From Fat To Jacked: Mark Bell

Mark Bell felt he was too fat. He got squashed under a heavy squat and decided to slash weight. See how this powerlifter cut the carbs to lost fat and drop down a weight class.

On May 27, 2012, Mark Bell attempted a 1,085 squat and got his ass kicked. The end. Or was it? Bell decided it was time for a new chapter in his powerlifting career, so he dropkicked a bunch of fat, clotheslined his "diabesity," got ripped and is looking to put up some big numbers in the 242s. Read on to find out how he did it, and how you too can stop being a BFF*.
*Big Fat Fatty

How tall are you, what do you weigh and how fat did you used to be?

First off, I want to start out by saying that I'm not only a powerlifter, the editor/founder of Power, an entrepreneur and the inventor of the Sling Shot from In addition to all of that, I'm jacked, tanned and ripped.

My fat PR was 330. Now I weigh 255-260 with about the same size head/face. As for my height, I recall going to a doctor many moons ago and I was 72 inches on the dot. I think powerlifting has made me shorter. My wife claims I'm "6 feet if I'm lucky," and that I'm "not a big guy." I'm not sure if she's talking about my body or a certain body part, but either way it's humbling.

Why did you decide to embark on this weight loss journey?

"The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step." My embarking started after an injury. The hugeness was always meant to be temporary. I didn't know when I'd stop being a BFF, but I always knew I'd go back to being jacked and tanned.

My ole wrassling coach, the late Rip Rodgers (he's still alive but it would sound much better if he was 6 feet under), used to say, "Bell, you need to be ripped, tan and vascular." I really took that to heart and I always knew (even as I watched myself get fatter) that Rip was right. Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, Mr. Robot Pants.

After I fell squatting with 1,085 pounds, I knew my powerlifting career was dead in some ways, but not over. I realized I could attack things from a different angle and finish this last chapter the way I want, and on my own terms. The numbers may come from different spots, but in the end, I will total more at 242 pounds than I ever have at any level of fatness.

My brother used to tell me that I have more guts than brains, but I guess that's what helps me excel. I like being uncomfortable, I like a good challenge, I enjoy pain and working hard.

I like a challenge so much that I make things up for me to accomplish. For example: get down to 242 and be stronger than ever. I like pain so much that after I fell, I didn't visit one doctor, even after being off of my feet for a few weeks, because I wanted to work it out on my own.

So this journey is my journey, one I made for myself to achieve—nothing more than self-improvement. This mission, accomplished or not, will make me tougher, smarter and more jacked. It will teach me a lot about myself that will carry over from the gym to my businesses and to my life.

How has this weight loss affected your strength?

I am clearly weaker. However, it is hard for me to accurately assess this; I never felt like I was good at anything anyway. I feel a loss in strength on the bench, but I also hurt my shoulder badly after trying to come back from my epic tumble. Another thing about the bench is that we typically train it raw more than our squats.

On all the lifts, none of my gear was fitting for a while, so I'm working on getting that squared away. The real test will be my next meet. That will tell the whole story. I always put the most value in the total. Goal No. 1 is to go greater than 10 times my body weight. Goal No. 2 is to get into the top-50 all-time on each lift. Goal No. 3 is to try to beat my best total ever. If I bench 800, I will have done that in four different weight classes. I'm also hoping to pull more than 800 pounds.

Some say you gain strength in your deadlift when you're not a BFF, but I'd say that only happens after you learn how to pull with your different leverages. Also, it may help to drop 10 pounds of bloat, but losing 50-60 pounds and totally changing your body composition is like having a new body. I notice when I pull that I can't take as long to set up.

So far it seems that if I just drop and go without taking too long to set up, I perform better. I think I used to push off my belly and sit into the suit more when I was fatter.

This new body thing is a real bitch; and it makes me feel like one sometimes. I don't feel weak, but I feel like I need to relearn how to lift. In the squat, my right side is catching up to where it was when I was fat, but when I plant my left foot (injured side), I don't feel solid or powerful.

When I set up for my first 1,000-pound squat, I remember planting my foot and saying to myself, "This is going to be a lot of fun!" So sometimes I simply don't feel the same sensations I felt before. However, I do feel and look sensational.

Last, when it comes to training, I feel I can handle more than ever and work out for hours, which I sometimes actually do.

You used CarbNite to achieve this weight loss. For those readers who live under a rock and don't know what CarbNite is, give us a concise summary?

CarbNite is a no-carb, high-fat/protein diet. This type of diet makes your body rely on fat as its main source of energy. To break up the cycle, on the seventh day of eating limited carbs, after about 6 p.m., you can eat some carbs. Start out with healthy choices and then have some peanut butter cups and ice cream before the night is over. Try not to turn your carb night into a day-long fat marathon. Just eat two things that are horrible and not 50 things.

Also, it's one night you fat asses, not anything more than that. The diet is effective at allowing you to maintain muscle mass, and while energy levels are not always optimal, they're still damn good. For those of you who want to drop some pounds, CarbNite is extremely effective.

What were some staple foods for you while you were on CarbNite?

This is a great topic because people think, "Oh man I'm on a diet, I'm screwed!" To some extent you are correct, and you have every right to cry about it or be mad. However, could you imagine eating steak, whole eggs, bacon and buffalo wings (I call 'em "wangs!") and still drop weight rapidly? In an event I called "wang-onomics," I had wangs the first seven days of CarbNite and lost eight pounds.

I used things that I like that are rich or overboard in flavor to keep me on the plan. Things like bacon, chicken with skin, sushi with no rice, pastrami, salami, a product called YumNuts, Primitive Fuels jerky/nut combo, buffalo wings about once per week, small and occasional amounts of cheese. I also like True Nutrition's whey protein isolate and Team Skip protein, and MusclePharm's Muscle Gel along with their BCAA caps and Amour V.

I use heavy cream as a treat in my coffee about once each week. Between intra- and post-workouts, I consumed 100g of whey protein isolate. I played with BCAA drinks, but they just didn't taste or smell good to me. You don't need to eat or drink things you don't like to be successful with fat loss.

Also, if you eat a little bit of carbs here or there, say less than 15 grams at a sitting, you can still make progress on a ketogenic type diet. If progress slows or stops, then go back to being strict.

What about fruits and vegetables? Did you eat much of those while on the diet?

Fruit, no. Veggies, yes, if they got in my way; they sometimes are in my Thai food. Soups and salads are for women. Fruit is dumb unless it's blueberries. But just in case cancer knocks on my door, I do supplement with a product called Super Green Drink from the company Cell-Nique. It tastes pretty good and is loaded with fruit and veggie stuff without all the sugar.

Everyone on YouTube is talking about your jackedness. What's going on there?

Just to be clear, Mr. Pants, I invented "The YewTewbes." The talk is a byproduct of losing body fat. I had some people ask me if I got bigger even though I had lost mad weight. Shows you how fat and gross I must have been, I guess. I always had muscle and I took great pride in not only being able to lift the part but also to look the part.

But in my quest to get bigger, I let myself get too fat. I will openly admit that I did drift too far into fatness. Most don't realize it, but it was always a short-term moment. I have been pretty lean for well over a decade, with the exception of a year or three.

Did you modify your training at all while you were dieting?

I did change my training, but that's because of my fall, not my diet. As I started feeling better, my training ended up being about the same. I like hard work, long workouts and supersets. I have been lifting like that for years.

If I'm not in the gym for a long time, I feel like I'm not doing everything I can to make myself better.

Cardio. Did you do it?

Due to low activity from being injured, I took up some cardio. I did it 2-4 times per week for 20-40 minutes. Normally, I'd hit some smaller muscle groups after that for six sets of 10-15 reps, nothing fancy. After I leaned out I dropped the cardio for a few weeks. As of mid-January [2013] I just brought it back. I feel cardio is best used for 6-8 weeks at a time. Doing it every day at the same pace for months on end won't do much for you except maybe chew up some calories.

However, it won't have the impact that you are looking for unless you make changes to it and occasionally get rid of it. Kiefer talks about HIIT (high intensity interval training) in the March/April edition of Power. Check that out to get the details of interval training for cardio. Currently, I feel like I can handle more training, and I'd like to include some boxing and hill running. I will incorporate some of that soon. I think.

You did a lot of traveling for seminars and such while on this diet. How did you manage to stick to the diet while on the road?

Success is a choice. In order to reach your goals you need to realize that, "We are a byproduct of what we repeatedly do; excellence then, is not an act, but a habit." Teach and ingrain good habits in yourself and you will become rock solid against obstacles and self-doubt.

Eating out while on a no-carb diet is not hard. As soon as you sit down, order a salad—hey, and maybe some wangs! Just make sure they are not breaded. That way if others are smashing bread and stuff, at least you've got something in your face. I think we've all seen the movie Bigger, Stronger, Faster*.

Is there anything you'd like to say along those lines? Maybe Lance Armstrong (who my brother did try to contact) could have spoken up at that time and maybe he'd be further ahead than where he is now.

Anyway, it is important to share the truth. I stand by what I said in the film as far as steroids are concerned. But to those of you who don't know, there are a lot more things out there other than steroids that can aid in changing your body. I used products like T3, T4 and Clenbuterol. I'd use this stack for about two weeks, then I'd jump off of them and take Yohimbine on an empty stomach, along with Burn from True Nutrition and Shred Matrix from Muscle Pharm.

What legal supplements did you find effective for fat loss?
  • Hard work, deadlifts and steak. All of which are totally legal, I think.
  • Some extra activity on top of what you currently do.
  • Cardio for 30-40 minutes, 2-3 times per week, can work well in cycles of two to three weeks. I chose to do cardio on an empty stomach first thing in the morning. Some argue that it's more effective that way.
  • Lifting weights doesn't get enough credit for turning your body into a furnace. Build muscle and you'll burn calories while you're just chilling.
  • Yohimbine [an alkaloid with stimulant effects] on an empty stomach. I down about four of these at 4 a.m. and then go back to bed.
  • I already mentioned Shred Matrix and Burn.
  • I also like coconut oil a lot; I feel it helps you to use fat as energy.
  • Last, find a protein you like and can digest well. Iso-Pure, True Nutrition's Team Skip blend and Pro-Peptide are my favorites.
Tell us about "Fat Shake". What's in it? And what is its purpose?

Fat Shake is a trademark of Robot Pants Inc. and Super Training Products, LLC. I know it's rare for people to steal my ideas and not give me credit for inventing them, so I'll let you guys in on my big fat secret. Fat Shake was something I came up with because I have bad cravings for candy and ice cream.

These damn cravings happen around the same time every day, between 7-8 p.m. So a Shake was invented to help stave off the evil carb cravings. It consists of raw cashew butter, raw coconut butter or Cacao Bliss (look it up!), 2-3 scoops of whey protein, glutamine, creatine, probiotics and last but not least, a punch in the face. I blend it all up in my $500 blender, then pour it out and drink about half of it while I chill and watch TV. The shake is somewhat filling and full of healthy fats and proteins.

You eat dark chocolate a lot. What's the reason for that?

Dark chocolate rules! I love it. I normally eat one bar of dark chocolate about twice each week after a heavy or supposed-to-be-heavy training session. Dark chocolate is fibrous and full of antioxidants. I normally eat 80-percent cocoa or higher.

So you used CarbNite to drop all that fat. Now that your weight is about where you want it to be, what does your diet look like?

I still go low carb on nontraining days. Training days, I just follow how I feel. Sometimes I'll have pre-, intra-, and post-workout carbs. Total carbs for the day are still less than 200. Intra-workout carbs come from what I call the "Country Grammar." This big momma consists of 100 grams of carbs (sometimes more) and 100 grams of protein. If I feel the workout is going to be brutal, I'll add more carbs. If the workout is going to be mild, I might only use about 50 grams of carbs. After 2-3 movements are completed, I mix up the Country Grammar with some water and sip it through the rest of the workout.

The point of my nutrition is mainly based on recovering from that day's workout and reloading for the next, and the Country Grammar has helped with this. Intra- and post-workout nutrition is highly effective because you are using fast-acting carbs and protein to flood your bloodstream and get those nutrients into the muscle cells. I've been a big believer in post-workout shakes for more than a decade.

Certain points of the week are easier for me, due to my workout and life schedule, so I will often go 2-4 days consecutively with no carbs, except for some intra-workout carbs. I'm a simple person and I weigh myself everyday, and if I weigh too much then I'll eat less and/or consume less carbs.

OK, but what about the long term? Will you continue to eat this way for the rest of your life?

I feel that diet and training will always be a part of my life, but they are ever-evolving. As I find out more info and get more feedback from my body, I will make adjustments. So no, I won't be on this exact diet the rest of my life. The people want to know: Will you ever set foot on a bodybuilding stage? No.

You've been in powerlifting for 20 years, and during that time your weight has been up and down. But mostly up. Looking back on your lifting career, what would you do differently with regards to diet and your weight?

Nothing. I'm happy to have hit the numbers I've hit, and even at my grossest, I'd still at least eat to try to build and maintain muscle mass.

I'm happy that I still have the USPF [United States Powerlifting Federation] Open Total and Bench Records, and I'm sure I'm one of the only lifters to ever get a World Record Total by out-benching their squat and pull!

What advice do you have for a young lifter regarding diet and body weight?

Get strong and let your body grow. Do not let yourself get too fat or too out of shape, but eat enough to support growth with your workouts. If you are newer to lifting and you want to be strong, do not go on a low-carb diet. You may, however, want to manage carbs on non-training days.

If you had to drop the weight all over again, would you do anything differently with your diet?

Nope. CarbNite all the way. And while I'm at it, a big thanks goes out to my fat coach, Jesse Burdick, for helping me all the way through with this diet.

Any last words?

You are one good meal away from starting your diet and you are one good workout away from getting stronger. Don't let yourself get down. Don't let negative thoughts eat you alive. Avoid negative people as much as possible. Don't be afraid to fail; failure is necessary to your success. Go train with everything you've got and believe in yourself and what you do. Life is short and sometimes painful, so in the meantime you might as well be a bad ass and get as strong as possible. Strength is never a weakness!