As a member of the IFBB Pro Bodybuilding Hall of Fame and CEO of Labrada Nutrition, Lee Labrada is a busy man with an unusually strong focus. While most retired bodybuilders exit the bodybuilding scene following their retirement, Lee Labrada is more involved in the industry than he's ever been.
As a bodybuilding competitor, Lee Labrada established a reputation for always bringing a quality physique to the professional stage. Since his retirement from competition in 1995, Labrada has built and established Labrada Nutrition, and has earned a reputation for developing quality sports nutrition products.
I sat down with Lee to talk about his 25 year long bodybuilding career, his company Labrada Nutrition, and his commitment to his fans.
[ CS ] Hi Lee, how are you?
[ LL ] I'm doing great Clayton, thank you.
[ CS ] You're a bodybuilding legend and a member of the IFBB Pro Bodybuilding Hall of Fame. During your career you had a reputation for always bringing an amazing and symmetrical physique to the stage. And, you've carried your excellent reputation over into your business. For the readers who may not know you, tell us a bit more about yourself.
[ LL ] Well, Clayton, I go back all the way to 1985, from a standpoint of competitive bodybuilding.
I won the National Championships in 1985, and then the IFBB World Bodybuilding Championships - or the IFBB Mr. Universe as it's known - in 1985 as well. Then, in 1986, I won my professional debut at the IFBB Night Of Champions (NOC).
The following year, I took third place in my first Mr. Olympia contest, and then from 1987 until 1993, which was the last time that I competed in the Mr. Olympia, I placed in the top four - seven consecutive times.
During the course of my career, I won the IFBB Pro World Cup and seven European Grand Prix's and established myself as one of the top bodybuilders that was able to compete against much larger men while holding my own.
[ CS ] What was your motivation during your career? What kept it going for you?
You can always have an external goal which is to win a title, but a lot of times that is dependent upon the opinion of judges and other people. On the other hand, a goal that you can internalize, obviously, is always to improve - --never-ending improvement.
My goal eventually became, towards the end of my career, to be the best that I could be, to build the best Lee Labrada that I could build, and then put myself up there on the Mr. Olympia stage to show improvement from year-to-year.
Whether I won the Mr. Olympia or not - and of course it was still important to me - wasn't life-and-death at that point. You know, I realized that what I wanted to do was to continually improve myself.
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[ CS ] Well, let's talk a bit about continually improving yourself. What was your motivation for starting Labrada Nutrition and what were the challenges in transitioning from competition to making high-quality supplements for bodybuilders?
[ LL ] When I retired from competition in 1995, I looked around me and felt that the supplements which were available to bodybuilders like me were fairly limited in terms of their scope and quality. To be quite honest with you Clayton, I still think they are fairly limited in terms of quality.
These days there are lot - there are hundreds of supplements out there - but there's so much fluff, there's so much marketing hype about products that really don't work. But, if you look at our line of Labrada Nutrition products, you're going to see products that work, products that have been proven over a period of time.
These are products which are built with integrity and lab tested so our customer can be sure that they meet label claim.
But, to summarize your initial question of why I started, it was because of the fact that there was the need for someone to come in and offer products which met label claim and products that tasted good - because products didn't meet label claim or taste very good back then.
I threw myself into this business in order to help others and to share not only the products but the product knowledge and the know-how that I had acquired over the previous 20 years of competitive by bodybuilding.
[ CS ] Had you been a student of the industry while you were bodybuilding, in terms of the product side of things, or did you acquire that knowledge later?
[ LL ] While I was bodybuilding I always experimented with myself, and I helped a lot of the guys that were around me - even guys who competed with me. I helped them with nutrition and supplementation, and I always stayed up with the latest scientific journals, studying all of the nutritional materials available to keep abreast of the cutting-edge science.
Labrada Nutrition gave me a unique opportunity to apply everything that I had learned along the way, both by acquiring knowledge and by trial and error, so that I could help other younger and up-and-coming bodybuilders to achieve their very best.
[ CS ] When you retired, what values do you think that you brought from the stage as a competitive bodybuilder to your job as the CEO of Labrada nutrition?
[ LL ] Well, Clayton, integrity and honesty when we are dealing with supplements. You know, there is a nebulous area out there, and things are not always crystal clear, and there's a lot of marketing hype.
What the supplement consumer has come to expect from me is a quality product that works, that doesn't have fluff, that's built on solid science and that meets label claims.
So, to come back to your question, trust and integrity are the two pillars that I built my company on, traits which I brought over from my competitive career. You can add to that the fact that I've been in the trenches just like all of the other bodybuilders out there - I've been in their shoes, and I know what it's like to be fighting in the gym. I can relate to them.
[ CS ] It sound like you wanted to provide a fresh breath of honesty into the industry.
[ LL ] That's exactly right.
[ CS ] Well, it definitely still needs it today - more than ever! The enormous amount of hype in the magazines today can be very confusing for a lot of people who read the magazines - new bodybuilders and even for competing bodybuilders.
[ LL ] Yes. The magazines are cluttered with ad after ad for supplements, some of which are good, but many of which are really not very effective. Many products are promoted by unscrupulous marketers who just want to make a quick buck.
[ CS ] When you go to shows and you see fans of the sport, and when you talk to them - or even when you get e-mails from people around the world have followed your career and continue to follow you today, what inspires you most about these people?
[ LL ] The inspiration which I get from the people who I meet at the shows comes with the knowledge that the flame has been passed on, because they carry the same fire in their heart, and same passion that I have always had for bodybuilding.
It's just so refreshing to see that it is still alive, and you see that people are as excited as I was about building their bodies and being the best that they can be. That is what really motivates me.
[ CS ] When you develop products are your fans foremost on your mind?
[ LL ] Absolutely. The thing is, I have to develop products that I know work, not only on myself, but also on my customers. I have to develop products I feel good recommending to family members and friends. I need to be able to look at myself in the mirror every morning! And, I can because I am selling things that are good for people - things that are good for bodybuilders.
[ CS ] Earlier, you mentioned that your products are built on science and that they meet label claim. If you could, tell me what products you have debuted in the past year, and take me quickly through the process of testing that they go through.
[ LL ] Well, the biggest and most prominent launch that we have had is the 17 ounce Lean Body RTD shake. It's our best ready to drink shake ever! It has zero sugar, half the fat of the leading RTD and 40 g of protein. It's absolutely delicious and is the winner of multiple taste awards from the American Tasting Institute and the NNFA.
The Lean Body RTD is such a great product - it took over two years of research and development to bring this product to market.
Now that it's out there, it's doing absolutely wonderful. People are turning onto it because they realize that they can have a great tasting shake that helps them to build muscle, burn fat and recover from their workouts.
To come back to the issue of testing, every product that comes in to Labrada is analyzed by a laboratory to make sure that it meets label claim, and if it doesn't, it does not go out. That way, I can assure the public that "If it's on the label, it's in the box" - and that's my personal quality guarantee.
[ CS ] Why do you think that a lot of other companies don't take these steps and offer that kind of guarantee?
[ LL ] I think that a lot of supplement marketers are in a hurry to get products out the door and make the sale, so the quality suffers. In some cases, it's just outright fraud that the product does not contain what's on the label. So, the consumer has to be very careful as to which brands they patronize.
[ CS ] We've certainly seen many examples of that and the last couple of years with label claim scandals.
[ LL ] You bet! And, as for far out claims, there's one product on the market now that claims to change your bodybuilding genetics.
You know, it's kind of sad really because there are young bodybuilders out there and people who are just getting started with their training and nutrition that swallow this stuff hook, line and sinker. They see the colorful multi-page ads and they believe it - they believe everything they read, unfortunately.
[ CS ] That's true - they don't realize the marketing side of things, and how the magazines are heavily marketed.
[ LL ] Yes, it's fraught with potholes. But, one of the things I pride myself on is giving people straight talk, giving them the straight information - and we do provide a tremendous amount of information.
[ CS ] This brings me to my next question about your web site. I know that you have recently started your own message board forum on the website, and I've noticed that in that forum, you take the time to personally answer training and supplementation questions from your readers and your fans.
What kind of response have you gotten since you started doing that, and what was your motivation for sitting down everyday and getting interactive with your fans?
[ LL ] The response has been good. We have a database of over 60,000 loyal Labrada product users that receive my free e-mail newsletter every week. So, there are quite a few people that came in to the forum from our readership.
It was slow at first but it is growing, and now there is a lot of good information being disseminated and, incidentally, I'm going to be contributing content to Bodybuilding.com - which is just a terrific web site.
[ CS ] I'm sure that many people will be looking forward to that. Can you give us a preview of some of the things that you are thinking of providing to them?
[ LL ] You bet!
Initially, we're going to focus on articles that help people to get lean ---burning body fat and developing the abs, and just getting into great shape. This is a topic that is misunderstood a lot.
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[ CS ] And what else you think that you'd be providing?
[ LL ] The articles are going to run the whole gamut of training and nutrition. The idea is to let the readers benefit from the 25 plus years of professional bodybuilding experience and nutritional experience that I have. I'm going to share that with them.
I'm really excited about working with Bodybuilding.com because it's going to allow me to share my knowledge with so many people who could really use this information.
[ CS ] Let's talk a bit more about something that you said earlier. You mentioned earlier that you make products that are good for people, and that your motivation for doing that is because you want to help them, and to be that voice of truth in the industry.
What do you think are some of the benefits of using your products and, in your view, how can bodybuilders - beginning or advanced - best use your products to get great results?
[ LL ] Well, the best way to use the products to get results is to incorporate the products using a foundation of whole foods. This is one of the things I have always preached: there's no substitute for whole foods, but supplements can turn a diet of whole foods into a super-diet.
You want a diet that is rich in nutrients, protein and amino acids to really kick-start the metabolism and the muscle building process. It's about working with the athlete's diet in order to naturally synergize and optimize it to get them the most rapid growth possible.
[ CS ] With this in mind, what would you recommend? Give us a sample supplements stack for muscle growth.
[ LL ] Well, you are first going to want to eat five or six small meals throughout the day. At each one of these meals, you want to get 30 to 40 g of protein. This protein can come from chicken breasts, fish, lean meats, turkey - there are a number of protein sources.
The protein can also come from protein drinks, protein bars, and meal replacement powders, and that's where we step in. We provide these Lean Body products which help bodybuilders and athletes comply with their diet.
Let's face it: who's got time to cook six times a day? Who has time to prepare meals all of the time? It's cumbersome, not to mention that it gets boring to eat chicken five or six times a day. That's why a Lean Body Ready-To-Drink shake, a Lean Body MRP or Lean Body protein bar is so helpful in the context of a whole food diet.
So, I would say that the foundation of your supplementation program should be RTD protein shakes, MRP's and bars. Then, you should add a good multivitamin to make sure that you are getting all of the vitamins and minerals that you need.
You should supplement with creatine, which is an excellent product. It's one of the few products out there that has a tremendous amount of science behind it, and has been shown to increase strength and muscular endurance. So, I would recommend adding some creatine in the form of CreaLean 2, our proprietary creatine ethyl ester product.
Glutamine powder is a must. We have a very pure form called GlutaLean which is 100% pharmaceutical grade glutamine powder, and this helps with recovery. I always take a teaspoon of GlutaLean before and after my workouts. It's very beneficial.
If you're one of those people who is always sore or has trouble recovering from workouts, I would recommend our Sorenzyme product. It's an enzymatic formula containing ingredients that have been scientifically shown to speed up the recovery of your muscles.
The enzymes in this product - which are not digestive enzymes - are enzymes that work on a systemic level, facilitating faster recovery.
[ CS ] I have seen a lot of studies recently coming out on enzymes. I've written several articles on the effects of enzymes. It's interesting because enzymes also have other health effects in the muscles and many organs in the body. So, it is certainly a very interesting product. What kind of feedback have you been getting on Sorenzyme?
[ LL ] We've been getting phenomenal feedback, especially amongst hard-core bodybuilders and powerlifters - people that are really stressing their bodies with maximal weights, and who need the enhanced recovery. Some of them are claiming that the recovery that they get from Sorenzyme is accelerating their growth. It's amazing.
Now, it's not an anabolic steroid mind you, but it works with the body to speed up recovery. And let's face it: at the end of the day, one of the main actions of anabolic steroids is to speed up recovery, just by a different mechanism.
[ CS ] Would you say that both young and old, beginning and advanced bodybuilders can and should be using Sorenzyme?
[ LL ] You bet. It's a product that young bodybuilders can use to speed up the recovery and to enhance their muscle gains, while older trainees can use it to recover faster from exercise.
The fact is, as we get older, it's harder to recover from exercise bouts. So, Sorenzyme is a nontoxic, non-steroidal product that can be used at any age to improve performance. It's really exciting.
And you know, Clayton, speaking of performance, I don't want us to overlook SuperCharge! which I take before the workouts. I tell you, this product really, really works. It gets you fired up for the workout, giving you mental clarity and focus, a tremendous pump, and outstanding energy in the gym.
You know, a lot of times we come into the gym after work and we are tired and we just don't feel like being there - SuperCharge! can give you an entirely different outlook on the workout... it is like motivation in a bottle.
[ CS ] I actually use SuperCharge! and I highly recommend it to everybody that I know, simply because I have tried almost every other pre-workout drink on the market, and most of them have upset my stomach. One thing that I really like about the Supercharge is that it did not do that - it was very easy on my stomach.
Can you talk about the formulation of the product, and maybe explain why it's more user-friendly than some of the other products on the market that aim to fill the same need?
- First, it gives you a tremendous amount of mental focus. And mental focus is so important when going into the gym - you have to have the mental clarity and focus so that you can get an excellent, high intensity workout.
- Secondly, it acts as a hemodilator to create tremendous pumps, and if you look at the hemodilation ingredients in SuperCharge! and compare them to other normal, average, NO type products, you'll see that we have superior ingredients in a dosage that actually works.
- Lastly, one really interesting aspect of this great product's formula that none of the other products have is a recovery factor called Humanofort. This is an embryonic peptide matrix that actually helps to increase growth hormone, testosterone and nerve growth factors - it's just phenomenal for recovery.
[ LL ] Well, right off the bat I can tell you that SuperCharge! is the only product on the market that works on three levels.
Hemodilation: 1 0f 2:
The word hemodialtion comes from the Greek Haima, meaning 'blood,' and Dilatare, meaning 'to widen.'
So, it really covers the whole gamut: the mental, the physical and the recovery afterwards.
[ CS ] Humanofort is used in Europe as a medicine to boost anabolic hormone levels...
[ LL ] That's correct. But what's interesting about it is that it's not a pro-hormone, and it's not a steroid - it just works with the bodies natural functions to optimize the natural hormone output of the body, so it's your own body that's producing hormones. It's a very interesting product with solid science behind it.
[ CS ] If you can, let's talk about some of the new products coming down the pipeline. Are you planning any new product releases in 2007?
[ LL ] It's funny that you mention that because we just released some new bars that are just phenomenal. We've got the Lean Body Fruit Crunch Bars which tastes like a blend between a rice crispy treat and a pop tart, contains 20 g of protein and is absolutely delicious.
And, we just came out with a high-protein granola bar, the Lean Body Hi-Protein Sweet and Salty granola bar, and those are also really tasty. It makes it really easy to snack on during the day and get some protein while you're doing it, which is not always the easiest thing to do.
[ CS ] I imagine that it would be useful when you're dieting down because salty and sweet are the major temptations and cravings for people...
[ LL ] You bet! It helps with the satiety factor.
[ CS ] Thank you very much Lee, for your time. Is there anything that you would like to say to the listeners and the readers?
[ LL ] You bet. I'm delighted that I can be of service to the readers of Bodybuilding.com. Stay tuned for some wonderful articles on training and nutrition where I will share my 25 plus years of experience as a professional bodybuilder and nutrition expert with you, and if you need more help, be sure to check out my book, The Lean Body Promise which was published by HarperCollins and is available in bookstores everywhere.
[ CS ] Thank you very much Lee.
[ LL ] Thank you Clayton.