For almost 40 years, Dr. Di Pasquale has been synonymous with the credo "walk the walk and talk the talk." In bodybuilding, he's the expert's expert - the guy Dan Duchaine, Bill Phillips, Charles Poliquin, and many of the newer writers - have received much of their knowledge from.
Despite the fact that Dr. Di Pasquale has published over a dozen books on muscle building and athletic performance, as well as literally thousands of articles in the past four decades, he's still somewhat of a "behind the scenes" guy in the bodybuilding world.
A lot of athletes, even those who are following his advice (which might have been relayed by other bodybuilding writers) don't know much about the man, his life, his work, and the substantial contribution he's made to promoting the accurate science of physique development and athletic performance.
However, in this article, we'll turn the spotlight directly on Dr. Di Pasquale (something he's a little reluctant to do, but we talked him into it).
Who Is This Guy, & What Can He Do For Me?
The word expert is often misused in the bodybuilding industry, but there's no question Dr. Di Pasquale is a true expert. As a former world champion athlete and still very active strength trainer, as well as a practicing medical doctor, he has a unique and broad perspective - one which allows him not only to empathize with the wants and needs of the serious athlete or fitness buff but also the training and experience to understand the scientific/medical side of the equation.
Dr. Di Pasquale received his medical training from the University of Toronto where he holds an honors degree in biological science in which he majored in genetics and molecular biochemistry. He graduated in 1968 and received his medical degree in 1971. He's certified as a Medical Review Officer by the Medical Review Officer Certification Council and as a Master of Fitness Sciences by the International Sports Sciences Association.
Dr. Di Pasquale has been involved in the bodybuilding and sporting world for much of the past four decades. For example he was an assistant professor at the University of Toronto for over a decade, as well as being the Drug Program Advisor to the World Wrestling Federation and past Medical Director and Drug Program Advisor to the now defunct World Bodybuilding Federation. He was also the acting Medical Review Officer for the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR), and the chairman of the International Powerlifting Federation's Medical Committee (from 1979-1987) and IPF North American Vice President a few years back.
In the early '80's he initiated and developed the International Powerlifting Federation's drug-testing protocols and procedures as well as the Canadian Powerlifting Union) as both a medical advisor and drug-testing officer.
He's written over a dozen books and thousands of articles, including articles in all the major bodybuilding mags of the last three decades. He's also authored two international monthly newsletters over the past few decades.
In 1999 he started up his own nutritional supplement company to provide the quality of supplements needed for those following his Anabolic and Metabolic phase shift diets.
As if that weren't enough, Di Pasquale is also a world-class athlete, holding two world titles (with gold medals at the World Games and World Championships), eight Canadian, 2 North American and 2 Pan American championship titles, and that's just to mention some of the bigger ones. He was also the first Canadian powerlifter to total ten times his bodyweight (using only a belt and knee wraps - no squat suit or bench shirt or any other aids) and the first to win the World Championships.
Dr. Di Pasquale is also a scientific presenter and has been invited to speak at many conferences and seminars on a variety of topics including drugs in sports, ergogenic aids, nutritional supplements and low carb dieting.
I could go on and on, but as I'm sure you can already tell, Mauro is not your garden variety medical doctor, nor is he one of these championship athletes who doesn't have a clue how he got that way.
As I already mentioned, Dr. Di Pasquale has been mentoring athletes about the fact and fiction of bodybuilding and athletic performance for almost four decades, and now that he's contributing to our site, helping set the record straight on such issues how to maximize body composition through phase shift dieting, what and how to use nutritional supplements, how to maximize anabolic and fat burning hormones, and much more. As a world champion strength athlete, he certainly knows his way around the gym and will be sharing his immense knowledge on this topic as well.
We recently spent the day with Dr. Di Pasquale - visiting with him at his home and his fitness center in Ontario, Canada. During our visit, I had the opportunity to get to know Dr. Di Pasquale better and ask him some questions which I'm sure have crossed the minds of many of you.
Here are some highlights from our interview:
[ Q ] When did you start training with weights, and why?
Mauro Di Pasquale: I've been lifting weights for over forty years and I can vividly remember my first "set" of weights. I started training with weights when I was fourteen years old in the basement of my father's shoe store using some makeshift equipment.
I didn't have the money to buy real weights as everything I made usually went into the family pot, so I got some steel bars that they use to reinforce concrete, tied a number of them together and voila, weights.
If I wanted to increase the weight I simply tied on one or more extra bars. With these weights I did squats, bench presses, standing presses, and curls. Since I didn't have a bench, I did my "bench" presses on the floor (my first encounter with partials). From that point on everything was uphill - had to be since my equipment or my training couldn't have gotten any worse.
Why did I start? Well at the age of fourteen I was only 5' tall and weighed about 100 lbs. I knew I was strong since I could win at arm wrestling against almost anyone, but I wanted to look strong and I knew I could get bigger and stronger by using weights.
Before I turned fourteen I remember going to a second hand bookstore in downtown Toronto and being impressed by the bodybuilding and weight lifting magazines. People like John Grimek, Reg Park and Steve Reeves motivated me to hit the weights.
That first encounter 45 years ago changed the direction of my life.
[ Q ] When did you decide that you wanted to be a medical doctor, and why?
MDP: I decided that when I was only ten or eleven years old. At that time I came down with this mysterious rash and was in hospital for a few weeks while they figured it out. I had so much respect for my doctor, and was treated so well by him, and the nurses and staff at the hospital that I decided then and there that I was going to be a doctor.
I wanted to provide the same care and services to others that I had experienced from them.
I've never regretted that decision.
[ Q ] It sounds like you're very passionate about both medicine and strength training - did these two interests compliment one another - did being a successful athlete help you become a better medical doctor, and did your scientific and medical training help you become a better athlete? If so, how?
MDP: My sports career and interest in using weights for mass and strength are intertwined with my medical career. They're inseparable. One colors the other.
For example, in medical school I was especially interested in anything that related to muscle hypertrophy and strength. Even in the unavoidable cadaver dissection, more of my time was spent working with the musculoskeletal system than with any other.
In the past thirty five plus years everything I've done has had aspects of both. My scientific and medical knowledge helped me to eat and train intelligently and be an elite athlete for over two decades. And my sports interests and achievements have helped me to better deal with and understand my patient's athletic and other problems.
[ Q ] A lot of people are fairly critical of the "medical establishment's" position on many topics that relate to bodybuilding or enhanced athletic performance. How do you view the situation - do medical doctors generally know what they're talking about when it comes to bodybuilding?
MDP: Medical doctors know how to treat disease. They basically take a reactive stance. If you're sick, they'll do what they can to make you better. In this light physicians are good in what they do. And if you've got something wrong with you, then they're the professionals to see.
The first priority that we as medical doctors have to our patients is to do no harm. That means that if you're healthy, we shouldn't do anything that might make you sick. And if you're sick then we should try with all our knowledge and insight to make you better, not worse.
The use of drugs by athletes falls into this way of thinking. Traditional doctors don't really care if using anabolic steroids is going to improve your athletic performance or make you look and feel better about yourself, they just don't want to give a healthy person something that's might make them sick.
As well, being traditional and conservative by nature, they tend to follow the general moral consensus. If society in general condemns drug use by athletes, then so do they. Unfortunately they also tend to bend the information is such a way as to discourage behavior that they feel is morally or socially unacceptable.
This is how they got themselves in a bit of a quandary as far as athletes are concerned. Because of their anti-steroid, they don't work anyway - stance, and their excessive preoccupation with adverse effects, athletes lost faith in anything they have to say about drug use in sports. But there was a reason for the steroids don't work stance and it has to do with the attitude of the scientific community in the eighties.
The general consensus of the medical and scientific community at that time was that anabolic steroids did nothing to enhance muscle mass or performance. They explained away any gains made while athletes were on anabolic steroids as either due to retained fluid or a placebo effect They were wrong of course and no one knew this more than the athlete. Although attitudes have changed in the last ten years, athletes still don't trust scientists and doctors when it comes to drug use in sports.
Unfortunately the situation hasn't really changed all that much. Although physicians may grudging accept the efficacy of anabolic steroids in increasing muscle mass and strength, they're still reluctant to prescribe them for any reason to healthy athletes.
While I can understand that doctors don't want to create any health problems, this kind of attitude, when you take into account the things they do condone, seems a bit schizoid.
You can argue, as I sometimes do, that cosmetic surgery is doing harm to a healthy person. After all there's been a significant amount of morbidity and mortality associated with cosmetic surgery. But then cosmetic surgery is an accepted part of medical practice while using ergogenic drugs to enhance the looks or psyche is not.
This may change but right now it's easier to get your face and body surgically molded than to get a prescription for a drug that might do some of the same things.
C'est la vie. I'm not saying that it's right but just that that's the way it is.
On top of all this the average doctor is not that well schooled on nutrition and exercise. They know very little about bodybuilding or drug use in sports unless they've made a personal effort to educate themselves in this area. And not many have, so in most cases it's useless to consult one about training and diet strategies, drug use and the use of nutritional supplements.
They simply don't know much about any of this. Now if you show up at the hospital with a steering wheel embedded in your chest, you sure as heck don't want to see a strength coach or a herbalist.
For these kind of problems (and obviously many other problems and diseases) they'll fix you up better than anyone else on this planet. But if you're a female and ask them about periodization, they're likely to put you on the birth control pill.
[ Q ] You were one of the first experts to write about the use of anabolic steroids by athletes. In fact, I think you wrote your book Drugs in Sports before Dan Duchaine even wrote his infamous Underground Steroid Handbook. Isn't that right?
MDP: I wrote my book in 1983 but had written on anabolic steroids and nutritional ergogenic aids for almost ten years prior to that. So while I'm not sure when Dan wrote his book since there is no publication date in my copy of his Underground Steroid Handbook, I believe we wrote our respective books at about the same time. However I believe that I began writing about drug testing, anabolic steroids and nutritional supplements several years before he did.
Our focus and books, however, were quite different in that Dan basically put out an informative cookbook on anabolic steroids while my book dealt with drug (with a section on anabolic steroids) and nutritional supplement use by athletes as well as drug testing.
[ Q ] How was that received - your book was pretty honest, and some athletes used it as a "how-to guide" to the use of drugs for enhancing muscle building and athletic performance, as well as beating drug tests. Did this create any controversy or animosity between your peers in the medical community?
MDP: You might say that. In fact this book, which is pretty straight compared to Dan's book, was actually banned by the Canadian Olympic Committee and by the Canadian Coaching Association. They wouldn't carry it in any government bookstores.
All this was a bit farcical considering the fact that my intention in writing this book wasn't to provide a cookbook for drug use, it was to provide honest cutting edge information on drug and supplement use by athletes and on drug testing.
I was considered a maverick because I believed that athletes had the right to be informed. I didn't write my books, updates and newsletters to conform or to make money; I did it because I felt it was right. I still feel that way. However, now the scientific and medical community takes me much more seriously.
Even the drug testing community, including the IOC laboratories, has come to me at times for information and advice. A lot of the stuff I wrote eventually was used by the sports federations and the IOC. Although sometimes it took them quite a while to catch on.
For example, I wrote about the use of dihydrotestosterone and possible ways to detect this use back in 1986. It wasn't until 1994 that the IOC decided to implement testing for this androgen.
That was when they came up with the positive dihydrotestosterone tests on the Chinese women swimmers and thus discovered that maybe it wasn't the herbs and plants that the Chinese were using that gave them their masculine physiques and strength. I also wrote on several occasions starting about 2 decades ago about designer steroids and it's only in the last year that they've clued in.
[ Q ] When did the use of anabolic steroids become so popular? I'm aware that some Olympic athletes, including the Russians, reportedly used testosterone and other androgens back in the '50's, but it seemed like it was a big secret for a long time.
MDP: The history of anabolic steroids is fascinating and I'll include some of it in later articles. For now I'll just say that the first use of anabolic steroids (at least testosterone) was likely in the mid 1940s (with the Germans), with use in the late forties and early fifties by the Russians. It wasn't until almost the mid fifties that we saw their use in North America.
They were a "secret" in the fifties and early sixties, but by the mid sixties it became common knowledge among bodybuilders and other power athletes and their use increased exponentially over the next few decades. By the eighties the use of anabolic steroids began to peak as far as dosages were concerned.
In the second half of the eighties and continuing on into the nineties we saw the increased use of hormonal stacking with the combined use of several hormones, and substances that affected the hormones, including anabolic steroids, testosterone, HCG, estrogen antagonists (testolactone, nolvadex, clomiphene, cyclofenil) insulin and insulin enhancers, growth hormone and GH enhancers, IGF-I, thyroid, and cortisol blockers.
Today drug use by competitive bodybuilders and some other athletes has gotten so far out of control that the heavy users are playing Russian Roulette (no pun intended) whenever they go through a cycle. No one can predict the short term and long term consequences of such heavy drug use.
[ Q ] I see. So if anabolic steroid use really started to take off with athletes in the late '60's and seventies, when did steroid use become so widespread - so popular - amongst weight trainers who didn't even compete? From what I can tell, the vast majority of steroid users in the '80's, and to some extent in this decade, are people who don't compete in any sport. How did this craze get so out of control?
MDP: Well it's almost like monkey see, monkey do. All the magazines and shows applaud these drug monsters so the users become the gold standard. The ones to emulate. Now if you're going to emulate someone, then you do what they do. And to many that means using drugs especially anabolic steroids.
Everybody knows that you can't develop that kind of monstrous physique with just following the right kind of diet, using nutritional supplements, and heavy duty training. IT JUST CAN'T BE DONE!
So glorifying the drug produced body in reality glorifies drug use. It's like a vicious cycle: the more drugs used, the freakier the physique, the more exposure in the magazines, resulting in more people trying to emulate their "heroes", pushing the envelope even further so that even more drugs are used by both the competitive and the vast number of non competitive bodybuilders.
[ Q ] Here's a multi-part question - is steroid use by athletes and bodybuilders (both competitive and noncompetitive) a "problem"? If so, what's the solution? Is there one?
MDP: Yeah, the use of anabolic steroids by bodybuilders and other athletes is a big problem mainly because it's so out of control. There's no one out there giving these athletes the information and monitoring they need to minimize the adverse effects of anabolic steroids and other ergogenic drugs. And the Black Market availability and quality is also a real problem.
[ Q ] How do you personally feel about the self-administration of anabolic steroids - athletes using them without the assistance of a physician?
MDP: I don't think that athletes know enough to handle the use of anabolic steroids without some proper advice and monitoring. I've heard of some real horror stories over the years.
Abcesses the size of footballs, allergic reactions, severe liver problems and so on. If the athlete had some professional help and monitoring, all this would be minimized if not eliminated.
Unfortunately today the legal and moral climate is such that physicians can't prescribe anabolic steroids or monitor athletes using them. So in many cases the athlete who wants to use them is left to his own devices and resources. And these often let him down.
[ Q ] Well then, if anabolic steroid use were "legal," meaning a doctor could prescribe them to patients (as was the case up until about fifteen years ago), would you prescribe them to athletes and bodybuilders?
MDP: If the moral climate changed, and there were no stigmas or repercussions to prescribing anabolic steroids to patients, I probably would. But only because I could educate and monitor the patients use of these compounds and thus prescribe reasonable dosages (most athletes use much more than they need) and minimize any real or possible adverse effects.
[ Q ] It's obvious you have a unique perspective on this whole issue - you practice medicine, but you also run a gym here in Ontario. I'd have to imagine guys come up to you all the time asking about whether they should use steroids, growth hormone, or whatever the latest bodybuilding drug fad is. What do you tell them?
MDP: I tell them the truth, and the reality behind the use of anabolic steroids and other drugs. I don't use scare tactics or become defensive. I point out to them that I can't give them a prescription for anabolic steroids or growth hormone, or anything else for that matter if it's not for medical reasons, and I can't monitor their use even if they get these drugs on their own. That's the law in Canada and I won't jeopardize my medical license in this way.
I tell them that in the long run there are better ways to increase their muscle mass and strength and that I can help them in this respect. Actually in the past ten years this message has been increasingly easier to deliver.
It seems that all the problems and deaths associated with drug use, has made the average non competitive bodybuilder more open to the natural approach. And it's this natural approach that prompted me to write the books I have in the last decade, including the Anabolic Diet, the Metabolic Diet, The Anabolic Solution and the Radical Diet, start up my web sites (www.MetabolicDiet.com, www.CoachSOS.com, www.FemmeBody.com, www.DoubleMuscle.com, www.LongevitySolution.com, www.BoomerSolution.com and dozens of others) and especially my own nutritional supplement company.
[ Q ] I know you were in charge of drug testing for Vince McMann's World Bodybuilding Federation (WBF). I understand Vince ordered all these pro bodybuilders to get off drugs, and you were in charge of helping them "rehabilitate" their hormonal systems.
What can you tell me about that? Can these guys get off drugs and still maintain their muscle mass? Or, do they just end up frying their system with "long-term, high-dosage hormonal replacement therapy"?
MDP: You know, I've had a lot of bad press in the last decade years about my involvement with the WBF. I've heard and read about allegations and insinuations that have been made, but have never responded to them. I felt that I did what I had to do and did the best I could given the situation, and that I didn't have to defend myself. Well maybe this is the time to let people know what really happened.
Vince, given the fact that he was under some duress from the feds (unjustly so as it turned out), gave the WBF his best shot. He had a vision. He tried to raise bodybuilding to a new level - to introduce it to the rest of the world and bring it more into the limelight. He brought me in to help him clean up the sport and show the world, and the bodybuilders that you didn't need drugs to build a first rate physique.
In February of 1992 I met in Los Angeles with the fifteen or so bodybuilders that were under contract with the WBF. The meeting was spur of the moment. After I had spent a few days with Vince in Stamford, CT, we decided to get the boys together for an emergency meeting.
At that meeting we broke the news that we intended to make the WBF drug free. That wasn't even up for discussion. What was up for discussion was the timing. After a few hours of tossing suggestions around, the WBF bodybuilders themselves made the suggestion that if we were going drug free then we should start ASAP and that the WBF championships scheduled less than four months away should be drug free.
This was a tall order and it was at this time that I presented to them a diet and supplement plan for them to follow. I gave them a mini seminar on what was to become the Anabolic Diet and put them on various ICOPRO supplements since ICOPRO was affiliated with the WBF and both were owned by Vince. Although the ICOPRO supplements were the brain child of Dr. Fred Hatfield, I had some minimal input into their formulation and they were pretty good products at that time.
The problem unfortunately, was that NO ONE (and that included me) could have taken these athletes off drugs, bring their hormonal systems back on line, get them to change their training, eating and supplementation, and then get them into contest ready shape, all in less than four months.
Many of these bodybuilders had fried their systems with the chronic use of high doses of anabolic steroids and just getting their HPTA (the hypothalamic-testicular axis) back on line would have been a major feat in the time period we had.
So the inevitable happened and the championship show was somewhat of a disaster. Those that did stop using the drugs got either smaller and soft, or smaller and hard (with a few notable exceptions) if they were disciplined enough. The ones that stayed on the drugs were caught and fined initially and later suspended for various periods of time.
Regardless of what people thought and said, NO ONE got away with anything because the drug testing was so comprehensive. Those that seemed as if they were beating the drug tests were under suspicion and I was awaiting confirmation from upcoming tests before lowering the boom. The WBF folded before that happened.
So I was criticized by some of the bodybuilders, one especially (and I won't mention his name since I won't stoop to his level), and blamed for their lackluster showings. The problem, of course, wasn't that my diet was useless (as that one bodybuilder said over and over again until several years later he praised a diet that was an exact copy of my Anabolic Diet), or that the supplements didn't work, it was that they were forced to stop using the drugs that supported their physiques and didn't have enough time to adjust to their new hormonal status, which was at the eunuchoid level.
In all fairness it wasn't anybody's fault. Vince had certain pressures on him that mandated he run a drug free organization. Vince is a great guy and we really got along well. He has a heart of gold and doesn't like to push people around even though with his money and influence he could. He is more like a buddy than a boss. But his back was up against the wall and he really didn't have much room to maneuver.
I worked within a time frame that was totally unrealistic given the mandate I had to follow. And the results were predictable.
[ Q ] What do you think would happen if the IFBB mandated steroid testing in all their athletes? Certainly, you, as much or more than anyone else, would know what to expect.
MDP: It all depends on how quickly and extensively the drug testing was instituted. Last year, upon them asking, I sent my feelings and comments about drug testing and the IFBB to both Ben and Joe Weider. I felt that drug testing should be phased in over a three year period.
The first year I suggested they test for the more dangerous drugs, especially the diuretics, one of the major players in the recent sicknesses and deaths of several major competitive bodybuilders.
The second year they should broaden the scope to include narcotics, amphetamines AND ANABOLIC STEROIDS BUT NOT TESTOSTERONE.
The third year they should include testosterone, the anti-estrogens, HCG, GH etc...
This would at least give the athletes the time to adjust to the new order. And adjust they would if the drug testing was comprehensive enough and if they conducted frequent unannounced random testing. That means the athletes agree that they can be tested anytime, anywhere without notice.
The end result would be an end to those ridiculously freaky physiques, more realistic, healthier role models, a decrease in drug use by both competitive and non competitive bodybuilders, and an increased acceptability of bodybuilding by the general public.
But for all this to happen the political will has to be there. And at this point I don't think it is since making these changes would threaten them financially. But we'll see. While I'm not holding my breath, it's possible that the lure of possibly getting bodybuilding into the Olympics may yet prevail.
[ Q ] Would the athletes be able to switch to different drugs, like IGF-1 and insulin - things that can't be detected?
MDP: Of course they would and will. One thing I've learned in my many years of drug testing is that athletes are very inventive and will use whatever they (and their advisors) think they can get away with. But bodybuilders are already using GH and IGF-I.
However, there are other hormones and growth enhancing compounds that are just appearing in the literature and that may make the drugs being used today pale by comparison.
At present, however, eliminating anabolic steroid use, and perhaps even GH as a valid test for exogenous GH is not far away, is a step in the right direction and will by itself deflate the present drug monsters.
[ Q ] Sometimes I hear about designer steroids that can't be tested for and we've all heard about the Balco case. Are these for real or is THG an isolated case?
MDP: Designer steroids are for real. I was the first to write about designer anabolic steroids back in 1985 when the IOC had blinders on - actually they still do. These drugs can't be tested for because, although they're just variations on a common theme, the testosterone molecule, they're not picked up in the present screening tests.
The testing equipment is very specific and in screening mode the equipment has to know exactly what to look for. If you don't have the drug profile in a database for the system to compare to, then you simply don't "see" the drug.
If you're just testing a small number of samples you can set the equipment up to look for any abnormal peaks around the retention times of the anabolic androgenic hormones and then determine by spectrographic analysis just what that compound is. However, this kind of procedure makes drug testing prohibitively expensive so it's not a viable alternative most of the time.
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With THG, the IOC people had it sent to them gift wrapped. It was no big deal to then "discover" a designer steroid. However in the past few decades dozens of designer steroids have been used, and none until now (discounting norbolethone) have been discovered.
[ Q ] It's obvious that you have a very open mind about the use of drugs by athletes, but from what you're saying, it's also obvious you don't support it. However, the big trend nowadays is getting off of drugs and loading up on supplements. What do you think of all this? Are supplements effective at all? If so, which ones do you use yourself, and which ones do you recommend?
MDP: Drugs are drugs. They're not good or bad. It all depends on how they're used. They can be used in a safe effective manner or they can be abused and result in serious side effects.
Anabolic steroids, testosterone, growth hormone, IGF-I, insulin, thyroid, cortisol blocking agents, narcotics, amphetamines, and even marijuana and cocaine are used clinically by physicians to deal with various diseases and deficiency states.
On the other hand many of these compounds are used by bodybuilders and other athletes in ways that may compromise their immediate and long-term health. I don't support drug abuse but I do support the proper use of drugs. If our moral views were to change and society and therefore the medical establishment supported the use of these drugs to enhance athletic performance or for cosmetic reasons, then these drugs could be used safely and effectively for these purposes. As it stands there are not only moral but serious legal ramifications to the use of many of these drugs.
As if all this weren't enough to dissuade bodybuilders from using drugs, there are also the problems associated with the source of most of these drugs. It's not like bodybuilders get these drugs from the usual pharmaceutical distribution system. They buy them from the Black Market and they take their chances. They may or may not get what they paid for and the products may be tainted.
With all these problems an aspiring bodybuilder who is tempted to start using drugs should step back at look at the situation more realistically. I'm not saying this because I'm puritanical or to be self serving. I've paid my dues and been through the competitive mill. And I've seen the results of rampant drug abuse both during their use and especially after. I've seen the yo-yo syndrome where a bodybuilder's weight will vary by 40 pounds depending on whether he's on or off the juice.
All in all it makes sense to maximize your body's potential by using cutting edge training methods, diets and nutritional supplements. In the long run you'll be better off and have a healthier, stronger and more massive body than if you juiced it for several years and then stopped.
We have the knowledge and technology today to make natural bodybuilding a viable alternative to the use of drugs. Manipulating the anabolic and the catabolic hormones and growth factors with diet and nutritional supplements has become a reality. By taking advantage of what we know about nutrition and nutritional supplements, you can now maximize your lean body mass and strength and minimize your body fat to give you that hard muscular look that at one time was only available with drug use.
In several of my articles, including ones to come, I have and will outline the best supplements to use and how to stack them for maximum effects.
What do I use? I use the supplements I formulated and recommend their use to any serious athlete, especially those who want to maximize muscle mass and strength.
My MD+ line are sophisticated and meant to not only take the guesswork out of taking supplements, but also to provide the most effective supplements on the market today. I recommend and personally use complex formulations of supplements because, like most of us, I don't have the time to mix and match.
Besides if the formulations are already commercially available, why bother to compound them yourself? In the near future I'll outline some supplement regimens for reaching specific goals, using my MD+ line as obvious examples.
[ Q ] What role does nutrition play in building a strong, muscular body?
MDP: The only way you can maximize the anabolic effects of exercise is through proper nutrition. If you don't eat right, you won't grow. It's that simple.
For example studies have shown that athletes need more protein than the average couch potato. If you don't increase your protein intake, you won't make the best use of your training efforts. Getting enough of the proper kinds of fats in your diet is also very important.
Overall, by intelligently manipulating the macronutrient intake of your diet (protein, fat and carbohydrates) you can shift your metabolism towards an anabolic response and away from a catabolic response since both hormones and growth factors are affected by your macronutrient and micronutrient intake as well as by certain nutritional supplements.
Again, and this is sounding like a broken record, I have to some extent and will be even more covering all this stuff in detail in upcoming articles.
[ Q ] I know you have developed a phase shift diet that is both innovative and works to maximize body composition. Originally you came out with the Anabolic Diet, and then the Metabolic Diet and finally the Anabolic Solution.
From what I know, these diets are high protein, higher-fat, low-carbohydrate diet. When you first introduced this diet to mainstream bodybuilders in the late 1980s it was very unconventional for athletes. What's the basis of this - why would something like this work better than a high-carbohydrate, high-protein, low-fat diet?
MDP: The body is extremely complex and every time you try and tie it down it will fool you. The high complex carb craze, that was rampant in the 1980s and 1990s is an example of this. There is a lot of literature supporting the use of complex carbs in everyone's diet. However it seems that everyone is looking at this issue as if they had blinders on.
I'm not a straight-line thinker. When everyone is on a bandwagon about something, my first inclination is to ask why something else wouldn't work just as well or better. Something off the wall that maybe most people wouldn't think about.
That's the way it was when I developed the Anabolic Diet. I found that if you looked carefully, the literature supported the role of fat as the MAIN energy source of the body, not carbohydrates. I also found that even if you dramatically lowered your intake of carbs, you adapted to burning fat as your primary fuel. Also, in case you haven't noticed, there are no essential carbs. There are essential fatty acids, and essential amino acids, but carbs can be made by the body if need be.
As well the low carb diet had some positive anabolic effects that weren't seen on the high carb diet. Toss in a high protein intake and you have the Anabolic Diet. Except that in order to manipulate and make use of the anabolic effects of insulin I introduce a phase shift to the diet that allows a high intake of carbs two days or less of the week (usually on weekends).
Macronutrient cycling has a tremendous amount of potential. Constantly manipulating your macronutrient intake forces the body to adapt and at times overcompensate. This adaptation and overcompensation can be used to our advantage in increasing muscular hypertrophy.
Over the years I've amassed an incredible amount of information that substantiates my views on the ideal diet for increasing muscle mass and strength and decreasing body fat. I'll present this information, along with some practical stuff in future articles.
[ Q ] As you're probably aware, there's a raging controversy amongst strength trainers about many topics - one of them that has carried on for decades, is whether a heavy duty, one set to failure workout, like Mike Mentzer promoted, is more effective than a multi-set workout. What type of training program would you recommend to bodybuilders?
MDP: Over the past four decades I've tried them all. I find everything works to some extent but timing is everything.
For example the one set to failure is a good way to gain size and strength up to a point. There's also room both the lighter high rep and heavier low rep workouts. But again if you're on either one too long then you either stop making gains or get injured.
Both are harmful to your bodybuilding health.
The trick is to use the training method that best suits your needs at that time. Sounds like double talk? Well it isn't really. All I'm trying to say is that you have to vary your training so that your body constantly has to adapt and grow. And it's not just your training that you have vary but also your lifestyle, diet and nutritional supplements.
That's what my book the Anabolic Solution for Bodybuilders is all about the Periodization of Bodybuilding. In this book I not only present an overview and specifics of the whole periodization process, but also practical ways to vary all aspects of your life in order to maximize lean body mass and decrease body fat.
[ Q ] It's obvious you still maintain a vigorous exercise program - what's your bodyfat, about 6%? With all the stuff you have going on - writing books, practicing medicine, running your gym, when do you have time to train?
MDP: My bodyfat is around 8% (unless you count the lovehandles, then it's around 20%). When I competed in the lower weight classes, my body fat levels were as low as 2.5 to 3%. At around this level I could see the striations in the abdominal muscles in the lower part of my abdomen without flexing.
I train twice a week no matter what. I find that if I don't' make time to train, then I don't have as much energy for doing everything else. So for me it's false economy to be too busy to train.
My training is pretty simple but for me very effective. On Fridays I train heavy and just train the three powerlifts (using only a belt and knee wraps - no special powerlifting paraphernalia).
In my last heavy workout I did 500, 540, 570, 590 in the squat, 300, 320, 335, 345 in the Bench and 520, 560, 585, 605 in the dead lift. The whole workout usually takes about two and a half hours. I know that that's more than the recommended one hour but this is a HEAVY workout and you need to rest more between sets.
On Tuesday I do assistance exercises doing 4 to 5 sets of five to eight reps after warming up in each exercise.
I usually do quad extensions, hamstring curls, calf raises, incline bench presses, dips, barbell curls superseted with reverse barbell curls and forearm curls, dumbbell pullovers, and heavy seated rows. This workout generally takes between one and a half and two hours. And as before, I'm aware that it's over the one hour usually recommended by everyone else but this works for me.
[ Q ] Even though you're 59 years young, you can still squat over 600 lbs. - is that true?
MDP: On a good day, especially if one of my sons is watching, I can squat over the 600 lb. mark. I can also bench over 350 lbs. and deadlift well over 600 lbs. at a bodyweight of around 185 lbs. and a height of almost 5'6". Now that's on a good day.
If my lumbago is acting up (aren't we old codgers all supposed to have lumbago?) then my top squat, bench and deadlift are all under the 100-lb. mark.
Seriously, I think with about six months hard training I could still have a shot at the gold at the World Powerlifting Championships, and that's in the open division not the masters. I could likely take my division in the Canadian Open Powerlifting Championships right now.
I'd just have to have some time to get used to the squat suits and the bench press shirts. I've stayed in shape over the years with the thought of returning to competition. It seems that the iron never leaves your blood.
[ BB.com ] Doctor, it was a pleasure spending the day with you - I learned a lot! I'm sure our readers will enjoy this interview as well and look forward to your upcoming articles. With you on our team, our goal of giving our readers accurate, straightforward information pertaining to strength training, athletic performance, and physique development looks like even more of a sure thing.