It follows that a well researched idea, backed with a solid marketing campaign, results, for the most part, in a satisfied customer who keeps coming back for more. Ensuring that the consumer gets the best possible outcome is Rob Thoburn, who works as a scientific adviser and creative marketing specialist for supplement companies wanting to create a research-backed product that delivers on every promise.
Essentially Rob is a bodybuilding ideas man who believes in simplifying the bodybuilder's life by making their nutritional, training, and supplementation choices easier.
Having dedicated most of his life to muscle-building research, in the process working with many high-profile nutritional companies, Rob certainly knows his stuff, and is sought after as a speaker, adviser and spokesperson
on matters pertaining to nutrition, training and supplementation.
Having begun his bodybuilding journey as a 16-year-old self professed extreme hard-gainer, Rob fought very hard to build his physique to a respectable level.
Concurrent with his bodybuilding endeavors, Rob studied and worked to expand his knowledge base to the point where he is now one of the movers and shakers of the industry.
Companies Rob has worked with include SportPharma, MET-Rx, and MuscleTech and is credited with being an inventor on the U.S. and European patents for MuscleTechs Nitro-Tech, a supplement he helped to develop.
Rob currently is a senior member of the BSN team, and with his advice, has greatly benefited their approach to developing some of the world's best supplements. Expect to hear more about Rob, as the bodybuilding industry grows and the hottest nutritional
developments on this scene begin to emerge.
[ Q ] Exactly what do you do as a creative marketing specialist?
I come up with money-making ideas. Of course, if any idea is to make money (legally, anyways), people need to know about it. The knowing about it, is marketing. I may come up with an idea for a new product per se, a new way of marketing a product, or both.
Being that I work in the health and fitness industry, my ideas usually relate to products that help you perform and/or look better.
Ultimately, of course, my ideas must make your life simpler as opposed to more complicated if they are to succeed long term.
[ Q ] What are some of the bigger product concepts that you have been involved in establishing?
As much as I'd like to say I've turned out products that have fundamentally changed the world and benefited humankind, that isn't the case at least to the best of my knowledge.
Perhaps my "bigger" or more important contributions concern the manner in which ideas are positioned (marketing lingo) to consumers.
David, have you ever read something in the newspaper or a magazine, or just sat there in your car waiting for the light to change, and suddenly experienced a "paradigm shift" - a whole different way of looking at some aspect of life, possibly even something rather mundane?
My brain is constantly trying to come up with paradigm shifts that will somehow simplify and/or enhance our lives as it pertains to building a better performing and looking body.
Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week a team of "mental elves" tinkers away inside my head. Every now and then they come up with a new idea a new way of looking at the world. I get a proverbial tap on the shoulder, usually when I least expect it. This idea may come in the form of a new product concept, a new marketing approach, a new manner of educating consumers, or the like.
I essentially get my inspiration from two sources:
I constantly read peer-reviewed medical/scientific journals on a wide range of subjects and correspond with academic and clinical scientists around the globe.
Nothing can replace real world or everyday experience. I make an effort to bring an extra high level of awareness to everyday life and the challenges encountered in it.
This may be as simple (or frustrating) as dealing with phone companies, paying rent, or buying groceries. These and many other easily overlooked experiences provide me with valuable ideas for how to make our lives easier and better.
[ Q ] What should one look for in a quality supplement? How is marketing hype distinguished from the truth in advertising?
What one should look for is a product that does everything it is promised to do reliably, consistently, and without harming yourself or anyone else as it does so.
If you find that a product fails to meet the aforementioned criteria, then I suppose you could say that you are the victim of marketing hype as opposed to truth.
As wonderful as it would be to know beyond a shadow of a doubt whether or not a product will work for you prior to purchasing it, this just isn't possible.
Think about it this way. The first time you go to a barber or a hair stylist, do you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you will like the outcome before he or she starts cutting your hair? No. Unfortunately, you are at the mercy of the product provider the barber or hair stylist in this case.
The best you can do is consult with others about their experiences with that particular barber or hair stylist (i.e. get references) or look at photographs of recent customers (testimonials). This will give you a better approximation of the likelihood that you will be happy with the product your hair cut. But you can never know for certain beforehand, can you?
A similar scenario exists with the dietary supplement marketplace, and many other marketplaces. This is all the more reason why supplement manufacturers and marketers must provide better than expected customer service: Customers are putting themselves at our mercy, and we owe them the utmost care and respect in return.
[ Q ] What companies have you worked with? What experience have you gained in working with these companies?
You can see a fairly complete list of the companies that I've been associated with at my Web site,
If I had to summarize my learning experiences in one sentence, I'd say that I've learned more about what not to do than I have about what to do.
Even the best major league hitters strike out more often than they hit a home run. Similarly, most of my ideas don't turn out as hoped. Most of them flop.
However, my never-ending supply of new ideas and the passion to see them executed properly means that eventually I hit a "home run": The idea ends up being profitable to the customer and the business alike.
[ Q ] Who do you currently work with and what is your role there?
I currently work full time for
BSN in Boca Raton, Florida. I am the senior marketing executive and scientific advisor.
I report to Chris Ferguson. Chris is BSN's chief executive officer and chief product formulator. I joined BSN on March 1.
Before that I had been consulting and otherwise working for myself since the fall of 2001. I was living in Orange County, California.
[ Q ] How did you become involved in the bodybuilding industry?
My involvement has been the result of a longstanding obsession with anything and everything to do with building muscle.
- 1st Law: Conservation Of Energy. The work exchanged in an adiabatic process depends only on the initial and the final state and not on the details of the process.
- 2nd Law: Entropy. It is impossible to obtain a process that, operating in cycle, produces no other effect than the subtraction of a positive amount of heat from a reservoir and the production of an equal amount of work. (Kelvin-Planck Statement)
- 3rd Law: Absolute Zero. All processes cease as thermodynamic temperature approaches zero.
- "Zeroth Law": Thermodynamic Equilibrium. If systems A and B are in thermodynamic equilibrium, and systems B and C are in thermodynamic equilibrium, then systems A and C are also in thermodynamic equilibrium.
In order to live in our civilized world, you have to make money. It makes sense to me that you find a way to make money that you are also passionate about. That's my formula for career success. Here, success = happiness. I've managed to satisfy this formula by making my living as a creator and marketer of ideas.
When I started bodybuilding I was barely 16 years old. I was a tall and skinny runt at the time. I'm still a runt, but not quite so skinny. Right from the start, I found it near impossible to add muscle to my body, no matter how hard and heavy I lifted or how disciplined I was with my diet.
Like every other animal on the planet, I am at the mercy of the Laws of Thermodynamics. Thus, if I force enough calories (energy) down my throat, I can gain fat, but my body is very resistant to the idea of gaining lean muscle tissue. I'm a slow gainer in the extreme.
| Laws Of Thermodynamics
I've tried every training approach imaginable over the nearly 20 years that I've been bodybuilding, plus a few that defy description. In an effort to learn more about the root of my muscle-building difficulties, in my early twenties I started reading medical and scientific journals at the local university library (the University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ontario).
Browsing through journals I felt like a little kid in a candy store. I eventually started writing my own books (most of them never got published), and submitting articles to bodybuilding magazines. After a lot of failed attempts, I finally started getting published. I even got some review articles published in a scientific journal, and my own magazine column ("Sci-Tech", for Muscle Media 2000).
The aforementioned experiences led to contract copywriting projects and later full-time R&D and marketing positions within the bodybuilding/performance enhancement segment of the dietary supplement industry (for details see my biography).
[ Q ] What are some of the books you have written? What has been your most popular one?
I think the most popular book I have written is actually a collection of several electronic books (pdf files) called "The R.O.B. Report". You can buy it at my Web site. There are excerpts on the site that you can read for free.
I also wrote much of the manuscript for the "No Mistakes Nutritional Guide". This was published by Prolab (Natrol), who I was consulting for at the time.
Samples of my work can be found on my Web site.
[ Q ] What is your academic background? What are some of the bigger research projects you have been a part of?
I obtained my Honors Bachelor of Science Degree at the University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ontario. Waterloo is the city where I grew up.
I've definitely learned more since I left school than I did while I was attending. But it's often hard to convince someone of your knowledge without a degree. They do serve a useful purpose in that regard.
As far as research projects go, I've contributed to the design of clinical studies at companies that I've worked for. I also helped set up clinical studies at academic (university) research centers on behalf of companies that I consulted for.
[ Q ] Based on your experience in the bodybuilding industry, what, in your opinion, works in terms of supplementation, and what doesn't?
It has been my observation that taking supplements "in pieces", i.e., one supplement at a time works less well than "stacking", or combining, supplements.
If you want to look in the mirror each day and see your body's appearance improve as quickly as possible, then I would advise proper supplement stacking.
By "proper" I mean stacking the right supplements in the right doses and taking them at the right times.
You already use stacking in your life, David. Every time you sit down for a meal, you feed your body a stack of sundry nutrients. This is arguably the best (and certainly most natural) way to nourish your body and encourage your muscles to develop as quickly as possible.
When you lift weights, you stack together various exercises in order to stimulate the greatest muscle gains possible. Medical doctors routinely stack together pharmaceuticals so as to treat disease from multiple angles (e.g. cholesterol reduction).
Similarly, by stacking together the right combinations of supplements, you can support nutrition, muscle, weight management, performance, recovery, hormones, and other targets from multiple angles all at the same time. This allows you to achieve your goals much more quickly than if you were to hit one target at a time.
Arriving at the most effective bodybuilding or performance-enhancing supplement stacks can take many years (and thousands of dollars) of frustrating trial and error. It's usually more desirable to turn to someone who has already gone through this process. That's BSN.
Of course, in order to stack properly, all of your supplements need to be on hand, all of the time. This requires planning your supplement stacks well in advance Planning Your Performance, as I say.
It's worth adding here that 7-time Mr. Olympia Ronnie Coleman has his entire BSN supplement stack shipped to him every 30 days if not more frequently.
He can't take the chance that he will run out of any one component. From the typical consumer's standpoint, planning your performance like this also saves you a lot of money and hassle.
[ Q ] Who in the way of professional bodybuilders have you worked with? Have you any interesting experiences you can share?
Just around the time I came on board BSN, we signed Ronnie Coleman. He's the only professional bodybuilder whom I've worked with closely.
Before Coleman, I had intermittent contact with professional bodybuilders and other athletes who were being used for brand and product endorsement purposes. I've had some interesting experiences, but being that this is a "G-Rated" audience, I'll save them for later perhaps. Also, I don't want to have any lawyers calling me.
[ Q ] You are on the scientific advisory board of PhytoMedical Technologies, Inc. What does this company do, and what have you learned during your time with them?
PhytoMedical develops drugs for the treatment of cachexia (muscle wasting), diabetes, and obesity. These drugs ultimately have origins in nature; they come from plants. The plants serve as the starting point from which more powerful drugs are then synthesized.
| What Is Cachexia?
Cachexia is loss of weight, muscle wasting, fatigue, weakness and decrease of appetite in someone who is not actively trying to lose weight.
It can be a sign of various underlying disorders; when a patient presents with cachexia, a doctor will generally consider the possibility of cancer, certain infectious diseases (e.g. tuberculosis) and some autoimmune disorders.
I've never served on the board of a pharmaceutical company before, so it's been fascinating to get a glimpse of the inner workings of one. It has also been a refreshing eye-opener.
The dietary supplement industry, if it is to survive, must in many ways start behaving like a responsible pharmaceutical company. Thus, my relationship with PhytoMedical has given me keen insights as far as how to make BSN even more helpful to its customers and more profitable as a company.
[ Q ] Describe your Glucose Economy diet. Why is it beneficial for bodybuilders?
The Glucose Economy is a concept that I developed to explain the effects of food (eating) on your body fat level. It is useful to everyone because it makes it easier to understand how your body fat levels fluctuate over the course of the day and night according to what and how much you eat.
Glucose, better known as "blood sugar", is your body's favorite energy source (fuel). Your body does everything in its power to preserve its supply of glucose. I call this supply the "Glucose Economy".
The most common source of glucose in the diet is carbohydrate (sugars and starches). When you eat carbohydrate, your Glucose Economy expands. This encourages your body to burn more glucose and less fat.
Conversely, as you eat less carbohydrate or otherwise reduce the size of your Glucose Economy (e.g. as by exercising or fasting), your body burns less glucose and more fat.
This helps it preserve the Glucose Economy for those tissues that require glucose. You see, some tissues just can't do without glucose. They need it to survive.
It's because glucose is so essential to survival that human beings evolved the capacity to make it from scratch, or de novo, in scientific lingo. Glucose can be produced from building blocks provided by fat (glycerol, which is provided by triglycerides or triacylglycerols) and amino acids (in particular, their carbon skeletons).
De novo production of glucose allows you to survive on a zero-carbohydrate diet or extended periods of fasting (no food whatsoever).
The Glucose Economy can be used to explain a number of things, such as why you can lose weight on just about any type of diet so long as you don't eat too many calories overall. It can also be used to explain some of the symptoms of insulin resistance and diabetes, among other medical conditions.
[ Q ] What do you feel you have contributed to the bodybuilding community at large in your various roles?
Judging my by success with The ROB Report, I think I may have had the biggest impact in the areas of eating and exercising, particularly as they pertain to losing body fat (the Glucose Economy concept) and building muscle (the R.O.B. concept).
The R.O.B. (Rest Only Briefly) concept of resistance exercise (discussed in the ROB Report) goes against much of conventional bodybuilding wisdom. Yet it is one of the most effective muscle-building methods I have ever used.
Rest Only Briefly.
[ Q ] What are some of the hottest training, nutrition, and supplementation research developments at the moment?
As I say in my books and articles, bodybuilding is very much an empirical science. In other words, you do what works.
Scientists are still unraveling the cellular and molecular details of muscle growth, and how this process is stimulated by exercise (e.g. lifting weights).
As much as we sometimes like to think of our training practices as rocket science, the reality is that there is very little science to support these practices. Trial and error is the order of the day.
Some day in the future, hopefully not too far in the future, this will change dramatically. For instance, well have technologies in place that allow us to determine exactly when we have stimulated maximum muscle growth (hypertrophy) during a given bout of exercise.
At that point, no more exercise will be necessary. We can go home and recover. We will also have technologies that tell us when recovery is complete, the hypertrophic response has manifested completely, and we can go back to the gym and trigger it all over again.
We will also have technologies that will allow us to monitor on a moment by moment basis the effect a dietary supplement or other intervention is having on our muscle mass and/or body fat level. Is the supplement actually making your muscles grow any faster? How so?
Technologies like these will answer such questions and forever change our approaches to diet, exercise, and dietary supplementation for the better.
Our lives will be made simpler.
If I have anything to say about it, these and other technologies will come from BSN!
One of the developments I am very excited about is my latest training concept. I've been utilizing it in my own workouts with very positive sometimes almost magical results.
I just wish I'd tried this method out when I was 16 years old. You can look for this new and very anti-conventional training concept to be released through BSN.
[ Q ] Thanks for your time Rob. Is there anything you would like to add?
I would like to thank you, David, for being interested enough in me to devote an entire interview to the topic.
Also, thank you to all the readers.