Muscle-Munch talks with Natural Pro: Chad Shaw

Muscle-Munch talks with Natural Pro: Chad Shaw

How did you get started?

Beginning from the time I was a young child, I badly desired to participate in various sports, however, I wasn’t able to have much of an athletic background due to numerous health problems I was plagued by. At age 2, I was diagnosed with severe asthma. That was the beginning of a long journey through hell. The asthma was devastating. All through grade school, I spent more time in the hospital, and in doctors’ offices than I did at home and in school combined.

My parent had to learn how to give me shots of adrenaline and suspherine at home because often times my inhalers couldn’t save my life from the intense asthma attacks, and only those powerful injections would allow me to breath long enough to survive the trips to the hospital. On so many occasions, I remember lying there, hooked up to all these machines, full of tubes, unable to breath from my airways constricting in grip of these vicious asthma attacks while my lung exploded with infection. Time and time again, by the grace of God, and the skin of my teeth, I managed to cheat death. On 1 occasion as I laid there in the hospital bed, fading in and out, I remember looking up and seeing a priest from our church kneeling beside me and praying over me. I remember thinking that I must be about to die.

Asthma made my life pure hell for over a decade. By the time the worst of my battle with asthma was over, more darkness loomed. Medical specialists discovered that I had a whole host of additional health problems including:  A 4 inch leg length difference between my right and left leg, spinal scoliosis, 4 torn spinal disks, 2 bulged disks, and a missing anterior cruciate ligament in my right knee, which, caused my medial meniscus to tear during several knee dislocations and had to be surgically removed. Not having the meniscus in that knee eventually led to the formation of severe osteoarthritis. For many years I struggled with hormonal imbalances due to parathyroid disease (tumors on the parathyroid glands.)

This disease caused numerous symptoms including muscle and bone weakness, anxiety, mental fog, chronic fatigue, insomnia, and digestive problems. These symptoms have improved allot since having the tumors and the affected parathyroid gland removed in 2010. Up to that point I still trained hard and kept myself in decent shape despite not feeling well. During that time period I was actually voted to be one of the top 5 male semifinalists for the 2009 spokes- model competition, in which, the finals were being held out in LA that year. I did go out to the finals and did my best in the competition despite not feeling well. I didn’t win but I certainly don’t regret the experience.

I don’t ever recall having near perfect health at any point in my life. I was always plagued by something. The first thing that attracted my to bodybuilding is that to me bodybuilding represented a realistic possibility to turn weakness into strength. I grew up sickly, frail, weak, and underdeveloped, and I wanted to be the opposite of all those things. I swore that one day not only would I be healthy, but I would powerful enough to do things that most people couldn’t do.

Although doctors told me I could never physically be able to lift weights because of my orthopedic limitations, I ignored their instructions and did it anyways. At times, I actually over did it to the point of injury. Even though I experienced many ups and down along the way, I was fascinated how by how well my body responded. My sick and broken body was slowly but surely becoming bigger, healthier and stronger. I could see myself changing month after month. These changes became very addicting! Bodybuilding became my ultimate passion and there was no way I was going stop. Health problems or not, nobody was going to take this away from me! The physique I eventually built became a suit of amour that protected a once weak and fragile body.

What your diet consists of and why?

This is where I disappoint allot of people. There is nothing exotic about my diet. One of the most important facets of bodybuilding success is having the discipline to adhere to a relatively strict diet plan that is planned out very meticulously.  For the most part, you have to consider the food you eat more of a means to an end, rather than an indulgent treat. Not that you can’t ever eat food that you enjoy the taste of, but the majority of what you eat will not be a circus in your mouth. No two metabolisms are exactly the same. That means every individual will need to undergo a certain amount of experimentation with their diets in order to establish what type of nutritional plan is most suitable to help that individual to achieve optimal results. I prefer a diet that consists of roughly a 45-30-25 % ratio of protein, to fats, to carbohydrates. This seems to be the most effective ratio of nutrients which will support the type of physical conditioning that I want to maintain. Times that I’ve increased my ratio of carbohydrates, I’ve noticed that I tend to take on a smoother, less defined appearance, and I also find myself feeling more hungry. This likely due to my personal level of insulin sensitivity which is determined by genetics. There is no one in my family who is naturally lean.

The bulk of my diets consists of  fresh meats, cage free eggs, solid white tuna in the can, Optimum Nutrition whey protein, and lots of raw green vegetables. I will allow myself bread, and higher carb foods during 1 day each week. I want to also make mention that I do not count calories or grams of protein, fats, or carbohydrates. I have no time for that. My nutrition is more instinctive, and I pay close attention to how my body responds to adjustments I make in my diet. I usually consume 3 meals per day, along with 1 or 2 higher protein snacks between meals.

What supplements do you use?

Being a natural bodybuilder, I find supplements to be of great value when it comes to helping me achieve my goals. My supplement stack tends to change from time to time, but this is what my current supplement stack looks like:

  • Optimum Nutrition Hydro-builder Platinum. 2 servings daily.
  • Optimum Nutrition HMB. 2 capsules, 3 times per daily.
  • USP Labs Super Cissus Rx. 2 capsules, twice daily.
  • Optimum Nutrition Instantized BCAA’s. 10 grams, both before and after training.
  • Optimum Nutrition Creapure Creatine Monohydrate. 5 grams before and after training.
  • Optimum Nutrition Beta- Alanine. 5 grams before workouts.
  • Optimum Nutrition CLA- 2 capsules, 3 times daily.
  • Optimen multi-vitamin. 3 tablets daily.

Example of diet

This is what a typical day looks like for me as far as nutririon: 2 cups of coffee sweetened with a little splenda. 2 low carb pancakes that I make with 2 TBSP of Dixie Diner low carb pancake mix, 2 cage free eggs, 1 TBSP of ground flax seed, and 2 TBSP of heavy whipping cream. Along with it I will have 1 serving of  ON Hydro-builder Platinum.

Lunch – ½ cup of almonds, and a large salad made with mixed greens, broccoli, tuna fish, and topped off with 5 cherry tomatoes, along with a dressing that I make from extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Mid afternoon snack– 1 Serving of Hydro-builder Platinum.

Dinner – 1-2 glasses of red wine, 3 cups of raw broccoli that I dip in my extra virgin olive oil/balsamic vinegar dressing, 12-14 oz of grilled meat (usually steak, ground sirloin, ground turkey, chicken, or wild caught salmon.) Then about ½ cup of low fat cottage cheese.

What does your current work-out routine look like?

People are surprised just how infrequently I lift weights. They assume I live at the gym, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Seldom do I ever have a lifting workout exceed 30-40 minutes within a session. Before I tell you just how infrequent my lifting is, I want you to understand that as years have passed, I’ve become stronger, and able to generate greater levels of intensity in my training. That progression of intensity has increased the  stress imposed on my physiology and cut a deeper inroad into my muscles recovery ability. The only way for me to compensate for this significant depletion of my anaerobic recovery sub-systems, is by decreasing the volume and frequency of my training, in order to allow for complete recovery to occur, so that I’m still able to make progress. People often make the comment to me, “you only lift twice per week because you’re just trying to maintain.” I then respond, “No. I only lift twice per week because that is what I have to do in order to continue to make progress!” I have no interest in just maintaining. I train to make continuous improvement period!!!

This process of gradually increasing recovery time and decreasing workout frequency has spanned over 2 decades in order to arrive at the point I am now. I’m not suggesting that everyone should train as infrequently as I do. Your personal rate of recovery is a genetically mediated trait just as your eye color, hair color, and bone structure are also genetically mediated traits. No 2 metabolisms are identical and no 2 lifestyles are identical. A training frequency protocol that is suitable for 1 individual will likely not be suitable for the next. This is the reason you will often see 2 individuals who follow the exact same workout routine and one of them is making progress by leaps and bounds, while the other individual makes no progress at all. You need to experiment to determine what frequency of training works best for you. This is my particular training schedule:

  • Week 1.:I train biceps, and triceps on Tuesday, then quadriceps, and calves on Saturday.
  • Week 2: I train shoulders on Tuesday, then hamstrings, and calves on Saturday.
  • Week 3: I train back, and chest on Tuesday, then quadriceps, and calves again on Saturday.
  • Week 4: I begin the 3-week rotation all over again, but only on Saturday I switch to hamstrings, and calves again. On 3 of my non-lifting days each week, I perform just cardio, and a brief  5-10 minute abdominal workout.

What are your max lifts?

There aren’t too many exercises that I max out on in terms of a single rep maximum, but I do tend to train as heavy as possible. Among the best lifts I have done are:

  • Deadlift (with straps) 585, (without straps) 545.
  • T-Bar rows- 450 X 10
  • Reverse Grip Barbell Rows- 435 X 10
  • Bench Press- 405 x 5
  • Leg press-1500 X 12
  • Power (Hack) Squat machine- 900 X 12.

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

I like to keep myself within 10 pounds of being photo ready year round. In other words, I never lose my abs. I don’t like the idea of bulking because to me that just mean indiscriminately putting on weight. Everyone I know who tells me they are bulking, I’ve noticed, gets fat. There is a big misconception in the bodybuilding world that you must go through a season of getting fat in order to maximize muscle gains. That just simply isn’t true. Consider this:  There are roughly 800 calories in 1 pound of muscle. It is impossible to gain 1 pound of muscle in a day, and more realistic to gain 1 pound of muscle in 1 week  if you‘re doing all the right things. With that being said, why would it be necessary to consume thousands of calories beyond your body’s maintenance level each day in order to synthesize 1 pound of muscle which only contains 800 calories? If your looking to add mass, I think that by simply consuming a daily surplus of 300 calories above your current maintenance level, that will be sufficient for your body to synthesize muscle  at it’s most efficient natural rate.

I used to have an off season where I did bulk up. I can say from experience that bulking up and gaining more body fat did not hasten the muscle building process for me any. The only thing bulking did for me was made me look like crap without a shirt and also caused me to have to endure a great deal of unnecessary suffering when the time came for me to trim down  and get ready for a show. Now, instead of having an “on season“, and an “off season”; I only have 1 season, and that’s “on.”  In general I think people eat way too much. I’m puzzled by these guys who come up to me that are at maybe 30% body-fat and explain to me they are about to start a bulking cycle!  Let me explain something .  If you’re around 30% body fat, you need to bulk up like I need to pound a railroad spike through my eye socket!

How do you stay motivated?

By constantly wanting to one up myself. This is something that can’t really be taught. Either you’re passionate about doing something, or you’re not. I’m motivated by constantly wondering what my maximum potential is as a bodybuilder. As the old saying goes, you’ll never know until you try. That is what I do each and every day. I keep trying.


I usually don’t listen to music when I train, because the wires from my ear buds always get snagged on whatever piece of equipment I’m using, rip my ear buds out of my ears, and brakes my concentration. I usually get in this zone when I’m training, where I’m oblivious to everything going on around me.


At this stage of the game, I like to use both free weights and machines. The beginner should be most concerned with building a strong muscular base or foundation. Handling free weights involves more muscle mass to come into play during an exercise. This is because more muscles are required in order to balance and control the weight used during the exercise as it travels through the range of motion. Machines exclude the use of many stabilizing muscles due to the guided resistance they provide. Free weights allow you to develop more power and muscular coordination, and consequently more muscle mass.

I would suggest that the beginner devise a workout routine that consists mostly of free weights so that maximum over-all muscle mass can obtained. There are some machines which are acceptable to use which train muscles in a fashion that cannot be duplicated using free weights. Some examples of this would be the leg press, lat pull-down, and seated calf raise machines. Once the individual has built a satisfactory base of muscle on their body, they can begin to incorporate the use of more machines into their routines to focus more on developing individual body parts, and control them as a means of refining and balancing out their physique to obtain the appearance they‘re aiming for.

Who is your favourite bodybuilder, strongman or powerlifter?

This is a tough one to answer because there are so many phenomenal bodybuilders and strong men whom I admire. I tend look up to more of the old school bodybuilders and strong men of the 1950’s to the 1970’s, because within that time period, didn’t exist the over reliance of chemicals and drugs that is the reality of both bodybuilding and power lifting in our modern era. Bodybuilders of the golden era were both aesthetic and also very powerful. I always looked up to Larry Scott, Mike Mentzer, Serge Nubret, Ed Corney, Dave Draper, and of course, who wasn’t impressed with Arnold?

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

All too often, people expect to experience success literally over-night. When results aren’t instantaneous, they become frustrated, reckless, and many will resort to drug use in order to speed things up. They want to cut every possible corner, so they can have an amazing physique instantly, without putting forth too much time or effort. To me this defeats the whole purpose of what bodybuilding should be about. The best advice I can give is learn as much as you can about natural bodybuilding and learn to love the process. Think of it as a marathon, but not a race. So many people get fixated on “the look“; but they aren’t really passionate about performing the hard work, or exercising the extreme discipline that is necessary to obtain a great physique naturally. When you’re going through the process, you’re not just building your muscles. You’re also building character, your mind, and as well as your spirit.

Learn to love the getting hold of the iron and pushing yourself with the utmost intensity! Learn to enjoy the hard work, the sweat, the blood pumping, and embrace the pain. You absolutely must love your workouts! Take pride in the discipline that you develop. If you love the process and stay true to it, then the results will inevitably come. Set small goals for yourself and focus on each goal 1 step at a time. After you’ve completed a particular small goal, then you can put your sights on the new and more challenging goal. If you fail to reach a goal, then learn from your failure. Reevaluate your training program, your diet, and your supplement regimen, in order to determine why you didn’t reach your goal. Have you been sleeping enough? Has your diet been on key? Have you been getting all your meals in? Are you training too frequently? Are you training too infrequently? Have you been under an unusual amount of stress? Have you been experiencing any type or injuries or pain that has disrupted your ability to train as hard as possible? An intelligent bodybuilder will ask themselves all these questions and then take action to correct whatever the problem is. Any time I have I have failed to reach a particular goal, I’ve always been able to look back and pin-point the reasons why I didn’t achieve that goal.

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