An Interview With Louis Castillo!

In this article, you'll read about how Louis Castillo eats, his views on supplemental training, his training after severe injury, and more...

Introduction To Louis Castillo

Louis Castillo is one of the unsung heroes in the sport of bodybuilding. Sure, the IFBB pros get all the attention, accolades and some, usually very little, cash. But do they enjoy the long-term health benefits - mental, physical and spiritual - that bodybuilding is supposed to be all about?

Louis does.

At 5'9' and a shredded 175 pounds, Louis has been competing as a middleweight for several years now. He's competed in a variety of organizations, from the NPC to the INBF.

Lately he's been calling the later organization home, as the INBF is ostensibly drug-free and Lou's quality physique stands a chance of being appreciated there and not overlooked in favor of some 300 pound pin cushion.

Born in Guatemala almost 38 years ago, Louis came to America with his family when he was 5. Lou isn't one of those guys who spends all day in the gym. He's got a life, a lovely wife, Lila, and he's a working man.

Louis reminds some people of Ronnie Coleman, in that today's Mr. Olympia got very far as a natural athlete, ostensibly turning pro as at a natural 212 pounds. The temptation to supplement all that hard work and genetics with a little anabolic enhancement hasn't enticed Louis, who 18 years after he began lifting weights is still at it, au naturel.

Louis currently trains at Teddy and Stacey Theodropoulos' Coliseum Gym in Queens, New York. Lou's unorthodox nutritional and training ideas will surely spark controversy amongst those who chant the "high protein-six meals a day-heavy weights-ten hours of sleep" mantra.

But hopefully the pictures that accompany this interview will inspire you to ratchet up your diet and training, just as his ideas may get you to question your assumptions regarding what's "tried and true" in muscle building.

The Interview

[ Q ] What's a typical day's eating like for you?

    Well, you're not going to believe this, but I don't eat breakfast and I don't eat lunch. I eat dinner. Dinner is basically fish, brown rice and yams. I drink a lot of water throughout the day, and that's it. My favorite fish is Chilean Sea Bass.
[ Q ] You go to the gym on an empty stomach?
    Yes. I feel really energetic when I go to the gym. I can't explain where it comes from. Maybe it's from the food I ate the night before. But I'm bursting with energy when I go to the gym.
[ Q ] If I miss a meal I feel lethargic and I drag my butt into the gym. Are you walking around hungry all the time?
    No. When I wake up in the morning I'm fine. I just drink a lot of water and I walk out of my house. I function the whole day like that.
[ Q ] How much sleep do you get at night, typically?
    If I get five hours that's a lot.
[ Q ] After you work out, do you drink a protein shake or take a nap?
    Nah. The only supplements I take are the essential vitamins. I take a multi-vitamin, but that's as far as it goes. I take those in the morning. Vitamin E, vitamin C.
[ Q ] A lot of bodybuilders swear by one to two grams of protein per pound of bodyweight per day. What do you think?

    Bodybuilding isn't for everybody, and it isn't the same for everyone in it. What works for me, might not work for others. When I was younger, I played with the protein powders, but I just didn't like them. So I ate a lot of chicken and a lot of fish. I eat a lot more fish now and a lot less chicken. Even back then I didn't like eating all that chicken. I would eat a lot of rice and beans, and that was my protein.
[ Q ] How about red meat?
    I stopped eating red meat about ten years ago. The bottom line is that too much red meat isn't good for the body. People have to understand that bodybuilding and maintaining your health are different things. You can be a bodybuilder, and they'll tell you you've got to eat this and that and all this protein, protein, protein.

    But if you want to look good and lean and have a nice body, that's not about eating protein. That's about eating right, for one, and cardio. Eating right and cardio will get you lean. We go to the gym to build muscle. But to get lean, ripped and cut up, that has nothing to do with eating a lot of protein. If you want to get lean and defined, you don't even have to go to the gym. That's how I feel about it.

[ Q ] What about the argument that the more fat you eat-the stronger you get-the more muscle you can pack on?
    It's probably true. But you know, it's not worth it. I don't care what anybody says. If you're training to be a powerlifter, that's another realm: you've got to eat to sustain that strength and push up that weight. Look at Ronnie Coleman. The guy is three hundred pounds. If he's three hundred, he's got to bench five hundred. If he's two hundred, he's not benching five hundred.
[ Q ] Most people say that big weights equal big muscles.
    Big weights and big muscles also bring injuries. They all go hand and hand. The guys I know who were powerlifters all complain about injuries. Either it was at the time they were training or it was later when they got older.

    Sure, you may need to train heavy to put on that mass, but how many drugs are involved in that? That's a key factor also, but we don't look at that. We look and we say, 'Oh, the guy is big!' But how did he get like that? How much of that is attributable to drugs? I don't knock anyone who does that [bodybuilding drugs]; if they go that route, more power to them. But it's not for me.

[ Q ] What's the best way for a natural bodybuilder to train?

    With intensity. A lot of intensity. I feel that anything over twenty reps is great. I've trained heavy in the past, but what I've come to realize is that I could have trained the way I train now - with twenty reps or more-and maintain the same look.

    Of course, some will argue, 'Well, you'd already built the foundation with the heavy weights.' Sure I did, but in the last ten years I haven't trained heavy at all. Once in a blue moon I might get in the mood where I'll say, let me see if I can still bench 315. I'll go and do it 3 or 4 times. But that's more ego stuff than anything else.

[ Q ] I think where people go wrong is when they forget intensity in the 'heavy-weight=big muscle" equation. The heavier people lift, the more intensity they must generate to move that weight. Higher reps can also generate intensity.
    Right. After awhile the intensity kicks in and you're lifting just as hard.
[ Q ] Do you mix up your exercises or do you do the same exercises for each workout?
    I mix them up. I mix up exercises and body parts. Today, for example, I trained traps and triceps. Some people might scratch their heads, 'Traps and triceps?' But that's what I felt like doing. Exercise-wise, whatever works for me, I continue doing those exercises. There are certain exercises I stick with every workout.
[ Q ] What is your set and rep scheme like?
    I'll do anywhere from 5-8 sets per exercise, with 30-40 reps of higher. Depending on how I feel, I'll do 3-4 different exercises per body part and I'll do multiple body parts.
[ Q ] How many days a week do you workout?
    If I'm not competing, I'll work out two or three times a week.
[ Q ] How many times a week are you hitting each body part then? Once?
    No. If I'm coming in those 2-3 times I'm doing my whole body.
[ Q ] Everything? [ Q ] How long are you spending in the gym then? All day?
    If I do the entire body by myself it takes about an hour. I'm not resting long. It's all about intensity. I'm doing high reps, not heavy weights, so I don't need to rest long.
[ Q ] What kind of feeling are you looking for in your muscles? Are you looking for a pump or a burn?
    It's not a pump. You get a pump the first few sets. I'm looking for a burn-slash-pain. It's a type of pain where you know, when you're finished, you know something is growing in your body.
[ Q ] You're working around some pretty serious past injuries, aren't you?
    I sustained a job related injury some years back. I was coming out of a freight elevator. I fell and landed on marble tiles with eighty pounds of beams on top of me. It damaged my lower back and resulted in disk degeneration in L3 and L4.

[ Q ] Did that require surgery?

    Yes. Major surgery. I have four pins in my back now.
[ Q ] Does that ever get in the way of your training?
    Sometimes. I have pain every day, but I deal with it.
[ Q ] Just to be clear, any pain you have isn't related to your training, is it?
    No! The doctors even told me, if I wasn't in the shape I was in when I injured myself, I might have been permanently crippled. Bodybuilding has always helped me because I've always viewed bodybuilding as that - as a way to build your body and make yourself healthier.
[ Q ] What about your shoulders?
    When I injured my lower back I also injured my left shoulder. I had surgery on it years later.
[ Q ] You and Lila are animal lovers?
    Yes! We have three silver Yorkies-P.J., Precious and Miracle. We have two African Grey parrots, Ranger and Sam.
[ Q ] What's your next show going to be?
    It's the INBF World. It's in November.
[ Q ] You're a natural bodybuilder and you compete several times a year. What kind of improvements do you look for from show to show?
    This show I am looking to show improvement in my legs. My wife, Lila told me, 'Baby, the guy who beat you [at Louis' last show] had bigger legs than you.' Okay, I can fix that. I just have to modify my training regimen and hit certain exercises really hard.

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