CAVE Interview Series – 2x Mr. Olympia Phil Heath

Phil Heath

The title of Mr. Olympia is a pretty big deal.

After all, in its 48 year history, only 13 people have laid claim to the title.

In 2013, the honor belongs to Phil Heath. And believe us, he’s earned it.

Sure, he looks like he can tear phone books (or grown men) in half, but Phil is actually an incredibly normal guy who enjoys working out (obviously), spending time with his family, and playing video games. In a sense, he’s the guy you always wanted as a spotter.

Last week, Phil took some time out of his busy schedule to chat with us about lifting, egg whites, women and everything in between. Our discussion is presented below.

1. You started your career as a DIV 1 Basketball player. How did you end up in bodybuilding?

After basketball ended, I had another year of college before graduation. At that point, I was hanging out with some new friends who were really into it. As a matter of fact, I looked at one of the guy’s computer wallpaper and asked him what it was. He explained it, and I thought it sounded interesting. He invited me to train with the guys.

I went to the student gym (opposed to the Athlete’s only gym) and met a bunch of cool dudes who were into it. Later on, I really fell in love with it. You know, transforming from one person into another, taking your body to a new level and learning about nutrition.

Let’s face it, you’re not usually eating or training like that, and a diet of pizza, beer and skittles isn’t too healthy.

Pretty soon, I realized I had decent genetics, and the next thing I knew, I was doing a show and winning.

2. Can you still dunk or shoot?

I can still shoot, but as far as the dunking goes – probably not. I grabbed the rim about a year ago, but it took a lot out of me. When you do it, it seems fine, but afterwards – you notice the sprained knees and injuries. I have to remind myself that being Mr. Olympia includes saying no to the other sports I used to play.

3. For the casual reader, what three exercises would you recommend?

For the casual reader, I’d definitely say dumbbell incline press. What most people don’t understand is there are three different parts of the pectorals (upper, middle and lower). You see a lot of guys doing flat bench or decline. You won’t see a lot of guys doing incline. When you see guys with their shirts off, you should notice how wide their chest is, not how round it is from the top. To me, that’s what’s impressive.

Another exercise is the front squat. They generate a lot of strength, especially for guys playing basketball. After all, the ball is always in front of you, not behind you. It’s difficult because it’s not something you’d do naturally, but I think you can definitely generate a lot of good strength for your other compound movements with it..

Personally, I like one hand preacher curls with dumbbells. You don’t have to do 100 pound dumbbells to get a burn. Heck I can do 35- 45 dumbbells and get something out of it. It’s also great for guys that travel. It’s the one piece of equipment that most hotels always have.

4. What is the toughest part of the bodybuilding lifestyle?

Without question, maintaining the balance between my social life and family life. Going to the gym is easy. Eating is easy. But it’s difficult to be consistent when emotions or high. That applies to both good and bad things.

A lot of people eat based on emotion. Some girls go through breakups and gain 10-12 pounds. Guys might lose the same amount because of a breakup. That plays into things.

It’s difficult to maintain a schedule and routine if you have friends that want to go out. You have to manage those relationships, but you don’t want to go into isolation all year long.

For me, I still go to the movies, but I just move my meals around, or sneak food in. With functions like barbeques, I bring my own food. You have to be resourceful and roll with the punches. I’ve had a hell of a year. My wife was diagnosed with stage one breast cancer, but I still go to the gym and eat right. I’m heading to Seattle right now because my dad is dying. But still, I have to stay focused and train. Some people take sabbaticals, but it’s not like that as a pro body builder.

I travel 200,000 miles a year in 12 countries and I still eat well. What’s your excuse? The excuse is you won’t ask a question. It sucks when you want a burger and can’t have one, but I’m no different. I just do my job.  I’ve learned a lot about leadership and perseverance through body building.CAVE Interview series - Phil Heath

5. Walk me through a typical day in the life of Phil Heath.

I get up at 5 AM for cardio. I’ll make seven meals, broken up into 2-2½ hour intervals. Essentially, I’m taking in 4500-6000 calories a day, depending on the day, my trainer and how I feel. I get decompression, massage therapy and hypobaric therapy up to four days a week.

I definitely treat myself like the best body builder in the world. I treat recovery as my main priority, because after two hours of training every day, you have to use your time to recover. People get scared of training hard because they don’t want to feel sore the next day. But, if you learn to eat right, use supplements, keep hydrated and get therapy treatments, you’ll have no problem going back the next day.

If you think you’re not training hard enough because you’re not hurting, you’re wrong.  It actually means your body is working and recovering. Your body is doing what it needs to get back to the gym.

6. Talk to me about your diet. What’s typical?

The first meal is usually some chicken, with a cup and a half of egg whites, and cup and a half of oatmeal. The second meal is usually the same, maybe with two ounces of yams. Up next is four ounces of beef tenderloin, with a cup and a half of white rice. My next meal is usually in the form of some post-work out shake, usually 80 grams of protein with some carbs. Up next is more chicken and a cup of white rice. My last meal is usually six ounces of steak with a cup and a half of egg whites.

In between meals, I’ll usually ingest a healthy portion of avocado to keep the fats high. I’ll do that three times a day. Plus, I’ll drink about a gallon of water (or more) every day.

All told, I go through five pounds of protein a day and 20 pounds of chicken every week.

7. If you had no dietary restrictions, what are you eating?

Probably pizza, sushi or Italian food. I eat that stuff once or twice a week when I’m not prepping.

8. What do you do with the spare time you have?

I don’t have too much spare time, but when I do, I watch the news a lot. I like keeping up on current events.

I also have my own clothing line and DVD production. Otherwise, I play with my dogs, drive up to the mountains, and play video games. I like to read about other athletes, too. That’s interesting to me. I like going to sporting events, and most importantly, I like to learn new things and meet people.

9. Many bodybuilders have gone on to have very successful careers in other aspects of the entertainment industry. Do you see yourself working outside of bodybuilding, and if so in what area would you like to pursue?

I haven’t put my finger on it yet, but I’d obviously like to become a little more mainstream.  Obviously it would be fantastic to do movies like Arnold. With that being said, I don’t want to be the guy doing silly Geico commercials.

Truthfully, I’d like to help parents and their kids get involved in health and fitness. I know there’s no money in it, but I want to leave a mark and help people.

I want to have fun, laugh at myself and poke fun at other people. I would love to be on Saturday Night Live.

10. Most people assume bodybuilders are magnets for women. Is that true? Is it difficult to find someone who actually gets it?

I’d say so, but there are obviously girls who like it and girls who don’t. Of course, some do say “ewww, that’s gross”. That happened the other day. Then, I looked at her photos and she was with a fat dude.

It’s like saying she prefers overweight guys. That’s how some people handle it, with that logic, but I just say “well, I’m not your type”. When someone says “that’s gross”, it says a lot about them.

But, to be honest, I did get lucky. It helps being a light skinned black dude with green eyes.

11. What advice would you give to a kid in his late teens or early 20s about working out? How often should he go, what should he do, how long should he work out, etc?

Firstly, get educated about your eating habits. Keep track of how much extra money you’re spending. This will help you determine how much it costs to eat right. Then, with progress pictures, you’ll see how things are improving. So, I guess I’d say eat right and take progress pictures. In terms of training, I’d say 3-4 days a week, but you should be in there 5-6 days a week.

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