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The Arnold Classic Continuing Coverage: Victor Martinez

Even on the eve of the most highly-anticipated Mr. Olympia contest in many years, I'm reminded the next Arnold Sports Festival is coming up in March. Going forward I'll be spotlighting people, products and events from the 2016 Arnold Classic, counting down to the 2017 celebration of all things fitness and nutrition. In my opinion, as someone who's been attending the Arnold since it's inception, there remains no question the Arnold Sports Festival is the biggest, best and most important gathering in the field, in the world.

I spent a bit of time with Victor Martinez at the MHP Nutrition booth at the Expo. Victor is a good example of a working professional bodybuilder, someone who has spent several years working his way back from a serious knee injury. At the time of his knee, many wrote him off as a contendor and assumed his career had ended. Talking to him at the show, Victor was a bit upset that in 2016 anyone still wondered if he was able to compete at the highest level. I like that attitude.

Only a few months later, in July, Martinez won the IFBB Pro Baltimore, hopefully putting to rest any surprise that he's back, in a big way. I look forward to seeing him continue to compete.

The opportunity to talk with Victor Martinez and spend a few minutes is a great example of what can, and does, continually happen at the Arnold Classic.



Challenges... and hot dogs

My weight has fluctuated the past couple of weeks, for those of you keeping score at home. I never did go truly ketogenic for more than a few days. Then I had a five day stretch with increased workload in the gym (training clients), and some additional high-glycemic carbs (crap).  Meaning, two nights I enjoyed some popcorn. One night I also had ice cream (low fat protein ice cream, but still).  Oh, and I had three bottles of wine over the course of the week. My starch eating went up a little bit, too.

Weight-training went ok, but I remained hobbled by my sciatic nerve issues and pain, continuing my protocol of no lower-body exercises. For several weeks now I've only put myself through repeat bodybuilding-style sessions.  Push - pull.  Overhead press coupled with pullups and prowler pushes. Bicep and tricep workouts. On and on. I enjoy these sessions, and they're a bit of a nice change of pace, but dammit, I can't squat or deadlft or clean!

I broke down and saw the spine doc, the same guy who successfully injected my spine five years ago.  I wanted that magic again. Of course he won't do a thing without a new MRI.  Makes sense. But a week and 1/2 has passed and the MRI isn't even scheduled yet! No action on the part of the insurance company. They haven' said no, but they don't say yes. The crazy thing is, my sciatic nerve pain is decreasing by the day (thank you, 12 iboprofin each day), and I'm now at the point where if/when they call, I don't feel there's any point in having the MRI now, 'cause I'd prefer not to have the injection if I don't need it.

Hopefully I'll continue to improve. I'd like to begin some light back squatting next week. Yesterday I put myself through an entire half hour of leg extensions and leg curls (seated). Didn't light up my sciatic at all. Fingers crossed.

Today during meal prep I changed it up a bit and added chicken hot dogs (gasp! hot dogs?) to my vegetables. I'm working on doing a better job of eating smaller meals more often. This crazy work schedule the last two weeks has messed up my eating, but that's my fault.

Listening to Mark Bell's podcast this week, IFBB pro bodybuilder Jon Andersen was the guest. He's an interesting guy, used to be a professional strongman, then a WWE wrestler, now a giant bodybuilder (he was recently competing onstage at 279#, which is ridiculously big for someone in low single digit bodyfat condition). Anyways, he eats a lot, to put it simply. And he's a longtime ketogenic athlete, so I found him worth listening to, and quite entertaining. Get this: he eats ten pounds of chicken daily! Yup, 10-12 small meals. Once a week, for a treat, he adds a handful of Quest Bars to one day of meals! The dude puts in the calories! Andersen says the magic to building muscle and getting or remaining lean is to stoke the fat-burning fires with many small meals. I'm still wrapping my head around ten pounds of chicken each day. They shop at Costco, needless to say.

Weight crept up to 180# but I feel I've added muscle to my upper body. Not bursting any seams yet, but pretty full. I feel strong.

Remember, eat more vegetables, consume more protein, let the carbs in at the end if at all.


Sciatic Nerves

Sometimes I’m stupid.

A couple of weeks ago I spent a few days doing a great deal of driving. Hours. Ten at one stretch. The couple of days inbetween were mostly sitting, too, other than one great long workout and some walking. 

So call it four days of a startling level of non-activity, then throw in three nights sleeping in my vehicle (I call it my tour of the Walmart parking lots of upper Michigan). 

Result:  the tiny bulging disc in my back, hibernating for months, awakens and decides to mess with me. How best to screw up my life:  why, activate my sciatic nerve! By the time I return home my lower right foot is numb, and sharp pain is beginning to move up and down my calf. A familiar, constant sensation. 

I know the drill, the stretches, how sometimes if I catch this early I can stuff it back down. Dr. Alex Tapplin has fully instructed me in the necessary tactics, and I began performing the stretches.

But here’s where I got stupid. That first morning back I went to the gym. No, working out isn’t dumb. Training is a critical part of my life. But getting on the platform and deadlifting was. Even with sufficient warmup I could feel my sciatic nerve pulsing and firing through each rep. So what did I do? Oh, my entire planned deadlift workout! So stupid. I didn’t go as heavy as I’d anticipated, but I stubbornly hammered through the sets and reps. Feeling nerve pain increase along the way. 

By the time I limped out of the gym I knew I was in trouble.

That was two weeks ago. It got bad. The kind of constant, sharp, never-ending pain that digs into my brain. Makes standing still tough. That finds me walking around with my right hand on my ass and hamstring, trying to massage invisible pain away.

Dr. Tapplin has fought the good fight with my body, giving it his all several times weekly. I’m constantly stretching. Six days of Prednisone helped a great deal. In fact, for the first two days I felt nearly healed and thought magic had taken place! Yay drugs. But the pain remains.

My workouts at CrossFit Green Bay have been significantly altered. I’m doing things like a solid hour of pullups, strict overhead presses from the rack, and weighted pullups. An hour, back and forth. I’ve had two of those sessions! At Xperience Fitness and The Exercise Coach I’m limited to upper-body machines; no leg work at all. I’ve attempted lying leg curls and leg presses but putting my lower back into the wrong position instantly sends me a strong message! 

So my bench press is going well, my overhead press has gone up ten pounds even as I’ve dieted (I cannot push press, I can’t dip whatsoever with a bar in my hands), and I’m having fun with the varied bodybuilding-type upper-body sessions I’m getting in, but I dearly miss squatting, deadlifting, cleans, barbell rows. Hell, at this point I even miss being able to do burpees! 

What’s the plan? Yesterday Dr. Tapplin made some progress with my back, finding the verbal cue that effectively moved me into a position where he could manipulate around the nerve. Some improvement took place. Pain is moving up into my hamstring and glute, a condition that excites Alex.


Today he’s going to perform more extensive ART upon me. And he’s bringing out the big gun, his new K-Laser tool. I’m expecting magic. 


Five years ago when this bulging disc first reared it’s ugly head, I had an injection into my spine at the Neurospine Clinic. That treatment held up for years. It may be time again. I called them and see the doctor there next week. I’m ready for the big needle. 

In the meantime, the dieting is going well! My bodyweight remains at 175#, pretty consistently. I believe my body-fat continues to dip, but I’ve not had it checked. I’m tempted to publish a mirror-selfie showing off my abs. But I won’t. My appetite is good, and I’m keeping my carbs to only vegetables and no more than 1/4 cup of white rice daily. And no wine, with the exception of last weekend.

Showing once again that exercise cannot out-run a shitty diet, I spent 2 1/2 days on a beach. Drank wine, ate pizza two nights running, enjoyed a scone one morning with coffee, watched Star Wars one night on the beach on a big screen, read nearly three great books. Exercise consisted of walking around a marina looking at boats costing more than my house. 


Gained three pounds. No worry. Returned home and took the three pounds off in two days. What’s critical is not allowing weird dietary disturbances in the force to throw you off your plan, and let your brain think wine, pizza and baked goods are normal. Get back on track, get into the gym, move around in life, and return to meat, eggs and vegetables. 

That continues to be what I eat. Tuna, avocado, eggs, meat, pork, and tons of vegetables.

I’ve not yet gotten into the ketone products I talked about last week. No need yet. I anticipate perhaps next week using them. This week I’ve been learning more about ketogenic diets and the importance of MCT oil. Chris Masterjohn, the brilliant mind behind The Daily Lipid, says “adding MCT oil to your pasta is more ketogenic than restricting our carbohydrates to ten percent of your calories.” I’m investigating.


175# breakfast!

An hour after weighing 176 pounds, with a couple of cups of coffee in me, I stepped onto the scale again. Took off my gym shorts and t-shirt, and voila, 175# Magic!

Here's what I just had for breakfast. This is typical, other than most of the time I don't add both bacon and sausage to my eggs. I had two pieces of bacon left in the fridge, and one sausage - they spoke to me.

A half tablespoon of coconut oil. Scissor the bacon into little pieces. When half done, cut up the sausage and add it to the pan. Continue cooking.

Next comes a good helping of vegetables - about one cup. Then a big handful of spinach. Stir and heat until the spinach cooks down.

Add five scrambled eggs to the mix. A bit of salt and pepper. Cook until just done, but not hard or browned. 

Be gentle with your scrambled eggs; they're not in the pan to be punished!

Repeat daily. I'll have another meal today of vegetables and spinach and a hamburger patty; that'll be mid-afternoon. Between now and then I'll workout, so my post-workout shake will have protein-BCAA-15 grams of carb powder (CarboLyze today)-creatine.

Tonight's meal, at work at another gym, will be protein-fat only.


Next Level Ketogenic Dieting

Hmmm, I thought my bodyweight would be under 175# this morning. It’s steady for the second consecutive day at 176#. Not that I’m complaining. This merely displays the weird ups-and-downs of the human body. I was tight with my eating yesterday, resisted all mental/emotional urges to eat last night, and the damn number didn’t change!

Vegetables and four eggs for breakfast yesterday. My late morning meal was a hamburger patty and more vegetables. Early afternoon was another big burger patty, spinach and a tiny, guilt-inducing 1/8 cup of white rice! This exercise taught me I gotta be cautious about becoming too nutso about my food, ‘cause I did feel I was possibly doing something wrong by eating that little bit of rice. With yesterday being a non-weight training day (two 5-minute interval cardio sessions only), I had no 16 grams of carbs in a post-workout shake, so I thought the rice would be fine. Intellectually I know it was good, but my brain tells me otherwise, that the tablespoon of rice might throw me out of ketosis! Hardly likely when they are my only non-vegetable carbs, but I have to watch that little voice and not let it take control.

Dinner was more vegetables, but this time with a nice chicken breast cut up into the pan.

Everything prepared with a half tablespoon of coconut oil. I had one tablespoon of MCT oil in a cup of coffee early in the afternoon. My vegetable mixture this week has some sausage and plenty of kalamata olives mixed in, so there is fat in the vegetables. But no added carbs.

I’m resisting using MyFitnessPal right now. The time it takes is excruciating for me, and I’m eating the same things over and over. My plan is working, so until and unless I get stuck, my version of a modified strict ketogenic diet is good with me. Hardcore keto diets include a greater proportion of fat than I’m doing, or at least more fat calories overall. I just cannot bring myself to consume 70% of my calories in fat. 

Strength remains good. Two days ago at CrossFit I spent an hour doing strict pullups, prowler pushes, strict overhead presses, and more pullups, with a 26# kettlebell strapped to myself. My strict press is only down 10#, which isn’t bad considering at this point my bodyweight is a solid 20# lower. If my sciatic nerve wasn’t jacked up I’d test my back squat and deadlift, but right now they are a physical impossibility.

Just so you know I screw up my diet plans on occasion, let me tell you about last weekend. A bit of planned wine drinking took place over two days; nothing extensive, but I had my half of two bottles. A restaurant brunch meal included a couple pieces of Texas toast, and some roasted potatoes. Topping it off Sunday evening was strawberry shortcake with plenty of vanilla ice cream (here’s how weird my mind is: for many years I’ve added protein powder to my ice cream. I think it’s some type of compensation for indulging in sugar! Yeah, I did it to my shortcake, dumped protein powder (chocolate), right into the bowl). I almost think there was some other non-keto meal in the mix, but now I don’t remember. So for a day or two my bodyweight was stuck a pound up, then it adjusted. 

But that wine tasted good!

I’m going to stick to this 175-176# level for a week or so, then kick into the next phase of my ketogenic diet. With the assistance of Patrick Arnold, one of the most intelligent chemists and nutritional people I’ve ever been aware of, I’m hoping to dive under 170#, remaining tight and muscular and strong. 

How will I do this? Using two of his products, KetoCanNa and KetoShield.

KetoCanNa are, simply put, exogenous ketones. Containing beta-hydroxyburate (BHB) salts, it used before and after workouts my blood ketone levels will be raised, endurance should be increased, provide caloric energy (yet cannot be stored as fat), and always accelerating ketosis, easing metabolic transition during ketogenic transitioning. OK, those are Arnold’s words. Simply put, using KetoCanNa around my workouts means I’ll have more energy and strength without adding any carbs to my shakes and throwing me out of ketosis. More bodyfat burned with no keto-interruptions.

Here’s how Patrick Arnold describes KetoShield: 

“KetoShield reduces glucose levels in the blood. It does this in two ways - by promoting glucose excretion in the urine and by blocking its absorption in the intestines. Once ingested, carbohydrates are broken down to glucose by the digestive system. Too much glucose can lead to high levels of insulin and result in the storage of body fat. KetoShield, when taken with a meal, controls glucose levels in the blood which stabilizes insulin levels for optimal fat burning. For those attempting to achieve ketosis thru a ketogenic diet, Ketoshield may shorten the time it takes for the body to start burning fat and making ketones. KetoShield may also be helpful to those not restricted to low carb diets but hoping to limit carbohydrate impact.”

In other words, if I “accidentally” eat or drink carbs I shouldn’t have, or even in the event of a large meal, taking some KetoShield will help shuttle those carbs away from fat-storage, without interrupting the ketogenic mechanism taking place in my body.

This doesn’t mean I’m going to get into a pancake-eating contest, then take some KetoShield and think all is well! But it does provide some support, a way to maximize my efforts. ( and

I’ll of course keep you posted. My plan is to begin using them next week. Oh, did I mention my abs are coming in nicely?