Interview With The Diet Doc, Dr. Joe Klemczewski
Dr. Klemczewski has multiple degrees in health sciences including a PhD in health education. He is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, and a drug-free professional bodybuilder. Dr. Joe is currently working on his fourth book while maintaining a very active client load.
Muscle and Strength: Joe, you’re just about to hit 40 years old. How long have you been lifting weights, and how’s your body holding up?
Dr. Joe Klemczewski: I started lifting when I was around 11 years old. Sounds funny (and dangerous) but my youngest son has tinkered around in the gym since he was about 5! But, I was a pretty chunky as I entered pre-puberty and around that time I became very interested in sports through the influence of friends. I recall one of my baseball coaches telling me, “You have to lift weights; lift weights, LIFT WEIGHTS!! Get that arm stronger!!” There was a draw to improve athletically, the biological pull moving into puberty, and some of the other boyhood fantasies of looking like Sly in Rocky III or Arnold in Conan – what 12-year-old doesn’t love muscle?
I remember subscribing to Muscle & Fitness, hungrily reading every word, every month, spending my allowance at a vitamin store on anything advertised to grow muscle, and working out in the garage every day. To use the cliche` I was “hooked” is too benign – I felt a fulfilled purpose every time muscles were contracting and sweat was pouring. Goals of competing and goals of being a pro and on those pages became a passion. I haven’t stopped since those days and that’s now over 28 years of training. Certainly I have my share of injuries, but nothing that has been a deal breaker. I’d argue that without any form of exercise or training I’d be suffering from degenerative issues far worse; as a physical therapist I see it all the time. Normal tendonitis here and there, a strain here and there, a nagging injury or two that pops up if I’m not careful, but for the most part I can train as hard as I want. I even set a PR on the deadlift just this year. I’m not planning on competing any more, so the external goals aren’t there, but despite a little more flexibility in how I like to train, the drive is there….when you fall in love with the iron and training and the self-improvement/challenges, that is enough. That supercedes the stage.
Muscle and Strength: You run a website called TheDietDoc.com. Call you tell me a bit about the site?
Dr. Joe Klemczewski: Actually, thedietdoc.com is our first website, now we’ve split into several. Thedietdoc.com is a site for the general population client looking for information regarding our company, online programs, local programs, and to review articles and information. Our competitor site is perfectpeaking.com and has massive amounts of information including a fantastic, “smart” forum – we have hundreds of unique users per day who come just to read the articles and forum. I’ve been doing contest peaking work for a decade and have an awesome staff that assists me. Over 150 pro card winners now, more than 35 pro title winners – it’s what we do. We also have dietdocshop.com to provide our clients and customers with the best prices and service in supplements and we’re developing dietdocweightmanagement.com as a resource center for our dozen (and growing) Diet Doc licensed centers around the country.
Muscle and Strength: So, from the way I understand it, a bodybuilding competitor can come to you for assistance at www.perfectpeaking.com? What specific products/services do you provide of a confused bodybuilder looking to diet down for a show?
Dr. Joe Klemczewski: The cornerstone service we provide is nutrition and peaking. As I tell potential clients, you’re not getting a “program” like you do with trainers, supplement companies, magazine articles, or uneducated “peaking coaches,” you’re hiring me as your own consultant to take you from start to finish. It’s communication intensive – daily emails, tracking and assessing progress, fine-tuning, planning – everything you need to make sure you’re retaining as much muscle as possible, you’re going to be as lean as humanly possible, and step on stage at your best.
As I write this (Saturday morning), I’ve already been talking with clients all over the country at their various contests. I’m reviewing pictures, discussing the morning schedule for prejudging, making last-minute changes, and making sure I have them at their best. We also have training and posing programs that are absolutely phenomenal, but not everyone needs that kind of comprehensive help, so we separate them for affordability. Our staff truly is one of a kind, between our seven core members, we have six pro cards, two doctorates (and a third on the way), three masters degrees, and seven bachelor degrees – virtually all of them in health, nutrition, and physical sciences. There is nothing like it in the industry. As important as the science and expertise is the service. There is nothing we won’t do to help our clients succeed.
Muscle and Strength: That sounds extremely impressive! Can you tell me about some of the success stories?
Dr. Joe Klemczewski: That’s a tough one with so many clients over so many years. I’ll highlight a couple….I recall one competitor who emailed me question after question after question, but in two shows he competed in while we were just emailing, he got beat by competitors of mine who were simply leaner. He was frustrated that he couldn’t figure out what was right for his body; both dieting and peaking. He hired me and our first show together he won an amateur world title and went on to win a pro world title and multiple others. I’ll never forget the first pictures he sent me – though he wasn’t as lean as he needed to be to win, I had never seen such potential. I have to believe he would have gotten there some day just on raw talent, but getting the help he needed accelerated his career and he will retire a legend in this sport.
Another that comes to mind is also a pro world champion. She also struggled to win at the amateur level and I was able to quickly help her win her pro card and then with a solid year of work together she went straight to the top with freaky muscularity rarely seen on a female and she won the highest overall title in the sport. As exciting as it is talking about pro wins, I have to tell you that the clients who struggle every step of the way and keep improving are just, or more, rewarding. A client who just competed in his first show last weekend won his novice class and the novice overall – he’s on his way to a rewarding career in the sport no matter how long he competes….as a hobby or as a big pursuit. My job is to help clients be their best at the level they’re at, progress, and have fun every step of the way.
Muscle and Strength: Do you deal with many clients that are new into bodybuilding and have a hard time adding muscle? And if so, can you give us a general idea of how you might work with them to design a better diet?
Dr. Joe Klemczewski: What bodybuilder doesn’t want to add muscle even after 20 years?! A young or new competitor does need to take time to train without rushing into competing in six shows a year every year. What most people don’t realize is that you actually do gain over 90% of the gross muscle mass you ever will in about six months of training. The refining of the look of the muscle, however; the subtle shape changes, the appearance of density, the improvements of small weaknesses through better training and longevity in training make a huge difference. It’s common to see someone compete at the same body weight every year for 10 years and yet they look like they’re gaining tremendous muscle mass. Diet-wise, eating gaining muscle is easy. Eating to gain muscle but not gain body fat is trickier – you have to walk a tighter line. I love to work with clients through the off-season so we can get every ounce of gained muscle, keep fat at a level that gives us the best starting point, and then they have set themselves up for a great pre-contest.
Muscle and Strength: Good that you bring up the point of potential for natural lifters. And this is a very heated topic. What can you say to a natural who believes that if they train hard enough, they can look as massive as Arnold?
Dr. Joe Klemczewski: Only heated among those who know nothing about physiology. Can a Great Dane look like a Bull Mastiff or can a kitten look like a tiger if they only lifted weights “correctly?” That is the argument of those who are blessed with incredible size – “If only you trained like I do….” Look at the best drug-free bodybuilders on the planet. Knowing that you gain 90 to 95% of the gross muscle mass you ever will in the first 6 to 12 months, there is another side of that coin. Before I walked on stage, I had already trained for 8 years, then proceeded to compete for 17 or more years. My first and last contest weight was within one pound but I look like I gained 20 pounds.
I’ve known Dave Goodin for 15 years and I’ve seen him compete in a 10-lb range that entire time, but he is significantly fuller/bigger than he was when he won his first world title. The amount of muscle density you gain, the shape changes, the completeness of muscle development….all those things continue to create improvements for decades; there’s no doubt about it. But gross weight muscle gain: no. That is genetically determined (how much you can gain) and the best we can all do is employ the greatest training and nutrition to get to that genetic max and keep pushing the envelope for the changes I’m talking about. NOW, through anabolic steroids into the mix and it’s a different ballgame. Now you’re changing the environment that those genetics operate in. Now you’re not limited to your genetic hormone levels and you get a temporary (as long as you’re using them) advance in potential relative to what you take and how much you take.
Talk to a user today and you have 3 to 4 or more drugs taken all year long, cycled on and off, compared to 30 years ago where people cycled one drug for 8 or so weeks on and off. As the boundary has moved, so has “progress” (can I even call it that?) that one can make….look at the changes in physiques….but now also within a limit. Today they are limited by how much the body can take without major risk of death and their fear of it. Take that artificial environment away and guess what? They go back to their genetic max – what it was before the drugs. I don’t even see any lasting results compared to a drug-free competitor who has lifted hard for 15 or 20 years.
Have you seen the top drug-free competitors today? The cream rises to the top and the discovered genetics in this sport are no different – the freaks move rapidly to the top of the game. I have light-weight clients with the structure that could make them the next Lee Labrada if they wanted to do drugs – they look unbelievable. I have 200 to 215 pound heavyweight clients who would rival Ronnie Coleman if they decided to go that route….genetics are genetics. Speaking of Coleman; look at pictures of him when he as a drug-free top amateur. Before he ever stuck a needle in his ass, I said, “If that guy ever does, he’ll win the Olympia.” Six or seven years later he was in the throne.
Don’t get me wrong, I have no more moral qualm with steroids as I do someone cheating on their taxes. It’s illegal, but I have bigger things to worry about and bigger fights to fight. I work with clients on both sides of the sport, but I have to say I believe it’s a bad decision. Obviously for health reasons, but also psychologically. Think about the end game. You’re not going to do them forever and you’re not likely going to win a dime as an IFBB pro, so you create the artificial, pseudo-life of a “real” competitor. When you don’t want to keep spending $20k on drugs or you decide there’s more to life, where is the enjoyment in the sport? I see more natural competitors love the sport for a lifetime, enjoy the health aspects of it, and truly allow it to enhance their lives. On the other side I see illegality, darkness, depression, deception, denial, and the same sense of a fake life that leads people like Brittany Spears and Michael Jackson to leave reality behind and end up lost.
Muscle and Strength: What do you love most about bodybuilding?
Dr. Joe Klemczewski: What I love most about the sport has been the journey all the way through – but what I have loved most was different along the way. I was a hyper, thin little kid (sub-6 to 7 years old). Pre-puberty hit and I got pretty chunky. I moved to a new school and friends in (5th grade) were all jocks and asked me to go out for football, basketball, baseball. I did and I loved it. As I mentioned, at 11 or 12 years old, one of my baseball coaches told me to start lifting weights and as a catcher, I’d really be a threat I went home and started lifting weights like there was no tomorrow.
I even did goofy things like hanging up rolled carpet in a burlap sack from the garage rafters to train like Sly to beat the Russian. Couldn’t get enough. Got a subscription to Muscle and Fitness and a weight belt for my 12th birthday – thanks, Mom. I started losing the body fat and gaining some muscle – any amount of muscle to a boy is a huge deal! I did really did well in baseball – ended up on the all-star team every year, winning the city league every year, hitting over .500 every year, was a catcher that no one could steal on….I’ll stop my self-aggrandizing fantasy here, but success begets success and the better an athlete I became, the harder I trained. I decided chics liked muscle more than fat, so I trained even harder.
Now I have 4 kids – it worked a little too well! The thrill of competing at 20 years old was the rush that makes everyone come back for more. The desire to improve and be in that center spot motivates us all. Winning a class, winning an overall, winning a pro card, moving up higher and higher in pro placings – there was always “the next level” to reach and I loved every minute of it. Twenty-eight years later, the only people who inspire me to want to be like them are people like Paul Farmer from Parters in Health, Don Miller and Brennan Manning (authors), and other people who use their lives for something worthwhile. That rocks me more than getting on a stage, but the love for training is still there – I can’t wait to get in the gym every workout. At 40 years old I can’t say I’ll never want to compete again, but my family and business and clients are a lot more meaningful to me than competition is, so I’ll just stick to what I love the most and what drew me here – just the feel of the iron.
Muscle and Strength: What are some of the worst bodybuilding diet myths or fallacies, for either pre-contest or off season?
Dr. Joe Klemczewski: This is an easy one – most of them! You already covered a big one; the old “I can gain muscle every year forever” myth. And, again, I hate to be a pessimist; it’s not that you can’t look better and look like you’re gaining a lot of muscle, but it’s a disservice to make people think if they’re not gaining five pounds a year, they’re doing something wrong. I’m going to be as brief as I can on these next two points, the first being dieting in general.
There are still those out there – most of the diet “coaches” – who presume that ketogenic dieting is the best way to go. “Eat as much protein as you want; that’s what builds muscle, but drop carbs and you’ll get peeled.” Nothing is farther from the truth. All ketogenic dieting will do is strip muscle from your body and suppress your metabolism in a massive way. I’ve written dozens of articles on this and all of physiology and research proves this; I just don’t know why this myth won’t go away. Some people do have to diet much lower on carbs than others; that’s just genetic difference in metabolism, but throwing the baby out with the bath water is what most do when they think this will work for everyone.
The other biggest fallacies revolve around peaking. The list is long – carb depleting/carb loading, dehydrating, sodium load/deplete, potassium load – all the classic things people do couldn’t be farther from true. They’re all very lengthy discussions in their own right, but as a brief answer, I have 15 years worth of pictures of clients winning over 150 pro cards, almost 50 pro titles, and over a dozen World Championships to say there is credibility to doing things physiologically appropriately. Most people know this – when’s the last time someone said they peaked perfectly doing what I just described above? Instead, they all say, “I was flat, smaller, watery (even dehydrated), not as vascular….but I looked awesome a day or two later!!” They always assume the even-more-massive carb load after the show did it, not realizing it was the sodium and water. Ten years of articles on www.perfectpeaking.com will help with a great understanding….otherwise I just sound like an overly-opinionated black helicopter conspiracy nut. On the bright side, once you see how well you can do AND it’s actually healthier, you feel better, and you’re not risking death – you’ll enjoy the sport a lot more.