Tom Venuto Talks! – an interview by Jon Benson

JON BENSON INTERVIEWS TOM VENUTO ABOUT SUPPLEMENTS,MEAL REPLACEMENTS, CARDIO, WEIGHT TRAINING, LOSING STUBBORN FAT AND MORE!JB: We’re here today with Tom Venuto. Tom is a trainer and nutritionist; he is from the New York City Area, and runs a whole chain of health clubs, if I’m not mistaken, is that right Tom?Tom: Yes, we have four clubs called Empire Fitness Clubs, one in New Jersey and three in Brooklyn, New York.

Jon: Great, and Tom’s website is Fitness Renaissance; and he’s got a wealth of information there on all aspects of training, diet, nutrition, cardio training, weight training, etcetera – a great resource for you to check out. Tom and I slightly differ on our approaches, which is one reason I wanted to have Tom be interviewed on the show because there’s a lot of AYS (All Your Strength) subscribers who don’t fit into the “I have to eat low carbs or I get unhealthy” category, and Tom is an ideal source to turn to for that type of dieting as well as strategically implementing low carb dieting, and Tom, I want to address all those issues with you as well as your philosophy on cardio. So can you give us a little bit about your background to start off with – your education and how you got started in training and bodybuilding?

Tom: Sure, I started bodybuilding when I was 14, and I guess like a lot of other people, Arnold was my original influence; I saw him in the movie Conan and when I saw how he looked, I just couldn’t believe a human being could even look like that and I was just amazed. So after seeing the movie, I picked up his autobiography, “The Education of a Bodybuilder,” and I used his routine literally to the letter right out of that book; first bodyweight exercises, then getting into the weight training exercises, and from then on I was just hooked! I trained from age 14 to age 20 nonstop, and at age 20 I entered my first competition and took second place. Since then I’ve done a total of 26 competitions, taking three overall wins, and several class title wins. With my educational background I went to school for health and fitness/exercise science, got certified through National Strength and Conditioning Association and American College of Sports Medicine, and did quite a few years of personal training. Recently I’ve gotten more into the business end of the health clubs, and I’ve moved out of personal training and shifted into personal coaching and consulting, which has been great because the Internet has allowed me to work with people all over the world.

Jon: That is cool; the Internet has opened up a lot of avenues for a lot of people. Speaking of that, what do you think makes your site different?

Tom: It’s a very honest website; no-hype, straight-talking and unbiased. A lot of websites and books now are just a sales pitch for a line of supplements and products and there’s a real need for information on nutrition and training and cardio without the sales pitches.

Jon: One thing I noticed is that you don’t sell anything on your website as far as products or supplements except you have your manual, Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle (BFFM), which is an excellent manual for everyone to get, I highly recommend it – I have one myself – but other than that you endorse and sell no products, so it’s pretty straightforward, you’re not trying to sell XYZ supplement because that’s what your site is driven from, and that’s one reason I found your site very refreshing. As far as the honesty and the no-hype approach, your February 2003 E-zine really came out strong – you said, “I’ve had it up to here with all the hype and nonsense,” and you talked about the guy who said he was getting ripped by eating a candy bar, which I found very funny. Why don’t you tell us a little more; I know you have a very strong whole food philosophy and a little bit of an anti-supplement philosophy, can you tell me where you’re coming from with this and elaborate a little more for our listeners.

Tom: My overall philosophy is bodybuilding-style training and bodybuilding style nutrition because I believe that for any body composition improvement goal – in other words you want to build muscle and lose fat – I don’t think there’s any better approach than the bodybuilding style of eating and training. It’s really straightforward; it’s a lot of fundamentals that you’ll hear in a lot of other bodybuilding programs like the frequent eating, and the lean proteins with every meal, eating whole foods and natural foods. I don’t think you need any supplements. You can use them for convenience, but its not absolutely necessary. In fact, I believe that a nutrition program that is based primarily on whole foods will even give you greater results than one that is based on a lot of shakes or drinks or bars or powders. So you’ll see a lot of bodybuilding fundamentals in my philosophy, nothing earth shattering, but these are the fundamentals and you need to master the basics first. I also believe in a hard work ethic philosophy. I don’t believe in looking for a short cut in terms of a pill, or a supplement or a “secret” training program that says you can get more from doing less. I think you should constantly be on a never-ending search for ways to improve your results, but not in the sense of an easier, “overnight” way, only a better, more efficient way.

Jon: Sure, efficiency is a lot different than laziness. I think we both agree on that. As far as the supplements go, I believe what Tom is referring to is replacing whole foods with meal replacement powders and especially bars as definitely not being the optimal way of going about that, whereas there are certain supplements that I address as a nutritionist, that is not falling under the lines of what you are talking about, is that right?

Tom: Yes, I believe in some basic supplements such as a multivitamin, whey protein, some of the essential fatty acids, whether you’re talking about flaxseed oil or an oil blend like Udo’s Choice or fish oil, and some other basics, but in terms of taking a pill, shake or a powder or thinking that is going to increase fat loss or increase muscle growth is mistaken. Powdered meal replacements are mainly food derivative anyway – the main benefit is convenience.

Jon: It is a convenience, and as you say in your own articles sometimes, it’s a necessary evil, in fact I think you mentioned in one of your articles, you keep some packages of Myoplex in your trunk just in case, right?

Tom: Yes, absolutely.

Jon: I think that’s a very wise way of approaching things; I tend – because of my schedule – to work in one MRP per day and I like to make it myself because I’m an anti-Aspartame person, but still, the philosophy is centered around whole foods. One thing that struck me as being the strongest component of your website that challenges my notions and its probably going to challenge a lot of other peoples notions – and I was really influenced by it, by the way – is your concept towards the amount of cardio you do and the fact that certain areas of the body that certain people tend to look at as fat-resistant, or “I cant lose it because it’s genetic – I’m stuck with this layer of fat on me,” you say that’s nonsense and that you can get it off, it just takes a lot more work. Can you elaborate a little bit more on that?

Tom: Sure. A lot of people are under the impression that I’m an aerobics freak; that I’m an hour of cardio a day guy, or a two sessions of cardio a day guy because I’ve written about doing that myself, but it’s not so much that I’m a pro-high-volume cardio person, I just believe in doing as much cardio as it takes – no more, no less – just as much as it takes. It’s a concept of willingness because some people don’t want to have to do cardio every day, but I’ve found that for some people, that amount is necessary. I would suggest as a baseline or starting point for anyone whose goal is fat loss to do at least three or four days per week for about 30 minutes, which is only a moderate amount, then measure the results carefully. There’s accountability in my programs– I use body composition testing and a progress chart, and we log in the results and if we don’t hit the weekly goal, then we look at the nutrition first, and see if the nutrition was in place 100%. If it was, then the next step is to increase the cardio. And if it takes 6 days a week for 45 minutes to get to where you want to go, then I believe in doing that. I see a lot of people, especially in bodybuilding and strength training today that are cardio bashing – they’re telling people “oh no, cardio is not the best way to lose fat, weight training is the best way to lose fat.” Weight training plays an important part in fat loss by increasing lean body mass which increases basal metabolic rate, and from the post exercise boost in metabolic rate after each strength workout, but the main benefit of cardio – the way you should look at it – is you’re burning fat during the workout, and the main objective of cardio is to burn a lot of calories from fat during the workout and cardio should be progressively increased based on results, and you should do however much it takes to reach your goal.

Jon: Okay, when you say cardio, talk to me about percentage of heart rate max so our listeners will know what you’re talking about, are you referring to extremely high intensity cardio, low intensity cardio, medium.

Tom: I don’t believe in low intensity cardio; when I talk about doing high intensity cardio, I’m talking about doing it as high in intensity as you can provided that you can maintain the workout for the duration you’re shooting for. Naturally, if your intensity is too high you can’t last the amounts of time I’m talking about. For a fat-burning heart rate range, I usually recommend – except for extremely deconditioned people – 70 – 85% of estimated maximum heart rate, which is 220-age. So for someone 30 years old, that’s 190 estimated max heart rate and 70% of that is going to be somewhere around the low 130’s and the upper end – 85% – is going to be close to 160 beats per minute. So this is a moderate to moderate to moderately-high intensity sustained nonstop for 30 to 45 minutes for fat loss. For most people, the heart rate is going to be around 140, 150 even 160 beats per minute, so this is not low intensity but its not maximal intensity either. Heart rate is one way to measure intensity, and I also like breathing to measure intensity level – if you’re breathing heavy and it feels like a workout, it feels like you’re accomplishing something, you’re sweating, you’re at the right level. I think walking at a slow pace is too low in intensity for most people – that’s more like a method of locomotion than a workout, except for the beginner, and for beginners walking is a great way to start.

Jon: Or for people who are having heart problems or are de-conditioned too – I believe that brisk walking is a great way to get your heart rate into the 130’s zone and great as a way of health benefits. Now the big question is – and I know a lot of my H.I. T. readers are going to want to know about this is, how do you blend this in without causing massive amounts of overtraining, because I know for myself in my past, when I tried to do too much cardio, the results have always been I get much more fatigued in the gym and I simply crash. Now, what I understand from reading your manual – and I did read the entire BFFM manual – is that one of the things you’re suggesting is that you should just eat more food. Is that the first thing you would come back and say is that you’re probably just not eating enough?

Tom: That’s the very first thing I would say, because the first thing that comes to people’s minds when they want fat loss is to simply eat less and that’s it, but what I’m saying is that you should eat more and at the same time do more cardio. Because when you decrease your calories, your metabolic rate is going to slow down. When you increase your calories, your metabolic rate is going to increase. When you do cardio, that is going to increase your metabolism. So I consider eating more and doing more cardio as a double boost in metabolism; whereas if you don’t do very much cardio and all you do is decrease your calories, you’re just getting that decrease in metabolism from taking in less food. Most people won’t do that because in their mind, it seems that the two somehow cancel each other out, but they don’t – they enhance each other.
Jon: Ok I’m interrupting you here Tom, but it’s because you’re throwing out a lot of great stuff here. Now, do you have a formula you base things on; for example, if someone comes in and says they have 26% body fat versus someone whose genetically more gifted and they have 12% body fat, do you have a caloric formula that you base on that you start people on, so you can say “this is roughly how many calories I think you should eat in a day along with that type of cardio?

Tom: Yes, the formula’s I use in my program are – there’s actually a couple of them – but if you know your body composition and lean body mass, which you should, there’s a formula you can use called the Katch-McArdle formula based strictly on lean body mass to calculate your basal metabolic rate. Then from there, you take an activity factor, which is an estimate, and from there, calculate your total estimated calorie expenditure for the day. It’s pretty predictable for most people: for most women, a maintenance level is going to be between 1900 and 2300 – that’s maintenance, not fat loss. For most men, it’s going to be somewhere between 2700 and 2900, but that varies a lot based on activity and body weight, lean mass and age too. Then once we have that as your baseline, we’re going to take a small calorie deficit, maybe only 15-20% to start. So if someone has a 2500 calorie per day maintenance level, we’re going to start by dropping only slightly, maybe 2200 calories per day to start, and increase the cardio. Then what we do is go to work on that 2200 calories and maybe the 4 days of cardio for 30 minutes, then we measure the body composition results after one week. After 7 days we decide whether to adjust the calories or cardio based strictly on real world results. If we achieved the results we wanted, we don’t change a thing – we don’t touch the cardio volume; no more, no less, and we don’t change the calories. If we don’t’ achieve the results we wanted, we look closely at the last 7 days and see if we followed the program 100%. If not, we re-focus and go back to work with the same strategy. If we were on 100%, then we make a change, and the first change is more cardio, not a decrease in calories; so we might go to 5 days a week or stay with 4 days and up the duration to 40 minutes. We repeat this process until we reach the goal and it always works.

Jon: I’m going to go out on a limb here and say I bet you personally, write down everything that you do in the gym?

Tom: Absolutely, especially before competitions. I don’t necessary write down what I eat every day, because I’m guilty of not getting a lot of variety in my personal diet; I eat more or less the same thing every day. But I have one menu calculated on a spreadsheet and I tape it up on my refrigerator, so I know off the top of my head what I’m eating every day – it’s practically memorized. I recommend to my clients in the beginning when they’re just getting started, that if they’re not familiar with calories, protein, carbs and fat, its’ a great exercise – at least once – to write down everything you eat and plug the numbers into a spreadsheet even though it’s time consuming.

Jon: I totally agree, and I actually have online my own dietary and training logs that I encourage people to use on a daily basis, especially if they’re going through a 12 week program for body fat loss, or if they’re preparing for a show if they’re an athlete. It’s just imperative because you can’t remember from Monday to Wednesday what you trained. For example, I train body parts once a week, sometimes twice, but there’s no way I’m going to remember the last week exactly – how much weight, how many reps, how much rest between sets.

Tom: Yeah, the training journal is even more important because I’m a believer in very, very meticulous progressive overload. It’s a whole mindset, that every time you go in the gym, you’re going to beat what you did before. You’re going to constantly, constantly keep setting new personal records. And it’s very motivating to keep hitting these new records all the time, even if it’s just one more rep, and if you keep a list of every time you break your personal record, it’s pretty amazing looking back on that over the years and seeing how much progress you’ve made. That’s the key to gaining muscle, too – constant progressive overload.

Jon: I totally agree; that is the number one thing I see most people fail at. And tying in with that, we have a background of reading a lot of the same books, and one of our same resources is Chris Aceto, and I remember Chris saying that he believes that the best way to lose fat is to do high intensity, 6 – 12 rep training; in fact I think you have that quoted in your manual. The weight training cannot be overlooked for fat loss. And where I see most people fail – and tell me if you agree with me – is progression. Tell me a little more about how you chart your progression. If you’re hitting PR’s frequently, I’m assuming you’re training pretty frequently, and a lot of AYS subscribers are training H.I.T., so tell me a little bit more about how you chart that.

Tom: In the off-season, it’s pretty basic and straightforward. I go with a lot of compound, multi-joint exercises; the squat for example, is a core exercise that stays there during the whole off season, and let’s use the squat example: I’ll start a training cycle, which is a program I might follow for 8, 12, or even 16 weeks, and I’ll start with light weights. The first couple workouts are not maximum, they are intentionally light weight, and then I’m going to keep increasing the weight gradually over a period of say, 12 weeks or so, with a goal of beating my previous record. So if my best squat ever was 405 for 6 reps, I might start way short of that, like around 250, and I’m going to gradually increase the weights during that cycle and by the end of that cycle, I’m going to beat my PR, even if it takes 3 or 4 months to do it. I write everything down, and before every workout – the night before usually, I’m looking at my training from the previous workout, and I’m saying to myself, “Ok, I did 315 for 8 on my last workout, this time I’m going to do 315 for 12, or 325 for 8,” or whatever the goal is – but I’m going to beat my previous workout. I do this with every exercise. The only difference before competitions, when I’m more depleted, I’ve brought the carbs down a little bit, there’s fewer calories, more cardio, I’m a more tired, the only difference is IDon’t go quite as heavy. I still go as heavy as I can – I don’t believe in going with light weights and high reps – what put the muscle there is going to keep the muscle there – but I’m using other methods of progression – I’m using shortened rest intervals, I’m doing supersets, I’m using different tempo’s; slowing down the repetitions; the list goes on and on. I also incorporate more high intensity techniques – I don’t just use “progressive overload.” I consider increasing resistance as one method of progressive overload, but it’s not the only method of progression; progression overload is ANY increase in workload above and beyond what you did in the previous workout.

Jon: So that could include rest intervals, time under tension, that kind of thing, right?

Tom: Right

Jon: What is your opinion of H.I.T. training?

Tom: I can’t really answer that unless I know what your definition of HIT training is. If we’re talking about one set to failure, I never found that to be very effective for muscle size myself personally. What I did see, was dramatic increases I my strength. In fact, every time I went on one of those programs, by the end of the cycle, I got so strong that I began to get joint pain; the elbows and knees were hurting, the shoulders and lower back and so on. I experimented with all kinds of High intensity training; the full body workout, the Super Squats program, which is full body and just one exercise for each muscle group taken to total failure; very brief and very abbreviated, and I’ve done various adaptations of high intensity, which are kind of in the middle, like medium volume, like just three or four sets per bodypart. The results were positive in terms of strength, but in terms of pure bodybuilding, I always gravitated back to a volume of around nine to twelve sets on the big muscle groups and eight or nine sets on the small muscles.

Jon: And that’s training each body part once or twice a week?

Tom: I hit each muscle group on a four day split, training two days on, one off, so that each muscle group is worked once every six days.

Jon: so that’s basically once per week. That’s very interesting and I hope Richard Winnett is listening to this interview because he has written a lot of things on Ageless about the difference between strength and hypertrophy, which is, I think what you’re talking about. And I noticed myself that on H.I.T. training, I gained both muscle size and strength, but my muscle size stopped at a point. During my last training cycle when I peaked in November, I definitely incorporated more volume and I definitely saw more muscle size, no doubt about it. So that’s definitely nuking the “There’s only one way to train” theory that Mike Mentzer propagated throughout his career. Still, definitely the strength gains are there, and many people assume that if I’m getting stronger, I’m going to get larger, and that’s not necessarily true, is what you’re saying… Let’s talk a little bit about dietary protocols, because I know that you lean towards a slightly higher carbohydrate diet, but you lower carbs during a peaking cycle. How would you go about designing a healthy, lower carb version of your diet?

Tom: I’m a believer more in moderation. I don’t prescribe going to either extreme. I’ve seen people get absolutely ripped – just shredded – on very low carb diets, but it was like going through torture. It’s very extreme – I’ve seen people go as far as literally, tuna fish and water, and it works, of course, when you reduce the carbs that far, but there’s a trade off – you have to find a happy medium. On the other extreme, I don’t think the extremely high carb diets are as effective for fat loss as something that’s in the middle. I like a diet for bodybuilding purposes, for cutting, a diet that is very high in protein, around 40% protein, with 40% carbs, and 20% protein. It might vary 5% either way, so this isn’t too far off from the zone. If you drop 10% off the protein and add 10% on the fat, you have 40-30-30. I also like to cycle the carbs. If I do drop the carbs lower, which for me would be around 150 grams or 170 grams a day, I bring them back up every fourth day, and I think that carb cycling strategy is KEY – it’s absolutely critical – because after three days down on low carbs, you need to replenish glycogen if you want to keep training hard and keep your head on straight.

Jon: Especially if you’re running off carbs to begin with. I know a lot of people I’m working with who, clinically speaking, can’t handle more than 80 grams or 100 grams of carbs, they just cant do it – their triglycerides go through the roof; their bodies are just not capable of handling that much sugar. Myself, I simply feel better on 80-100 grams of carbs a day and I can train just fine. My body has no problem turning protein into sugar. So everybody has to be slightly different in their approach, but the one good thing about increasing carbohydrate intake is that you can obviously get more variety in your diet and you can stay on your diet longer. Nobody is going to stay on a fish and water diet for the rest of their life, and I think what you’re talking about is lifestyle-oriented eating and training

Tom: Right, and I also cycle diets throughout the year. The diet I’m using in the off-season is not even close to the diet I’m using before a contest. Off season there’s much greater variety – I’ll throw in some whole grain bread and whole grain products if I want them, whereas I wouldn’t touch them before a contest, I’ll also eat nonfat dairy products, more fruit, more carbs overall. My carbs might go up to half of my calories, so after a long period of low carbs, I like to bring the carbs back in and like you said its easier to stay on – it’s livable – it’s do-able.

Jon: Have you seen any health benefits of increasing carbohydrates or any health detriments of increasing carbohydrates in yourself or in your clients?

Tom: I haven’t seen any detriments myself; years ago I used a diet that was 60% carb, 30% protein and 10% fat, because it was what everyone else was doing. Everybody said fat is bad, so I cut almost all the fat out of my diet. I was extreme about that, actually. Thinking back years ago I was down in the single digits for dietary fat. I don’t think this high carb, very low fat diet was detrimental to my health for me, but I know it wasn’t as efficient for getting lean because I kept struggling to reach that peak, which I didn’t achieve until years later in my late 20’s when I started eating more fat and brought the carbs down a little bit.

Jon: Sure, Udo Erasmus talks about that same thing – that it’s almost biologically impossible to burn fat efficiently unless you’ve got your dietary fat up to at least 15% of your calories. Basically, there’s a little bit of give or take with everybody, and one of the reason’s I’m interviewing Tom for my readers is that just because I do things differently or we don’t see eye to eye on everything, there are definitely people out there who would fare very well on this program and I try to find people who have a very good handle on it like Tom does, and more importantly, someone who lives it, and if you just go to Tom’s website you’ll see what I’m talking about – the guy looks great. I’m not into following, for example, the “Barry Sears” Approach to dieting, because who wants to look like Barry Sears, right? I’m not trying to knock Barry Sears, I’m sure he’s a very knowledgeable guy… but speaking of strange people, I mentioned Don Lemmon to you the other day in an e-mail about food combining and I also know that Don subscribes to – and even believes he invented – the High Intensity protocol, and he says things like “I only need two days a week and that’s all you need to train,” and I wanted to ask you about this – you said you train roughly five days a week in the gym, is that right?

Tom: Four or five days a week on the weights.

Jon: As far as recovery goes, do you notice times when you have to take a few days off on that schedule or is your recovery pretty strong?

Tom: My recovery is pretty strong, because I’ve gravitated into not training more than two days in a row. Whereas when I first started out I was very enthusiastic and young and I was doing six days on and one day off, and I actually grew off that back then, but I don’t think I’d grow off that now. So then I moved onto three days on, one off and ultimately onto two days on, one off. I imagine that if somebody thinks they’re a hard gainer – which is not a label you should put on yourself – but if gains come slowly for you, then you might even go with an every other day program, but for me, for most of my clients, and for most of the competitive bodybuilders I know personally, the two on one off works very well and gives you plenty of recovery. It’s not too many days in a row. Recovery is not just how much time you allow between each body part, it’s also the number of days in a row that you’re training.

Jon: There’s a few other things I want to ask you about and one of them is the same question I asked Roger Applewhite who is a trainer here in the Texas area, and he and I share the same philosophy when it comes down to women training and quite a few of my clients and readers are female and a lot of times they feel left out if we start talking about bodybuilding – my girlfriend for example, when she wanted to get into weight training I told her she was going to be bodybuilding, and she said “no, I just want to tone.” Well, there’s no such thing as toning, and that’s something I just read in your book, which is funny because you and I said a lot of the same things without even knowing each other. I definitely subscribe to the idea that you can either build muscle or lose muscle, but there is no in between or grey area, so tell me how you go about training women. Is it different for men, or is it pretty much the same?

Tom: It’s pretty much the same. I have known women who gained muscle very, very easily and they swore that “hey, my legs get big if I squat, so don’t make me do squats, Tom” and I convinced them to squat anyway and then they said “SEE, SEE how big my legs are getting?” So with these women I might have them go ahead and use less weight and do higher reps, or instead of using heavier weights for progressive overload, use shorter rest intervals and train them very quickly, with supersets, trisets, giant sets, and in a circuit fashion, but for the most part, for most women, it’s the same as for men

Jon: still with progressive overload in mind?

Tom: Definitely

Jon: Exactly, for women like my girlfriend who is 5 foot two inches 110 pounds, you don’t have anything to fear, like turning into Arnold Schwarzenegger overnight. But there’s that fear of “I’m going to wake up one morning and all of a sudden I have 15 inch arms, and I hate myself,” and I try to break them away from that to get them to train so there’s enough muscle there to burn the calories to get rid of the body fat, which is what they want. Next, Stubborn body fat. A lot of people have trouble with this, including myself – I’ve had pockets of stubborn fat from being obese at one time, and your prescription for that is simply to do the amount of cardio necessary until you see the stuff go away, am I pretty much hitting that on the nose?

Tom: Yes, in combination with the nutrition, which may include dropping the carbs lower. And you cant forget about the effect that the weight training has, especially the effect certain exercises has on getting the metabolism going – like, I love high rep squats, which have a major influence on your metabolic rate, that, and training more quickly with short rest intervals may also help by increasing growth hormone release.

Jon: I know Randall Strossen wrote a book on that; 20 rep squats, breathing squats they used to call them. Are you referring to breathing squats where you take a weight you would normally do ten reps and you force 20?

Tom: Not necessarily, that’s pretty hard-core. Most people won’t be able to generate that kind of intensity. I’m just talking about extending the rep range a little bit for legs.

Jon: Tell us a little bit about your BFFM program and how to contact you regarding that.

Tom: Sure. Last September, after about two years of writing, and re-writing, and rewriting, I finally combined all my training, nutrition, motivation and goal-setting philosophies into a single manual, and even though it took two years to get on paper, its really the culmination of everything I’ve learned and read and studied for the last 15 years. Its about 330 pages and its so complete its really more like four books in one because it covers motivation, nutrition, cardio and weights specifically for fat loss. The best way to get information about it is to for my ebook edition.

Jon: Lastly, Stats – what are your physical measurements and stats because people see your pictures and see that you’re super ripped but wonder if you weigh 250 pounds or 150 pounds?

Tom: Most people who see me in person after only seeing my pictures say “oh, I thought you were taller!” My weight fluctuates – off season I’m about 200 – 205 pounds, and when I compete, I’m a middleweight, so I drop all the way down to 176, although that’s is a little dehydrated, so I’m really more like 180-185 right before the contest. I don’t do measurements, haven’t in years, so couldn’t tell you.

Jon: I’m curious, in the off season with that bodyweight, are we still seeing those abs that we see on your home page?

Tom: Well, almost! I like to stay in the single digits, so the abs are always there, but are they shredded like in that picture? Not exactly.

Jon: Well, Single digits is still awfully lean. Thanks for all your time today, we’ll have to divide this into two parts, but that’s okay because there was so much great information. Thanks again.

Tom Venuto is a lifetime natural bodybuilder, personal trainer, gym owner, freelance writer and author of Burn the Fat, Feed The Muscle (BFFM): Fat Burning Secrets of the World’s Best Bodybuilders and Fitness Models. Tom has written over 140 articles and has been featured in IRONMAN magazine, Natural Bodybuilding, Muscular Development, Muscle-Zine, Exercise for Men and Men’s Exercise. Tom is the Fat Loss Expert for and the nutrition editor for and his articles are featured regularly on literally dozens of other websites.