Today we’re joined by uber-jacked celebrity trainer Rob Sulaver. He’s the creator of Bandana Training and the Nutrient Timing Plan, recently featured on ABC’s My Diet Is Better Than Yours. If you’ve ever wondered about the value of timing your nutrients to your training plan, don’t miss this show.
Quick Announcement: I’m speaking at South By Southwest this year. If you’re in Austin, stop by and I’d love to meet you and sign it for you… I might even be giving out home-baked choconut cookies. 😉
After being out of stock for about a month, my New York Times Bestselling book, The Wild Diet is finally back on Amazon and in bookstores. Check it out and please don’t forget to leave a review, I read every one of them!
Onto the show.
Even when Rob and I were “competitors” on My Diet Is Better Than Yours, it always felt like like we were on the same team. Fighting the veritable epidemics of obesity, high blood pressure, and an unhealthy lifestyle, we need all the superheroes we can get.
On this episode, you’ll learn:
- How to time intake of carbs and protein for muscle recovery and optimal performance
- Why you don’t need to count calories to drop fat
- The difference between intermittent fasting and starving yourself
- The importance of losing body fat instead of weight
- And much more…
ROB SULAVER: WE’RE ON THE SAME TEAM
Abel: Rob Sulaver has been named one of the Top Fitness experts in America by the Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, and Greatist. As a professionally trained actor (University of Michigan), athlete (Big 10 Wrestler), and comedian (Upright Citizens Brigade), Rob tees up his extensive fitness and nutrition knowledge with a unique combination of on-camera ease, natural athletic ability, and giggles. Rob is also, by far, the sexiest man who has ever been on this show. Broseph, thanks for being here.
Listeners might know you from My Diet is Better Than Yours, but you weren’t you almost cast on another reality show?
There’s a whole epic journey you go through in the casting process. Most recently, I was in L.A. for an NBC project. I did the interview, skype calls, and sent in the requested materials… there’s a lot of back and forth before the final consideration and screen test. You meet the producers. Everything was going well, but then it ended up not working out.
I was devastated. I was so close to something I had dreamed of, and then all of a sudden I didn’t get it. I got on a plane and came back to New York, and the next day I was in a conversation with ABC about My Diet is Better Than Yours. It was a godsend.
Abel: You just stormed onto the scene with your big strapping muscles and whipped La’Tasha right into shape…
Something like that! I got there the day before we were shooting, and I didn’t know I was going to be on the show right away. When La’Tasha decided to switch trainers and plans, it all happened so fast.
Abel: I could tell when you came on, there are a lot of principles we agree about. You’re an accomplished wrestler and know a lot about nutrition. Can you talk about the importance of combining smart physical training with nutrient timing?
What I loved about the Nutrient Timing Plan is we got to highlight the relationship between exercise and nutrition. Sometimes we talk about one being more valuable than the other, but we have to remind people to really focus in more on their diet if they’re really focused on training and vice versa. They are both necessary if you want to live an awesome life, have an awesome body, and lose weight. It’s really the marriage of the two that makes the difference in terms of dramatic body composition changes.
Abel: A lot of people get the wrong idea. They’ll hit the treadmill hard because they want to lose weight… but it doesn’t work. It might be a happy accident. When you start working out, you need to learn and think more about nutrition to properly fuel energy expenditure. Same thing with nutrition—once you get your diet right you might have more energy to start working out.
How do you recommend fueling before and after a workout?
This is contrary to what a lot have thought in the past. We used to recommend fueling up before a workout. This idea that your body is a gas tank and you’ve got to feed it gas before a workout is over simplified. The reality is that our metabolism and body aren’t that shortsighted. We don’t need carbs or fuel right before exercise to have energy.
What is the overall picture? In nutrient timing, you want to consume nutrients after your workout. This is one of the most valuable times to get nutrients into your body.
Abel: When you’re coaching someone in the intermediate level, what is he or she eating post-workout?
I don’t really change the carb intake unless it’s wildly off, but we move things around. That’s what nutrient timing is all about. We just take the bulk of their daily carbs and put it in this post-workout window.
People get great results not by changing what they’re eating, just when they’re eating it.
I like to shoot off a couple of firecrackers and see how people adapt. Then I shoot off a couple more. So, there’s a process instead of changing everything all at once, which I find too extreme. It sets people up for failure.
Abel: What about the sources of carbs? There are two camps—one that’s always keeping it clean and the other who promote dextrose and sugar powders to get “as ripped as possible.”
But it depends on goals. For some clients who have trouble gaining weight, the more processed supplementation food is super valuable because it’s dense and we need that nutrient density to get the scale moving. The supplementation food helps them pack on the pounds.
Individual goals dictate what we’re using, but for the most part it’s whole, unprocessed food.
Abel: I’m glad to hear that, because many people still have the wrong idea. They see people who are ripped, and assume they’re using these expensive supplements.
The supplement world is so confusing. There’s a lot of crap out there. It’s unregulated. It’s still the wild west in many ways, and supplement companies can make all sorts of claims on products that may not be true. As a consumer, you have to figure out what’s legit and not.
While I do believe supplements can be valuable, our emphasis needs to be on quality nutrition.
Abel: I get this question a lot: “When should I work out?”
That’s a great question. Our career and obligations often dictate our schedule. I feel fortunate that I’m able to schedule my workout and then build my day around it.
I workout mid-afternoon because it’s the best of both worlds. I’m not groggy from just waking up in the morning and not exhausted from the day in the evening.
But that said, if you can’t do it in the afternoon, that‘s ok. Workout when you can fit it in.
INTERMITTENT FASTING AND NUTRIENT TIMING
Intermittent fasting plays into it, too. I find it more effective to break my fast after a workout. If you’re working out in the morning, fasting is a harder thing to implement. If you’re working out in the afternoon or evening, it makes more sense to include fasting in the program. Ultimately, it’s about building a schedule that works for you.
Abel: l often fast in the morning. If I’m doing a quick tabata workout to get my blood pumping, I might have fish oil or bone broth afterward. But if I’m doing heavier lifts, squats, deadlifts, or longer workouts—I really do get hungry and get kinda foggy if I’m not fueling.
Delaying meals until mid-afternoon works from a work-life balance perspective, as well.
Sometimes I’m bored and need a break from mental work by the afternoon. If I’ve been working for a while, by around 2:00 or 3:00pm I’m anxious to get outside and get moving. Refeeding after that works really well.
That’s exactly what I’ve done in terms of experimentation. When we analyze what makes us feel best, it’s cool that we got the same answer.
I can be super productive in the morning with writing and online coaching, using that time when I’m super-focused and sharp. That’s the time I want to use on my business. Then when you hit that lull, the workout energizes you!
I go into the gym in the afternoon, get a solid workout, and then I refeed. Then I’m training clients in gym in the afternoon and evening. I spend the first half of the day online, then the second half in the gym doing training or nutrition coaching with clients.
Abel: I’ve said this to Rob, he’s an excellent writer. He’s hilarious—you need to check out his blog. You write about biochemical individuality, which a lot of people don’t like to talk about because it complicates things. What surprised you about your experiments?
You can give two people the exact same fitness and nutrition program and they respond to it differently.
It’s not the program, it’s the people doing the program. So much of my coaching and advice is about listening to feedback from clients.
There’s a million ways to do this stuff, and if you found a way that makes you perform well and look great, then you’re doing it right.
Abel: I have people who write in that say, “I’m a hardgainer” and they don’t always get good advice. How can they improve their physique?
I sympathize. Hardgainers have the same body envy that endomorphs have. It’s as hard for them to gain weight as it is for endomorphs to lose weight.
Hardgainers need to focus on eating consistently, and figuring out how to get in more carbs, more fat, and more calories in order to get the scale moving. They need to use the scale and make adjustments if they’re not adding the mass they want to add.
Abel: Can you talk about workout variety?
Our culture is inundated with variety. You have access to any online trainer, nutrition plan, gadget, and an entire spectrum of options… and that creates chaos.
We end up valuing variety instead of quality. In terms of our fitness and nutrition plans, our master should be progress. We should look toward progress as what we’re trying to accomplish instead of variety.
If always mixing it up comes at the cost of progress, then I argue that that’s not good for you.
Abel: A lot of people don’t know why they’re training, and that can be a problem. So what are you training for?
I try to live like a professional athlete. I’m not training to wrestle any more or run a marathon. I’m training to live an awesome life. To me, that’s a good goal.
Abel: You can’t have a goal to be as big as possible and maximize longevity at the same time. Some people want to look like Schwarzenegger and others just want to be healthy and have more energy. How would you adjust training on both sides?
I love the idea of phase training. I break them up into mesophases, or 4 – 5 week blocks. You can shift your emphasis on a block to block basis. If one block is a hypertrophy block where you’re trying to get bigger, then that gives you a very specific focus. Then you might move on to a general physical preparation phase, a “feel good” phase where you’re focused on more energy, etc. Then it might be a fat loss phase… You’re moving through a variety of goals and that allows you to keep your training fresh.
WEIGHT LOSS VS. BODY COMPOSITION
Abel: Some people have those goals, but they don’t necessarily pay attention to body composition. They’re looking at the scale, but not paying attention to muscle gain or loss, fat gain or loss, water retention, etc. How can we make sure we focus on the right metrics to get results?
In terms of national health and fitness, we have to turn the focus away from the scale back toward body composition.
Certain numbers matter more than other numbers. We need to get away from BMI and scale and move on toward more intelligent metrics like body fat.
Abel: You can burn muscle if you try to lose weight too quickly, especially if you go for the chronic cardio route. When I was running marathons, I was 148 pounds and normally I’m 165-170 and feel much better there. What can you do to prevent that muscle loss?
Resistance training with runners is a huge topic that’s neglected. Runners love to run. They keep going even if they have injuries. I’m a runner. I love running. It’s so wonderful. It makes a big difference in body composition and mass when you add resistance training, and it makes you a better runner.
I think people don’t do it because they’re just not as comfortable in the weight room.
It’s a constant goal of mine—How can I educate people so they’re comfortable in the weight room?
Abel: What are some exercises you can recommend for runners just getting started?
Your overall program is important because you don’t want to pound your legs too much in the weight room when your running volume is high.
The closer you are to race day the less leg-specific exercises you should do in the weight room, because you’re preserving your legs for running.
That goes for any exercise program. The closer you are to competition the more you want to focus on what you’re doing for that competition.
After the race, you want to focus more on resistance training and lower body exercises like squats, lunges, and deadlifts in order to maintain mass, keep your legs strong, and prevent injury. Then you can gradually shift from resistance training to higher volume running training.
For example, you can do a block (4 – 5 weeks) that’s heavy in resistance training with some running, and then do a block that’s heavy in running with some resistance training.
Abel: Shifting gears, I think we share the same philosophy on the “calories in, calories out” theory. It’s important to understand calories, but counting them is not cool.
There’s nothing that makes you change your habits faster than getting to the nitty gritty of what happens when you eat this food. The more we study, the more that helps change our habits.
But I just don’t think calorie counting is accurate. It’s enslaving and makes people obsess about food. It changes food into a math equation or science project.
Food is so much more than a numbers game. Food should be delicious, fun, and social. It shouldn’t be a math problem.
Abel: What about the idea that you can lose fat and gain muscle at the same time?
Metabolically, we talk about anabolic and catabolic states. Our body has both processes. The reality is that those can both happen at the same time. So, you could argue that overall the body is in a more catabolic or anabolic state, but that doesn’t mean the metabolic processes are not both happening individually.
Abel: Working with Kurt on the show, he couldn’t exercise or run much. I wanted to make sure he was preserving that muscle because it’s the best fat-burning engine you have. If you’re burning off muscle, it’s bad news. There are certain things you can do to maintain or build muscle while losing fat.
If you’re starving yourself and you go running, you’re burning off muscle. A lot of people exercise the wrong way, and they put fat back on after they lose it because they’re not fueling correctly. But when you start fueling and training strategically, focusing on macros and doing resistance training, you can lean down fast.
I know in your blog you have three dudes that trained in different ways, and one lost the most fat. Tell us what happened.
One part of the equation is the diet, manipulating your macro nutrients so you’re preserving lean mass as much as possible. The other part of the equation is your training. When you rely more on resistance training and less on cardio, you end up preserving mass because you’re stimulating growth hormones.
The blog post illustrates it well. The guy doing cardio the whole time, his body looked similar in the beginning as it did in the end. He just got smaller. For some people, maybe that’s what they want, and should train accordingly.
A lot of us underestimate how good a body looks when we preserve or create lean mass and reduce body fat. Women especially tend to underestimate how good they look when they add muscle. It’s the sexy hollywood body that a lot of girls are looking for, and they don’t realize it’s created by adding lean muscle and reducing body fat.
Abel: Strength training puts mass in the right places. Especially for women, putting on a bit of muscle can look and feel terrific.
I just think we have to shift that conversation. Resistance training is valuable and women look awesome when they lift. It’s empowering. La’Tasha and I talked about it on the show. This was the first time she ever lifted!
Women end up feeling strong and capable. That’s another big component of weight lifting—it makes us more capable. The idea that girls can be super strong is like, “Hell yes!” Let’s make that happen.
Abel: When I met Alyson, she was doing a lot of cardio. These days, she’s more strength based. When she wakes up in the morning and does ketttlebells, it makes me want to work out so bad. When you see someone doing something positive around you, it makes you want to be better.
When you’re training someone, how do you make sure they don’t get pulled down by the proverbial crabs who want them to stay miserable in their own little box… as opposed to being the positive example that can help others live in a healthy way?
Just continue to be a positive role model. We live and breathe this stuff—it’s more than a business. It really is our life. Just continue to be that role model, and look at fitness and nutrition as the foundation.
I talk to my clients about their social circles—it’s not “you are what you eat,” but rather “you are what your friends eat.” Our social circle has such a profound effect on our food, training, and lifestyle. Sometimes, our friend circle is the toughest factor. It’s a roadblock and we have to figure out ways to manage, improve and make way with our new goals and lifestyle.
CALORIES AND NUTRITION
Abel: How do you eat every day?
I play around with food. I’m constantly trying new nutrition plans, new diets. I fast occasionally. It’s not a super-rigid schedule, because I also incorporate social events, dinners out, and bro-meals.
I find that fasting after a bro-meal steak dinner is super helpful to keep my energy in balance.
I have coffee, coconut oil, and stevia in the morning. I’ll work that morning block then add my BCAA’s before my workout early afternoon. After I workout, I have my first big meal, which is usually eggs, veggies and starches. Then from there it’s a pretty normal routine. I eat whole, unprocessed foods. That’s the bulk of my nutrition plan.
I like to put more emphasis on vegetables, how much fun we can have with them, and the many ways we can make them flavorful and delicious.
Abel: I think you said veggies are the raddest thing on earth.
We need to start thinking of vegetables as the centerpiece of meals. I’m a dedicated carnivore, but in terms of health, most people who eat meat eat enough meat. It’s more beneficial for me to talk about the importance of veggies.
We all do ourselves a big favor by eating more veggies than we do.
Abel: After interviewing 200 plus of the world’s top experts, they all agree we should be eating more vegetables. Veggies are awesome. They’re a secret weapon.
The practice of eating daily veggies is something you feel. Once your body adapts and links how you feel after eating veggies, you start to crave them… I get cranky when I don’t eat enough veggies.
When I travel, I have less control over my nutrition and I feel it. I get cranky and eager to get back to my routine, which is veg-centric.
It’s exciting to geek out over health with other awesome, smart, brilliant coaches like you. There’s an entire world of people that need our help.
We’re on the same team as far as I’m concerned. Even on the show—it’s us against obesity, metabolic syndrome, us against all that other crap. It’s not us against each other. I’m always steering the conversation toward that—we’re fighting the same battle.
Abel: We agree about pretty much everything. We see eye-to-eye. There are principles about health that are just ultimately true.
The first plan I pitched to ABC’s My Diet is Better Than Yours is my Shred Kitchen program, which is very similar to your program (The Wild Diet). They were like, “no you can’t do that,” so I regrouped and did something that still felt authentic to me—The Nutrient Timing Plan.
The show and media in general likes to be more divisive, but there’s more that unites us than divides us.
WHERE TO FIND ROB SULAVER
Check out his blog, get his free newsletter and hormone report on www.bandanatraining.com.
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BEFORE YOU GO…
You may know that my wife, dog and I have been traveling North America and living out of state and national parks for the past two years… and now we’ve loaded up the RV and we’re on the road again!
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Do you exercise regularly? What does your training program look like? Share it with us in the comments below.