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Iron Will Pt. 1

Nutritional Researcher Will Brink Knows Bodybuilding.

‘I want you to give it to me,’ the hot babe whispered into my fat ear in a sultry voice. Before she could say anything else, I woke up from my pleasant dream to hear a loud, persistent pounding on my door.

‘Whoever it is had better have a damn good reason,’ I muttered.

I thought it might be my dumb-ass fix-it man, Bill, coming over to unclog the toilet. It had been clogged for about a week because I had a massive download. Subsequently, it overflowed onto the carpet and was unusable. I couldn’t flush all the toilet paper I’d used, so I chucked the huge wad out my back window. No one ever goes out there anyway, I thought’but then I saw that it had landed on my neighbor’s lawn chair.

The pounding became louder, so I jumped out of bed and threw on my T-shirt and shorts’I sleep naked, of course. I was in such a hurry, I tried to put two legs in the shorts at one time, lost my balance and fell flat on my big round face. When you’re 400 pounds and fall on the ground, it hurts like a mofo.

Now I was jacked up with anger, and I knew that whoever was on the other side of the door was gonna get an ass kicking. I made my way off the ground. My knees and hands were very sore. I’d broken a sweat, so I tried to gather my thoughts, comb my hair with my fat hand and wipe the crumbs off my T-shirt. I get nervous when someone comes over, even though this person had really irritated the shit out of me.

I unlocked all the deadbolts, opened up my squeaking door, and there was the UPS man. He had a package for me. ‘Cool beans,’ I thought. I always like getting mail.

I signed for it and then looked at the return address. ‘Home Gym Warehouse,’ it said. What could be in the package?

I opened it up. To my delight, it was the first IRONMAN Swimsuit video! Someone had sent it to me! There was a note attached to the plastic wrap that encased the cassette. It read, ‘From your biggest fan, Shawn Ray! Stay hungry! Train hard! Peace! I’m a busy man! Out!’

‘What a friggin’ weirdo!’ I said to myself, eyebrows raised. ‘That can’t be Shawn Ray, the pro bodybuilder, can it? Naw. Must be one of those Internet wackos. The real Shawn is probably at a charity event helping the poor by auctioning off one of his Diablos.’

Despite the strange letter, I was very anxious to see the video. I’d checked out ads for it in IRONMAN and made a mental note to buy it, but I never did.

I shoved it into my VCR, and as I sat there in my recliner, I saw Monica Brant on my TV in a swimsuit. Not just any swimsuit, but a thong. I lost my bearings and my jaw hit the floor.

Monica was formed. I’m talking about a night-and-day difference between the pictures in the magazines and the video. Incredible. She then turned around, and the camera followed her closely as she climbed up a hill’in a thong! Oh, my God!

I was flat-out shocked! Between my graphic dream interrupted and the sight of Monica climbing that hill.’ Man, oh, man!

I must have spent 15 minutes just trying to get the right shot between the rewind and pause buttons. I had to go to the bathroom.

As I was washing up, I looked into my mirror and stared at myself eye to eye. The soap dropped, and I stopped. Something hit me. At first, I wasn’t sure what it was. I began studying the contour of my face: fat, bulbous nose; big, inner-tube-like lips; and humongous hog jowls for a chin’or is that chins? I took a deep breath, letting it exhale as my fat lips, like an 18-wheeler’s tire flaps, flapped in the wind from the thrust of the warm air as I realized would never, ever get a girl as incredible looking as Monica.

I don’t know Monica personally, but from what I can see, girls who look as great as she does usually go to guys who look just as incredible, like Ben Weider, or serious power players in the industry like Lonnie Teper. You know, the guys with incredible looks or incredible amounts of cash. I know I’m not one of them’not even close.

I’m in pathetic shape. My body must be 50 percent fat. It’s very depressing. One more mountain for me to climb.

Now, however, I had important work to do. In between hitting very confident ab and side-triceps shots for illustrative purposes at Mike Neveux’s studio, IRONMAN Editor in Chief Steve Holman had assigned me to interview nutrition expert Will Brink on everything from hardgainers to contest dieting. Will is an interesting character’bluntly honest with a flare for being open. The guy really knows his stuff. I discovered he knew more than I did. A lot more, in fact.

Will has engaged in very heated debates with the FDA, was the first person to bring the now-heralded flaxseed oil and many other supplements to the market and at one time or another has trained some of the best bodybuilders on the planet.

The late Dan Duchaine used to say that Will was one of the few true gurus in the industry. Will seems to be all over the place, writing for just about every bodybuilding magazine around. Ever the activist, he’s written for such publications as Life Extension, among others.

He’s also a consultant to many of the top supplement companies. He formulated many of today’s popular supplements, and he knows so much about diet, it’s no surprise that he’s in great shape himself.

Oddly, though, with all of his credentials and the industry-wide respect he gets for being an honest expert (which is a rarity), Will seems a typical bodybuilder. He not only knows about hardgainers and their plight, but he also understands a few things about bodybuilding that don’t seem all that evident’and I’m not talking about how to make your biceps bigger.

With Will’s innovative advice, maybe someday we’ll all look good enough to get a girl as beautiful as Monica. Here’s what he had to say about himself and the industry on which he’s had such a great impact.

The Sandwich: Let’s jump right into it. Where were you born and how old are you?

Will Brink: I was born in Boston. I’m 35.

TS: Tell us a little bit about your family and how you grew up.

WB: My father was a violinist who founded several orchestras in the Boston area. He was a world-renowned musician in his day. My mother was the manager of restaurants and other things. I come from a long line of lawyers and musicians.

I was five when my parents divorced, so I didn’t grow up with a very positive view of marriage, a view I pretty much have to this day. As I said to my wife before we got married, the statistics these days give you a 50-50 chance of getting divorced, and if, when I was getting on a plane, it had a 50-50 chance of crashing, I wouldn’t fly.

TS: So you weren’t born in Brooklyn, New York?

WB: No, I grew up in Brooklyn. I moved to Brooklyn when I was three years old. My mother’s side of the family are all from New York, and my father’s side are all from New England. My childhood was pretty stressful, as I grew up poor, white and skinny.

My grandmother was actually the one who got me into lifting weights. She decided I didn’t have any direction, so when I was 14, she got me a bank account, put a hundred bucks in it and got me a membership to a gym. [She] thought that would be good for me and help me learn responsibility and get direction. At the time I didn’t realize it, but it was probably the first direction I got. I learned some discipline and some direction by getting some exercise.

TS: Did you put a lot of energy into lifting? Did the weights help fuel your drive to make it out of there?

WB: I think the weights just taught me personal accountability, personal discipline and the ability to strive for something’being able to depend on yourself. Bodybuilding always attracts people who are not big on team sports because they like to rely on themselves. I think bodybuilders don’t like to be dependent on the success of others.

Team sports never worked for me. No matter how hard you try, you can still lose because somebody else screwed up. And then if you have a bad day and screw up, they’re all mad at you. So I never quite got into the team spirit.

TS: Do you believe in God?

WB: [Hesitates] Well, I don’t know. God as an entity? No. As a possible force out there larger than myself? Possibly. I vacillate. I often think it’s the little things in life that prove there’s a higher force because it seems to me there’s something out there that’s constantly breaking your balls all the time [laughs].

TS: Do you believe in aliens or UFOs?

WB: I do, yes. Always have. As a matter of fact, you’ve connected two very good dots. People say that there’s no proof of aliens or whatever, but in fact there’s more physical proof that aliens exist than there is that God exists. People are willing to believe a 2,000-year-old book, but they won’t believe hard radar sightings of things that no airplane could ever do or eyewitness accounts of trained Navy fighter pilots or burn marks in the ground or whatever. I find that very curious.

TS: Are you well hung?

WB: I do okay! [Laughs] I don’t know if I’m well hung or I just know what I’m doing with what I got. But I aim to please, and I’ve always gotten good feedback in that department. Why, you know any female bodybuilders or fitness competitors who want to date a nutritional guru type [laughs]?

TS: How old were you when you first waxed ass?

WB: Oh, pretty young. As I like to say, the only thing I miss about New York City is the food and the women. Great food, great women in New York, and I did pretty well in my neighborhood in Brooklyn. I don’t remember the exact age, but it was probably 13 or 14.

TS: Do you remember the event?

WB: It’s funny, you know. Some people remember that event so clearly, and I always have sort of a fuzzy time with it. I’m pretty sure I know who it was, but memories might be overlapping. It was an older woman named Claudia.

TS: Where did you go to college and what’s your degree in?

WB: I graduated from Harvard University with a natural science concentration, which basically means it was a liberal arts degree that focused mostly on science courses. I had a more or less pre-med track, but I altered it with a little more chemistry and a little less physics. I didn’t take any physics. I thought chemistry was more interesting.

TS: You mentioned your wife. So you’re a married man?

WB: Yes, I am, sort of. Been separated a little while now.

TS: You published an e-book on nutrition, Diet Supplements Revealed. Can you tell me a little bit about it and what inspired you to write it? WB: The book is designed to explain, once and for all, the facts about the weight-loss nutrients already available, not necessarily to uncover new compounds. What is it? What does it do? What does the research say? What does the real world say? What’s the recommended dose, the warnings, etc.? Those things are covered for each nutrient.

The book does not cover things like subcutaneous yohimbine injections or forskolin enemas. My feeling is that the vast majority of people buying supplements, say better than 90 percent, still don’t have a clue as to what works and what doesn’t regarding supplements that already exist. If they did, there wouldn’t be so many bottles of junk sold. Hardcore types are a particularly well-informed group, but the rest of the world is not.

My e-mail and mailbox are filled with questions about pyruvate, chitosan, DHEA and other products, so I know confusion is still rampant. I felt those people could really benefit from a concise, easy-to-read look at what’s on the shelves already from someone they can trust to give them the straight scoop.

There’s a ton of information about weight loss on the Internet, and most of it is wrong. Even most well-informed people will still learn a few tricks they didn’t know, but the fact is, it’s not a book for the hardcore crowd per se.

TS: How do people get a copy of Diet Supplements Revealed?

WB: The Web address to order directly is I also have a personal Web site, which contains free articles and stuff, at

TS: Okay, let’s talk about hardgainers. What exactly is the definition of a hardgainer in terms of body type and blood chemistry?

WB: I don’t think there’s an official definition of a hardgainer by body type or blood profiles. If you look at the before and after pictures of some pro bodybuilders, you’d never know they had the genetic potential to look the way they do. Not all of them, of course. Some did look pretty athletic and obviously had genetic potential, but I remember seeing before and after pictures of Samir Bannout I just couldn’t believe. He looked like the quintessential 100-pound weakling. That’s not uncommon. Sometimes you can tell a person has the frame and muscle shape to be a good bodybuilder, but true genetic freaks’that is, people who are clearly gifted before they even touch a weight’are rare.

I remember very clearly an experience I had when I was at what I considered my best condition, more than 200 pounds, 5’7′ and, oh, 8 or 9 percent bodyfat, feeling pretty impressive. I went into this store to buy some water or something. The guy behind the desk looked to me like an obvious bodybuilder, a good bodybuilder, maybe 250 pounds. He said, ‘Oh, you work out?’ I said, ‘Yeah, where do you work out?’ And he replied, ‘I don’t.’ I said, ‘What do you mean, you don’t?’ He said, ‘Oh, people tell me I should work out, but I’ve never really been interested.’ The guy looked better than 99 out of 100 people you’ll ever see in a gym. I was just so blown away by the guy’s obvious genetic potential. It made me feel like a nothing. That happens.

Biochemically speaking, hormonally speaking, I think over time you could probably track what advantages people who are not hardgainers have over hardgainers. They might have high normal testosterone levels, low normal estradiol levels, that type of thing. I don’t think the blood chemistry would be nearly as different as what people would expect. There’s no technology to check people’s genetic potential quite yet, but we are not that far from being able to do that also. Someday there will be a test where they can tell you what you are genetically built for, I bet.

TS: Besides body structure and blood profile, what type of problems would a hardgainer run into? Maybe that will help people decide if they are hardgainers.

WB: To knock it down to simple concepts, they’re going to notice that they don’t gain at the rate that they expect. There’s no real other way to define a hardgainer. You probably have to define the majority of the population as different levels of hardgainers, with a few easy gainers. It’s not like there’s a bunch of easy gainers walking around. You have maybe a couple in each gym who are real easy gainers, and the rest are regular people. So maybe you have to define the range of hardgainer that you are in.

Many people who consider themselves as hardgainers are really people who are just doing everything wrong when it comes to diet and training. I know guys who run around all day, play hoops, eat one or two meals on the run, then complain to me they’re hardgainers! See what I’m getting at? TS: What about the typical skinny guy who can’t put on muscle or fat even though he’s eating quite a bit and training hard?

WB: People have an infinite ability to delude themselves that they’re doing everything right. When you sit down and actually talk to them, you quickly find out that they’re usually running around all day, they play sports, they don’t eat enough food, they might stay in the gym too long. Generally speaking, by a process of elimination you can track down what they’re doing wrong.

TS: Let’s track down what hardgainers might be doing wrong. I think the most important thing is diet. Obviously, if someone has an extremely fast metabolism, what type of diet should he really be on?

WB: That’s always one of the humorous things. I get guys who come up to me or write me letters that they have low bodyfat and they eat egg whites and white rice and boiled chicken and don’t want to eat other foods because they’re afraid of putting on fat. Those people should be eating’well, what I ate when I had a fast metabolism and was fairly thin. They should eat cheese omelets, pizza, cheeseburgers, gallons of ice cream, lasagna, weight-gainer drinks and anything that doesn’t scream or isn’t nailed down!

TS: So they could pretty much eat whatever they want?

WB: Everything and anything if they’ve got that type of metabolism. You’re describing basically a teenager to mid-20s kind of guy who’s got a really fast metabolism. The other thing people like that need to do, no matter how much they eat, is realize that if they’re running around all day, they’re just not gonna gain weight. You will find those guys tend to be out a lot. They might run a mile or go play soccer or something like that. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if their specific goal is to put weight on, they’re gonna have to reduce their activity level a little.

TS: Most bodybuilders eat every three hours, but I’m beginning to think that hardgainers should take in calories more often. What would you recommend for calories’per pound of body weight, for example?

WB: I don’t really go by calories or think the body cares all that much about them. The body cares about nutrients. The calories take care of themselves if you supply the correct nutrients in the correct amounts. I would generally tend to recommend specific protein, fat and carbohydrate intakes per pound of bodyweight and let the rest take care of itself.

TS: What macronutrient ratio would you recommend for hardgainers?

WB: For hardgainers with a superfast metabolism? They would obviously want to be getting their minimum needs, which is probably a gram of protein per pound of bodyweight, but they could go as high as two grams per pound of bodyweight. Carbs are probably a minimum of four grams per pound of bodyweight, but, really, the sky’s the limit on that one if gaining weight is the goal. As long as hardgainers are getting the right types of fats’which are the EFAs, the monounsaturates, that type of thing’everything else is pretty much whatever they want.

TS: Protein seems to be the key macronutrient. It seems that as long as people get their daily protein intake, they’re good to go. For example, if a person was 150 pounds and took in 250 to 300 grams of protein a day, he could pretty much eat whatever else he wanted. Is that correct?

WB: Depending on what his goal is.

TS: To put on muscle mass and a little fat. We’ll get to dieting down and saving muscle later, but by and large, most people have to gain a little bit of fat when they’re bulking up, right?

WB: Yeah, as a rule. It’s virtually impossible, hormonally, for a natural bodybuilder to put on only muscle without some fat. There might be a window of time at a certain age with a certain metabolism when you’re putting on muscle almost exclusively. But it’s rare, and it’s a small window of age when you’re at such an optimal hormonal level, 18 or 19 years old and loaded with growth hormone and that type of thing, and you might actually put on almost all muscle. That’s generally in the beginning, when the person has just started lifting and has a fast metabolism.

Understand that the term anabolic doesn’t mean only muscle. Anabolic just means putting molecules together instead of breaking them down, which means making fat, bones, muscle or whatever. As bodybuilders we take the word anabolic by default to mean only ‘making muscle,’ but that’s not actually how it’s defined in a physiology textbook.

TS: I notice one cool thing. Let’s say someone has to get in 300 grams of protein a day. He could go to McDonald’s and maybe get two quarter pounders with cheese, which would be maybe 30 to 50 grams, and on top of that get a shake and fries and whatever else. Is that how it goes? WB: Again, if it’s a hardgainer who can’t gain any weight, yeah. One of Dan Duchaine’s best statements in his original Underground Steroid Handbook was, ‘Don’t feel bad that you went to McDonald’s and had a hamburger. You should feel bad that you didn’t have two or three.’

It’s funny how you have all these kids thinking the pros sit around eating white rice and boiled chicken year-round. I’ve been present when many of them were stuffing their face at Taco Bell in the off-season, trying to gain size.

TS: A lot of hardgainers have a hard time eating a lot of food. I myself, at 400 pounds, have no problem, but some guys can eat a little bit and be completely full for the entire day, and they’re really struggling. Some people become so focused that they will be eating all day and gorging themselves and eventually regurgitating in front of people! Since the problem is getting people to eat appropriate amounts of the macronutrients, are there supplements they can take? Is there a way to gradually get your stomach to handle greater amounts of food?

WB: As far as getting in the calories? Yeah, it’s not that hard to do if you’re eating extremely calorie-dense foods. You’ll see guys try to eat 6,000 to 8,000 calories’ worth of rice and boiled chicken. If you eat a cheese omelet for breakfast and lasagna for lunch and a weight-gainer drink, you’re getting calorie-dense meals.

I remember the weight-gainer drinks my friends and I used to make. We used whole milk, scoops of protein powder, ice cream, frozen bananas and flaxseed oil. The blender must have had 3,000 calories in it. It wasn’t that hard to drink. In fact, it tasted great! It’s not a fat-loss diet or a diet people in their mid-30s would follow. Different people at different ages and levels of development have different needs and goals.

TS: I wish I could drink things like that. I think a lot of people do too. Who else can eat junk food and not really get fat?

WB: I didn’t for many years. I had that same fast hardgainer metabolism’and so did my workout partner’when we were in our early 20s and late teens. My poor friend was 6’4′ and weighed 150 pounds! He was so skinny, he used to wear three pairs of pants so people couldn’t see how skinny he was. That’s what he was like at 19, and by his early 20s he weighed 235 pounds with no added bodyfat. Now, 235 at that height is not massive by bodybuilder standards, but it’s a hell of an improvement over where he started, and he looked good.

TS: Should hardgainers eat every three hours? If they’re taking in 6,000 calories a day, for example, and eating only six times a day, would that be sufficient or should they eat every two hours?

WB: Their stomachs will probably have a pretty hard time at two hours. It does take a while to get used to eating that many calories. In normal, healthy people, their appetites are tightly regulated by neuropeptides, such as leptin and neuropeptide Y and CCK. Those are pretty tough to overcome. The metabolism will come up, and in a normal, healthy person whose set point hasn’t been disturbed, the body will fight back by altering those hormones.

That’s why the metabolism gets so high. You have to eat calorie-dense foods to a point and learn over time to eat on command. I don’t think two hours vs. three is gonna make any sort of major difference. You certainly haven’t digested that last meal at two hours, especially if it was big enough.

Editor’s note: Next month Brink discusses nutrition for getting lean, hardgainer training, carb cycling and why women bodybuilders are better lovers.

To contact The Sandwich, send e-mail to [email protected]. IM

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