Dr. Colker is truly unique in that he has managed to couple his experience as champion competitive bodybuilder and powerlifter with the highest level of academic credentials and education. Dr. Colker is an attending physician at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York and Greenwich Hospital, in Connecticut. It is his published research that is perhaps the most widely quoted in the dietary supplement industry. As an internationally recognized consultant in health and fitness, he has worked with governments, large health systems, and private companies, as well as with Olympic and professional athletes and celebrities from around the world.
He is a Fellow of the American College of Nutrition, a key speaker for the American College of Sports Medicine. Dr. Colker has been the Contributing Editor for Muscular Development for many years and has appeared countless times in other trade publications (Muscle and Fitness, Ironman, Muscle Magazine, Physical, Flex Magazine, etc.). As a highly familiar and trusted face in the field of health and fitness, he has also served as a consultant for nearly every major supplement company in the industry.
His commentary can be seen live as a regular guest medical correspondent on Fox News Channel's "Fox and Friends" and America's Health Network's "Ask the Doctor." As one of the premier speakers in health and fitness, Dr. Colker is regularly quoted in the media by such newspapers as The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Seattle Times, and Boston Globe. He is a prolific writer with vast readership and a host of feature articles and books to his credit. But most importantly, he just loves the iron!
Mike Mahler: Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to do the interview
Carlon Colker: No Problem Mike, glad to do it.
MM: I know that you competed in Bodybuilding and Powerlifting a few years ago. Can you tell us more about that?
CC: I won several Bodybuilding competitions in New York in the 80s and competed in Powerlifting in Israel.
MM: What were your best lifts in Powerlifting?
CC: I rather not get into that, as it just becomes a pissing contest. That said, I had some very good lifts. I was a solid bencher; my deadlift was outstanding; and my squat was pretty good. However, I had a back injury that hampered my squatting power. I really think that Powerlifting is a dumb ass sport.
MM: Really, why do you say that?
CC: It is just a great way to get hurt. I did not feel at my healthiest when I was doing it. It makes you look like shit. You can pack on some mass doing Powerlifting and it can be beneficial for younger lifters. However, after that, if you do not gravitate towards good healthy cross training, you are going to be in trouble. If you do not give up the 800lb deadlifts, your body is going to get rocked.
MM: I have spoken to several Powerlifters that are loaded with injuries.
CC: Yes, you have calcium deposits in your elbows, your knees are shot, your back is shot, most Powerlifters look absolutely awful and most look like they have never touched a weight in their lives. They have big guts, skinny arms, etc. They do not look like the older lifters such as Bill Pearl, or Steve Reeves, and John Grimek. Those guys were healthy, looked great, and were super strong. They had it all.
MM: What did you think about your bodybuilding competition experience?
CC: I gave that up because it just did not pay the bills and I wanted to pursue intellectual stuff as well. I did pretty damn good in bodybuilding and probably would have gotten to a national level. However, I do not think that I would have been a pro without doing some horrible things to my body.
MM: Now you just workout for health?
CC: Well it depends on what athletes I am working with. If you have done your homework, then you know that I am one of the few physicians that actually works out with my clients. I work with several professional athletes, professional Bodybuilders, and Olympic athletes. Chris Klug was my latest triumph. He had a liver transplant 18 months before the Olympics and took a Bronze metal in Snowboarding.
I helped him recover from his liver transplant and a blown ACL. I also worked with the New York Mets, the New York Giants, Andre Agassi is one of my guys, and of course I work with a lot of bodybuilders. I actually got on the field with one of the Giant's lineman and rushed him to prove a point that he was not moving to the left well enough.
MM: That must have gotten you some respect. What are some of the mistakes that you see with a lot of the professional bodybuilders that you have worked with?
CC: I am a big believer in taking "holidays." Whether it is a "holiday" from drugs, supplements, or training. I think that you need to give your body a rest in order to get your receptor sensitivity back. If you keep bombarding your body with a stimulus, it becomes numb.
Let me give you an example with something that Steve Reeves used to do. When Steve wanted to know something about a certain body part, he would take two weeks off and not go near that body part. He did this to get rid of the numbness and to learn what his body was responding to. Thus, when bodybuilders come to me, I like to have them start from a clean slate by taking a "holiday" from training.
I tell them that if they have a stubborn bodypart that is not growing, the first thing that they need to do is not train it. Then you can introduce movements, one at a time and see which movements make you the sorest; which movements make you the most pumped, and then go from there. To answer your question, the biggest mistake that pro bodybuilders make is the resistance to a drug "holiday." I cannot give out any names, but it is not difficult to find these guys when you go to the shows.
They are the ones that keep looking worse and worse as they compete. These guys never stop training and they never stop taking drugs. As a result, they keep looking worse and worse. At best your body will stagnate, at worst you will literally become catabolic. Kind of like bombing your body with loads of sugar. After a while you become insulin resistant.
MM: Do you see any value in diets that have you do protein cycling in which you lower protein intake for a few weeks or diets?
CC: Well, I am all for periodization of training and diet. However I do not think that dropping your protein significantly is a good idea. One thing that we also have to realize is that the over muscled condition is not a natural condition. We want to be big and muscular. Yet, it simply cannot be sustained. I do not think that my healthiest condition was my biggest. I was 240lbs at 5'9 with a 19 and Â½ inch neck and would be winded after walking up a flight of stairs.
It is just not the healthiest place to be. It goes against the homeostatic mechanism of where your body wants to be set. We are fighting ourselves when we try to bigger and more muscular. If it were easy, we would be throwing on muscle like crazy like those myostatin null animals. Our bodies are just not made for that and we have to fight to gain muscle. What I tell people is lets reach a happy medium in which we are fit, doing a diverse amount of training, and taking in a diverse amount of protein.
One does not always need 240 grams of protein a day. For example, what if it is a non-training day and you are not particularly sore and you feel like training? What are you recovering from? The body is not a machine in which you dump in the same amount day in and day out.
MM: Do you give athletes the exact amount of protein that they should take each day?
CC: The body has different stresses each day and on some days you will need more protein than others. I am not big on prescriptive amounts of protein. I try to give guidelines for people to follow. Everyone knows that you need to take in a good amount of protein to gain muscle. I mean you try taking in less than 100 grams of protein for a week and see how much muscle you build. If you say that you are fine, then you probably never had big muscles to start with.
MM: Lets get into you book: "The Greenwich Diet." How did you conceive of it?
CC: Really through clinical experience. If you have read the book, then you know that it is bodybuilding oriented and teaches the benefits of having small frequent meals that are low-carbohydrate and high in healthy protein and healthy fat. The book was not made for bodybuilders, but the broad based market. Regardless, the principles are the same and can be tweaked for mass building.
MM: What makes the Greenwich diet different from Mauro DiPasquale's "Anabolic Diet" or Dr Atkins' work?
CC: I am not familiar with Mauro's diet. However, I know Bob Atkins and I am very familiar with his ideas. I will say this about Bob; he was preaching the benefits of a low carbohydrate diet thirty years ago. You have to respect that and Bob has had great success with his diet. Where I disagree with Bob is that I do not believe that you need to get your carbohydrate intake down to zero.
I do not think that your end goal should be to go into ketosis. There are a lot of healthy things that come in vegetables that people should be getting such as: the cleansing effects, the flavones, and antioxidants. I also disagree with the large amount of saturated fat that Bob advocates. I mean how hard do I have to work to convince you that pork is not good for you? Saturated fat is problematic for heart disease and especially cancer. I think a little bit of saturated is okay. However, it should be minimized and replaced with healthy fats such as olive oil and fish oil.
MM: What is the biggest problem with high carbohydrate diets? Would getting all of your carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables block out the negative effects of high carbohydrates diets?
CC: Everyone likes to lump fruits and vegetables together. However, I think that they are completely different. Let me refer you to a position that the American Pediatric Association took recently. They feel that the incidence of childhood diabetes is so alarmingly high that no child under the age of six should consume any liquid besides milk and water.
MM: Even fresh juices
CC: Yes, just because something is natural does not mean that it is good for you. It is still high in sugar, which can lead to diabetes and obesity. When you talk about fruits being natural, you have to be careful. Are fruits really natural? I can stretch that definition, in order to give you fodder for thought.
If you go back far enough in time in our ancestry, there is little evidence of childhood obesity, or heart disease in men over forty, or diabetes. Fruits were seasonal back then. Is it natural to have access to bananas and oranges year around? Isn't it processing to have fruits brought to in an area that is not natural to have fruits? I don't know, it is just something to think about.
MM: Interesting point. Let's get into nutritional supplements. What are some of the top supplements that you recommend?
CC: Well, I think that you have to focus on products that have been really researched, not products that are relying on other people's research. Make sure that the product was independently researched and that it is safe. I am a big whey protein isolate fan. I was an ion exchange fan a while back. However, now I think that a micro-filtrate is the way to go.
It has a lot to do with the fact that a lot of the biologically active subfractions are still maintained with integrity.
MM: Is the whey protein isolate the best one to take at all times? I have heard that it is good for after workouts due to its rapid absorption, but that it is not the best at other times such as during the day.
CC: I don't think anyone knows that for sure. Nevertheless, it is worth looking into. I think that it is a good idea to take in a variety of proteins. That said, the isolates are a good cornerstone.
MM: Well, I know that you are a busy man and thanks a lot for taking the time to do the interview.
CC: My pleasure and please contact me if you have any other questions.