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In the Eat To Perform Certification Course we weekly have on a guest and Dr. Mike T Nelson and Dr. Brad Dieter are just killing it with the quality and information. This week we have IFBB pro John Meadows on the Coaches podcast to talk about how to just put your head down and persevere when faced with adversity. A big emphasis of this show was the difference between just lifting weights and lifting weights to build muscle and how that works from the man who trains some of the best physiques on the planet, male and female (including his own).
Mike T. Nelson: Hey guys, what’s going on? It’s Dr. Mike T. Nelson here and with Dr. Brad Dieter doing the Eat to Perform podcast. And today we have a special guest, John Meadows. Say hi, John.
John Meadows: Hey guys, thanks for having me on.
Nelson: Yeah. And do you want to give a short version of your background there, Brad, for people who may not be familiar with you?
Brad Dieter: Yeah, I am Dr. Brad Dieter. I am also one of the coaches with Mike in the Coaches Course. And we’re really excited to have John on. I’ve been a big fan of John’s work for several years. Probably internet stalked you more than you’d like to know. So it’s really great to have you on the show, John. I’m really excited. There’s been so many questions I’ve wanted to ask you over the years so, you know, even if the people in the course don’t learn much as long as I do, I’m okay with that. So it’s great to have you on.
Nelson: It’s a selfish podcast.
Meadows: As long as one person’s learning, I’m happy.
Nelson: Cool, so do you mind …
Dieter: Sounds good.
Nelson: Give us some background, John in case people are living under a rock and haven’t heard of you before which is unlikely. But just in case.
Meadows: Well I’ll try to keep it short. I’m soon to be 44 years old. I’m an IFBB Pro Bodybuilder. It still feels weird saying that because I tried, it was, I don’t know was it my 14th or 15th try at least before, at a pro qualifier before I actually won one. And I actually started competing when I was 13 years old.
So I’ve got about 30 years’ worth of training experience and you know, I was like probably a lot of your listeners. I was involved in a lot of sports and throughout school, and I got my undergrad degree and I ended up going into the corporate world. And I was writing projects for J.P. Morgan Chase and you know, I was always doing this coaching and competing and stuff kind of in my off hours. And it grew to the point where I wasn’t really sleeping much, and then my wife decided we would have twins.
And so time became very precious and I didn’t have much of it, but I knew I needed to make a decision either you know, kind of move forward in the fitness industry with that career, or just stick to the project management side of things in the banking world. And I decided to give this industry a shot full-time. And I’ve kind of never looked back.
I had a lot of, I ran some projects I think you’d find real interesting at the bank, and I worked there for a decade and did a lot of things you’d probably think, “Wow man, that’s kind of odd for a bodybuilder to be doing that kind of stuff.” So I’ve got a pretty varied background and you know, so this past year has been just whirlwind for me.
After so many second place finishes, I finally won a pro-qualifier and I didn’t waste any time. I went right into three pro shows and I just barely missed qualifying for the Mr. Olympia. And here recently I was invited to do the Arnold Classic which is just a, it’s here in my hometown. It’s a huge honor and this is my lifelong dream come true. You know, I’ve always wanted to do this contest. So I’m really excited, I am 22 days away from competing. And normally I’d be sleeping half a day because I’m pretty tired, but I think my adrenaline is still kicking in. I have a pretty good amount of energy and I’m excited.
Nelson: Well that’s very cool. Kind of a, little bit more selfish question too, but you started talking about all the sort of accumulated stress from trying to do two jobs. Was there anything in particular or maybe you said it was the twins that just caused you to just sort of take the leap and go I’m just going to do this full-time? Because I think a lot of people looking from the outside would think well that’s kind of weird that he’s giving up this nice sort of stable job to kind of go run your own business and thinks of that nature.
Meadows: Yeah, yeah, I mean it was hard to give it up. I mean I was a VP, I was running the largest projects at the bank, and I had a nice salary and nice bonuses and nice benefits and I gave it all up. You know for me it just became a matter of, I’m just going to be honest, fatigue. I was just, you know, I would typically work with 60-70 clients. So I’d get home from work and after working all day, then I would come home and have 60-70 clients to take care of, plus train, and like I said we had our boys growing up and I really wasn’t seeing much of what was going on. You know, by the time I was done for the day, it was time to go to bed and get back up again.
So I just like, you know, I don’t want to work my life away and miss my kids growing up. I don’t want to have a marriage where I never see my wife and it’s like I don’t, you know, if I need to give up this money or whatever, take a chance, then that’s what I’m going to do. But you know, generally it was just fatigue, just tired from working so much and the fact that I’ve really just didn’t want to be one of those guys that 15 years from now said, “Man I missed my kids growing up.” You know, nothing is worth that. There’s nothing worth that and your family. And I mean that’s kind of how that all evolved.
Dieter: You know, John one of the things that you kind of opened with when we started the show was you said that you tried for was it 13 years that you tried to get your pro card? You know I think one of the things that a lot of people see is our successes, right? You know, most people probably see you, John Meadows, as another professional bodybuilder. And that’s really only the tip of the iceberg. They haven’t seen, you know, the 13 years of the cumulative work that went into it. Kind of looking back, what’s your perspective on that journey of all the work that it took to kind of get to where you were? And how did you kind of stay motivated to keep chasing that dream?
Meadows: Motivated or sick in the head?
Dieter: You know, usually they’re one in the same.
Meadows: Well I did my first pro-qualifier in 1998. By that point I had already been competing for a long time. So you know you’re looking at, in terms of the actual pro-qualifier, that’s where I was saying 13, 14, 15 out. And maybe it was 17 or 18, I lost count. There is a lot of setbacks. You know I think one of the things that I do well is I recognize and I’m honest with myself when I make mistakes, I’m not afraid to admit I don’t know everything and I surround myself with good people. And through the years you know, I’ve just learned from my mistakes.
You don’t typically see me make the same mistake twice and I’m able to think through problems. And thinking through problems when you get to kind of this level in bodybuilding is very, very rare. Most people like to say it’s really simple, just eat more, just the less, just train more, just train less. That’s probably good advice for, you know, 98% of the people that do this. But when you get to high level it’s really hard to solve problems. If you take a look at pictures of me, I’ll give an example, two years ago, three years ago my abdominal section looks completely different than it does now. And that took a lot of thinking, it took some recovery from surgeries I had 10 years ago. But it took some changes in training, it took some changes in a lot of things. I mean if you look at certain body parts that used to be pretty poor.
I’ll give you an example, my back. I did all the deadlifts and chin-ups, and barbell rows that everybody says should be the meat and potatoes of your workout. And you know, guess what? It didn’t work for me. I had to find other ways, and that’s probably why you see so many different back training variations for me. Because I had to find something that worked because all the standard basic stuff just didn’t work for me. I mean that’s nice if it works for 99% of the people out there, that’s great. But it didn’t work for me. And I’ve run into a lot of, you know as you coach people, you run into people that have similar issues through the years, and it gives you some perspective. “Hey you know what? You might want to try this.”
Experience is very valuable but only if you listen to it, only if you’re honest with yourself and you apply it. And you know, I have had a lot of setbacks and I’ve certainly lost more shows than I’ve won. But I’ve learned from them. And you know I continue to learn and build on my knowledge, and I can continue do the same things. I continue to surround myself with good people, I continue to admit that I don’t know everything, and I continue to enjoy life and my family. And you know, those things keep me pretty grounded and pretty happy.
Dieter: You know, I think you bring up such a great point in the fact that you know a lot of times we’re given advice that works for most people. And I think it takes a lot of, kind of self-courage to kind of realize that maybe that’s not the best thing and to try something new. I think so many people are you know, kind of afraid to fail that they’re scared to try something different. And I think that’s a really important thing of, you know, when you get stuck somewhere what do you have to lose by trying something else?
Meadows: Yeah you know, it’s amazing. I used to get these people that would come to me and I luckily I can be a little more selective with my clientele now, but I used to get these people that would come to me and they’d say, “Hey man, you’ve got awesome legs. Can you help me build my legs? They’re really stubborn.” Yeah sure I’ll help you out. I’d talk to them, get an idea of what they’re doing, send them a routine, and they’d say, “Oh this won’t work for me.”
Dieter: What do you mean?
Meadows: “Well this isn’t the way I do it.” Wait a minute you just told me that the way you were doing it didn’t work, and you’d been doing it for 15 years. But you can’t try what I do? You can’t do leg curls before you squat? You can’t do this? You can’t do that? People would get so stuck in their mindset and every thing I believe right now in terms of training and diet, I’ll give up in a heartbeat if I find something that works better. I’m not attached to any idea I have permanently.
What I believe in now or just the things that I believe work now and obviously that’s different for everybody, there’s no uniform set of training guidelines and uniform set of nutrition that’s perfect for everybody. You know that. But you know I think the point I’m trying to make is don’t get attached to what you’re doing. I mean if it’s working, great, you know run with it. But always be ready to you know if you find something better, you’ve got to be ready to accept it and try something different. You know, I think the biggest problem males have is their ego.
Dieter: Yeah we get in our own way, don’t we?
Meadows: We do, and the ego is just like oh I’m not doing that or that doesn’t look hard-core enough, or that doesn’t look cool, you know or whatever. But you’ve got to set your ego aside sometimes.
Nelson: Yeah and I know the lessons I’ve learned like this last Fall, when I was finishing my PhD and my stress was just super high, I started having knee pain and then shoulder pain. And eventually it got to the point where the only reason I was still lifting, I was trying to work around it a little bit, was that my ego wasn’t going to let me do something really different or even step back from doing, in this case back squats for a while. And it took, you know, like 12 months and did a bunch of other therapy and stuff, physical therapist, all that kind of stuff.
And it was good, but I think sometimes we’re very hesitant to almost go backwards a little bit to work on whatever the issue is we need to get fixed up. So that we can then make faster progress in the future. Because if I was honest and looked back at the previous 3 to 4 years, I wasn’t really making any progress in that lift at all. But your ego gets in the way of like, oh I can’t, but I can’t not squat. That’s, for a guy that’s just horrible, right? So I think it’s a lot of times we kind of sometimes get in our own way with sort of preconceived notions.
Meadows: Yeah, I tell you man, I’ve had pretty good health. But one thing I will say as struggled on and off with my lower back just in terms of it just gets worn out easy from 30 years of training and I can’t squat heavy. And man it was so hard for me to let that go.
I mean my favorite exercise you know something I’m really good at and strong at, you know, I’m a stubby little dude with short femurs and big hamstrings. I’m built to squat, right? But I had, you know, it was okay. I can squat heavy and wake up the next day in pain, I’m hurt for two days. Or I can find other ways to stimulate my legs. And I found other ways to work around it and it hasn’t hurt my legs at all. But it is hard though. I know exactly what you mean, man. It’s really hard to get away from things sometimes.
Nelson: And what were the other methods you found, kind of transitioning a bit, that in your case worked well for your legs or that you found works well for clients?
Meadows: Well you know, I don’t really think there’s any one exercise that you have to do first of all, that makes all the difference. There are going be more exercises that are more effective based on a lot of things, based on the structure of your body, you know for example you take a guy with, let’s say he’s got really long femur, maybe a really long spine, he might be best just to do a lot of leg presses for example instead of trying to get a good deep squat in. But you know when it comes down to muscle growth, I look at it this way. Are either of you guys comic book fans?
Meadows: Alright so.
Dieter: You’re talking to probably two of the biggest …
Nelson: We know you’re a big comic book fan.
Meadows: Okay so who killed, who was the most notable character that killed Superman?
Dieter: Oh that’s a good question.
Nelson: I’m trying to think back now.
Meadows: I give you five seconds, then I’m going to spoil it for you.
Meadows: Okay it was Doomsday.
Nelson: We failed the test.
Meadows: Doomsday, right? So Doomsday was, and I talk about this in my seminars, Doomsday was from the planet Krypton and I really do believe there’s a Krypton and a Doomsday. I’m just waiting for him. But Doomsday was, he was kind of built by a scientist and when he was a baby they had put him out in the harsh climate of Krypton or whatever, and he would die. And then they would kind of, he’d get kind of a re-do. They would re-do him and its genetics would change so that whatever killed him the first time wouldn’t kill him the second time.
In other words, after years and years and years of this he became this adaptation machine. He could adapt to anything. And that’s kind of how I look at hypertrophy, you know? There are things that you can get away with and you do just about anything when you’re starting, but as you progress through the ranks, you’ve got to, you know the higher you get, the closer to your genetic potential, you have to give your body a stimulus it hasn’t seen before. That stimulus can be a lot of different things. But you have to, you know, people go crazy. Like, “Oh you can’t change everything all the time.” Well you do to a point. Like I said, the further you kind of get to your genetic potential, the more you have to, in my opinion rotate the kinds of things you’re doing because your body just adapts to it faster and faster and faster.
I personally never do the same workout twice in a row. And it’s crazy because if I do the same workout twice, I won’t feel it nearly as well the second time. And it’s frustrating because I’ll have an awesome workout, and I’ll think man that was awesome. I’m going to do it again. And I do it again, I’m like ah it just wasn’t the same. But there are just so many different ways to stimulate your muscle you know it’s a huge conversation. I like to do a couple, I like to do in particular four different things.
The first thing I like to do is really get people to focus on mind-muscle connection. You know the oldest principle in the books, you know, the old mind to muscle connection. But how many people do you see just moving weight through space? Just getting it from point A to point B? Just about everybody. And I think when you start a workout you should establish an incredibly strong mind-muscle connection. And there are certain exercises that I do that I believe make it a little easier to do. Like for example, if you were training your chest you probably wouldn’t start with a bench press. It’s probably not the best exercise to do then. I also like to put an element of training explosively in my programs meaning you know, a good control to centric and then drive up really, really hard.
A forceful concentric contraction trying to make every muscle fiber fire. And the bodybuilder in me likes, you know, the third thing I like to build in my programs is what Brad called cellular swelling. I think that’s what he calls it. The pump, right? So I like to get these crazy, crazy pumps. Load the muscle full of blood, just you know, to the point where it feels like it’s going to tear, and then the fourth thing I like to do is once you’ve reached that point is I like to use certain exercises that really stretch the muscle out. Put it through a really full range of motion, something where the muscle, like for example like a deadlift for your hamstring would be an example. Where you’re just really stretching the muscle hard and there’s different ways you can stretch.
You can do an actual stretch or you can do it through an exercise, or you can you know do a static stretch where you’re holding a weight in a certain position. But when I build my programs, I use those combinations and I think it flows really well. I think sequentially the way I build it makes a lot of sense. You establish a mind-muscle connection and you train with some weight explosively, you get a crazy palm. Now if you think about, if you changed all those things around, it probably wouldn’t flow as well. But that’s the sequence that is kind of the roots of how I like to train. Everything else kind of goes from there. And it accomplishes a lot of things, you know?
It accomplishes progressive resistance through the explosive part of it, it accomplishes all these, you know so you get these mechanical changes there, and then you get all these chemical changes from the pump type part of the program. You know, you’ve got different rep schemes, so I always look at it like people kind of get stuck in the program thinking that there’s only one way to achieve hypertrophy. Well I’ve just got to get stronger, so that’s all I’m going to focus on. Or I just got to get a pump. That’s it, just get a pump. But I think you should look at all the different known mechanisms of hypertrophy and apply them all.
And you know, I’ve taken a lot of guys 35, 36, 37-year-old pros that were stuck and I’ve put 10, 15 pounds on them over the course of, it takes time, over the course of two years. And got them healthier or joints healthier, you know, they felt better, and in some cases they got stronger, and some cases they really didn’t. But the way we program works really well for these advanced guys.
Nelson: Cool, that’s pretty awesome. And would you agree that those principles would work for someone who is more of a beginner intermediate also? Just scaled down accordingly?
Meadows: I would scale them down for an intermediate. For a beginner it’s way too complicated. For a beginner, I would rather see a beginner doing, well two things. So first of all I think there’s this notion that beginners should only do compound movements. And I mean I’m still waiting for somebody to tell me how you can learn to isolate and contract a muscle if all you do is compound movements. So I do believe that things like leg curls for hamstring are very valuable for beginners.
Teaching them how to really contract their muscles and then yeah, teach them perfect form with all the good basic exercises that we love. I like to keep the volume a little bit lower too and train them with a little bit more frequency. You know you might do a body part three times a week as opposed to the advanced body builders will only, they usually do something twice a week. I like higher frequency models to be honest with you. But you have to recover from them.
And I’m kind of diving off into a whole other topic here, but frequency is something I really, really dig. And I didn’t appreciate it until probably five, six years ago. I was one of those guys that just thought ah you just hammer a muscle into oblivion once a week and you’ll be fine. Well you know, it will get you to a certain point but what I found was it didn’t, I mean it got me to a certain point, and I was stuck. And I was completely convinced that I had reached my genetic ceiling. I was like okay well hey I did all I could do. But before I threw in the towel I did some high-frequency training and it was a long learning process with how to use it correctly though. Because I was also from the mindset that, you know, you obliterate your muscle when you train it. You can’t do that with high-frequency training. You can’t obliterate your legs three or four times a week. You just can’t. You can’t recover doing that with all your body parts.
So what I use with most of my top guys is each body part will get that structure that I talked about, kind of those four phases, and I think they’re pretty intense workouts. But then the other workouts they do, they’re not as intense. They’re not doing anything super hard, it’s added frequency without the crazy need for recovery. You’re not really dipping into recovery. And it took me a long time to learn it, but you know what? There is a lot of value in workouts where you don’t just kill yourself. You know? You can do more of them, you can recover, and so again, you know I was one of those stubborn guys and eventually I evolved to that way of thinking. You know, if I learn something new then I’ll change my programming again. So but that’s what I think these days anyway.
Dieter: Yeah so you brought up the mind-muscle connection and I was talking to Brad Schoenfeld the other day and they’re going to be, hopefully he’s trying to get a study done on that so he can actually have some good data to support all this stuff that we know to be true from experience. Can you kind of walk through what exactly that means? Because I would imagine for a lot of people, you know, they don’t even know, they have no idea what the mind-muscle connection means in terms of how do you apply that? And what does it actually look like for someone who’s training?
Meadows: Yeah I mean it’s the feeling of tension in the muscle and a heart contraction. I’ll give you the hardest example of a contraction. Did you ever get a calf cramp? That is a very, very hard contraction. That is a contraction that you can’t really duplicate, you just can’t do it on a whim. That’s the extreme example. So that feeling where the muscle is really tight, and you feel just a tremendous amount of tension on it. And usually when you start to conquer that you’ll usually, provided your nutrition is sufficient, you’ll notice you do get better at pumps.
You deliver, you’re delivering more fluid and blood to the muscle and you know, you can visibly see changes. You know? It’s crazy. You know, you can see certain body parts that just more for the course of 45 minutes. But it’s this feeling of tension and then it’s almost like this cramp. And you can practice without even weight training and learning that feel. You can just do like you know like bodybuilder’s pose. You can learn how to like pose your arms, and feel your biceps. You can do something as basic and rudimentary as that. But if you’re doing an exercise and you just can’t really feel it anywhere, I’m not saying there’s not value in it, it depends on what your goals are. If you’re a power lifter, then who cares? You’ve just got to get the weight from point A to point B.
But my whole, you know the goals with the people that I work with, they want to acquire a lot of muscle, and they want to lose a lot of fat. Everybody has the exact same goal. They don’t care as much about how much they lift, they just want to look a certain way. And I think and ultimately to look your best, especially when you have like body parts that lag. You find with a lot of people that have lagging body parts, they just can’t even feel it working. I was that way with my back too.
I never could feel a contraction until I started to build some muscle back there, and then that helped. It’s like the more muscle you have, it’s like a snowball effect. Then you can learn to contract it better, you can feel it better. But it’s hard sometimes. It’s you know, sometimes body parts can be really stubborn and it takes a lot of focus and concentration. You’ve got to use impeccable form. I’m kind of a form Nazi to be honest with you. I don’t like bad form. I mean if you’re doing a, you know I was doing a cable curl today for my biceps and I got loosened that up a little bit. That’s okay. But when you see guys deadlifting and then their bouncing the weight off the ground really hard and you just see guys doing some stuff or you know it’s just a matter of time before they’re injured. You know it’s going to happen.
So you know, I’m a little bit of form Nazi. I like for people to use really, really impeccable form. So good form, feeling tension, feeling that contraction, those are the things you’ve got to really focus on.
Dieter: Yeah and you know it’s just a different mentality of training too. I remember I was watching a YouTube video of Kai Greene and he was going through a routine, and he was just saying you know, I’m not a weight lifter, I am a body builder. And the way I train and focus on my training is so much different. I don’t really care about the weight moving as I care about the muscles contracting and being active.
And it was kind of one of those ah-ha moments for me. I was like, oh well that makes sense. If your goal is hypertrophy and building muscle is, you know it doesn’t really matter what the weight is doing. It matters what your muscle’s doing. And so it’s just such a different mental focus that I think a lot of people don’t really appreciate or even think about.
Meadows: It is. And you know the other thing I would say is people use the term training heavy. And I think it’s really misleading because my definition of heavy is, you know you take a weight that you can use with good form, and you do it for say five, six, seven, maybe eight reps. Okay? That’s my definition of training heavy. The only difference between that and usually what you see is just your form.
If you loosen your form up, yeah you can do a little bit more, but did you just put more tension on the muscle? Or did you just put a little more tension on connective tissue and soft tissues? Tendons and ligaments. You know, is that going to help you grow faster? Probably not. Is it going to increase your rate getting injured? Probably will. So I’m not saying to people to train light. I think it is training, I’m just saying I say use the form that’s proper, use the most weight that you can use while still maintaining that form.
If you’re using a weight that’s so heavy it breaks your form, that’s not training heavy. That’s training silly. So you know, I don’t advocate somebody picking up a five pound dumbbell and then curling it 50 times with perfect form and saying that’s enough to grow. But what I am saying is use perfect form. And use as much weight as you can use for your rep range with perfect form. And that, to me, your body will perceive as heavy and it’ll be a good load, it will create good tension. But I think that’s a really, you know, I have guys come and train me all the time.
Well not all the time, every once in awhile, I have someone come and train with me and he’ll be doing the same way as me on everything. And I’ll say okay now I want you to actually feel your muscle and I’ll give him, okay do this, do this, do this, do this, and then all of a sudden they can’t budge the weight. You see the difference? There’s a big difference. You know? That’s the kind of stuff you like, you kind of like to teach in person. But so when people say train heavy, to me that just means my version of training heavy, probably five, eight reps as heavy as you can go to get those reps, but you’ve got to keep perfect form.
Nelson: I think it’s almost like you mentioned, you’re looking for the, from a biomechanics standpoint, the mechanical inefficiencies, right? You’re not trying to offload morons of the skeleton of the soft-tissue, you’re actually trying to put the muscle as a disadvantage, right? So everyone for example, biceps right? So people can generally do preacher curls with less weight than they can just a sitting bicep curl. Because there’s less efficiency in that movement, so the muscle quote unquote is doing more work. So you’re kind of, it’s almost like the opposite of power lifting, right? You’re trying to figure out ways to get the muscle to do more work, and the load will probably be a little bit less. You’re trying to make it purposely inefficient.
Meadows: Yeah, yeah exactly. Exactly. Yep.
Nelson: And it was interesting what you mentioned too about not always going to failure because one of the things that I think that’s interesting for people that may not know you were just watching some of the videos, I think they would get the impression that every day is drop sets, and then 10C techniques, and all this kind of stuff. And I’m sure you’ve heard this from a lot of people and it’s …
Meadows: Yes sir.
Nelson: … it’s interesting to me that most of the people you’ve talked to or I’ve talked to at least, just a handful who train that way, they don’t really train that way all the time. I haven’t found anyone that really handle that for years on end. I thought that was very interesting.
Meadows: Well you know, quite honestly when I’m putting up something on YouTube, or Facebook, I don’t want to do just a normal three, just a normal set of eight on a barbell curl. We want to put something that it’s kind of interesting.
Nelson: Yeah, something fun to watch.
Meadows: And what generally is interesting is the harder crazier sets.
Meadows: So you know, so you put those up and people are like, “Oh my God, you train like …” People ask me all the time, “Do you do drop sets on every set? Do you take every set as failure?” I’m like no, no, no. I usually take one to two sets past failure per workout for my body part. And they’re like, “Really?” Yeah. But I do train to failure a lot but then I give them that definition I gave you guys that’s just until your form breaks. I stop. If my form breaks, I stop the set. I will not to another rep.
So they’re like, “Oh okay.” But yeah, I mean it’s funny if you put something up on social media, you’d better be ready for people just assume that’s your life. You know I published the leg work out one time on TNation, it was probably like five, six years ago. I don’t remember when it was exactly. But I didn’t have squats in it. And all of a sudden the next day everybody was saying, “Meadows hates squats.” I’m like, I hate squats? That’s my favorite exercise. I just so happened to not have it in that one workout.
Nelson: No I had an article there a while ago in one of the forums, and one of the comments was, because I was just making the argument that if you’re new like you were saying, beginner too and intermediate, by all means work on the stuff that we know that works. Volume, density, intensity, and have that be you know, the main drivers. And once you plateau or you’ve been doing it for quite a while then get a little bit more crazier after that. And a couple comments was interesting. They’re like, “Well John Meadows doesn’t train that way.” And I would be willing to bet that you probably did that for quite a few years, right? Because everyone’s got to start somewhere and starting with the basics and the principles we know. Work is the most efficient way to start out. But that doesn’t mean you’re going to continue to follow those religiously for your entire career either.
Meadows: Yeah well unfortunately Mike I was nuts right out of the gate, man.
Meadows: I would grab muscle and fitness, yeah this is when I was 13 and every workout that was in the magazine I would try to do it like …
Dieter: Oh wow.
Meadows: I mean it was completely ridiculous, but I didn’t know any better.
Dieter: Yeah I think we all go through that stage.
Meadows: It’s like, okay I’m going to do Tom Platts’ leg workout, and then I’m going to take a five minute break and I’m going to do Lee Haymes’ back workout and then tonight after school, I’m going to do Sergio Oliva’s arm workout and then I’m going to do, you know, blah, blah, blah. A Rich Gaspari shoulder workout or whatever. I was nuts.
Dieter: Oh to have the energy and the naiveté of a 13 year old again.
Meadows: Oh man I had no idea. I just like well, if the magazine says this and that’s what I’m going to do. And I’m not just going to do one a day, I’m going to do all of them in here I can.
Dieter: Yep. You know, John just to kind of maybe switch gears just a tad, you know we’ve been talking a lot about training. I know that you also have a lot of nutrition pieces that you’ve put together over the years. And I’m sure your thinking has evolved on that piece as well. Can you kind of walk us through for you what do you think are some of the core principles of people for nutrition-wise for hypertrophy?
Meadows: Well I should probably start with just net energy balance. I think that no matter what you do well, I don’t want to say no matter, I think that the first thing you’ve got to look at is your calories. You know, you get somebody that says I can’t gain any weight. And then my first thought is you’re probably not consuming enough calories. Or I can’t lose any body fat. Well you’re probably consuming too many calories. I think you’ve really got to start with net energy balance. You’ve got to start with calories you’ve got coming in versus what you bring out. That’s the kind of a basic foundational principle. And then I think what happens as you go, is people get, they find little things that work.
Some people prefer a little higher carbohydrates for example. Some people prefer a little bit lower and higher fats. There is no right answer for everybody. That’s where the trail and err comes in. That’s where you have to, and I’ve tried about every combination of every diet possible and I think they all work to a degree as long as you know your net energy balance is where it needs to be. I do think though you probably feel a little bit better on certain kinds of diets, and I think it changes over time.
You know? I used to feel pretty good on low-carb diets and now I absolutely cannot stand low-carb diets for me personally. I can’t function, I can’t think, they just don’t work for me right now at this point in my life. Maybe next year they will. But I think it’s important for people to kind of play around with that stuff and find the right ratios. But started calories and the right ratios, you guys have probably heard me talk about nutrient timing. I believe that yeah I kind of look at as a scale. The harder people train the more nutrient timing matters. And what I believe the benefit of nutrient timing is most specifically is around training and it’s recovery.
I’ve either got hundreds upon hundreds of people lying to me or there’s a huge placebo effect if it doesn’t work. Because you know when you train, you structure, your nutrition around training a certain way, it absolutely helps with recovery. I think the problem is most people don’t really train hard enough to know a difference. Or they use the wrong nutrition. You know, they might think they’re just throwing some maltodextrin in a drink while training will do the job. But that’s not what I’m talking about. That’s not a good solution. You’ve got to really fine-tune that as well. But I do believe as again, you know, when I’m working with advanced guys or intermediate, I’d say intermediate to advanced guys, I do believe in nutrient timing. I do believe that you’ve got to kind of experiment and find the right macros for you and how you feel. And I also believe in having fun. You know, I’m sitting here right now and I’m eating egg whites and yellow peppers. That’s my dinner. This is not fun. But this is just a short period of time, pre-contest, and you guys have probably seen my pictures of pancakes and waffles and everything else. I like to enjoy food. It kind of drives me crazy when people say don’t eat food for taste, just eat it for function. If you’re preparing for a contest, hey I get that. But you’re going to live 365 days a year without enjoying food, the taste of food? You know food, one of the things that I’m going off on another tangent here, but one of things we’ve lost as a society here, especially in the U.S. is we don’t have family dinners anymore.
Families don’t sit down and have dinner together. And I really, really, I mean when my family, we do our best to have dinner together. And you know it’s a cultural experience. It’s a bonding experience, enjoy some good food with your friends, I mean I just, it’s crazy to me when people say don’t ever eat for taste. It’s like, man you are missing out on life, buddy. So I like to have a little bit of fun. You know I tell people I like a 90/10 rule. You know if 90% of the food you eat is minimally processed, it’s full of good nutrients, good healthy foods, then hey have a little fun, man. If you want some donuts on Sunday like I do with my kids, have them. If you want some pancakes Saturday morning for breakfast, have them. If you want some chocolate Wednesday night with your friends, have it. Enjoy yourself.
What I find when I diet you know, I strategically put these cheat meals in there and I’m actually doing it more for physiological benefit. But it’s funny at the end of the show, people are like, “Oh I can’t wait to eat this, this, this and this.” And I’m like yeah well I had a hamburger last weekend, so I’m okay. But you’ve got to be in pretty good shape, you’ve got to stay in pretty good shape to employ that. And you’ve got to have your nutrition down pretty good. So but I like to enjoy food. I mean hopefully you know that’s kind of my basic look at food, but hopefully that makes some sense.
Dieter: So what are some of the principles of workout nutrition, just maybe some of the basics? We don’t have to get super far into the nitty-gritty details, but what are kind of the basics that you found to be successful for people who do train at that high level?
Meadows: Well I think first of all you start, I’m talking about pre-interim post workout. And I think when you talk about pre-workout, when you’re talking about accumulating as much muscle as you can, I personally think that people should have some carbohydrates in their pre-workout meal, okay? Now I don’t necessarily think people need a ton of them. But what I like to do is have what I will call a moderate amount. Like for example might be 35 g for me. That’s not a crazy amount, right? That’s pretty moderate. And I like to have a little fat with it. And the reason why I like to have a little bit of fat with it is because the fat will slow the entry of glucose into the bloodstream, right?
You won’t have this crazy rise in blood sugar and then you know, your pancreas is pumping a bunch of insulin, and you’re getting light-headed through the middle of your workout. You know, like 10 g fat. So like 1 tablespoon of peanut butter and some easily digestible protein. I wouldn’t have a big steak right before I trained obviously. So you know you could have a whey protein shake, just something that you tend to digest pretty easy. So maybe some Greek yogurt with some berries mixed in it, something that doesn’t sit in your gut. And you’ve got to experiment with how far out from your workout you eat it. You don’t want to get hungry during your workout, but you don’t want to feel any kind of fullness at all either.
Now in terms of intra-workout, this is in my opinion how you can recover the fastest. Basically you use carbohydrate sources that absorb really, really well that are low in osmolality. The only carbohydrate I’ve seen do it perfectly is branched cyclodextrin. You know something, the (unclear 00:43:46) but I’m not talking about using a bunch of maltodextrin that upsets people’s stomach or things like that. You want it to clear, and clear quick.
Protein, you know aminos, obviously they’re going to clear quick, they’re going to do their job. Now when I look at a post-workout meal, you know you’ve already had these nutrients that absorb really fast while your training. So I don’t believe you need to really rush and you know to your post-workout meal. You’ve kind of taken care of meat, the recovery need as you trained. You know you kept yourself from getting runaway muscle protein breakdown I guess we’ll call it right on the spot.
So what I generally like for people to do is just take their time, go home. You know 45 minutes later and hour later when they’re ready to eat, then have a good whole food meal. You can have a steak and rice or chicken and potatoes, or it could be something a little more tasty, you know? There’s some times we like to have pancakes and things like that after we workout too. I wouldn’t do it a ton, but you know if you want to do it once or twice a week. And then so this intro workout thing, like I said, the more volume you train with, the harder you train, the more it helps. What I’m not saying to you and your audience is that it works great for everybody because I don’t think everybody needs it. I don’t think beginners training at a certain level need it. I don’t think people doing really quick workouts need it, I don’t think there’s value there.
But if you’ve got somebody going in for say 90 minutes, and just busting their butt for 90 minutes working really, really hard, the value is really good. And it only takes a matter of a couple days and they can feel, “Oh my God I’m not sore.” Then people start emailing me, “Am I training hard enough? I quit getting sore.” And that’s when I know, okay we did it, it worked. And you know the only thing I’m just really, I’m pretty flexible with my approaches, but that general guideline seems to work really, really well. So hopefully that makes sense.
Dieter: No yeah, that’s super helpful. You know I think the context you put it in of where that applies is really important. You know, the people who go in and do the 20 minute CrossFit WODS probably don’t need to worry so much about the intra-workout nutrition.
Dieter: That seems like a pretty fair way to address that.
Meadows: Yeah, I absolutely agree with you. Absolutely. Yep.
Dieter: So Mike do you have any other questions for John?
Nelson: Yeah just a couple of quick things. I heard you have an honorary PhD in Pancakeology. And I wanted to know what your favorite pancakes are from the expert.
Meadows: Well, I’ve got to tell you, man, they don’t have them all the time, but IHOP has these red velvet pancakes that are really, really good. They just, it’s seasonal though and they don’t have them here very often. Where I usually find them is when I’m in Las Vegas.
Nelson: I really love Vegas.
Meadows: That’s probably my favorite. Boy there’s a place here that we eat at that has a superhero theme. The walls are covered with superheroes and they have this sampler plate where you can order four different kinds. And they have this Reese’s peanut butter cup pancake that’s unbelievable. I mean it is crazy. I’ll tell you, if you guys want pancakes, go to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Like on every block on every corner there’s a pancake shop.
Dieter: Oh wow.
Meadows: I mean it was like I died and went to heaven. I mean like, just everywhere you went, you know, pancakes, pancakes, pancakes. I was like man this place is awesome.
Dieter: So if I ever go to Tennessee I’ll take a selfie of myself on Pancake Row and send it to you.
Meadows: That would be awesome.
Dieter: Yeah and I know you’ve had a really busy couple years with a lot of the things that you’re doing, and I know one of your new projects, talking about the nutrition vein is the new bars that you have out. You know, I’ve grabbed a couple of them, and they’re probably some of my favorite I’ve ever had. Can you kind of tell us a little bit about that project and a little bit more about the bars that you’ve made?
Meadows: Yeah well I’ve got to really thank my friend Mike Clay who owns Best Bar. He brought me into the company to partner and for us to develop our own bars. Mike called me one day and he was like he introduced himself, and we had already talked. He had done my training programs and I’m like I recognize his name, I recognize Mike. So I was like okay. He told me what he did and I was like, oh okay. And he said would you have any interest in doing a food bar? And I was like, that is exactly what I wanted to do for pre-workout.
You know, I get a lot of people that you know, they’re leaving from work to go to the gym, or they’re traveling, or people just you know, want convenience. And I’ve always wanted to have a good food bar that won’t sit on the shelf and turn into a brick like the other stuff out there. And he was like, “I think we’re right on the same page there.” So we talked and talked and we started with an apple pie, and we did iteration after iteration after iteration to try to get the texture. You probably notice the texture is just phenomenal, it’s just phenomenal the texture. That took a lot of work and the taste took us a lot of work to get it to where we said okay.
And if somebody has one of these, they’re going to get more. That’s what we wanted. We wanted something that was so good, where somebody would say, “Okay I’m getting more of these.” And then you know, we came out with some more flavors obviously. We did the chocolate coconut which is off the chart awesome, we did the peanut butter chocolate which is actually the number one seller now. And we’re working on a, it’s a big secret, but we’re working on a cookie dough one right now.
Dieter: I better clear some pantry shelf space.
Nelson: Clean out the fridge.
Meadows: We’re working actually on three different flavors but that’s the one that’s coming along, I’d say the best. And I actually use the bars. I have them pre-workout, I’m doing it right up to the Arnold Classic. I’m as lean if not leaner than I’ve ever been. I’ve got clients using them. It’s real food. There’s no preservatives. We’ve been rolling them out to retailers very slowly. I don’t know if you guys have had any dealings with Mike or the customer service, but those guys are off the chart good with customer service.
Meadows: They are, and that was another thing that I really, really was excited about was you know a lot of companies I’ve dealt with, talk about customer service but it’s just a bunch of jibber jabber. I have so many emails from guys saying, “Man I just can’t believe the customer service.” So I’m really, really proud to be a part of Best Bar. Really, really proud.
And I love those food bars, I can’t imagine them being more proud. I feel you know, like when you go to work and you do a good job and you feel good about your contribution to society, right? That’s kind of how I feel. I feel like we’re doing something really good. So we’re building the business up, their business is already huge with their other bars, but the bars they’re doing for me, we’re building it up nice and slow. Slowly rolling out to retailers that we think will represent our values and ethics well, and so onward and upward.
Nelson: Yeah and thank you very much. I know you initially sent me two boxes and I tried both of them. I had my wife try them, I had my sister come over and try them and every one, they were just like, “Wow, what are these?” Like my sister came over. I didn’t tell her they were protein bars. I’m like hey you’ve got to try this. Sh’es like, “This is really good.” I said, “Well, it’s actually a protein bar.” She’s like, “No way.”
Meadows: Yeah, yeah. Well people have been conditioned to eat these bricks that sit on the shelves and you know, if when people taste these things, they’re like, “I had no idea.” You know? I sent some to Brad and Alan too and they were just like, “Wow. These are crazy good.”
Dieter: So I guess the real question is, is there going to be a pancake one coming out soon?
Meadows: We were going to do a blueberry pancake one. That one is a little harder than it sounds. We’re also doing a chocolate espresso, espresso chocolate where we actually grind up a few espresso beans. Now I think that would probably be my personal favorite, but that one we really got, it’s taking some work. That one’s going to take some work. And what was the other one we were doing?
Oh we’re doing a white chocolate almond. Or no, vanilla. A white chocolate vanilla as well. That was special request from my wife. But the one that seems to be taking off and I think will be a huge hit is this cookie dough one. So we’re kind of pressing that one pretty hard right now.
Dieter: So Cliff bar better watch out.
Meadows: Well you know these things actually have a lot of protein in them too. The real food bars that are out there now don’t have any protein, right? They’re just a few grams of protein, their just nuts and fruit. So I don’t know of any other high protein, I mean that’s legitimately has a high amount of protein that are like this. All the ones I know that have high amounts of protein are just loaded full of preservatives, just loaded because you have to.
They’ll, you know ours will grow mold. I’ve never seen it because I eat them too fast. And we’re a little bit loose too, or tight. I did the opposite of that. We’re a little bit tight in what we say. We say, well you should keep them in the fridge for no longer than 30 days. Man I’ve had them in the fridge for, you know, I’ve just played around with it for the heck of it and I’ve kept one for 60 days and I’ve kept one for 45 days. And I didn’t notice anything go bad. And you can freeze them too.
Mike’s actually a big fan of taking them out of the freezer and eating them, and a lot of people are. But they hold up a little better and part of that is from coconut oil that we put in it. You can really get some extra life out of them when you use coconut oil which is a good antimicrobial, antibacterial, good source of energy, medium chain triglyceride type of fat. So you don’t like eat them and feel like you ate air and you’re still hungry. But you don’t feel stuffed either. They don’t sit in you. You know it’s a real good balance of just feeling just right in your stomach.
Nelson: Yeah that’s one thing I noticed. They were very filling, they were definitely sweet enough, but not overly sweet. But I felt full and content, but I didn’t feel like I was stuffed and ate a bunch of weird fiber or anything like that either. You know? I felt like I could, you know, a couple times I went and trained and it was fine. I mean usually in the past I would never think of having a food bar and going to train. That just doesn’t’ sound very good. But it was no problem.
Meadows: Yeah, well my personal regimen is I have a cup of coffee with a food bar. That’s what I do before I train now. And it works great, it works fantastic.
Nelson: And this last thing on the customer service too was great. I signed up for the auto ship and like oh these are great. I’ll have these around and this month when I get back from traveling just the other day, they had sent me a complimentary box of the peanut butter ones with it, which I thought was super nice. And you and Mike had put a little handwritten note in there, so I just want to say thank you very much for that. It was not needed, but I thought it was a very cool touch to show loyalty to current customers and have them try the new ones too.
Meadows: Yeah that’s our idea, man. We, first of all we appreciate your business. And we want to take care of our customers. You know, we get so many times you do business with, like I always use the example of the cable company. You know? If you quit they’ll be like, “Oh we’ll give you this for free, and this for free, and this for free.” And then in the meantime the people who have been most loyal get nothing.
Nelson: They get hosed.
Meadows: We do just the opposite. The people that have been our customers, they’ll be the ones getting the freebies, they’re the ones getting the love first because we do appreciate their business, and you know we want to keep them around. And you know, so that’s our way of looking at the business side of this.
Dieter: Awesome John. Well hey, thank you so much for your time. It’s been a pleasure and an honor to chat with you. Where can people find you? Where’s a good place for them to find your work, get a hold of some of your bars, or good places to reach you?
Meadows: Well my website MountainDogDiet.com. You can follow my blog on there, my training blog, you can order food bars, you can order training programs, you can do whatever. I’m also on Facebook under the name John Meadows and I’m on Instagram under MountainDog1, the number 1.
And on Instagram and Facebook I’m usually putting up some training clips, you know just quick clips showing people, some of the things I’m doing and some of my clients. And I like to put some family stuff in there too because I love my family and I’m very proud of them. But those are probably the easiest ways to reach me.
Dieter: Awesome. Well thanks so much for your time, we really appreciate it and we’re, I’m going to be excited to watch how the Arnold Classic goes for you.
Nelson: Yeah thank you very much and all the best on the competition there. Enjoy. That’s very cool to see that you had that as a goal for such a long time, and that you finally are there. So that’s very awesome to see.
Meadows: Thank you very much. It’s truly exciting, absolutely.
Dieter: Alright well take care, have a great afternoon.
Meadows: Okay thanks guys, thanks for the time.
Dieter: No problem. Thanks John.
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