Muscle-Munch talks with Fitness model: Vincent Russo

Muscle-Munch talks with Fitness model: Vincent Russo

How did you get started?

I started weight training for sports with my father through-out high school. We started with basic power lifts and multiple training techniques for speed. As I saw results I fell in love with the feeling, I took this attitude with me while I played football in college and basically became a “meat fridge.” I had a lot of size and strength but not that much definition! I didn’t really know enough about nutrition, so I started reading everything and anything I could find that involved nutrition. I joined bodybuilding.com and their body space community and this is what 1st started my progression. The support I got from the community as a whole, as well as all the nutritional and exercise information provided is more that I could have asked for. Not only that I get many of the supplements I use from their site which aided in my transformations.

Slowly but surely I changed the way I ate, the food I bought, and the times of day I would eat. It went from reading forums, magazines and books, to asking professionals to really get an understanding of what to eat, why to eat it, and when to consume my fuel. The change in my diet sparked my results, and from there I stayed with it. Making progress on my own got me thinking about competing but I only had a limited knowledge for it, so I went out and found G-Force.

G-force is a company used to help competitors become competition ready or to help anyone trying to live a healthier life style. I’d never done a competition before and wasn’t sure how to go about it, but G-Force provided me with a well renowned trainer Danny Hawtin. He basically showed me the ropes and is the reason I am where I am today. I wanted to do bodybuilding but he insisted I take up Men’s Physique so I took his advice and we went from there. He adjusted my diet, workout, and cardio plans and met with me regularly to keep making adjustments. My body fat levels decreased dramatically, my metabolism increased 10 fold, and I never felt better. My 1st competition ever I placed 2nd in the physique category, and now am competing for Bodybuilding.com’s 2012 Body Space Spoke Model.

What your diet consists of and why?

My diet mainly consists of complex carbohydrates in the forms of baked potatoes (sweet or white), brown rice, rolled oats, and multigrain rice cakes. Complex carbohydrates provide a slower and more sustained release of energy than simple carbohydrates. In their natural form they contribute to long-term good health, appetite control, and sustained energy levels. Complex carbohydrates also provide a great deal of calories with a great deal of nutrient value. I also throw some simple carbs in there (depending on what I’m training for) in the form of white rice or maltodextrine. When compared to Complex carbohydrates, simple carbohydrates give you a quick rise and fall in your energy levels and have a great deal of calories with little to no nutrient value. The simpler the carbohydrate, the faster the glucose is released into your blood. This can cause peaks and drops in your blood sugar level, and less stable energy levels in the body. Although these simple carbohydrates have a bad reputation, there are certain times of the day where it is important to consume them (POST WORKOUT!)

My diet also consists of complete forms of protein such as beef, chicken, ground turkey, tilapia, salmon, and whey shakes. These types of proteins provide all of the essential amino acids, hence the word complete. I also obtain some incomplete proteins though rice, beans, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and fruits. Protein is the most important nutrient needed for optimal development. It is the foundation to every human body, every living cell, and every construct of a DNA strand. I consume protein with every meal I eat and try to make it about 35-40 percent of my diet.

I also supplement my diet with Whey protein. I prefer Whey protein when compared with Casein due to its absorption rate (meaning it gets to where it’s needed in a rapid fashion), how it provides the body with the perfect amino acid profile, and how you get the most bang for your buck since it’s about 90 percent pure protein. I’m not a big fan of Casein although it does have its beneficial value. Casein is a time released protein which is advantageous to use if you’re not going to have another meal for an extended period of time, or before bed due to your 6-9 hour fast. This leads me into when I consume my protein shakes. I take shakes Pre-Workout and PWO (Post Work Out). Pre-work out saturates my muscles with protein to be used during my workout preventing gluconeogenesis. The goal of a post workout shake is to replenish the fuels lost from your workout and to stop muscle breakdown. Most importantly to provide the fuel you need for muscle growth. This protein shake is taken after a workout (within 60 minutes after completion) in conjugation with carbohydrates (simple form). Your muscles are yearning for fuel and are severely glycogen depleted, so this is the best time for absorption to occur. You have an anabolic window within the hour for maximum absorption. The reason for the added carbohydrates is that protein cannot be stored in the body, so the carbohydrates are used (spike in insulin) to help shuttle the protein into the muscles where they will be used. If carbohydrates are not consumed in a timely manner post exercise, your glycogen replenishment is hindered. This is the same for protein for if you do not consume protein immediately after a workout, performance, protein synthesis, and ultimately muscular hypertrophy, will be hindered as well.

What supplements do you use?

Creatine:

I am a huge fan of creatine especially in the form of micronized creatine monohydrate. This is for the simple reason that being micronized signifies it has the best absorption rate, and being a monohydrate represents the highest quality of creatine to be ingested. I take 5g pre-workout as well as 5g PWO. Creatine promotes greater gains in lean body mass as well as increasing the bodies muscle hypertrophy. It has been researched to improve performance in endurance and strength as well as overall maximum effort output. It is also said that with the use of creatine monohydrate, athletes will experience an increase in the levels of mRNA for IGF-1 and IGF-2. The net result with the use of creatine is to fuel faster gains in strength and muscle mass. I feel as if creatine is deemed with the false reputation of only flooding your cells with water causing a bloated look which will eventually fade after a discontinued use.

The effect creatine has in the body supersedes more than just the cell volumizing effects. The addition of creatine results in a greater amount of phosphocreatine stored in your muscle tissue. Phosphocreatine (PCr) is stored through the combination of creatine and phosphate. This PCr is stored in your muscle tissue along with your ATP. Together PCr and ATP store the chemical energy of the body, and the more energy they store, the greater the output of maximal muscle performance. It is important to take a creatine supplements and maintain this higher than normal amount of creatine in your body. By adding creatine it will help maintain increased levels of creatine phosphate in your muscle tissue. This so called “loading” of creatine will eventually enable your muscle tissue to increase the amount of creatine phosphate stored in them. When this occurs, it causes muscle fibers to grow larger. Now, with this supplementation, it enhances the amount of creatine phosphate used to replenish you ATP. So, in a nut shell, the addition of creatine supplements results in loading up your muscle fibers with PCr. This, in-turn, gives your muscles the ability to work harder and store more power in the form of PCr.

Glutamine:

I for one use glutamine for its repair purposes as well as its positive effect in increasing the rate of protein synthesis. When training with high intensity you need to make sure you have enough glutamine in your body to get its full benefits and this is where supplementation takes part. During intense exercise, glutamine levels descend, which means that more glutamine will be required. Since the body is in need and cannot produce enough, it is necessary to supplement with glutamine to help meet the body’s demands. I usually dose 5g before and after workouts, and also 5gmore before bed. I don’t necessarily load on glutamine unless I feel as if I’m getting ill. If that’s the case, I’ll take ample amounts spread evenly throughout the day to ensure glutamines immunostimulatory effects.

Arginine:

I take Arginine in the morning for the effects it has on my “pumps” and vascularity. Arginie’s main contribution in training is its ability to increases Nitric Oxide production. This gives an overall increase in power output and muscle growth. This occurs due to the increase in blood flow. This increased blood flow is now able to supply more nutrients to your muscles which will increase its size.

Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs):

I consume Omega -3/6/9 EFAs in the morning as they provide a slow and steady release of energy. As oils, they provide the body with energy free of insulin contribution. This means that Omegas do not raise insulin levels, and therefore, blood sugar levels remain stable. With stable blood sugar levels, problems such as cravings, depression, etc. are evaded. Other benefits that omegas offer involves improved skin conditions, cardiovascular functions, muscular development, lowers insulin requirements as well as strenuous cardiovascular functions, and speed up recovery from training sessions.

Conjugated linoleic acid:

I consume (CLA) in the morning as I feel it has a positive association with overall weight loss as well as it’s beneficial effects on cholesterol metabolism, HDL metabolism, and fibrinogen.

Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s):

I consume BCAA’s in the morning, Pre-work out, PWO and before bed. By maintaining optimal levels of BCAA’s through supplementation, you can protect muscle thus maximizing muscle growth.  BCAAs are a cornerstone to your supplementation and need to be taken in consistently, as you can see I make sure I get enough in! BCAA’s during exercise are broken down and used for energy.  Since they are profoundly broken down, and your body cannot make it own, supplementation is seriously needed to sustain sufficient amounts. If the amount of BCAA’s is depleted and not available during exercise, your body will turn to your muscle tissue for fuel.

ZMA:

I consume a ZMA supplement before bed on an empty stomach. I make sure I do not take it with calcium, as calcium is said to block the absorption. I found it beneficial and have seen increased lean mass as well as a boost in my sex drive when taking this supplement nightly. I feel as if ZMA is one of the most under-appreciated supplements out there on the market today. Zinc is said to increase testosterone production as well as a boost to your immune system and magnesium is important for normal heart functions as well as regulating our sodium and potassium levels in our cells. When using ZMA products, one can see an increase in testosterone production, IGF-1 levels, and immunity.

Example of diet

Right now I am dieting for a competition provided by Bodybuilding.com. I am a finalist in their search for the 2012 Body Space Spokes Model. This is the diet I am using now and that I usually use when training for a physique look.

Basically I have 7 meals in the day with three of those meals consisting of a complex carbs and protein, while the other meals are are made up of protein and fibrous vegetables (fat is thrown in there through the forms of omegas/CLA/almond butter). On day 1 I will eat all meals presented, on day 2 I will cut out the brown rice, on day 3 I will cut out the brown rice and baked potato, day 4 I will eat whole diet and it rotates in that fashion. This diet is strict, and calls for a lot of will power and discipline. You will become very irritable and lethargic but it’s all part of the process. About two weeks out I will switch the ground turkey to tilapia. If I feel really beat before a workout I will throw the almond butter on a rice cake. Sugar free candies helped keep me sane throughout this diet hahahah!

  • Meal one: (my favourite meal) 7 egg whites, 1 whole egg and ¾ cup of rolled oats with a scoop of MHP Probolic – SR (cookies n cream) protein thrown in there.
  • Meal two: (pre workout) A protein shake (elite whey vanilla 2 scoops), Micronized creatine monohydrate, BCAAs mix, and a tbsp of almond butter.
  • Meal three: (post workout) A protein shake (elite whey vanilla 2 scoops), Micronized creatine monohydrate, BCAAs mix, and glutamine, with a baked potato (onion powder and cayenne pepper)
  • Meal four: 8oz ground turkey (or tilapia) and 1 cup of brown rice
  • Meal five: 8 oz chicken breast and 1 cup raw string beans
  • Meal six: 8oz Steak and 1 cup of broccoli
  • Meal seven: Protein Shake (MHP Probolic-SR), with Glutamine and ZMAs

What does your current work-out routine look like?

Like I stated before I am training for a competition and looking to be as lean as possible. Right now I am concentrating on my outer caps in my shoulders and my lower quads. I alternate Cavles and Abs every day and I do cardio 5 times a week. Here is what my current training program looks like:

Monday: Legs

  • Leg ext – 3×12
  • Leg Press – 4×10 (feet close together)
  • Hack Squat – 3×10 (feet close together)
  • Lunges – 3×12
  • Adductors/Abductors – 3×10
  • Standing Leg Curls – 3×10
  • Ham Curls – 3×10
  • Sumo Squat – 3×10
  • Calves – 3 exercises all 3×15

Tuesday: Shoulders & Chest (Cardio)

  • Side Lateral Raise – 3×12
  • Shoulder press – 3×12 (drop sets)
  • Front Raise – 4×10
  • Machine Lateral Raise – 3×10 (drop sets)
  • Incline Barbell Bench – 4×10
  • Flat DB Bench – 3×10 (triple drop sets)
  • Incline DB Bench – 3×10 (Weights together, palms facing each other)
  • Cable Cross Over – 3×12
  • Peck Deck – 3×12

Wednesday: Rear Shoulders & Back (Cardio)

  • Reverse Peck Deck – 3×12
  • Reverse Incline Flies – 3×12
  • Pull-ups – 4x fail
  • T-Bar Row – 3×10
  • Cable Row – 3×12 (drop sets)
  • Wide Grip Pull Downs – 3×12 (drop sets)
  • Hyper extensions – 3×10
  • Calves – 3 exercises all 3×15

Thursday: OFF

Friday: Outer Caps & Traps (Cardio)

  • Side Lateral Raise – 3×12
  • Machine Lateral Raise – 3×10 (drop sets)
  • Shrugs – 5×15
  • Abs

Saturday: Arms (Cardio)

  • Close Grip Bench – 3×10
  • Push Downs – 4×10
  • Skull Crushers – 3×10
  • Dips – 3x fail
  • Seated Alt. DB Curls – 3×10
  • Preacher Curls – 3×10
  • Pre-loaded Bar Curls – 3×10 (triple RISE sets)
  • Hammer Curls – 3×10
  • Calves – 3 exercises all 3×15

Sunday: Cardio & Abs

What are your max lifts?

I’m personally not a big fan of max lifts, I try to stay away from them to prevent injury. It’s not how much weight you can throw around, it’s about using the proper weight to stimulate the most muscle growth. Although muscle growth has a positive correlation with the amount of weight being pushed, I see it as you should use weights to stimulate the muscles. When you stimulate the muscle, you build muscle endurance which in turn will lead to muscle growth. The lowest reps range I will go is around 4-6 reps. For those reps I will use bent over rows where I stay with 315lbs and squats at 405.

What’s your opinion on the run of the mill “Bulk & cut” way of training?

I for one am not a fan of bulking then cutting. Many people have a misconception of the idea and abuse the bulk portion. Just because it says “bulk”, doesn’t mean you should over indulge the body with a excess of useless calories. When you do this, you just add additional fat cells which will make it that much harder to burn off when cutting. The term bulking should be associated with the addition of more complex carbohydrates and more healthy fats to your diet to aid in energy for your workouts. This additional carb and fat intake will cause an increase in your natural hormone levels (test, igf, gh) and give your muscles the energy to push more weight. I choose to stay lean all year around, but when I have some time in-between competitions, I will stray away from my diet and eat some foods that I would normally stay away from.

What music do you listen to when your training?

I like to listen to up-tempo music such as Hip-Hop Club songs, house music, and Rock.

How do you stay motivated

I set short term goals for myself and take it from there making sure I do everything in my power to achieve them. I also see this as a profession that I want to do for the rest of my life, not only because of the passion I have for the sport, but the artistry it has behind it.  The only way that I can achieve this goal is by beating out the next competitor. So when I feel like I don’t want to do my cardio, or I that I want to cut an exercise one rep short, I like to tell myself that there is someone out there working just as hard, or harder than I am; that the only way to beat the enemy is to out-work them. I take pride in the fact that my will power and my dedication to the weight room and my diet is portrayed through the way my body looks.

Free Weights vs Machines, what are the pro’s and cons and which do you prefer?

I would love to say I’m a free weight man to the end, but reality is I use both. Both free weights and machines have their pros and cons but I get a better overall feeling when I’m throwing dumbbells around. Free weights add a stability factor and cause you to lift with good from and to concentrate on the muscles being lifted. The down fall with free weights is that they can cause injury more so than machines will if not careful. With free weights, a spotter should be used but they’re not always available; as with machines, you really don’t need a spotter. Machines enable you to push weight while getting away with poor form and if you wind up failing on an exercise there are hooks on a smith machine or you can just place the weight down (cables). Being prone to injuries in my shoulder areas, I like to use machines to take away from that stability factor. The use of both free weights and machines adds variation to my workouts so I never get bored. I found great results from using cable machines due to the constant tension throughout the entire exercise being preformed.

Who is your favourite bodybuilder, strongman or powerlifter?

I’m a huge fan of Branch Warren. His overall physique, symmetry, and mind set towards the sport are one that I strive for. I was watching a couple videos on body building and happened to come across some of his videos. These videos showed him lifting in an old, rusty, beat-up gym where it was so cold you could see his breath, and just the way he went on and explained each exercise and why he uses them, and basically his “Shut up and Squat” mentality made me a huge fan. Being that I am a physique competitor, I obviously am not looking for the size he possesses, but wouldn’t mind walking around with those traps!

If you could give someone any advice, what would it be?

My biggest piece of advice would be that when you go into the weight room, lift your muscles and not your ego! Don’t go into the gym and worry about who’s watching you bench press, and who’s counting the weights you’re squatting; go in the gym to stimulate growth! Pause at your peak contraction points, progressively add weights each workout and concentrate on you stimulating your muscles, not who you may or may not be impressing. If you’re a newbie to the sport it’s going to take time, but you need to start somewhere.

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