An Interview With John Berardi!

After 8 years of working in this industry, John has made a big splash with his numerous nutrition and supplement contributions. To say that this guy knows his stuff is an understatement.
What's a young, hip, well-dressed guy like John doing, finishing up a PHD with a specialization in exercise and nutritional biochemistry this fall? Well, John Berardi is world renowned for his nutrition, supplement and training advice.

After 8 years of working in this industry, John has made a big splash with his numerous nutrition and supplement contributions. Now, after 10 years of nutrition and exercise consultation, and over 100 published articles on these topics, John has founded Science Link, Inc. - Translating Research into Results and - Human Performance and Nutrition Consulting.

Through his consulting businesses, John works with a diverse client population from supplement companies wanting to design cutting-edge products for high-level athletes who want to win medals and championships. To say that this guy knows his stuff is an understatement.

The Interview

[ Q ] Hi John, so how did you get started in this industry?

    Pure, dumb luck brought me into this industry. Well I guess that's not exactly true. I guess you could say that I happened to meet the right people at the right times in my life such that their mentorship allowed me to move toward where I am today.

    You see, I began training seriously back when I was 18 years old. A few buddies and I caught the disease and we would tear up the local gyms, scaring most of the local gym patrons with our loud grunting during lifting and our loud taunts of encouragement.

    While our training, our attitudes, and our nutritional intake (over 6000k cal per day) were all a bit excessive, I went from benching 135 for a few measly reps to 315 for 10 reps in about a year and a half. And my body weight skyrocketed from 160 lbs to about 210 lbs.

    So we were big believers in our methods (especially considering I hadn't taken any steroids to make these gains). In fact, in my precocious arrogance, I used to tell people I was going to be a pro bodybuilder. I reasoned that if I gained this much this fast, if I trained seriously for another few years and then eventually took steroids, I'd easily be big enough to turn pro.

[ Q ] * Snickers

    Hey, no snickering - I was 18 and Flex was my source of bodybuilding information!

[ Q ] Sorry, I couldn't resist, I think all of us have been guilty of this, eh?


    While we were thrown out of most gyms because of our behavior, one gym owner (a national level bodybuilding competitor) knew that we were just young and stupid and needed a little instruction - so he took me under his wing, giving me a job at the gym and making me his training partner.

    Up until this time I was cooking for the breakfast and lunch crowd in my dad's restaurant; I had no real career goals - I just worked and trained. But after taking the training job, and after another year of training myself as well as clients at that local gym, I began competing in bodybuilding contests.

    I was doing well so I set some goals, seemingly the first of my life, and ultimately worked my way up to and winning the 1995 NABBA Jr USA Contest. Of course, in addition to giving me a much-needed shot of confidence, this boosted my perceived status as a knowledgeable trainer. I began thinking I was the best trainer around. Again, I still had a lot to learn.

    Because of the success I was having with bodybuilding, my confidence was building and I decided to go to university to learn more about physiology and nutrition. Therefore, immediately after the USA contest, I began my undergraduate education (actually, I flew right from the USA contest in Vegas to Pennsylvania in order that I could start school the very next day!). Undergrad was great.

    The discipline I learned in bodybuilding made me an exceptional student and just a few years later I graduated with a 3.92GPA (out of a 4.00 point scale), having studied Health Science, Philosophy, and Psychology along the way. Throughout this time I would train enough clients each summer to be able to afford to pay my own way through school. Of course, I kept a few clients during the year but I mostly studied and trained.

    After graduating and kicking around for a few years, running a personal training business and doing some modeling down in Miami Beach, running a video game arcade in Ocean City NJ with my brother Steve, and working in a research lab in Pittsburgh, I decided to go back to school to get a masters degree in Exercise Physiology. And that's when my real splash in the industry was felt.

    Since I was a student at Eastern Michigan University and TC Luoma, editor in chief of Testosterone Magazine had also graduated from EMU; I decided to email him to see if he needed someone to cover the 2000 American College of Sports Medicine meeting, using our common University as leverage. It worked, and the rest, as they say, is history. TC liked my work and over the course of the last 3 years, I've published over 100 articles on training, nutrition, and supplementation, over half of them were published with Testosterone Magazine. So I do have TC to thank for his active promotion of my work.

[ Q ] Wow, I think you need to spend some more time in school! How long now have you been writing, training and coaching?

    Tracing back to my days as a coaching neophyte, I guess it's been about 10 years as a coach/trainer, 11 years as a serious weight lifter, and 3 years as a writer. Well, technically 3 years as a published writer with 5 more as a closet writer. Let me explain.

    That first article I wrote for T-mag wasn't my first article ever. Actually, I had been closet writing since 1995, crafting articles for magazines and newsletters; articles that I would never send out. You see, I had wanted to be a writer almost as much as I wanted to be a pro bodybuilder.

    So I started writing articles about topics that I thought were relevant to my friends and myself back in 1995. Most were crap. But the amazing thing was that each one I wrote was better than the last. So eventually, after 5 years, my friends and I noticed that the articles were getting better and I finally decided to send one out.

    It always amazes me when young guys who haven't written much more than an exercise program think that they will be able to write a masterpiece first article, one that will bring them fame and recognition in the industry. As you well know, Maki, you've gotta pay your dues before you can make your mark.

[ Q ] What are you currently involved in?

    Right now, I've just finished collecting data for my PhD dissertation and am in the process of writing up this data for publication. In about a month or so, I'll be slapping this research together in a binder and trying to trick some professors to give me a PhD for Christmas.

    So I hope to be finished my educational odyssey this fall/winter. For those interested, my dissertation has focused on quantifying recovery from intense cycling exercise (by measuring a number of blood markers of muscle damage, a bunch of hormones, numerous energy substrates, fuel oxidation, and subsequent performance) and using different macro-nutrient strategies to maximize this recovery.

    I originally wanted to do similar work in strength athletes but the measures available to us weren't sensitive enough to expect any treatment effects. So I stuck with cycling.

    Beyond education, my businesses Science Link, Inc. and have been taking off, especially with respect to client consultation. Within the last few weeks, clients of ours have recorded major successes. Allow me to brag a little?

[ Q ] I think you're allowed.

    One of our cyclists just won the US Masters National Championship. We also have helped to send a Michigan State Linebacker to camp in the best shape of his life in this, his draft year (lookout NFL). We've helped an IFBB figure athlete get ready for the Jan Tana pro contest and we have a number of male bodybuilders entering different level Canadian contests including the Canadian National Championships next month.

    John Berardi (right) putting his athletes to work.

    More than that, we've helped about 20+ exceptional, everyday weight lifters get in their best shapes ever. One client just emailed me today, noting the he's recorded a 1% drop in body fat each week for the last 5 weeks. Another client is headed to Hawaii in 2 weeks and he's going to arrive on the island at 5% body fat, down from 20% earlier this year.

    Like with any good team, I have to thank my staff (Carter Schoffer and Phil Caravaggio) for their tireless efforts in making all this success happen.

[ Q ] What about mentors. Do you have any?

    My first mentor and the most impactful one was the gym owner I mentioned earlier. His name is Craig Bach and when I met him, at the tender age of 18 years; he was a successful entrepreneur, an excellent bodybuilder, and a man wise beyond his years. Without his encouragement and counsel, I might still be cooking home fries (not that there is anything at all wrong with that, Dad).

    After Craig, Jim Dolan, my University Exercise Physiology instructor also made a big impact. This guy was a no-nonsense educator who always challenged me to do more and to learn more. Every time I responded to his challenges, he gave me more. On top of that, he was just a cool guy, riding his Harley to school in the spring and taking a sabbatical every few years to drive his VW bus across the US.

    Two other guys that have made a big impact on me have been Dr. Tim Ziegenfuss and Dr. Lonnie Lowery. While these two are more like nerdy frat brothers, they have both made meaningful contributions to my work and view of this industry.