Muscle-Munch talks with Optimum Nutrition: Mike Raso

Muscle-Munch talks with Optimum Nutrition: Mike Raso

How did you get started?

It really all began once I finished high school, the majority of my friends were moving on to university to play sports, football, basketball, hockey. They were all great athletes and were in great shape. I was envious in a way but more so disappointed with myself for not pushing to be the best I could be.

I remember picking up a fitness magazine one day at home and looking at the guy on the cover and thinking to myself “Wow imagine having a body like that”. I’ll never forget looking at myself in the mirror that night and being disappointed with myself. I was disappointed because I lacked the confidence to make something of myself. Along with that my cousin who I am really close with started training for football again. He had spent some time out of the gym and was looking for a training partner to get back into things. He made it quite clear to me that we would be training very intensely five days a week like bodybuilders. He actually gave me no choice and told me I would be training with him regardless of what I thought. He would constantly remind meabout our others friends who were in killer shape and would tease me time from time to time saying that they thought my physique was laughable. This really sparked something inside so I started training with him every day for close to two years. The early days were pretty brutal, my form was horrible and I was lifting minimal weight, but to my cousins credit he found ways to keep me motivated and help me stay keep on course. Within a year and half of consistent training and balanced nutrition I had developed a pretty aesthetic and ripped physique. I am very grateful for my cousin’s help; I know none of this would have ever happened without him pushing me.

I was starting to generate attention in and out of the gym. One day when I was training a very prestigious photographer approached me at my local gym, he gave me his business card and told me to contact him to set up a shoot. I quickly started to prepare for the shoot, during this time I thought I had finally done it! I was doing a shoot with a famous photographer and would land plenty of publications. Oh how wrong I was! While I was in good shape I was nowhere close to being in cover model shape. After reviewing the images, I got to another cross road in life – Do I pursue this fitness model career or give up and just continue training and eating what I want? I decided that I’d put too much effort into it to call it quits now.

Over the past three years I’ve taken my training onto an entire different level. My nutrition is pin point and my training remains extremely intense. I got my very first publication this Jan/Feb 2011 with Maximum Fitness which included a magazine spread and online interactive features. Seeing me on a magazines’ website next to guys like Greg Plitt, and Max Wettstein is a gratifying experience. I also landed a sponsorship contract with Optimum Nutrition/ABB this past May 2011, becoming one of the very first Canadian athletes to do so. I competed for the very first time this past August at WBFF World Championships, receiving two top callouts. I recently landed a second sponsorship; this one is with Monsta Clothing for 2012. While all these things have been great honors to receive I found being able to help others has been the most important.  The fact that people contact me for advice is truly humbling, I enjoy nothing more than helping them out. I’ve started a Fitness/Nutrition page via Facebook in order to reach out to more people to provide help. In the mean time I’ve been working with a few Canadian/US and international magazines doing photo shoots for potential spreads and covers and working alongside with ON/ABB to get the word out in Canada about their great products. I continue to grow in the industry with my ultimate goal of creating a large platform to reach out to while helping as many people as possible.

I would like to thank those who have supported me throughout the past few years. Special thanks to my family and close friends, definitely not possible without any of them! I would also like to thank Optimum Nutrition/ABB for their support, I couldn’t be more proud to be one their athletes. Also Monsta Clothing for their support so far this year, they have great company and great team of athletes, I look forward to working with them in 2012. Finally I would like to thank those out there that follow me via my Athlete page, their support is incredible and keeps me constantly motivated to do better.

What your diet consists of and why?

My diet stays consistent all year round, I always try stay within two weeks of competition condition encase of  a photo shoot e.t.c. If I’m looking to add muscle I will tweak my protein intake higher and combine more carbs around my workouts. I find it easiest to stay in a ‘maintenance stage’ when I have reached the physique I want. Of course there are many areas that I can improve on, but I prefer to add muscle to these areas over time rather than risk gaining fat to obtain that muscle sooner. I pride myself on mirroring the images that people see on the internet, magazines, etc. When someone approaches me I would like them to be able to see that the images are not enhanced or altered. In order to do this, my diet must stay consistent all year.

What supplements do you use?

All my supplements are with Optimum Nutrition.

  • HydroWhey
  •  Casein
  • Tribulus
  • Opti-Men Vitamin
  • Glyco-maize(waxy maize
  • BCAAs
  • Fish oil
  • Flax seed oil
  •  Amino energy
  •  Veggie Green mix

Example of diet

  • Meal 1: Protein shake+vitamins.
  • Meal 2: ½ cup Oats+ Casein protein shake+ flax oil.
  • Meal 3: 2 scoop almond butter + 1 can tuna.
  • Meal 4: 8oz chicken breast+ vegetables.
  • Meal 5: ½ protein shake + BCAA.
  • Meal 6: 1 scoop protein + 2 scoop Glyco-maize  + BCAA/vitamins.
  • Meal 7: 1 cup brown rice or 1 sweet potato + 8 oz ground turkey+ vegetables.
  • Meal 8: 1 scoop Casein + 4 egg whites + 1-2 scoop almond butter or natural peanut butter.

What does your current work-out routine look like?

  • Monday: Legs & calves
  • Tuesday: Chest and Abs
  • Wednesday: Shoulder and Calves
  • Thursday: Back and abs
  • Friday: Calves, forearms, abs
  • Saturday: Triceps/Biceps and abs
  • Sunday: REST


I prefer free weights compared to using machine weights – free weights allow for a full range of motion. With the machines your new range of motion is limited. Your concern when working out is to activate those deep muscle fibers, the best way to activate them is by using free weights because of the full range of motion it allows. Also with free weights you are learning to develop those stabilizer muscles which are crucial to the total development package. Machines have their time and place, preferably at the end of the workout when your muscles are near exhaustion and can use the benefit of the additional support of the machine. But majority of time I prefer training with the free weights- it allows me to get the most out of my workout.

What are your max lifts?

I avoid one rep max lifts due to the fact that lifts like those result in increased risk of injury. The lowest range I’ll drop for my reps when I’m really trying to add muscle is 4-6 reps. In this case my 4-6 max reps would be:

  • Squat: 585 LBS
  • Deadlift: 500 LBS
  • Bench: 365 LBS
  • Big Bar Curls: 205 LBS

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

I am not the biggest fan of this theory, I find that too many people put on more than necessary fat when in the ‘bulking’ phase. These fat cells can be extremely hard to shed when in the ‘cutting’ phase.  The idea of adding a lot of excess fat in order to bulk up takes away from the ideal physique. I wouldn’t sacrifice losing abdominal visibility for additional muscle unless I was bodybuilding. In the case of bodybuilding I understand the traditional ‘bulk & cut’ way of training. For bodybuilders this approach is needed because they are adding extreme amounts of muscle and the only way to get to that point is to ‘bulk’ up during your offseason. As for being a fitness model like myself, it is more ideal for me to stay away from this approach and stay cut and add lean muscle mass throughout the year.

What music do you listen too when your training?

I listen to a lot of Armin Van Buuren State of Trance mixes and Gareth Emery when I’m working out. I also like traditional pump up music and of course Young Jeezy for my rap tunes.

Who is your favourite bodybuilder, strongman or powerlifter?

My favourite bodybuilder is Fernando Cipriani, beyond the fact that he has an incredible physique, he is one of the most humble and helpful bodybuilders I’ve ever met. He is a WNBF Natural PRO Bodybuilder and he trains at the same gym as me so over the past few years I have got to know him very well. The perseverance he displays in life is what makes me look up to him more than anything.  He works 12 hour shifts, takes care of his parents and is currently planning his wedding with his beautiful fiancé. This would be enough to keep anyone’s day full, but Fernando has a drive inside him that keeps him on track and he still manages to train at an elite level. It is often hard to read about other bodybuilders and get a feel for what their life actually looks like, but because Fernando is a local athlete I really get to see how much effort, sacrifice is required into being a top level athlete. This is what keeps me motivated and inspired.

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

I know this may sound cliché, but it is very true. If people let others dictate their lives, the world would be a dull place to live in. The fact that there are people out there following their dreams is what makes this world fascinating. No one can stop you from achieving your dreams/goals. When you give it your all in life, you are rewarded in one way or another. So don’t quit, follow your dream, regardless of how ‘unrealistic’ it may seem to others. Remember it is your life, not theirs!

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