Three days till the Texas Shredder Bodybuilding show!

Over eight months vegan/gluten-free, and my body is feeling really strong! My old lifting records are being broken even as I have leaned down to sub-4-percent body fat. I will hit the stage around 3.6 percent, which will show a lot of muscular detail without sacrificing any fullness. I’m not the thickest guy out there, so I must rely on symmetry and conditioning to place well. I’m at my all-time best with three more pounds of muscle than I had in 2011 at a lower body fat percentage. The Texas Shredder Bodybuilding show is on April 13, and I’m ready to strut my stuff. Tomorrow is my last day of cardio; then I get to take it easy and cruise onto the contest stage at 9 a.m. Saturday morning.

The last few days of contest preparation involve dietary salt removal, carbohydrate loading, and a little dehydration. I’m not an extremist in any of these three dietary changes, but a big difference in physique can result when this method is done properly. Every person responds slightly differently to these adjustments, so trial and error with plenty of note-taking is a must to dial everything in. It may take a few shows before an athlete figures out the right formula for his/her body, which may explain why it takes a few attempts to win a competition. This will be around my twelfth body building show; I have placed second in my weight division three times and once won my division, but not the overall trophy.

photo (20)

I am setting my focus this year on getting a win at a show that offers a pro card for the overall champion. I’ll be doing another show in seventeen days that offers this pro card, and have two others this year as well. I have my hands full this year! Here are some pictures that my good friend Teri took of me last weekend when she helped me with posing. She is an awesome coach and a great person.

photo (1)


photo (2)

photo (3)

One of the best things about being vegan is that I can eat tons of food and still lose weight! Below is one of my awesome salads made with all-organic ingredients. I start with a big bowl of mixed greens, then mix in a low-calorie dressing and nutritional yeast. For this salad, I added steamed cauliflower and broccoli with a home-grown tomato, almonds, apples, and pears. Sometimes I’ll add  tofu or quinoa and lentils for some extra protein. My main source of protein has been plant-based protein powders. I have been using PlantFusion (AKA NitroFusion) for the entire diet phase as well as for my ultra-marathons the last few months. I love this brand because it is not gritty tasting like the others I have tried (really tastes like the whey I used pre-vegan) and it has an almost identical amino acid profile to whey. I mix it with almond milk, water, coffee, or tea depending on the time of day.
photo (19)

Wish me luck! I will need it with all of the incredible athletes who have been showing up at these events over the last several years. Natural body building has been growing rapidly, and I love being in the mix. I was at the Texas VegFest last Saturday and met some fellow vegan bodybuilders who generously asked me to join them at the Naturally Fit Super Show. Get ready to see some herbivore beef on the stage July 26-27 with Team Plant Built! Check out and  for more info. If you are interested in information about a plant-based diet, Christy Morgan (AKA the Blissful chef) has a program specifically engineered to meet your needs

Would love to hear from you if you have any tips on vegan nutrition for athletes. Leave it in the comments!

Carbohydrate allies


How many do I need? What types work the best? What time of day do I need to be consuming these for performance gains or weight loss?

From my experience, when someone needs to have a strong athletic body and/or wants to gain muscle, taking in a slightly higher carbohydrate amount is very beneficial. The carbohydrates help power and hydrate the muscle for gaining stronger performance and providing a better anabolic (muscle-building) environment. You do not have to consume a huge amount, just enough to replace the calories that will be used for the exercise. These carbs can be taken the night before all the way up to a couple of hours before the exercise.

As for the type of carb, whether it is for bulking up or getting lean, I prefer more complex ones that burn slower, like brown rice, sweet potatoes, quinoa, and lentils. They are easier on the pancreas and insulin receptors of the body. A simple sugar is supposed to be beneficial to consume just before or after a workout to reload the muscle with glycogen, but I don’t know if I agree with that theory from my experience. Simple sugars are more likely to store as fat because the body can be overwhelmed by glucose (the sugar that all carbohydrates are broken down to inside the body). Simple sugars break down faster and exert a strong demand on the body to control this glucose; they will actually damage the tissues of the body unless they are converted into glycogen inside the liver or skeletal muscle for safe storage. They can also easily convert into fat.

I think whole food sources are superior in almost every way compared to the refined flours found in many breads and pastas or the corn and cane syrups found in many prepackaged foods and drinks. The only exception to this rule would be for running, cycling, or other intense cardiovascular activities that consume more calories than the body can store. The body can deal with simple sugars better when there is an active demand placed on it during the exercise.

When I go on a strict diet to lose body fat, I limit my fat and carbohydrate intake a few hours before bedtime. This way, I don’t have free carbs or fatty acids swimming around in my blood. The body is a lot more likely to store fat during sleep, because the metabolism slows down and will likely store any unused energy as fat. This way, your body can use your stored fat as an energy source. It’s also great because you don’t have to be awake as much when you’re dieting :0).

So, in a nutshell. Keep the carbohydrates complex by eating unprocessed or at least minimally processed foods. For performance and muscular gain, increase the carbs to replace the amount lost in the exercise. To lose weight, reduce your daily amount and lower your evening amount almost entirely about two hours before bedtime. This way, your body can use your stored fat as an energy source. Works like a charm for me and my clients.

Fat loss and the fluctuating scale

At least half the people I see in the gym are trying to lose weight. I can’t tell you how many times a person will say “I went low-carb, and I’ve already lost three pounds this week!” What many people don’t realize is that carbohydrates hold water in the muscle and liver. We are 75% water, so there can be a significant loss in body weight when carbohydrates are pulled out of our diet. This is NOT fat loss.

True fat loss occurs after this initial loss of carbohydrate-induced water retention. There are 3500 calories in a pound of fat, so reducing your caloric intake by 500 calories a day is a good guideline for losing a pound of fat a week, assuming that the level of activity remains the same. Burning an extra 500 calories a day with added physical activity is also a great guideline for losing this pound of fat. A combination of these two approaches is best. I do not personally recommend that somebody try to lose more than two pounds a week, because muscle loss is possible. Muscle is our primary motor for burning fat, so it’s imperative that we keep it.

the scale and fat loss

The scale is not the best way to track your weight-loss or weight-gain progress because too many factors are at play in your body when you step on the scale.

People get upset when they have been sweating their butts off doing cardio and the next day the scale shows a weight gain. Again, we are 75% water, and our bodies like to keep it that way. When the body goes through a period of dehydration, the kidneys will release hormones to control the further loss of water. When we drink water later, our hormones will be ready to hold this water temporarily adding to our body weight.

Keep in mind:

* Stress from long, hard workouts increases our cortisone levels, which also increases water retention. The scale will often show a weight loss after a few days of rest, when the cortisone levels decrease to normal levels.

* It’s common to gravitate to sodium-rich food when carbohydrates are reduced in the diet, which will have you retain water. Sometimes we over-replace salt lost through sweating.

*If you are training with weights in a gym or indulging in other weight-bearing exercise, you will probably gain muscle, which is awesome but will make the weight scale go up. Muscle weighs more than fat.

These are some of the reasons why I do not put much faith in the scale when it comes to short-term fat loss. I weigh my clients frequently to determine their hydration but average out these readings over a couple of weeks to determine true composition changes. I highly recommend the use of “skin-fold calipers” because they make it easier to determine if this weight loss or gain is from fat or muscle. Skin-fold caliper readings are not affected by water levels in the body, so the calipers give a more accurate reading of body composition and fat loss.

I hope this article has helped you understand that our bodies are constantly fluctuating in weight mainly because of water retention. This is why it is important not to take weight measurements too seriously when you are trying to lose fat, but instead to rely on more accurate forms of measurement, like skin-fold calipers. Also you can tell by how your clothing fits and how you feel in your body. And diet is most important when trying to lose weight or fat, which we will talk about in another post!

I personally have been through these weight-loss issues when preparing for bodybuilding shows and know that if you don’t truly understand why they are happening, it can take a tremendous psychological toll on you. The key is to understand that all the factors mentioned above can give you a false reading of true fat loss on a weight scale and it is important to rely on alternate forms of measurement to determine true compositional changes.

If you have a sound diet and exercise program in place, don’t give up, no matter what the scale in the bathroom says. You will win at the end!

Ode to Tempeh

Oh, tempeh. I love tempeh! I have been looking for a good vegetarian meat-like protein since my decision to switch off of animal products. Since I’ve discovered tempeh, I know that my transition is going to be easier. Tempeh has, gram for gram, the same amount of protein as beef, without all the nasty cholesterol and cruelty. It’s kind of a win for me and the world. I love its hearty, almost nutty texture. It also marinates well, so I can load it with flavor! Earlier this week, my awesome girlfriend made some crazy good tacos with gluten-free tortillas, and a couple of days later, this amazing burger. Tell me that this doesn’t look good.

Baked Tempeh Sandwich

Marinated Tempeh Sandwiches
Makes 2 sandwiches

Recipe by The Blissful Chef

4 slices bread (we used Food For Life gluten-free Millet)
Lettuce, tomato, avocado
Mayo, mustard, or whatever condiments you like


1 (8 ounce) package tempeh
1/4 cup tamari
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons apricot jam (preferably fruit-sweetened)
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon thyme
Couple dashes liquid smoke

Slice tempeh in such a way that would fit on your sandwich bread. You want to be sure to cut it through the thinnest part of the block so it’s half as thick. Whisk marinade together and place in an 8×8 casserole dish. Coat each piece of tempeh and place them in the dish in one layer not covering each other. Marinate for at least 2 hours flipping a few times. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Drain out most the marinade from the tempeh, leaving a little at the bottom of the pan. Save marinade. Bake for 15 minutes, thin flip each piece and add a little marinade to the pan if it’s dry. Bake another 10 minutes.

Split the tempeh between 2 sandwiches and pile bread with your favorite toppings. Enjoy!

How much protein do I need? Does plant protein compare to animal-based?

Ever since I started working out and lifting weights, I’ve been totally paranoid about how much protein I need to eat. I worried that my muscle would cease to grow or waste away if I did not eat a lot of quality animal protein to mend my muscles. This is the type of propaganda my fellow personal trainers support and that I would pass on to my clients. At every gym across the nation, the trainers push animal-based protein on people and recommend whey protein for building muscle.

Needless to say, the idea of going vegetarian or vegan was completely out of the question. Until this year. One of my goals in life has been to be honest with myself and others. I feel confident that for the most part I have been, but the realization that the steak on my plate was once a living animal was causing me distress. I love animals, and I don’t want to kill one for food unless I absolutely have too. So I finally made the internal switch, and with the help of some vegan friends, I made the commitment to give up all animal foods. I’ve been meeting vegan athletes with awesome, lean muscularity and am now very excited that I might be able to lift weights and run with the same freaky intensity without disintegrating into a skeleton.

plant-based protein

So what is protein and why do we need it in our diets? Protein, in my opinion, is the platinum of nature. It is made up of the amino acids that compose every living being and is responsible for almost all of our connective structure (muscles, tendons, ligaments, and skin) and all organs of the body as well as hormone building blocks for proper brain function and neuromuscular function. So protein is REALLY important!

How much protein do I need as a vegan bodybuilder? Will I need the same amount as before? Will my body hold on to the muscle I already have with the same amount of effort? These are questions that go through my mind, and I will figure out along the way and share with you.

So, what about the average athletic person? How much protein do they need? This is a question that comes up frequently with new personal training clients. According to the ADA, DOC, NASM, RDA and the food and nutrition board of medicine, you need between .5 -.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. This is, however, for sedentary individuals. For athletes, the requirements go up. From my experience and further research 1.2-1.8 grams per kilogram is necessary to either combat protein breakdown (ultra-running) or produce more lean muscle mass (bodybuilding). Some body builders have tried 2.2 grams per kilogram (1 gr per lbs.), but studies have shown that there is no regenerative or performance gain over the 1.8 gram-per-kilogram diet.

Austin at the gym

(I personally take in about 150-180 grams of protein a day. I am currently 185 lbs., so 185 divided by 2.2 then multiplied by 1.8 makes a grand total of 151. Ok, so maybe I need to back off the protein powder a bit :0).

These figures are for adults only. Children do not need as much, probably because they produce far higher amounts of growth hormone, which uses protein more efficiently. I believe we should consider where the source of the protein comes from as well. Bioavailability is the body’s ability to get the necessary ratios of amino acids into the body for repair. Animal protein has been considered a more balanced source over plant protein. When comparing the protein that uses a combination of hemp, rice and pea, we find it has a very similar amino acid profile to whey (a standard source used by bodybuilders).

Plant-based protein powders

Many believed that vegans or vegetarians could not get complete protein in their diets without a combination of plant foods in the same meal, like having a bean with a grain. Evidence now shows that you do not need to eat those foods in a single meal, but rather eating a variety of plant foods throughout the day will give you the complete protein you need. This is evident in the many cultures that have thrived on vegetarian diets and the many powerful vegan athletes/ultra-marathoners. Here are some examples:

* Scott Jurek is an ultra-marathoner. He has won the Western States 100 mile race 7 years in a row. This race is the “Boston Marathon” of ultras and brings the best competition the world has to offer. Scott only started winning this race when he switched to a plant-based diet.

* Carl Lewis won 9 Olympic gold and 10 world championship metals on a vegan diet.

* Brendan Brazier is a very competitive professional triathlete.

* Daniel Negreanu, Mike Zigomanis and Georges Laraque are all  professional hockey players for Canada.

* Mac Danzig is an internationally recognized MMA fighter winning the “King of the cage” in 2005 and defended it 4 times.

* Patrik Boumian is a strong man and former bodybuilder.

* Champion powerlifter Willie Austin is plant based too.

* Billy Simmons is the 2009 Mr. Universe Natural bodybuilding champion.

So, as far as I’m concerned, the facts speak for themselves.

Thanks for reading. Up next, I’ll talk about weight loss and how the scale may not be giving you an accurate view of your fat loss.

Welcome to Solid PT and my new blog!

Hello folks! My name is Austin Barbisch, and I have been a personal trainer and massage therapist since 1996. The purpose of this blog is mainly to pass on information that I have acquired through my experience as a personal trainer, competitive natural bodybuilder, and ultra-marathoner. I feel that everyone is beautifully different in the structural forms they hold, but I also feel that there are general rules that apply to most people. I will give information about what the average healthy person needs, as well as the athlete trying to gain muscle, endurance, or both.

I will be answering questions that have been frequently asked by my friends and clients, such as:Austin Barbisch

* How much protein do I need?
* How much and what types of carbohydrates should I have?
* When should I eat for training and /or weight loss?
* How much sleep do I need?
* How often should I work out?
* When I weight train, should I work different body parts throughout the week?
* How should I set up my own home gym?

and many more!

I will be experimenting on myself as well. Over the last few years I have competed in many natural bodybuilding shows and run a 12-hour ultra and a 100-mile race (along with many half and full marathons). I will switch to all plant-based protein by the end of Aug 2012 and compete in these same activities over the next year. Visit the Competitions page for last year’s results, and we’ll compare my times in the upcoming show and races. Of course there are many factors that can affect results (temperature, humidity, who shows up), but this is going to be fun as hell anyway! Thanks for reading, and I hope you stay with me through this journey.