[0:00] Introduction/ Organifi Green Juice
[3:35] On Q&A’s with Rachel
[4:32] Introduction to this Episode
[6:06] Vince Del Monte
[16:15] How Vince Made the Transition From Skinny to Becoming Muscle-Building Phenomenon
[24:40] Vince and Ben’s Thoughts on Steroids
[27:35] Commercial Break/ Nutritional Therapy Association
[29:43] Four Sigmatic
[31:34] Continuation/ Getting Lean To Get Big
[33:34] Striking a Balance with Testosterone Levels
[47:50] DTS Training
[55:20] Massages As A Way To Build Muscle
[1:03:28] What Science Says About How Much Muscle One Can Really Build in a Month
[1:12:57] 7 Rotating Oils During The Diet According to Vince
[1:17:16] Rotating Protein Powder Sources
[1:25:42] End of Podcast
Ben: Hey, folks. It’s Ben Greenfield, and let’s talk matcha. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of matcha, or it could be called matcha. I don’t know. Sometimes I read words and don’t actually know how to pronounce them. But matcha is a form of green tea. It’s got 6.2 times the antioxidants of goji berries, 7 times the antioxidants of dark chocolate, 17 times that of wild blueberry, and 60 times the antioxidants of spinach. It’s got catechins in it, and catechins scavenge free radicals in your body, and EGCG. It’s called, brace yourself for this because I’m going to make myself sound like a really smart cookie, epigallocatechin gallate, EGCG is actually really powerful anti-carcinogen. And they found, at a study at University of Colorado, that one cup of matcha green tea has 137 times the amount of this EGCG compared to conventional green tea. Matcha’s benefits go on and on. It lowers LDL cholesterol, it can assist with weight loss and fat loss, they’ve actually found that it’s a very potent thermogenic aid, meaning it can increase your rate of burning calories by about 35 to 45%. It even has fiber in it.
So why am I telling you all this about matcha? Not only because all the folks over in Okinawa, Japan drink copious amounts of this stuff, so it must be good if you want to look like a really old Japanese person. But it’s also a prime ingredient in one of the sponsors for today’s podcast, Organifi Green Juice Powder. So they’ve taken matcha and combined it with a whole bunch of other stuff, chlorella, moringa, spirulina, mint, beets, wheat grass. The list goes on and on, and you get this stuff for 20% off. You add it to any smoothies, juices, teas, you name it, or you can just dump a packet straight into your mouth, wipe your lips, and walk away. It is bengreenfieldfitness.com/fitlife. That’s where you get this stuff. Bengreenfieldfitness.com/fitlife, and use discount code Ben to get 20% off your Organifi Green Juice.
This podcast is also brought to you by something I’ve been using every morning so I don’t get depressed and go postal. It is dark here in Spokane, Washington. It is grey. I live on a north-facing slope, so I get sun if the sun happens to be out from about 10 AM to 2 PM. So every morning I take these little ear buds that produce a UV-free, blue-enriched white light originally designed for jet lag and for normalizing circadian rhythm, but they actually work really well for Seasonal Affective Disorder. They work really well as like a cup of coffee for your brain before a workout. But you put these little ear buds, these LED-set ear buds in your ears, you turn it on, and it just charges your brain using the photo receptors in your ear with light for about 12 minutes, and that’s it. Boom. You’re done. It’s called a HumanCharger, a HumanCharger. And you can check it out and get a pretty fat discount on the HumanCharger and your own portable version of light therapy if you go to humancharger.com/ben. That’s humancharger.com/ben and you use code BFitness for 20% off. That’s code BFitness for 20% off.
Now before we jump into today’s show, I have received a few questions from you guys about when we’re going to start back into the infamous Q & A episodes with myself and my podcast sidekick, Rachel. Well, you can look forward to those starting back up in the New Year. It has been a hectic few months of holidays and travels, and when I’m not spearfishing in Costa Rica or gallivanting across a mushroom field in Finland, my podcast sidekick Rachel is drinking strange herbs that make her vomit in Peru, or sitting in 10-day Vipassana retreats elsewhere in South America, and so our paths simply have not been crossing very frequently to be honest with you. So the Q & A’s will start back up in January. You can look forward to those, and plenty more exciting content from Ben Greenfield Fitness coming up in the New Year. But in the meantime, let’s jump into how to get swole, big, muscular, put on size, and get an amazing body with my buddy Vince Del Monte.
In this episode of the Ben Greenfield Fitness Show:
“Your first goal is to get lean, ideally 10 to 12% body fat, and there’s a lot of psychological and physiological benefits to that. So one of the big physiological benefits is that we’re going to improve your testosterone levels.” “Lean is in. So a lot of people just 10, 12% body fat and they’re like, ‘Crap. I love the way I look right now. I don’t need to add any more mass. Maybe I’ll focus on improving my shoulders, and I’ll stay at maintenance calories, or just increase calories a bit on those shoulder and arm days.'”
He’s an expert in human performance and nutrition, voted America’s top personal trainer and one of the globe’s most influential people in health and fitness. His show provides you with everything you need to optimize physical and mental performance. He is Ben Greenfield. “Power, speed, mobility, balance – whatever it is for you that’s the natural movement, get out there! When you look at all the studies done… studies that have shown the greatest efficacy…” All the information you need in one place, right here, right now, on the Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast.
Ben: Hey, folks. It’s Ben Greenfield here, and I think it was like eight or nine years ago that I was sitting slack jawed in this crowd at an event called “The Fitness Business Summit” listening to this guy who they build as, I believe they called him like “The Mysterious Mr. X”, or something along those lines, but he was like this massive, muscle-bound trainer up on stage. And in this case, he was telling a story about like this e-book that he made, this online book, and I really wasn’t familiar with e-books, or information programs online, or anything like that, but he was talking about this e-book that literally made millions of Dollars online and had been used by hundreds of thousands of skinny guys all over the globe for sculpting their bodies into these Herculean, Adonis-like physiques.
So I actually got so inspired by the story that this guy told that I went on and I created my own kind of training program that I wound up selling online. It was a training system for Ironman triathletes to train on less than 10 hours a week and still do Ironman, and I called that one the “Triathlon Dominator”, and it was the first big training program that I ever sold online inspired by this guy.
So there’s this kind of odd collision of fitness worlds because a few weeks ago, his book, a newer book, not this other one that I had seen eight or nine years ago, but this new book arrived to me in the mail, and lo and behold, it was written by the mysterious Mr. X. And his name is Vince Del Monte. You may have heard of him before. He used to be known as Skinny Vinny, and now he goes by the name “The Skinny Guy Savior”. So this book that he sent me I almost put down, because usually when I get books like this, they’re just muscle head content. It’s just like eat a bunch of whey protein, drink Man-In-A-Can, crap out of a straw, and lift heavy stuff. And this book, it’s actually intelligently written. It’s got a lot of practical advice in it and it goes into some really good information about how to put some rock solid, shredded muscle on your body without using drugs, or expensive supplements, or spending copious amounts of time in the gym. So I was pretty pleased to not only read this book by Vince, but to reconnect with them and get him on the show today. So, Vince, welcome to the show, man.
Vince: Thank you, Ben. Holy mackerel! I got to tell you, Ben, I’m a little bit nervous. I’ve been listening to your podcast for some time now, man. You stepped up your game huge, man. I learned so much from your podcast, and people you interview. So it’s an honor to be here.
Ben: Well, it’s all about getting smart/jacked guys like you on the show, man. And I had your wife on. Your wife was actually a guest last year. We had a podcast episode about kitchen items and detox.
Vince: “You’re getting an interview by Ben Greenfield, Flavia. Holy cow! So pumped.” Yeah, that was awesome.
Ben: Yeah. And by the way, for those of you listening in, I’ll link to my interview with Vinny’s wife, and also everything that we talk about in today’s show. If you go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/livinglarge, because that’s the name of Vince’s new book. It’s called “Living Large: The Skinny Guy’s Guide To No-Nonsense Muscle Building”. And lest you be a female about to press stop on this podcast, you may want to keep listening in ’cause there’s a lot of stuff in here that’s relevant to anybody that picks up weight at a gym.
And by the way, Vince, I’m going to blame you for my extremely sore chesticles this morning ’cause I was going through your book yesterday to prep for this interview, and a big, big part of it is being mindful, like really focusing on the muscles that you want to work. And I was at the gym yesterday doing, of all things, the pec deck. I don’t spend a lot of time in the pec deck. I’m big time into functional exercise, but my kids had a tennis class in the gym, so I just had some time to dink around the gym, so I was like, “I’m going to do some of Vinny’s techniques and see how they feel,” and my pecs are definitely feeling it today.
Vince: Man, that’s like, we could talk an hour about that one idea there. But, I know we’ve got questions. So, that’s fantastic.
Ben: Yeah. For sure. And you used to be, I mean obviously I just alluded the fact that you used to be skinny, but you actually used to be like a triathlete or endurance athlete, didn’t you?
Vince: Yeah. I actually represented Canada. I went to the World Triathlon Championships in my teens, I was a provincial and national level runner. So endurance running, endurance sport was my life. My father got me and my two younger brothers into running. My youngest brother went to the Olympic trials for the 800 meters, and we come from an endurance background, and it’s probably one of the most important things I’ll hand off to my own kids because I truly believe that mind endurance days solidified my spirit and a lot of character traits, if you will, to do what I do today with business and other areas of life.
Ben: Yeah. Endurance sports are a really, really good way to get more stubborn than a donkey. Like for better or for worse, I’ve learned that endurance athletes just don’t quit. So they always have that going for ’em.
Vince: Yeah. So that was a big thing with me, I was always a scrawny little runner. And you know this as well, like endurance athletes aren’t wussies. Like we might look like wussies, but we are beasts. Like we are tougher than nails, and we feel like Ultimate Warriors on the inside. After a track workout, a swim workout, a long bike, I mean I feel unstoppable. I mean I’m not intimidated of anything yet. On the outside, you don’t look like that. You know what I’m saying? You walk into a bar, nobody even notices you unless you have some amazing sense of humor. I mean you’re getting walked by by every hot girl in that (inaudible) like my high school days, and those were my university days, “Skinny Vinny”.
Ben: Yeah. It’s kind of funny because when I was competing in triathlon, and I still do dabble in triathlon a bit, I’m big for a triathlete. Like I’m broad shouldered, my arms aren’t complete noodles, and yet when I was doing Ironman triathlon, you talk about walking into the bar, I’d be the skinniest guy in the bar. You could be big as a triathlete or big as a marathoner and still be relatively scrawny when it comes to being able to stick up for yourself, or chop wood, carry water, or do whatever else you need to do from a functional movement standpoint.
Vince: Yeah. So that was kind of my story. When I went to university, and an interesting thing happened. I shacked up with a bunch of guys, we were all in the exercise science program, and I just happened to live with a couple of the most jacked guys on campus. I kid you not. These were the guys that other guys wanted to be and that the girls wanted to be with, and these were my roommates. So I was in that situation where I was going to the bar hanging out with these guys and all these beautiful woman around us, and I’m like, “Crap. This guy’s going to get laid again tonight. And these girls didn’t even notice me.” It was just like that. Burning frustration with like why can’t I get that same kind of attention, but because I was a runner, that’s where my identity was. I was a very good runner.
So I just went through university with like living vicariously through these guys and always having this curiosity about what if I transferred my efforts from running and endurance sport into the gym. How big could I get? How strong could I get? And at the same time, my eligibility was over at the end of university. So you don’t really make a career out of endurance sport as a professional athlete. And I was kind of, I’ll be honest, more of a mid-packer, I wasn’t like winning, so there wasn’t really a future with competitive distance running. And at same time, wrapping up my degree, I was getting into the real world and I just had to learn how to make some money, so I became a personal trainer. And at the same time, I didn’t look like a personal trainer. So I had like these multiple things all coming together at the same time. I was sick and tired of my nickname “Skinny Vinny”, I had all this like muscle rubbing off on me that I was ready to now see what I could do in the gym, and I needed to start a career. So I was highly incentivized to transform (inaudible) back in 2002.
Ben: It’s actually really interesting. ‘Cause I took the complete opposite approach as you. Like I was a big bodybuilder. I weigh, well right now standing here, I weigh about 175, and I was 215 as a bodybuilder. So I was 40 pounds heavier than I am now, and this was back in college. And when I decided, I remember I visited an Ironman triathlon and I saw these people crossing the finish line. I was like, “I want to do that. I want to experience that.” And of course, my first triathlon, speaking of sore pecs, just from my huge bodybuilding pecs bouncing up and down during my very first triathlon, I remember that alone, along with my ripped back locking up pathway through the run, inspired me to actually lose some muscle to get good at triathlon. And I wound up doing lots and lots of fasted aerobics workouts to basically eat away my muscles so I could get faster at triathlon.
I’m not claiming that that is necessarily healthy, because I do believe that as you go into your later years of life, you definitely want more muscle just because of sarcopenia, and muscle loss, and all the things that happen from a longevity standpoint when you lose muscle. But regardless, I went from big to skinny. And you did the opposite. You went from skinny endurance athlete to big, and I’m curious, before we delve into some of the tactics in this book, like what’d you do to actually put on as much size as you did? ‘Cause the photos in your book are pretty amazing. Were you using steroids? Were you eating just like copious amounts of an extremely high protein diet? Like what were some your biggest tactics?
Vince: Yeah. For sure. So absolutely no steroids. This was back when I was 22. So I’ll be honest, I didn’t even know what steroids were. And the only supplements I use were a fish oil, a weight gainer, and creatine. And it’s funny because my mom had never seen a tub of powder in her cupboards before, and she actually thought it was steroids, and she threw it in the garbage. So my first experience with supplements was a negative one, and this was when I was 22. So I moved back home, I was living with my parents, and because I used to run 60 to literally 100 miles per week as a competitive runner, I stopped running completely. So there was a couple things, it all happen at once, and I like to give context to my transformation ’cause people hear how much muscle I gain, and that’s what they quickly ask. “So you must’ve taken steroids?” And we can dive into what the science talks about in terms of realistic muscle gains, and what the research has shown, and all that. But I started off 149. So that’s when I took my before picture, May 4th, 2002. And I stopped running completely and I started weight training.
So I was a newbie. So my gains were definitely what you would call newbie gains. And I literally started doing what the bodybuilders taught in the magazines. I did six meals a day, I did three shakes a day, weight gain shakes plus I did three whole food meals a day, and that was pretty much it. I didn’t track the macros, I didn’t, like I wasn’t very precise but I was consistent with my meal frequency, and I focused on eating six times a day, which was something I had never really done as an endurance runner. I mean, I didn’t even really know what protein was as a runner, we lived on bagels, pasta, craft dinner, peanut butter jam sandwiches. I mean, we just figured we’d burn it up. So I actually started thinking about what I was putting into my body for the first time, so that was pretty much it. And when it came to weight training, I mean, again, it’s so boring. I found this guy at my church of all places who was a provincial level natural bodybuilder, and I told him I’m about to do this split that I found in a bodybuilding magazine, and he advised that I do full body workouts. And I never really understood what’s a full body workout, and he says, “Well, we’re going to hit the same muscle groups three times per week with lower volume but higher intensity…”
Ben: Which you actually don’t hear a lot from the bodybuilding crowd.
Vince: No! And it’s fascinating because, I mean the bodybuilding crowd, I mean we could talk about drugs for an hour here, but I mean it really is a drug subculture. So you know he was teaching me stuff that quickly made sense to me because, in track, you don’t bump up to the 10K unless you improve your 5K first. You know what I mean? It’s all about quality before quantity, especially when you’re trying to get better. So he was like, he kept it really simple. He said, “Why are you going to go to the gym and do 12 sets on your shoulders when we could get the same stimulus, a sufficient stimulus with one or two sets?” And I said, “Is that all we need?” And he says, “Well, if it’s done with quality.”
So early on, I was introduced the whole idea of quality versus quantity, and that we want to stimulate our muscles and not annihilate our muscles. And he started talking about avoiding concepts like junk volume. And I was like, “This is fascinating.” ‘Cause this is like, whenever I get into junk falling with my endurance sports, when I got hurt, when I burned out, so a lot of this stuff made sense to me, so it was easy to put my trust in him. And that was essentially it. I followed full-body workouts. And I said, “What about this? What about that?” And he really kept it simple. We changed up the exercises each workout and we just focused on different stimuli within the workout with different rep ranges. And I just trust the program, I stuck with the program, and six months later I went from 149 to 190. And that was like a life changing event for me.
Ben: Yeah. It’s really interesting. In defense of the high volume approach, I know a lot of like mesomorhpic or endomorphic body types, guys who are pretty big to start with, pretty muscular start with, or just have bigger bones to start with, and many of them seem to do okay with this whole idea of body parts splits, like working the chest and the shoulders on a Monday, and the biceps, and triceps, and core on a Tuesday, et cetera, et cetera. But for me, ’cause I’m a skinny guy, back when I was bodybuilding, what worked for me was very similar to the advice that you got from this first mentor, and that was full-body three times a week. And the way that I did it was I had full body three times a week, and then I had one day where I’d go in and do my vanity exercises, where I’d have just a day where I focused on like the biceps, and the calves, and the triceps. But aside from that, I mean for my bodybuilding routine back in the day, I was doing deadlifts, and cleans, and clean and jerk, and push press, and a lot of these exercises that would be considered more, either weightlifting or a power lifting exercises, not these single joint bodybuilding exercises.
Vince: I fully hear you, and I teach a couple ideas. When it comes to figuring out, people always ask me, “Should I do a full-body or should I do a split?” And as you know, it always comes down to these two boring words: It depends. And I always tell people it depends on your recovery ability. I tell people you are, this is worth writing down for people listening, you are what you can recover from. So there are people who can recover quicker, and if somebody is maybe taking steroids, they’re definitely recovering quicker. So they can introduce a stimulus to their body at a more frequent rate. So they’ll have more repeated belts, more repeated stimuli on the muscle, so they’ll be able to produce more muscle growth over the course of the year.
So at the end of the day, we definitely want to train our body to be able to do more. Like that’s the ultimate goal. And most of my training programs, the way they’re designed is, the book you’ve got there in front of you, the first 10 weeks is dedicated to full body workouts. But we don’t stay there forever. We definitely are going to challenge your body to recover at a quicker rate. So on the second 10 weeks, we train four times per week. And the stimulus to each muscle group is not every seven days, it’s every five days. And then in the final phase, in the final 10 weeks, we bump the training frequency up again. And then after those 10 weeks, we’ll go back to a full-body. So we’re always cycling training frequency. So we’re not doing the same training frequency all year round. And that’s why these different cycling, these approaches work because your body will get slightly overtrained, and then it’s going to need to recover, and then it’ll be slightly undertrained, and then we overtrain it. So we’re constantly (inaudible), skillfully organizing these different variables in a way that allows our body to avoid plateau and to avoid adaptation. So we’re always moving forward.
Ben: Yeah. That’s interesting too, what you say about steroids, how they can enhance or speed up recovery, and I think what a lot of people don’t realise is that that is musculoskeletal recovery, it’s not nervous system recovery, it’s not neuromuscular recovery. And so, for example, there’s two ways that I’ll recommend to people to track your true recovery, like whether, because you can just pay attention to soreness to know if you’re muscular skeletal system is recovered. But for neuromuscular recovery, you can do like a morning heart rate variability test, and in many cases, especially if you were taking steroids or some other form of supplement that vastly enhances muscular skeletal recovery, but doesn’t act on your nervous system, you’ll notice that even if, you’re not sore anymore, your heart rate variability stays low. So it’s a very easy to work yourself into a state of like low drive, or overtraining, or exhausted hormones by using something like steroids for enhancing musculoskeletal recovery. The other one that I like is called, I don’t know if you’ve done this before, Vince, the CNS Tap Tests, like this little app that you put on your phone and it lets you keep a running tally of how quickly you can tap with your thumbs on the screen for your right and your left hand. You ever mess around with that?
Vince: I haven’t.
Ben: It’s kind of cool. And if you’re slow, that means that it’s probably not a good day for you to do like a hard power or strength workout. Or same thing, like if your heart rate variability is low, unless you’re purposefully, as you alluded to, like trying to get yourself to like a slightly overtrained state so you can super compensate, you’d want to back off. But steroids kind of mask all that.
Vince: You’re literally forced to do more when you take steroids. I’m mean that’s why these guys have to do so much more because their body’s recovering at ridiculous rate, and protein synthesis is occurring at a different way because their chemistry has been altered. So, yeah. I find like that’s the problem, a lot of guys get easily influenced by their favorite YouTube idol, their favorite bodybuilder who’s promoting these hardcore workouts, when in fact, literally, I find the biggest problem with guys not making gains is they are doing too much. And when you go into the gym, if I say, “Hey, ‘kay, Ben. We’re going to be doing 24 sets today on chest. Your first thought is like, “Crap. I’ve got to pace myself. I’ve got to make it through.” And we have this mentality and this satisfaction around just finishing the work out when muscle growth for natural guys is completely different. We just need to go in there, stimulate the muscle, do a little extra than last time, and then get out of the gym.
Unfortunately, that’s not too sexy, but unfortunately it’s the non-sexy stuff that gets results. So bring somebody overall volume down. Like if I tell you, “Hey, we’re going to train chest today, and we’re only doing one all-out set.” You’re going to be like, “Just one set?” I’m like, “Yes, but it’s going to be an all-out, ball-busting, go-’til-bloke set.” 75% of the workout’s going to be spent warming up, preparing for this all-out set, and then we’re going to do this set, and you’re going to experience more muscle recruitment, more muscle fatigue than you ever have, and that’ll be sufficient because you’ve just outdone your previous workout. And now we’re going to move on to the next body part. And that’s like an approach that when guys really embrace and experience, they never go back to these high volume junk set programs that force you to pace yourself and that are only ideal for genetic freaks, or guys who are enhanced.
Ben: Yeah. It makes sense. It’s makes total sense.
Ben: I want to interrupt today’s show to tell you about something called the NTA. What do you think it stands for? Well, I’ll fill you in. It’s the Nutritional Therapy Association. And what they do is they certify folks to help people with teaching others about nutrition, but they use a bioindividualized, ancestral approach to healing. So you’re not looking at some like cookie cutter, Gatorade Sports Science Institute endorsed version of teaching people about nutrition. Instead, when you go through the Nutritional Therapy Association for an education in becoming a nutritional therapy practitioner, or a nutritional therapy consultant, you learn how to use nutrient-dense foods as a way to enhance the body’s ability to heal, or as a way to enhance the body and brain’s ability to perform. So they blend online and in-person courses in the US, in Canada, and in Australia.
And to check ’em out, you first of all go to nutritionaltherapy.com. That’s nutritionaltherapy.com where you can sign up for any of their therapy practitioner and consultant certifications. Registration closes, by the way, February 6th and classes start February 13th of 2017. So get on the ball if you want to do this. Also, they have a conference in Vancouver, Washington that I’m speaking at, actually. March 3rd through the 5th. It’s the 10th Annual NTA Conference, and you can register for that if you just go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/NTA. That’s bengreenfieldfitness.com/NTA to register, and be sure to tell them that I sent you so that you get the white glove treatment.
So again, winter registration for their courses, it closes February 6th, their winter classes begin February 13th. And the financial aid deadline, if you want financial aid to be able to get your nutrition certification, then the deadline for that is January 3rd. And then that conference is March 3rd through the 5th. And hopefully, I’ll see you there. So check ’em out. nutritionaltherapy.com.
This podcast is also brought to you by about the most unique twist on hot chocolate that I think you are ever going to experience. So if you’re sitting here this winter wanting hot chocolate, but perhaps bored with the same old little brown packet with the many marshmallows in it, have I got something for you. So there is this special form of hot chocolate, it’s called Mushroom Hot Cacao. And the ingredients include not just dense, dense cacao powder grown in the volcanic soils of Indonesia, but also a bit of guarana, which is a natural Amazonian adaptogen which amplifies the effects of any herb or superfood that it’s blended with, cayenne pepper, which is not just a thermogenic aid, but also leaves this little mild burning sensation in the mouth that results in the release of a whole bunch of feel good hormones. That’s why you feel so good when you eat like spicy food. And then they’ve also added cordyceps mushroom extract to this, which is great for ATP, for lung activation, for energy levels, and for just another basic uplifting effect.
So this stuff is called, again, Mushroom Hot Cacao, with cordyceps, and you can get it, and any of the other mushrooms that I personally use on a daily basis, over at foursigmatic.com/greenfield. That’s foursigmatic.com/greenfield. And when you go there, you can use coupon code Ben Greenfield to get 15% off. So that’s foursigmatic.com/greenfield. You use coupon code Ben Greenfield for 15% off. And when you go there, it is spelled out F-O-U-R, not the number four, but FourSigmatic.com/greenfield. Alright. Back to me and Vince.
Ben: Now in the book, I want to delve into some of like the principles that you outline in the book. For example, you have this idea that you write about where you’re supposed to get lean to get big. And I wanted to ask you what exactly you mean when you say you got to get lean to get big?
Vince: Yeah. That’s a fantastic question. So two things that are going to help you build muscle quicker, and that’s the state of leanness you’re in. So we always tell guys, so a lot of people listening to this call have a certain percentage body fat. It might be 12%, it might be 15%, it might be 20%. And before you even think about building muscle, your first goal is to get lean. Ideally 10 to 12% body fat. And there’s a lot of psychological and physiological benefits to that. So one of the big physiological benefits is that we’re going to improve your testosterone levels. By getting leaner, we’re going to lower estrogen levels, the female sex hormone that’s going to prevent you from optimizing that male master hormone, if you will.
Ben: So what you’re talking about primarily is the ability of fat cells to store estrogens, or to release estrogens?
Ben: Okay. So you’re looking at like the testosterone to estrogen ratio?
Vince: Absolutely. Yeah.
Ben: Gotcha. Now could you play devil’s advocate here and say that, because you see this in a lot of people, and I even recently visited an anti-aging clinic down in Florida to do a study and this was a few weeks ago, and they put me on a bioimpedance scale, which isn’t like the gold standard for body fat, but they tested my body fat. It was pretty low. It’s at like 3%. And they told me one of the things they’ve noticed is guys with hypogonadism, or guys who have low testosterone, a lot of times, they’ll be down around that range. The testosterone will be too low. So where do you strike a balance?
Vince: So they’re too low being overweight or underweight?
Ben: No. Like if you lose too much body fat, you can actually lower your testosterone.
Vince: Yeah. So I think that really starts, I actually experienced that myself when I competed ’cause I got my levels checked the day after the show, and they were in the absolute worst state. They were like horrendous. They were all in the toilet. And it was because of deprivation, dieting, low fats, low calories for a very, very extended period of time. So for what we’re talking about, 10 to 12% body fat, we’re talking about body fat levels that should be sustainable over time. So it’d be interesting to see what body fat levels we’re specifically talking about because your test levels shouldn’t plummet when you’re in that 10 to 12% range. They are definitely going to plummet when you start getting into single digit body fat, but a lot of this can also counteracted with regular refeed meals, or cheat days, which is a really essential, very important way to maintain testosterone levels as you get leaner. But overall, a leaner individual is going to be able, they’re going to have better machinery, if you will, to build muscle. And…
Ben: Yeah. I think it comes down, by the way, to like essential body fat stores ‘cause it depends on the body type, obviously. Like somebody who’s mesomorphic or an endomorphic body type is going to have essential body fat stores that are higher. They’re like 10 or 15%. And a naturally skinny person might have essential body fat stores of like, oftentimes you’ll see like 6, or 7, or 8%, and then once you drop below that essential body fat store, for a lot of people, it is below 6%. Like that’s I think when you start to see a lot of the metabolic, and hormonal, and endocrine issues that happen from basically getting below essential. The difference between, you know this as a competitive bodybuilder, Vince, and how you look on stage, the difference if you’re just like at the beach between 3 and 6% is not significant. It’s only really when you’re underneath the lights on stage that you start worrying about kind of pushing the envelope when it comes to essential body fat stores.
Vince: Yeah. Absolutely. Those are like temporary looks for literally not even 24 hours. I’ve competed with so many guys who are like shredded on stage at 2 PM on Saturday, and then on Monday at 9 AM, they’ve gained twenty pounds. And it’s not just water week. That’s a whole other conversation. I think a big thing to is the rate somebody drops their body fat. The more extreme you go, more metabolic compensation that’s going to occur in that and some other ugly thing. So coming down slowly in body fat is one of the most effective strategies. Again, nothing sexy, but I always teach guys that if you want to get lean, you want to do it as slow as possible. And we need to have really half a percent of body fat per week. And as long as it’s moving down gradually, that’s great. I always tell guys if you try and force the fat off, your body is going to react. But when you try and coax the body, it’s going to respond. So we’re always trying to get the body to respond, and we’re never trying to force anything. So that’s the big thing.
And then I think another thing too is the whole idea of insulin sensitivity. So the ability for somebody to utilize carbohydrates, and the leaner you get, the more you’re going to be able to partition carbohydrates two to muscle growth as opposed to fat stores. One of the big things that fuels muscle growth is simply good old-fashioned, hard training sessions. Weight training is an anaerobic activity, so you’re going to perform best with glucose. And if you can come into the gym in a state where you can train your butt off, that’s what’s going to be required to make gains. So if your body is utilizing those carbs better, we’re going to be stimulating muscle growth better and we’re also gonna be able to protect our muscle mass because carbs are proteins sparing, which is a huge thing. And we can lower our overall protein intake and increase our fat intake, which is also going to help with testosterone production. So, I’m really big on getting guys lean because then we can get your carbs and fats up, and we can drop your protein. And I found it to be a very effective formula once somebody is in that 10 to 12% body fat range.
Ben: So a couple of things that arise here are that come to mind as you’re saying this. The first is isn’t this kind of an opposite approach of a lot of mass gain programs or bodybuilding programs where you start off with a whole bunch of bulking, a whole bunch of eating, putting on copious amounts of size, and then kind of like getting shredded, or getting cut after that.
Vince: Yeah. It’s kind of old school now. I mean, we’ve really come a long ways and what we’ve learned is that you can’t force muscle growth in terms of like if your body, what we definitely know, the research is very clear, that being in a hyper caloric state is an optimal environment for muscle growth. So, essentially giving your body the materials it needs to build muscle is the state you want to be in, but at what rate it’s going to occur is going to be very dependent on genetics. And I will talk a bit about some of the research in terms of what kind of gains people can make, but it’s kind of like building a house, like you just have to provide the workers with the materials. Right? I mean that’s the first thing. Like everybody’s into these like weird concepts these days that come from the marketing world or whatever, but like lean, progressive bulk, like there’s no such thing. There’s just one type of bulking. There’s bulking. Either giving your body the materials or not. Your body’s going to decide what ratio of fat to muscle you’re going to gain, and that’s highly, highly genetic.
Ben: Now when it comes to the actual concept, from a physiological standpoint, of getting lean to be able to put on muscle, or getting rid of some fat to be able to put on muscle, I’m curious if you saw the study, it was really recent, it was in October in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition where they looked at anabolic sensitivity of people who are exercising.
So their ability to put on size, in this case they were looking at muscle protein synthesis, and this was in response to like eating a protein-rich meal, how equipped your body is to be able to build muscle after eating a protein-rich meal, and what they found out, and specifically like from the conclusion in the study, they found what’s called diminished myofibrillar protein synthetic response to the ingestion of protein-dense food if you are overweight or obese. So somehow what they’re hypothesizing is that when you have a certain amount of fat mass, you actually aren’t able to take protein and convert that into muscle compared to if you were lean. And I know this the study came out after you’d written the book, but I’m curious if you happened to see that at all.
Vince: I haven’t seen that study, and I actually just e-mailed Brad Schoenfeld who’s pretty, probably one of the go-to researchers, virtually wrote him and asked him if he’d seen it. And I do know that there’s another study from a guy named Dr. Gilbert Forbes, and he’s a pioneer in the study of body composition, and he showed that fat and lean tissue increase or decrease in relationship to each other. So when a lean person overeats, 60 to 70% of the additional weight will be lean tissue, but it’ll be the opposite for someone with high body fat will gain 60 to 70% fat, and just 30 to 40% lean mass. So this is really fascinating stuff.
Ben: Yeah. And then the other thing, and then, by the way, I’ll link to that study in the show notes for those who kind of want to see the physiological reason that you might want to consider lowering body fat before you start to try to put on size, but the other thing, I’m assuming when you say that when you get lean, you’re better able to partition your glucose intake into the muscle tissue. Are you simply referring to the idea that like when you have increased fat mass, you’re not as insulin sensitive? Or do you have like an increased upregulation of glucose transporters when you get lean? Like what’s the mechanism whereby you become more efficient at utilizing carbohydrate if you’re lean?
Vince: I believe those are both of them. There may be more, but those are definitely two of them, two of the reasons.
Ben: Okay. Gotcha. Interesting.
Vince: It’s worth mentioning the psychological aspects as well because a lot of people who want to sculpt their physique. To sculpt the physique, there is certainly a management of certain variables such as calories and macros, and beginning off in a direction where you’re required to incorporate some form of restraint, whether it’s portion sizes, or a certain number of meals, or whatever technique you employ, the entire exercise, and discipline, and habits that come with incorporating some form of restraint are going to help you move in a better opposite direction. So when you start reintroducing calories, you’re going to have way more knowledge, data, if you will, on how your body responds, and how much you should be eating, and how frequently you should be eating, and what kind of macro combinations are more ideal for your body.
What I’ve also find, this is one more thing, is when you get more lean, most people are shocked by how amazing they look because they’re like holy crap, for the first time in their life, they see definition, they see rounder shoulders, a fuller chest, more vascular arms. Some of the people might start even noticing some veins in around their stomach area. And you start gaining more satisfaction from the discipline it takes to stick to a dietary strategy than it is to give in to certain maybe food temptations that you would have given in to earlier on. So mentally, you just like, you start loving the results you’re getting. So that’s a huge thing. So you really increase compliance when you get leaner.
And a lot of people that I’ve even found is that they get lean, and the new thing now, even within my friends, we joke around like, ’tis the season to be lean. Like lean is in. It’s like the big, big muscularized physique is kind of out. That was kind of like 10 years ago, [0:45:06] ______ being a certain percentage of the population that just, you know what I’m saying? It’s like lean is in. So a lot of people just get 10, 12% body fat and they’re like, “Crap. I love the way I look right now. I don’t need to add any more mass. Maybe I’ll focus on improving my shoulders, and I’ll stay at maintenance calories, or just increase calories a bit on those you know shoulder and arm days.” But that whole idea of like over feeding constantly where you’ve got to take your Tupperware container everywhere, I mean that’s kind of like, I mean I’m not appealing to those kind of guys, and a lot of people have evolved beyond that and like we just want to look good for the opposite sex, and we want to look good amongst our peers, and we want to feel good, and that whole bulking up and cutting down, it’s just those extreme lifestyles are just of like no interest to the kind of people that I try I want to help, and the kind of lifestyle that I live now.
Ben: Yeah. I think a lot of people too don’t realize how big you can actually look when you’re somewhat lean. If it’s size that you’re going for, a lot of times, the decrease in body fat is just as important as the increase in muscle mass. And you’re right. I think people in this day and age can look a little bit better looking like, say, Brad Pitt from Fight Club versus Arnold Schwarzenegger from The Terminator. I think that the former’s a better look.
Vince: There’s this cool thing called The Lean Threshold, and it basically states that guys between the percentage body fat of 13 and 18% don’t really look any different. So if you had a guy [0:46:36] ______, it would be very hard to tell, like, “Is he 13% or 18%?” It kind of looks the same almost. But once you get down to 10, 12% body fat, you immediately look, you look dramatically different and you do look bigger.
It’s funny because I’m 203 right now, and if you read comments on my Instagram and Facebook, people ask me, “Holy cow, you’ve packed on a lot of size.” I’ve actually lost 10 pounds. This past year I’ve just been refocusing on rebuilding my metabolism from some bad habits in the past, and my goal’s just been to lower my set point on the scale, and it’s required a very slow and tedious process. But it’s taken a year to drop 10 pounds, but now that I’m 10 pounds leaner, everyone says, “Wow, you look a lot better. You look bigger.” And I’m like, “I’ve lost weight. I’m lighter on the scale.” So that’s one of the big benefits of getting leaner. You do in fact look better when you have some muscle in the right spots.
Ben: Yeah. And the thing that you go into in the book, specifically, for putting on the muscle side of things, is something called DTS training, DTS training, and then that’s kind of like what I was messing around with in the gym yesterday and why my chest is so sore. But can you go into what you mean when you say DTS?
Vince: Yes. I mean this is kind of the marketer in me, just to be honest, but Brad Schoenfeld came out with some research in 2010, and he discovered there’s three mechanisms of muscle growth. Muscle damage, metabolic stress, and mechanical tension. And there’s different training techniques to stimulate those different mechanisms. So my training program essentially takes principles from science and then incorporates my own techniques to get that stimulus achieved. And one, it’s effective because that’s what the science of [0:48:40] ______. And two, it’s ’cause we’re now incorporating variety into our training programs. So when we come to the gym, we’re not just doing four sets of you know 10 to 12. We might be doing a certain amount of sets and reps, but with a very specific tempo. Maybe you noticed on one of the days, we’re doing really slow eccentrics, and that’s designed to stimulate muscle damage. So one of the workouts in your week, you get to come to the gym with a specific goal. “Okay, today’s my really slow eccentric day.” And you have a very specific goal with each workout.
Another one of the workouts is where we’re focusing on mechanical tension, which is just heavy lifting. And that’s the day where we just focus on adding more weight to the bar, the rep ranges come down, the rest periods lengthen, the tempos speed up a bit. And the whole purpose of that day, that’s you’re heavy game. That’s the day you get to come to the gym, that’s the day that you get to focus on adding more weight to the bar. And then another workout, we have our metabolic stress day, and that’s just a fancy way of saying high volume training, and that’s the day where we get to go for the pump. We get to crank out a lot of reps with very short rest periods. And the entire focus of that workout is to make the muscle burn. And that’s how I design my programs. There’s goals with each program utilizing the mechanisms of muscle growth, and there’s a lot of way to skillfully organize and periodize those. And then people buy my stuff because I’ve got really creative and fun ways of using certain techniques that stimulate those mechanisms. And I just use DTS as a simple way for people, a fun way for people to remind, to remember what we’re doing here.
Ben: Now in terms of mechanical tension, one of the things you mentioned that I want to make sure I highlight to folks is that a lot of times, you only get the activation of type two muscle fibers when the type one muscle fibers are fatigued, which I know is one reason why you recommend to lift heavy. But do you actually go out of your way in the program, or in your own training, to pre-fatigue type one muscle fibers? Like to do something, for example, I remember I would do some of this back when I was a bodybuilder. You do a set of push-ups, or a set of chest flyes, or something that is relatively light, high rep to pre-fatigue type one muscle fibers before you go in and hit the type two muscle fibers with, say, like a bench press or some other kind of loaded press?
Vince: Yeah. I know. That’s certainly an effective technique and that’s definitely going to shock your body. It is something that you could incorporate. It definitely is something. So now we’re kind of mixing multiple mechanisms into one workout, and that’s actually what we do in phase three of the program. I have you doing all three mechanisms in one workout. So we’re building up to that. So there are certainly different ways and techniques to go about doing that. So for me, it’s like every technique has an expiration date though. So we set a date to the technique, so maybe eight weeks, or ten weeks, and then we move onto a different technique, ’cause that’s what the research is really pointing to, that muscle growth doesn’t occur in a linear fashion. It really occurs in spurts, which is what a lot of people don’t understand. So rotating your techniques is essential.
Ben: The other thing that’s kind of interesting that you have in the book is you don’t like this concept of pausing at the top or the bottom. Like a lot of people will do a squat, or a dead, or a curl, or any other movement, and you kind of pause at the top and you pause at the bottom. Like basically I guess what would be referred to as inter rep rest. Why aren’t you a fan of that?
Vince: Yeah. Well, so when it comes to applying the mechanism of metabolic stress, what we’re striving for is called constant tension. So we want to, it is much, you want to get as much lactic acid into the muscle, and what that requires is constant tension. So muscles, numbers, when it comes to constant tension, are arbitrary. So when we’re talking about increasing stress, fatigue, cell swelling, lactic acid, different byproducts within the muscle that make the muscle burn, what we want to do is make it as hard as humanly possible on your muscles. And what that basically requires is constant tension. So we don’t want to give the muscle a rest at the top or the bottom. We want constant tension, understanding that, I teach this concept called the principle of disadvantages, and essentially what we’re trying to present to our body is a disadvantage. When it comes to building muscle, this is the big thing, you want to make it as hard as possible. This isn’t CrossFit, this isn’t endurance sport, this is not any type of performance sport where you’re trying to become more efficient. You want to stay inefficient. You want to make it as hard as possible on your muscles.
And that’s why we use things like lock it down, don’t pause, squeeze it like it owes you money, contract against the resistance, change up the weight, don’t let the tension off, keep it on, keep it on. If you came to one of my muscle camps, you’d hear me saying all those things to you while you’re in the midst of the set because we want to keep the tension directed to the tissue, the muscle tissue that you’re trying to stimulate. And what happens is a lot of guys go to the gym and they just move weight. The body is designed to always chase the path of least resistance.
So let’s say you’re doing a bench press with 200 pounds. Well your body will figure out how to disperse that 200 pounds to as many body parts as possible ’cause it has zero interest in building muscle. But if you want to build your chest, like concepts like inward intent so that you direct the torque to the muscle tissue that you’re specifically trying to sculpt. So it really does require that kind of like coming into the gym and saying “What’s my goal?” “What am I trying to do? Am I trying to just lift more weight, or am I actually trying to sculpt a muscle?” And those require different mindsets techniques and ways of performing the exercise.
Ben: Now in your section of the book on recovery, you talk about massage, and a lot of people think of massage as a way to recover. You talk about massage as a way to build muscle. How is it that massage therapy, or deep tissue therapy, or foam rolling, or something like that would actually cause a muscle building response?
Vince: Yes. So with regards to massage, I think the big idea with any kind of therapy that increases mobility is that, yeah, you’re going to get better blood flow, and you’re going to help promote recovery, but one of the things that I will caution people with in terms of different modalities such as foam rolling, stretching, massage, and even stuff like ART is that while it can increase the neurological function of the muscle by improving the communication between it and the nervous system, you also have to ensure that you have other tools, one in particular that I’m a huge fan of called MAT, which stands for muscle activation techniques…
Ben: Yeah. You talk about this a lot in the book. You seem pretty obsessed with this MAT thing.
Vince: Yeah. Because here’s the deal, man, I mean a lot of people don’t understand how the body actually works because I was trained to believe early on that if a muscle’s tight, that’s a bad thing. If the muscle’s tight, you should stretch it. And one day I had somebody just ask me “why are you stretching?” “That why are you really trying to push your range of motion?” And I said, “Well, ’cause the muscle’s tight”. And he simply asked, “Well, why is that a bad thing?” No one’s ever asked me that. Like what do you mean why is that a bad thing? The muscle’s tight. You don’t want tight muscles. And he presented that this entire new way of kind of looking at the body, and he was an MAT therapist, muscle activation techniques therapists, and their whole thing is that flexibility is a derivative of strength, and muscle tightness is secondary to muscle weakness. So whenever you see a limitation in motion, this is an indication that one or more of the muscles that cross that axis cannot contract efficiently. And when a muscle or a group of muscles cannot contract efficiently, it means that they cannot effectively shorten. This in turn means the muscles of the opposite axis cannot fully lengthen, and this inefficiency in muscle contraction is expressed as muscle tightness.
So this kind of like blew my world wide open because I never understood, I thought, “Okay, something’s tight, but if you go on an ice rink, do you want your muscles to tighten up?” Yes. Because if your muscles tightening up, it’s going to prevent you from doing a face plant and cracking your head open. So muscle tightness is actually a good thing. So what I always tell people, whenever you add mobility to a joint axis, you better have a tool that adds stability. And MAT gives stability by turning muscle tissue back on so muscle tissue can actually contract.
And that’s why I’m a huge fan of MAT, because muscle MAT is going to, really what it does is it focuses on the cause of pain by testing, correcting, and then maintaining muscle contractile efficiency. But from a physique standpoint, it’s pretty fascinating because if you look at certain body parts, if you look at pro-bodybuilders, you got a guy maybe an Instagram with a massive set of shoulders and a massive set of arms, but he’s got no chest. Like what is that all about? Is that because he doesn’t know how to train his chest or he whimps out on chest day? Why is his shoulders and arms so developed and his chest is underdeveloped? Or his back is underdeveloped? Well it’s because of movement patterns and ability to contract muscle tissue in certain areas. He may have the inability to contract his pecs and his back properly. So whenever he goes to the gym and lifts, his shoulders and arms are forced to take more of the load and are simply more developed because they’ve experienced more tension over the years.
Ben: Interesting. Yeah. I have a podcast, I think I recorded it about three years ago. It’s called “Doctor Two Fingers” Reveals His Teeth-Gritting, Body-Healing Secrets”, and he goes into this concept called advanced muscle integrative technique, or AMIT, which is based around the fact that every single section of tissue in your body is saturated with these proprioceptors, and they monitor like tension, and pressure, and movement, and temperature, and compression, and all these different things. And basically if you get injured or you have a lot of inflammation from a workout, the receptors become kind of protective, and they shut off functionally, they shut off mobility in an area. And what he does is he actually applies really deep pressure like with two fingers, or one finger, or with some kind of instrument in specific proprioceptive areas of the body.
And from what I understand, like MAT that you talk about a lot in the book, this muscle activation technique, I think it’s based on the same concepts as this advanced muscle integrative technique, or AMIT, except I think there’s a little bit more, if I understand correctly, like focus on range of motion in different exercises with a practitioner with MAT. So it’s like a combination of functional movement along with actually putting pressure on a specific area and just reaming the hell out of it with fingers or some kind of a device.
Vince: Yeah. I mean I don’t know too much about that. It’d interesting to have the two creators talking to each other about how they go about. I mean I know there’s a lot of different body healers out there, and my thing, whenever I talk about MAT, I never try and put down any other body healer out there because I know they all contribute to their methodology and achieve results. So what I do know about the MAT is that it really just looks at the body in terms of what’s not contracting. And when we can turn that back on, then other muscles essentially don’t have to keep picking up the slack, if you will. And that’s the big thing with injuries, right? People don’t understand you know how injuries work. They go to their guy and they say, “Oh, I pulled my hamstring.” Oftentimes, there’s nothing wrong with the hamstring. The hamstring was like completely fine. Maybe it was something wrong with the left glute that wasn’t contracting, so the right hamstring had to work harder and just eventually got so pissed off at the left glute that he’s not doing his job. He had to overwork, and that’s when he got hurt.
So that’s kind of been my experience with the MAT. Whenever I go see my guy, I say, “Hey, my shoulder’s bothering me.” He treats something in my foot. He doesn’t even touch my shoulder. And I leave, and the pain in my shoulder is gone. I’m like, “What did you do?” And he goes, “Well, there was instability in your bases supporting your feet. I turned some feet stuff back on and now the tension is like literally, it’s not getting dumped into your shoulder.” And that’s essentially what you’re doing with MAT, you’re turning musculature back on so that everything to do its job and other muscles don’t have to pick up the slack and get pissed off at the guys not doing their job, which end up, eventually they’re getting hurt. Or, in some cases, overdeveloped, and that’s how you get these different physiques out there with like, “why is that body part so well developed and this body part so underdeveloped?” And almost 100% of the time it doesn’t have to do with like, it’s always like a neurological deficiency that typically needs to get, it can be improved with exercise technique. Actually, I shouldn’t say 100%, but…
Ben: Yeah. Cool. So with the use of, or I should say without the use of what we would call of “gear” in the muscle building world, like steroids, or andro, or testosterone derivatives, et cetera, what is actually, based on research, a realistic rate of muscle gain? I know it’s going to change a little bit based on whether you’re, say, mesomorphic or ectomorphic in terms of body type. But what kind of information can you give folks listening in as far as what to expect when it comes to the ability to put on muscle and how quickly one can do so?
Vince: Yeah. It’d be fun to sit on this question for a bit ’cause actually have a lot to share here. I think the first thing I want to do is just to kind of dispel the whole myth in terms of how muscle’s built. I think a lot of people think that people with a big muscular physique gained it over like a long gradual period of time. They just gain a little bit of muscle, bit by bit, and eventually they have that big awesome physique. And it doesn’t work like that.
The way it works is that people gain muscle in spurts, and they large amounts of muscle in a very short period of time, but then they hit a plateau and they won’t gain anything for a certain period of time, if not a long period of time, before they introduce a different training stimulus that shocks their body, and then they might make another big surge in muscle growth. And that was my experience. I went from 149 to 190 in six months.
Ben: I’m going to interrupt you just real quick. Are you getting a beep on your end? Did you just get a beep?
Vince: Yeah. I just hid it quick. Yeah. I was trying to shut it down while we were talking.
Ben: Oh, I gotcha. I thought it was on my end. I’m like, “What the hell is going on?” Okay. Sorry to like totally derail you there. Go ahead.
Vince: Yeah. So there’s a researcher named, [1:04:53] ______ and he’s from Finland. I don’t know if I pronounced it right, but he’s done more studies on strength training than anyone and he’s shown that you don’t gain in that linear fashion. You shock your body, and make huge gains, and then you plateau. And then you make huge gains again and then you plateau. And this is very similar for a lot of newbies including myself. I gained 40 pounds in six months, but then I spent, I think two, three years, hovering around 190, 195. It was hard to make the leap again.
So when we look at the research, there was a study done by Dr. Jose Antonio and he had several people in this study. It was an eight week study, and a number of people in the study gained 13 pounds of lean mass over a course of eight weeks, which is 6 kilograms of muscle. Now in the same study, what they found were some guys made literally zero gains. And there were some guys in the study that literally lost muscle mass. I have my theory on why that happened, but what pretty much the majority of research has shown, all the research I found, including a guy that’s done a ton of studies on this from the University of McMaster in Ontario, his name’s Dr. Stew Philips, and he’s done a lot of research on tackling short-term training programs, and what he consistently notices that guy gains on average between four and seven pounds of lean mass in a course of three months.
Vince: That’s kind of like what is the average. But like I was just sharing with Dr. Jose’s study, there was a couple guys that gained almost twice that amount. So it’s really, you want to know what’s going on here, in my opinion, 90% of this is driven by genetics. Genetics is kind of like, it’s kind of the driving thing with all of this. So…
Ben: Now what about Alan Aragon? Have you seen any of his research in terms of like his natural, what he calls his “lean muscle mass gain model”?
Ben: And what he says? ‘Cause his is based off of whether you’re beginner, intermediate, or advanced. And he says if you’re beginner, like if you’ve been training one year or less, he says basically you take 1 to 1.5% of your total body weight and that’s how much you could put on per month. So if you weigh like, I suppose, 180 pounds, you would be able to put on 1.8 to, I suppose it would be about 2.4-ish pounds of muscle per month. Or if you’re intermediate, the more advance you get, the more it slows down. So if you’re an intermediate trainer, it’s 0.5 to 1% total body weight per month. And then if you’re advanced and you’ve been training for like five years or more, it’s about 0.25 to 0.5% of your total body weight per month you could put on. So, again, if you’re like 180, it would be like almost less than a pound of muscle per month that you could put on based off of what science says about hypertrophy or muscle building potential. Do you think that that’s too conservative? I mean what are your thoughts on that?
Vince: No. That’s great. I know Alan’s work very well. I know Lyle McDonald. He has another similar thing too. I also follow a guy named doctor, I don’t know if he’s a doctor, David Epstein. And in the Sports Gene, he has a definitive answer to how much muscle an individual can pack on, and it’s 5 pounds for every pound of bone.
Vince: Unfortunately, you need a DEXA scan to figure out how much muscle and bone you have, and by…
Ben: So that would be like the biggest that you could get would be five pounds per one pound of bone? Like your maximum size you could ever put on?
Vince: According to David Epstein, yeah.
Ben: That’s really interesting. I’ve had DEXA scans done before. I should go back and see how much bone I have. ‘Cause I’ve always wondered like what would I top out if I really just like ate everything in sight and lifted heavy weights for three or four years. Like what would be my actual genetic potential. I wasn’t familiar with that though. I’ve read his Sports Gene book. I’m going to have to go look at my DEXA scan results now and see just how swole I could theoretically get.
Vince: Yeah. And this is interesting because we actually just had my brother, he was the guy who went to the Olympic trials for the 800 meters. So he comes from a very, very competitive background of middle distance running, and he got the genes in the family, good looks as well. He’s way better looking than me, and way more articulate, and everything else. But you know he wanted to do a 12-week transformation. So he went on a program that my coach put him on and I helped him with all the technique ’cause we work out together. And we told him, “Do your DEXA, man.” Like we wanted to see what he was actually going to gain, and I sent you the pictures, and he gained 20 pounds in twelve weeks.
And if you look at his pictures, I guarantee most people will say, “Holy cow! He gained 20 pounds of muscle.” ‘Cause it doesn’t look like he’s gaining any body fat. Like look at the pictures. I told him, “Take the pictures in the same position with the same posing. Don’t screw around with the light, don’t screw around with any apps, or anything. Let’s see what you could actually do in 12 weeks.” And I sent you the pictures, and he got his DEXA scan results, and he was so disappointed because he only gained four pounds of lean mass according to the DEXA. And I even to myself, I’m kind of boggled because I don’t see 16 pounds of body fat on his frame, but it did say that of the 20 pounds he gained, 16 was fat. But it’s pretty amazing how the body can still look amazing 20 pounds heavier. I mean you got to put the pictures up on your show notes because I thought it was just absolutely fascinating.
Ben: Yeah. You sent me the photos. They’re pretty impressive. So I’ll link to it, again, if you go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/livinglarge, I’ll link to these photos of Vince’s brother. They’re actually pretty impressive. They’re from your Instagram page, right?
Vince: Yeah. I think what I just want to say with in terms of my thoughts on these different models for what’s realistic, again, it’s just a model. I mean, my story, I mean, I’ll be honest, it’s the way I built my name, and my brand, and my business. It was my very incredible before and after pictures. I mean I gained 40 pounds. I mean to this day, people still accuse me of steroids. Sorry about that. I’ll turn that, I don’t know why that’s doing that. People still think like, “He must’ve used steroids.” But again, they’re newbie gains.
So there are going to be guys that blow away these models and there will be guys that don’t even come close to getting into the average, so you know what I’m saying? So while it is a model, some guys are going to blow away and some guys won’t even come close to hitting it. Just like that study showed where some guys gained 6 kilos of muscle, and some guys lost muscle in the same eight weeks study. So there’s a lot of variables for that, but we kind of have to look at the average, and I think the average, a lot of scientists are agreed that 47 pounds over a 12 week period is considered, if you hit that, good for you. You pat yourself on the back. You did a lot of things right.
Ben: Got it. Okay. Cool. And we’ll put some of the links to these resources and calculators in the show notes for those of you listening in. A few other quick questions that I have for you in the time we have left, Vince, and that would be kind of like the food-related side of things. You have some interesting thoughts on food in general, and I’m glad to see that you’ve progressed from the days of, as you write about in the intro of your book, basically dipping things in peanut butter, and drinking copious amounts of Gatorade, and eating lots and lots of macaroni and cheese and power bars. But you talk about your seven key oils. You recommend rotating seven key oils through the diet. Why do you recommend rotating those through the diet and what are your seven go-to oils that you have on hand?
Vince: Yeah. For sure. I’ll be honest. I don’t have a scientific answer for this. It’s more from just something I learned from one of my nutrition coaches a long time ago. And he said, “If you want to look solid, eat solid food.” And he was a huge proponent of just really focus on variety and rotating food sources. And for me, I just wanted to expand my repertoire. So I regularly try and rotate around olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, grapeseed oil, flax seed, walnut oil, and they just kind of had different flavors, taste. My wife, as you know, has taken a lot of professional cooking lessons, and we just try to explore, and learn different things, and make things taste differently, and certain things have different, what do you call it? Heat points?
Ben: Yeah, yeah. Different smoke points. It’s funny. Your tactic is similar to mine. What I have on hand all the time is I’ve got ghee, butter, coconut oil, avocado oil, and olive oil, and then MCT oil. So I always have some different fats and oils that I can play around with. Not super scientifically. Sometimes it’s just for flavor more than anything else. But sometimes there is some science behind it. Like if I’ve cooked my eggs in coconut oil in the morning, for example, then I might, in the evening if I’m doing a saute, or cooking up a steak, or something like that, I might use an extra virgin olive oil or an avocado oil. So I’m getting different blends of my monounsaturated mufas, polyunsaturated pufas throughout the day with some MCT thrown in. And I think it is important not to just like have your, which I know a lot of people have, just like your go-to bottle of extra virgin olive oil and maybe your stick of butter in the refrigerator. I kind of like the idea of having a variety of different oils in the diet.
Vince: Absolutely. Yeah. And I do the same thing with my proteins. I try to never have the same protein source twice in the same day.
Vince: And that was a challenge from somebody who said you should try and eat different protein sources, and that one question just forced me to ask, “Oh, how many protein sources are there out there?” So, yeah. I like to rotate my protein sources. Fish, turkey, chicken, egg whites, different kinds of meats, different kinds of cuts, eggs…
Ben: Really? You do egg whites?
Vince: I do egg whites. I feel…
Ben: I’m not into egg whites.
Vince: I don’t do them all the time. It’s one of those things when I’m more trying to control, manage exactly what I want. But I definitely like the enzymes that come from obviously an egg. I have whole eggs way more often than just egg whites. But I guess it’s just one option if I need pure 50 grams of protein and I’m getting my fats from some other sources that day. Again, it’s not like something I’m set on, but sometimes I like to start the day with a bro, I call it the “bro breakfast” ’cause it’s pretty old school. Oatmeal and egg whites, and you put some cinnamon on it, or sometimes I add some oatmeal to the egg whites and you make an oatmeal-egg white pancake, you can add some jam. So it’s like, again this isn’t gourmet cooking by any means. A professional chef would be rolling their eyes if they heard me saying all this, but it kind of gets the job done every once in a while.
Ben: Yeah. I guess I’m too big of a fan of all the A, the D, the E, and the K, and the fat soluble vitamins and everything in the yoke that I stray away from egg white. Plus I guess I get disillusioned with them too because I used to do more of them and had really, really high levels of albumin. You can get like a blood test for albumin, and I find this is the case with people who eat a lot of eggs in general, people who eat egg whites especially, like really, really high levels of the this albumin-based protein, and I suspect part of that might be from getting a whole bunch of the egg white protein without the egg yolks and some of the fats that accompany the egg with the egg yolk. So I’m personally careful with egg whites. But you also talk about protein powders in the book and how you’re actually not really stuck on whey, which a lot of bodybuilders are. So you say whey is not the only way, I see what you did there. But what are the other protein powders that you use?
Vince: Yeah. I like to rotate proteins around for the same reason, sorry, protein powders for the same reason I like to rotate proteins. So whey, for one, it’s highly insulingenic. So meaning it may not be the best choice for someone over 15% body fat who needs to lose fat. And for many people who are over 12, 15% body fat who need to drop body fat first, they’d be just better off with a whole food meal. Even though insulin sensitivity is heightened after training, I would advise to eating as much whole food as possible and rotating different protein powders because, again, you’re just getting different amino acid profiles and some of them even, like one of my favorites, hemp protein, you’re going to get a good amino profile, and you’re going to get different nutrients. And whey, by itself, doesn’t have the greatest nutrient profile compared to, say, eating steak, or a whole egg, or fish.
So when you’re looking for nutrient density with your meal, maximizing quality before quantity, you really want to just consider your sources. So for guys who are trying to gain weight though, I tell guys you can definitely incorporate a shake, maybe one, no more than two per day. Two maximum per day, but ideally one. That way, the majority of your food is coming from sustained food that’s nutrient rich, it’s got a lot micronutrients, fiber, amino profile, healthy fats. And that’s the biggest thing from the research when it comes to muscle growth. It’s really comes down to just hitting your total protein goal per day. So like say you need to hit 200 grams of protein per day, whether having a whey shake, people say what’s more quickly absorbed. Well, after a workout, that is true ’cause insulin sensitivity is higher, but we’re not talking like the difference between like big gains and average gains. Like I’ll be honest, this is what I call majoring in the minors, and it’s not going to need a whole lot. If it’s a more convenient way to hit your daily protein intake, limit it to one, maybe two on a really busy days, but that’s it. The more whole food you can eat, the better. That’s why I always tell guys, “if you want to look solid, you’ve got to eat solid food.”
Then there’s just a couple other reasons. There’s been some research to show that it might destabilize gut bacteria. And for people who are obviously allergic to dairy, or aren’t aware that they’re allergic to dairy, they might want to cut it out. And a lot of people that have whey, they experience digestive issues like bloating, gas, loose stools, and that obviously means there’s something going on in their machinery that isn’t making whey a great choice. And I find guys that only have whey experience this more often as opposed to people that rotate in say, rice protein, pea protein, hemp protein.
So I’m a huge believer, like if you look at my cupboards, I’ve got a lot of different protein powders and I rotate them around. So I’m not fixed on the whey. The old Vince was just whey, whey, whey. But now, I like to rotate my protein powders. And I haven’t noticed any negative difference. I get just one last point, it’s like really just focusing on being a healthy individual, right. Because if your body’s functioning, all your hormones, your immune system, all your different systems in your body are functioning properly, you’re going to build muscle better. So it all comes back to focusing on being healthy first and then aesthetic second.
Ben: Yeah. With proteins, I too used to be just stuck on whey protein. I was sponsored by, I don’t know if you remember ABB, they used to do the bodybuilding shakes in the cans, and I would suck down like five or six of those a day, and was always under the impression that a whey protein isolate, or prior to bed, whey and casein were kind of the most superior protein powders for muscle building. And not only have I come to the conclusion, similar to you, that whole food is far better, far more absorbable, if that’s a word, and produces far fewer of the infamous protein farts when you’re consuming like egg, and chicken, and beef versus protein powders, and protein farts are just nasty, acrid things. They’re horrible. But the other thing that I’ve found is that vegan-based proteins like hemp, and pea, and rice, they’ve got some really interesting studies on those that show that when you consume a bunch of digestive enzymes prior to consuming those, that you actually increase the bioavailability just as high as like a whey protein, or an animal-based protein. So that’s another hack you can use if whey protein doesn’t agree with you is you just swallow a bunch of digestive enzymes before you have your vegan-based protein powder.
Vince: I’m a huge fan of proteolytic enzymes, and I have a specific product jacked up with that. And I take a proteolytic probiotic as well that just specializes on protein. So I’m always about trying to get more for less. So if I can consume, and there’s some really interesting research too on enzymes in terms of like when your body has more proteolytic enzymes, you’re going to absorb more of protein, right? Or if you don’t have the proteolytic enzymes in your body, your body will have to rob them from other tissues, and it becomes like a vicious cycle where you have to consume more protein, but you’re getting less from it.
Ben: Yeah, yeah.
Vince: It’s a fascinating thing bodybuilders, no one’s really talking about this, I think enzymes are going to blow up over the next few years in the bodybuilding industry, especially once guys start like just get sick and tired of doing 300 plus grams of protein a day and realize that they can get just as good results on half of it if they’re giving their body the enzymes to break those proteins down to amino acids so that their body can actually utilize them.
Ben: That’s a really good point if you’re shoving your face full of protein and not putting on size. Part of it might be enzymatic deficiencies, or hydrochloric acid deficiencies, not a protein deficiency. You might just not have what you need on board to break down the protein. That’s a really good point.
And we’ve been going for a while, Vince, so I want to respect your time, and what I’ll do for any of you listening in, just go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/livinglarge, and I’ll link not only to the previous podcast I did with Vinny’s wife, which is actually really fascinating when it comes to like kitchen tools and stuff like that, but also photos of Vince’s brother, Michael, and his impressive muscle gain using this program. I’ll link to the book if you want to pick it up and go through it as a guide to no-nonsense muscle building, some of the studies that we talked about, and my podcast on the advanced muscle integrative technique, or the muscle activation technique, and plenty more.
So if you have any questions when you go over there for Vince or for me, leave them in the comments, right under there underneath the show, in the show notes. And then also, leave a review on iTunes if you if you dug this show, if you got something out of it, be sure to give us a little love on iTunes. Leave a review. So, Vince, thanks for coming on the show and sharing all this with us, man.
Vince: Ben, it was an honor, man.
Ben: Cool. Well, folks, until next time, I’m Ben Greenfield along with Vince Del Monte, The Skinny Guy’s Savior, signing out from bengreenfieldfitness.com. Have a healthy week.
You’ve been listening to the Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast. Go to bengreenfieldfitness.com for even more cutting edge fitness and performance advice.
Nine years ago, I sat slack-jawed in the crowd at an event called “Fitness Business Summit”, listening to a massive, muscle-bound trainer on stage tell his story of creating an e-book that made millions of dollars online and helped hundreds of thousands of skinny guys across the globe sculpt their thin bodies into herculean, Adonis-like physiques.
I was actually so inspired by this guy’s story that I went on to create my own “e-product” – a training system for Ironman triathletes to cross the finish line of an Ironman triathlon with less than ten hours of training per week, and still have plenty of time left over for friends, family, hobbies and career. I called it “The Triathlon Dominator“, and it was my first big training program that I ever sold online.
In an odd collision of fitness worlds, I have suddenly reconnected with Mr. X via a brand new book I recently received in the mail: Living Large: The Skinny Guy’s Guide to No-Nonsense Muscle Building.
Formerly known as “Skinny Vinny”, Vinny’s real name is Vince Del Monte, and he now goes by the name “The Skinny Guy Savior”. Vinny’s new book is jam-packed with everything you need to quickly build 30 pounds of rock-solid, shredded muscle without dangerous bodybuilding drugs, expensive supplements, and long hours in the gym, and it’s actually not written like most books of this nature are, with pure meat-headedness.
Instead, this book is intelligently written, full of practical advice and during our discussion, you’ll discover:
-How Vince made the transition from skinny endurance athlete and collegiate runner to becoming muscle-building phenomenon…[16:15]
-The extremely unconventional training program Vince’s first bodybuilding mentor used…[18:40]
-Vince and Ben’s thoughts on steroids…[24:40]
-Why Vince says “get lean to get big” and how fat can diminish your ability to build muscle, especially in response to a high protein meal…[27:25]
-The three mechanisms via which muscles actually grow, and how to target each of the three mechanisms…[47:50]
-How massage therapy or foam rolling can directly assist with muscle building, and why Vince is such a fan of a muscle activation technique called “MAT”…[55:05]
-What science says about how much muscle one can really build in a month…[63:05]
-The seven key oils Vince uses and why…[73:00]
-And much more…
Resources from this episode:
-Vince’s new book: Living Large: The Skinny Guy’s Guide to No-Nonsense Muscle Building