Over 40 Bodybuilder of the Week: Eric Wangensteen

Over 40 Bodybuilder of the Week: Eric Wangensteen! - Pics and info and more!

How Did You Get Started?

As a kid (in the '70's & 80's), I was into sports, but was against lifting weights, as if that was "cheating". Fortunately, I grew beyond that mindset, and I joined a gym as I moved to Santa Barbara, CA at 26 years old. That was probably the best decision I ever made in my life! Since then, I've been actively educating myself on fitness, nutrition, & supplementation.

With a double career as an airline pilot and a musician, fitness has made a tremendous difference in my life. I can stay in shape, be more alert, and sleep better to counter the grueling schedules of an airline pilot. And, as a musician, it certainly helps with getting hired for a gig & with my confidence and energy on stage as an entertainer.

Eric Wangensteen
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Eric Wangensteen

What Workout Plan Worked Best For You?

Injury prevention has to always be a priority. The trick is to know when to push harder and when to back off. I am always mixing my routine up and try to never do the same exact workout twice, which is a challenge. It is, of course, much easier to stagnate and just do the same things every week, but that doesn't do enough for a person.

I generally try to hit the gym 4-5 days/week, focusing mainly on one major bodypart per workout. With each workout, I try to include heavy weights/lower reps, followed by lighter weights/higher reps, allowing myself to cheat a bit on the heavier weights, while maintaining strict form on the lighter weights.

I always want to reach failure at some point in my workout, either by use of a spotter, drop sets, negatives, rest pause, etc. I'm a big fan of Joe Weider, so I use a lot of his philosophies. I maintain my workout intensity with several methods: using heavy weights, shorter rests, speed of reps, higher volume, or new movements.

Throughout the year, I cycle from heavier weights & higher calories, to lighter weights & lower calories. In my 40's, I lift heavy for maybe a maximum of six weeks before backing off on the poundage a bit for a month or so.

I start my workout week with whatever my weakest bodypart is. This is maybe a twice-per-year analysis I make with my priorities. I used to do what most guys do; Monday is Chest day. If you don't get all your workouts in for the week (leg day seems to fall last), when next Monday rolls around, you start all over with Chest day, which is why so many guys have a big chest, but no back or legs.

I've learned to love hitting my weakest body parts first and hardest, when I'm fresh in the week. Maintaining symmetry is my goal these years.

Day 1: Back/Traps/Calves
Day 2: Chest/Abs
Day 3: Legs
Day 4: Shoulders/Triceps
Day 5: Biceps/Forearms/Abs/Calves
Day 6 And 7: Off

This isn't the best thing to say, but I do very little cardio. If I'm really trying to slim down, I'll do 30 min on the treadmill first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. Other than that, I'll do some jump rope to get warmed up, wind sprints or other short, maximum cardio bursts when I can.

My goal is to get my muscles sore from my workouts so they burn calories 24 hours/day. Being on the move during the day takes care of the rest. However, I always look to the day that I'm a regular cardio guy, too!

Eric Wangensteen
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Eric Wangensteen

What Nutrition Plan Has Worked Best For You?

Whey protein has made a bigger impact on my health and physique than maybe anything else. I could probably create a beach with the amount of protein powder I've consumed in the past 16 years! I aim for the typical amount of 1 gram per pound of bodyweight, minimum. 1.5g/lb if I'm really hitting it hard. I travel for a living, so, protein powders have allowed me to keep the protein levels high no matter where I am.

I feel that the shopping cart at the grocery store is where your nutrition starts. Sounds simple, but so many people want to get healthier while buying all kinds of junk when shopping, with some poor reasoning - kids, special occasion, guests, parties, but the junk food is broken into in the first weak moment. Here's the deal: If it's bad for you - don't buy it!

You'll have plenty of opportunities to eat junk when you're out-and-about, so you certainly don't need it at home, too. I stay away from the basic no-no's: soda, simple sugars, simple carbs like white bread, cereals, chips (packaged foods in general), & unhealthy fats like butter, mayo, deep fried products. I buy lean meats (chicken, salmon, turkey) tons of egg whites, steel-cut oats, vegetables & fruits, & healthy fats - olive oil, avocado, (salmon). I buy organic, within reason, as much as possible.

Reading and understanding labels at the grocery store is key. Think of the front of the package as advertising, & the ingredient list as reality. The meat label might advertise "81% lean, 19% fat", & you think that's perfect, because you want only 20% of your calories from fat.

Well, when you read the back, the calories are only 32% from protein & 68% from fat, which certainly isn't what you'd guess by reading the front of the package. No matter what should be allowed or appropriate with labels, you're the one eating it, so look out for yourself!

I eat well maybe 80% of the time, and splurge the other 20%, unless I'm really leaning out. Luckily, I've lost the taste for the popular fast-food chains, but pizza will probably always be my favorite splurge! If I know I'm going way off the wagon, I'll try to keep the carb count as low as possible for at least that day.

Ideally, I'm eating every three hours. I shoot for a calorie breakdown of 40% protein, 40% carbs, and 20% healthy fat, except I have virtually no fat immediately post workout. Meals around my workout start with a whole-food meal two hours prior, then supplements 30 to 60 min prior, with 20g whey protein and 40g complex carbs 30 min prior. I include 10g of BCAA's with my pre and post workout shakes. Post workout, I have 40g protein and (up to) 70g simple carbs like dextrose.

I supplement with protein powders, meal replacements, green foods, vitamins, energy supplements, natural sleep aids, and pre/post workout drinks. On the road, all of these supplements are cheaper than just about anything you buy on-the-fly (coffee, fast food, convenience stores, etc), and they can keep you moving forward towards your goals, rather than going backwards every time your life takes you out of your normal routine.

Meal 1:
Meal 2:
Meal 3: Pre Workout
Meal 5:
Meal 6: Before Bed
Eric Wangensteen
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Eric Wangensteen

What Supplements Have Given You The Greatest Gains?

I am very strict about my pre and post workout supplementation, knowing that it is the most important and receptive time to take in the nutrients. Like most of us, I fit my workout into a busy schedule. In order to time my supplementation properly, I prepare a pre and post workout drink in separate containers, and throw them in my gym bag before heading out.

30 minutes prior to hitting the gym, I mix water into my drink, and I'm ready to go. After my workout, I can have my post-workout drink, without having to rush home to mix up a shake.

I will go with the popular pre and post workout drinks from time to time, but I generally prefer to create it myself. It's cheaper, and I know specifically what & how much I'm getting.

Here's my stack:

Once Daily With Food:
Upon Rising (if necessary) & Pre Workout:
Pre Workout, Post Workout, Before Bed:
Pre Workout & Post Workout:
Post Workout:
  • 70g dextrose
Before Bed:

My favorite brands are Higher Power, Universal, and Optimum Nutrition.

Why do you love Bodybuilding?

I love the feeling of walking into a gym, knowing I have a challenge ahead, and walking out with a sense of accomplishment. Rarely, if ever, do I have a "perfect" workout, but I'm always working towards a goal. Some days, I may only have 20 minutes to be at the gym, but with enough focus and intensity, I can still have a successful workout. My normal time at the gym is 45 minutes to an hour.

Of course, being physically fit will never really count against you, and it sure does benefit you in so many ways. I remember in college when I was maybe 20, seeing a fitness commercial with a guy saying "I'm 41 years old and in the best shape of my life". 41 was a lifetime away for me at the time, and it really impressed upon me the concept of improving as the years go by rather than declining with age. Now, 41 has come and gone for me, and I'm "in the best shape of my life". How cool is that!

What Motivates You To Follow A Healthy Lifestyle?

My parents are great role models for a healthy lifestyle. They've been into fitness and healthy eating since before it was remotely in style. Where I live, in the northern USA, people can be quick to judge or tease a person that is disciplined in their fitness and nutrition, but my parents have proven over time the tremendous benefits of such efforts.

This certainly motivates me to press on with my aspirations. Also, I still like sports and I want to be in peak condition to perform at the highest level possible. Now, my sports are downhill skiing, waterskiing (with or without skis!), and primarily, golf.

What Made You Want To Achieve Your Goals?

I love to see what I can accomplish through hard work. I can give you 100 reasons why I want to be in shape, and none for why I wouldn't want to be in shape. Is fitness my living or source of income? No. Will I ever be the fittest guy out there? No. But, I certainly am going to put fitness way up on my list of priorities in life. My other priorities in life fall into place more easily if I am fit and healthy.

Eric Wangensteen
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Eric Wangensteen

What Are Your Future Bodybuilding Plans?

I would like to enter a fitness competition at some point, just to motivate me to a level of discipline I don't currently have.

What One Tip Would You Give Other Bodybuilders?

I'm not in a position to give advice to competitors, but I'll listen if they have advice for me!

Who Are Your Favorite Bodybuilders?

Jack LaLanne was such an inspiration to so many people, and myself. It is amazing how much he did for health and fitness. He had 96 of the most enjoyable and active years anyone could ever ask for. Arnold certainly is a success story that anyone with lofty goals can appreciate. And, Frank Zane (the last guy to beat Arnold in a competition) is the guy anyone would want to look like.

What Features Do You Use On Bodybuilding.com?

I love the short videos and text info accompanied with the supplements. I regularly read articles on diet, supplements, workout advice, and motivation. The search features are great and make it very easy to find what I'm looking for. BodySpace is a great place for me to stay motivated, put on print and hold myself accountable for my goals.