cheat meal with no restrictions on calories or macronutrients.
I am a fan of refeeds and think they are very helpful during prep. As I mentioned previously, I lose weight after refeeds like clockwork during prep. As far as frequency of refeeds is concerned, I typically use 2x per week; however, I think that someone farther above their body fat set point could probably get away with 1x per week, but as an athlete gets leaner, I think 2x per week refeeds typically work well.
Bob: Do you believe in Intermittent Fasting and other non-generic meal patterns? Do you have to eat a certain amount of times per day to eat and why? It seems Meal Frequency is thrown around a lot lately with a ton of different research being published on PUBmed? Your stance?
Pete: I think that the reason there is a lot of debate in this area is because the answer to the question is not clear at this point. One thing that is clear is that the primary thing that matters for changes in bodyweight is calories at the end of the day. If you are eating more calories than you expend, your weight will increase. On the other hand if you are eating less calories than you expend, your weight will decrease. This will happen regardless of if you eat 1 time per day, 10 times per day, or somewhere in between.
However, I think that the primary debate in this area is the effects of meal frequency on body composition. Results from human studies on meal frequency and body composition have been all over the place and it is really hard to come to a general conclusion at this point. However, there is evidence from acute human studies or animal studies that may suggest otherwise. Overall, I think there is a lot that needs to be sorted out before a definitive recommendation can be made. For now, based on the evidence out there I think that meal frequency probably doesn’t play a huge role and the total at the end of the day is more important. With that being said, I feel that intermittent fasting or any other type of super restrictive diet with a bunch of rules is just making it more difficult than it has to be.
Bob: What are your generic guidelines of Pre/Post workout nutrition?
Pete: I’m not a huge supplement guy as most supplements that aren’t on the banned list really have not been scientifically shown to work (e.g. arginine, glutamine). I typically eat a whole food meal that is typically high in carbohydrates 1.5-2hrs prior to going to the gym. During prep or if I’m dragging I may consume some caffeine pre-workout also. Post-workout, I normally just take BCAA’s and creatine and then head home and eat a real food meal. Overall, I’m a much bigger fan of whole food than I am of supplements and my pre/post workout nutrition is no different.
Bob: What is your general philosophy on food sources regardless if the individuals is in a caloric surplus or deficit, the phrase “Clean Eating” is thrown around a lot. Could you shed some light on research or any information regarding utilizing different sources in the offseason or pre-contest?
Pete: When it comes to the “clean eating” vs. IIFYM debate, I feel that I fall somewhere in the middle. For the most part, I follow IIFYM and make sure I hit my protein, carbohydrate, and fat requirements each day. With that being said, I don’t do that by eating primarily processed food and supplements. I eat a majority of my foods from what most would call “clean” sources; however, I will throw in some fun foods to fill in the rest. Obviously this is much easier to do in the offseason than during prep and I typically end up eating basically all “clean” foods by the end of prep because they fill me up more.
In addition, I think that consuming adequate fiber and hitting your micronutrient requirements is also important. Fiber can increase satiety and has numerous health benefits such as reducing cardiovascular disease risk, reducing colon cancer risk, decreasing blood glucose, and keeping you regular. In addition, micronutrients are important for overall health and I feel that it is better to get these from foods, rather than supplements. The vitamins and minerals packed into supplements are only the compounds in food we know about that have effects on health; however, there are numerous other compounds in whole food which we don’t even know about yet that may have health benefits.
To summarize my long rambling answer, I think hitting your macros primarily with a variety of whole food sources is best. However, there is nothing wrong with throwing foods that aren’t typically considered “clean” in as long as you fit them into your macros.
Bob: What Supplements do you consider “Staples” or those that should be utilized on a daily basis? Also what supplements do you feel have their benefits in the offseason and pre-contest that should be considered or you utilize for a particular reason?
Pete: The supplements I would recommend to a natural bodybuilder are a multivitamin, fish oil, whey protein, creatine, and BCAA’s. There is also starting to be quite a bit of positive research on beta alanine. Citrulline malate looks like it may be promising as well. In addition to these supplements, I would recommend HMB during contest preparation because HMB has been shown to reduce muscle loss during stressful conditions.
Bob: What is your motivation and inspiration?
Pete: My motivation is the fact that I know if I work my ass off I can make visual progress. It is a challenge, which can be slow and frustrating at times, but when I look back at my pictures over the past decade, I know I have made a significant amount of progress and look forward to making a significant amount of progress over my next decade.
Bob: What are your future goals? Any specific things you want to accomplish?
Pete: My future goals are to make significant improvements over the next 2 years and bring a respectable physique to the natural pro stage in 2014. Another major goal is to graduate with my PhD in nutritional sciences (hopefully in 2015).
Bob: If there was one thing you could go back and change throughout your career what would it be and why? What impact do you think you could re-write in your past to improve on who you are today?
Pete: I don’t know if I necessarily would go back and change anything. In the past I have made all of the common mistakes and I have learned from them. I have run non-periodized bro routines, gotten too heavy in the offseason, cut water before contests, and only ate specific “clean” foods, but I have learned from my mistakes and wouldn’t change anything because it is all part of the bodybuilding journey.
Bob: Thank you for your time and effort in this Q&A Session, if there was one last tip you could give to those who are reading/following what would it be and why?
Pete: Consistency in diet and training over time is the key to making results. There is no magic pill, workout, or diet. It took me 10yrs to go from a 125lb 16yr old to a 26yr old natural pro bodybuilder. It doesn’t happen overnight, but if you keep with it and stay consistent, you will make progress.
Thank you to MachineMuscle.com for this opportunity.