Men’s Physique Six Pack Freak Shaka Smith Talks To M&S
What is your athletic background, and how did you get involved with bodybuilding and men’s Physique?
I started swimming at the age of 5 and swimming competitively by the age of 8. I began playing water polo at 12 and continued both throughout high school and college and played on club teams during law school. Sporadically, I also took up rowing in high school and in college. In high school, I also ran track and played soccer for a few seasons, as well.
Recreationally, I am an avid player of tennis, squash, and racquetball. I have just always enjoyed remaining active. When I moved to Los Angeles in January of 2011 I began training with James Ellis, a seasoned fitness model and competitor who focused my training and encouraged me to compete.
After my first competition, the Orange County Muscle Classic, I was addicted. I love training with a specific purpose and more than that learning about health and fitness. Being a competitor forced me to really edify myself about training and nutrition, and in the short year and a half that I have competed, I have learned so much. I will always be a lifelong student and the process of learning something new and now having a specific reason to do so will always excite me.
What I love least may be the self inflicted mental pressure to always be as perfect as possible from a physique standpoint. As I learned more and more about training and nutrition, I achieved a physique I personally did not know was possible and found myself unhappy with my non-competition physique which I was perfectly happy with before I began competing. I had to take some time to put everything in perspective and find a balance for myself.
What were the major milestones that gave you that “extra” motivation boost?
A major milestone that gave me extra motivation was winning the overall at the West Coast Classic. Up until that point, I had won my class but never won an overall. Quite frankly, I had thought it would be very difficult as a guy in the short class to win against the other taller classes.
More than that, up until that point all the competitions I had won my class in had three height classes and the West Coast Classic only had two, so I thought I had no chance of even winning my class. I was surprised to win my class and even more surprised to win the overall.
After that win, I had new conviction to keep pursuing the sport at the highest levels.
Who were your heroes growing up and how did they help inspire you to get involved with muscle building?
My mother has always been my biggest hero. From an early age, she set an example that hard work and determination were the tools to success. Even when I failed on someone else’s terms, she showed me how the work I had done did pay off and would continue to pay off in the future. She has been a fighter in her own life refusing to let obstacles stop her and imbued me with the same spirit.
Another hero growing up was Dr. Ben Carson. At the age of 10 or 11, my mother placed his autobiography in my hand and made me read it. His story was one of perseverance to become one of the best neurosurgeons in the country. It was inspirational and from an early age reinforced the sense that I could do and be anything as long as I remained committed and disciplined.
How often do you perform cardio?
I perform cardio everyday, anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour before I hit the weights. It helps me remain lean and fit year round. I love varying my cardio I hit the treadmill, bike, stairs, and rowing machine. I always approach cardio with high intensity. Sprinting is what has helped me build lean conditioned muscle and is an essential part of my training.
What are your thoughts on fasted cardio?
I have never been a fan of fasted cardio. Personally, I gave it a try and had no energy to really hit my cardio as hard as I would like. It really is a person to person basis, as I feel if you’re someone like me not attacking your workout with the same intensity than you’re losing the benefit of the fasted cardio.
What are some of your best training tips for someone who just wants to get ripped?
The best training tip is to remain consistent with your training and most of all that diet as they say is 80% of the equation. There are people I see consistently hitting the gym hard every day and yet there is no change in their physique. It certainly isn’t their commitment to the gym that is lacking but their commitment to diet, which is often harder to control than hitting the gym regularly.
What are your best tips for getting ripped and shredded abs?
I hit abs every day. They’re very resilient – of course if they are sore I take a break, but because of the resiliency of the core it doesn’t happen often. I always make sure to do back and side extensions. In getting ripped and shredded abs its important that the entire core is consistently trained. Beyond that, variation is important as well – because of how resilient the core is it is important to keep the body guessing to see significant progress.
How do you prepare meals? Do you cook daily or cook for the week?
I “cook” daily. This was always the hardest part for me in competing. I never remembered to cook my meals in bulk for the week and when I got home from training I was just too tired to cook.
Then I discovered canned salmon, tuna, pre-grilled chicken and microwaveable brown rice. It has been a life saver for me when it comes to meal prep I am able to prepare my meals in under two minutes and when I am on the go, I always have a few cans with me and a can opener.
What are your favorite cheat meals and foods?
I love it all, pizza, ice cream, cookies – you name it. It is always important to have a little balance – I love food and never want to wage a war with what I love, so I cheat in small doses.
The beauty of living in LA, is it’s a health obsessed town and almost every cheat food you can find somewhere made in its healthiest form, whether its whole wheat crust pizza and cookies or low carb/calorie ice cream that actually tastes good. Its inspired me to get creative with my homemade recipes and make my cheat foods less cheat-worthy.
How important is carb cycling when trying to cut fat and retain muscle?
It has been really important for me. I competed in 11 shows in 11 months and mid-way through, I found carb cycling was the best way for me to stay super lean in between shows. I prefer a 4/1 carb cycle and keep my low days under 40g-60g of carbs and my high days between 160-180g.
Workout music – what’s on your playlist?
I usually have my Pandora on Quick Mix rotating between my Avicii, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, Jay-Z, Bob Marley, and Journey stations – I like an eclectic mix.
Do you have any tips for someone who is looking to compete in your sport?
The biggest tip is if you really want this then get out there and step on stage. While of course, you should do your best to compete at your best, recognize there is no such thing as perfection – it is an illusory goal. You will learn more about competing at your best by actually competing.
There is no way to possibly duplicate the knowledge gained from just getting out there and doing it.
Which college or professional sports teams do you root for?
I’m a Miami fan all day. Miami Heat, Miami Marlins, and Miami Dolphins!