What is your athletic background, and how did you get involved with lifting?
I grew up practicing martial arts, and wanted something that would boost my performance in the ring. Naturally, I looked to weight training as a possible solution. The self-discipline and drive that I had cultivated with all those years of martial arts was equally valuable in fitness training.
I fell in love with it quickly and never looked back. What I love the most about weight training is the same that made me respect martial arts so much: 90% of it is about how strong you are mentally. The body is simply an extension of the mind. In the end, what’s in you is a lot more important than what eyes can see.
What do you love most about muscle building and competition?
The mental discipline and fortitude it takes to live this as a lifestyle rather than a hobby.
What keeps you motivated?
Life. Life keeps me motivated. You only get this one chance to live, why not do it right and live it well? Self-motivation is 10 times as powerful as outside factors that might drive you for a day or two. Sure, I read books and quotes, I do find inspiration in them. But there’s something more, something innate. The pursuit itself is what keeps me driven. I like to be challenged. I live as if something’s at stake.
Who were your heroes growing up and how did they help inspire you to get involved with lifting?
My hero was actually a fictional character: Superman. It’s not really the superpowers that inspired me. I think what drew me to him so much is the purity of his intentions and the strength he has, both mentally and physically. No, he isn’t real. However, I’d like to lead a life that comes as close to his as possible.
What does your current training and split look like, and what do you like most about it?
I don’t follow any particular splits for long. Right now, I’m doing the traditional chest/tri, back/bi, legs/shoulders. I do everything twice a week and sneak in abs and calves twice a week as well. I believe in short (45-1 hr), intense (not much rest in between sets), and challenging (variety of weights and variety of rep schemes) workouts.
I don’t like to talk much, and I don’t like to be bothered. My focus is my best tool, and I’d rather not lose it over a conversation about basketball scores from last night.
How often do you perform cardio?
No. I don’t do cardio. Never liked it. My cardio are the sports that I play. Running on a treadmill for hours on end? Forget it. No fun and requires no skill. No skill means no mental stimulation. A pick up game of basketball, now that’s my kind of cardio.
Do you supplement your weight training and cardio with any other physical activities?
MMA (mostly striking), basketball, racquetball, table tennis, sprinting. I do these about 2 times a week, one hour at a time. I prefer high intensity cardio to steady state stuff. I don’t like cardio machines and I hate jogging. I like to get in and get out.
What are your thoughts on fasted cardio?
My thoughts are this: know your body! If you think fasted cardio helps you burn fat, by all means, please do it! For me, I’ve done it both ways and haven’t seen too much of a difference. I don’t stuff myself before basketball games, but I do like a smaller meal so I’m not feeling hunger pains in the middle of my shots.
Which do you prefer, and why: steady state cardio or HIIT?
HIIT: because I like heart rate zone training. I prefer to train more like an athlete and less like a bodybuilder. Heart is an important muscle. It needs to be trained at a variety of intensities during a workout to keep it healthy. Also, there’s nothing more boring than steady state cardio.
What are some of your best training tips for someone who wants to get ripped?
Train and eat like you are going to compete, just don’t step on stage.
How important is progression of weight in some form, in the muscle building process?
In the foundation-building stage where you have yet to reach your ideal size/mass, it’s absolutely crucial to increase in weight used whenever you can. This is not as important when you’ve reached your ideal weight, of course.
What are some of the most common mistakes made when someone is trying to build muscle and/or get ripped?
Trying to do both at the same-time. Focus on one or the other. Can you do both? Yes, and I’ve seen it done. For the vast majority of people out there without freakish genetics, it’s better to prioritize and work on one goal at a time.
Also, be patient. I can’t tell you how many times someone has worked out for 3 months or less and come asking for help because they are not growing. Are you kidding?! That’s less than 90 days.
What are some of the biggest training mistakes you’ve made?
Trying to lift heavy weights for too long without taking adequate time off. This has resulted in a few minor injuries in the past. Patience is key. Far too many people out there are in too much of a hurry and hurt themselves as a result. Some injuries heal, others won’t.
Another mistake I made in years past is eating too much protein. I’m going to go on record right now to say that unless you are a freak, 400+ grams of protein is definitely not needed to build muscle. I do fine most days on around 250g.
What are the most underrated and overrated muscle building exercises?
Core exercises. I see too many bulky “paper weights” walking around the gym these days who can’t perform a functional movement to save their lives. Build up that core. Your lower back will thank you later.
What does your post-workout nutrition and supplementation look like?
I eat a normal meal. Unless I have to, I don’t like shakes, because I don’t like to drink my calories. Believe me, if your pre-workout nutrition is taken care of, nothing extraordinary needs to be done for that post-workout meal. Just get it in and make sure it fits in your macros.
How do you prepare meals? Do you cook daily or cook for the week?
I cook all my meals in bulk on a daily basis. Mostly it’s chicken, which I bake with no oil, but sometimes I do get fancy and bake up a pan of buffalo, wild boar, antelope, or turkey. All my veggies are steamed and I use glutton-free grains, so those are relatively easy to prepare.
What are your thoughts of niche diet approaches like the Paleo Diet, Adkins Diet, Keto Runs, the Warrior Diet, Intermittent Fasting, etc.?
I think nothing of them. I like the way I eat because I can do it for the rest of my life without feeling like I’ve missed out.
How important is carb cycling when trying to cut fat and retain muscle?
I’ve used carb-cycling as a means to get ready for contests most of the time. I think it’s one of the most effective methods to cut down on fat while retaining muscle. Do I think it’s crucial? No. But I like it, I can live with it, and I’ve used it with a lot of success. It’s just another method of dieting down. To me, the only crucial thing in a diet regimen is finding out what works for YOUR body.
What does your current supplementation plan look like?
I take a lot of the products that my sponsors, Athletic Edge Nutrition, provides me. It’s one of the reasons I came on board. I really liked their products in the first place and I’ve known the owner for years.
For starters, I take Pre-surge on days that I am sluggish. I only use half a serving because it is quite effective at what it does. I use Intraxcell religiously because I’m a big believer in beta-alanine. I also use our creatine product called Creatine RT because creatine is a proven product and the additional ingredients in Creatine RT helps to amplify it’s effects.
I also take a bulk DAA powder to help naturally boost testosterone levels. I regularly take 2-3g of vitamin C on top of my multivitamin. Lastly, I eat a flax-seed infused peanut butter to get my healthy fats in throughout the day. During cutting, I also take a fat burner and a CLA supplement.
How important is nutrient timing for performance and/or building muscle?
I know of very few other principles more important than nutrient-timing in the building of muscle tissue and performance enhancement.
If someone wants to connect with you, where can you be found?
I can be found at www.facebook.com/johnleepage.
Do you have any tips for someone who is looking to compete in your sport?
Do your research. Don’t just jump in because you saw a flyer. Give yourself enough time to prepare or it might be the last time you step on stage. Believe me, when you are that depleted, a lot of things can, and will, go wrong. Preparation is key. Don’t just “wing it” on anything.
Favorite activities and hobbies you enjoy when away from the gym?
I am a Tetris junkie and a TV series junkie. On my days off, I can be found doing both at the same time for the entire day (unless I’m eating ice cream with brownies in them).
Movies and TV shows you’ve enjoyed recently?
Just watched the second Sherlock Holmes (because Ghost Protocol was sold out). Really enjoyed it. I am in the middle of watching the last season of Smallville (hey, it’s about Superman, don’t judge! Haha).
Funniest thing you’ve seen at the gym recently?
Parents teaching their kids how to work out. Usually the parent looks like he/she hasn’t been in the gym in 10 years. Reminds me of most high school coaches.