Mark Robinson, Secrets to Fitness Success, Ironman (Australia), December 2013, 20 (11), 98-101.

As many of you may know, I am an accredited dietitian, as well as a natural bodybuilder and sports model. My health and fitness dreams are coming true this year with my team selection to compete in the Musclemania and Fitness America Championships in Las Vegas following my strong showing at the Asia Pacifics. In this article, I will share with you a few of my secrets to help bring you one step closer to the achievement of your greatest goals

I will firstly remind you of the core personality traits necessary for reaching your full potential in a sport that is not for the light- hearted. Secondly, I will declare the scientific facts on supplements, and lastly, I will provide recommendations for big-match temperament peak performance.


Competitive natural bodybuilding will test the strength of one’s personality to the point that it may become the difference between a podium finish and a seat in the audience pondering what could have been. Acknowledge the importance of these four traits and rep them out daily:

  • Commitment or ‘a pledge to do,’ which requires correct alignment of your thoughts, actions, and habits.
  • Dedication or ‘complete and whole-hearted devotion’ to the eventual achievement of a goal.
  • Self-discipline or ‘training and control of oneself and one’s conduct, desires, emotions, and actions.
  • Integrity or ‘practising honesty in all dealings,’ which essentially evaluates your performance in the above three traits, i.e. have you been honest to yourself and fans in your level of commitment, dedication and discipline?

Nutrition and supplementation

Now we are ready to delve into nutrition and supplement talk. As a dietitian, of course I first and foremost declare that what you choose to eat day in and day out will distinguish your physical appearance — perhaps to a degree of 75 per cent. The remaining 25 per cent you have to work with is then split between your training methods and levels of daily activity, genetic make-up and supplementation.

Yes, I 100 per cent believe in the theoretical role of protein powders to aid muscle growth and repair while also providing a lean, convenient snack. However, my research this year has taught me a great deal about assessing the true quality of protein powders and so I encourage you to use the following evaluation criteria to ensure you are getting the most out of your WPI:

  • Is your whey protein a by-product of cheese? If so, it has gone through a process of heating and denaturing, which can sadly change the natural properties of your whey powder and be the cause of your bloating and discomfort.
  • What is the chemical index value of your whey protein? This is an indication of the degree of muscle absorbability.
  • What is the strength of the amino acid profile, particularly that of leucine — the branched- chain amino acid most responsible for muscle size?
  • Are there any added ‘fillers’ — such as flavours, sweeteners, preservatives — listed in the ingredient list? These might be diluting the protein content and thus lowering the per cent of actual whey protein.


Moving on to carbohydrates. Be your own judge of the quantity, timing and type of carbohydrates you are consuming and distinguish whether or not your patterns of carbohydrate usage are aligning with your goals. Of course, its primary role is to provide energy in the form of readily available blood glucose or stored muscle and liver glycogen.

Glycogen stores enable the muscles to preserve their size and grow further without risking amino acid catabolism during training. Thus, carbs can play an important role in our muscle- building capacity. So, which are the best sources of carbs then?

Glucose- and dextrose-type sugars can be beneficial, as they conform to the gluconeogenesis pathway — the uptake of sugar from blood to muscle for energy storage as muscle glycogen. However, you should be aiming to avoid fructose (fruit sugar and corn syrup) and lactose (milk sugar), as, for the most part, these sugars do not make their way into muscles for stored energy, but rather just accumulate in the blood and may convert to fat cells during periods of underactivity.

Get the most from your workouts

Let’s combine what we now know about nutrition and supplements into a practical example of how to get the most out of your next training session:

  • Two hours prior. Consume a meal equal in carbohydrate and protein ratios to ensure sufficient strength and sustained energy. Choose complex carbs low in sugar but high in their ability to store energy as muscle glycogen. Examples include: oats, brown rice, sweet potato, pumpkin or corn. Choose a convenient, easy- absorbing source of protein, such as a non-denatured WPI shake or a few eggs or can of tuna.
  • 20 minutes prior. For quick release energy, consume a simple sugar, like glucose gel or even a couple of red frogs. If you are planning on training for more than an hour, a stimulant like caffeine can aid in buffering lactic acid accumulation and therefore delay the onset of fatigue. Furthermore, the use of a fat burner like acetyl l-carnitine can enhance performance and results.
  • During. Consume BCAAs for quick muscle absorption and strength to eliminate any risk of muscle catabolism. Again, if training in excess of 90 minutes, then electrolytes (Mg, Na, K+) may aid hydration and prevent cramping.
  • Immediately post. During the 30 minutes that follow a well-trained muscle pump, the quantity of protein that your muscles can absorb is actually made greater by the increased secretion of insulin and widened blood vessels allowing for more nutrients to flow to your muscles. Hence the importance of a quick-digesting WPI protein shake naturally high in BCAAs. In addition, adding the amino acid glutamine can boost muscle recovery and rebuilding. If increased size is your ultimate goal, then supplementing with creatine and dextrose sugar post-training may also help refill muscle stores and promote further growth.


In conclusion, remember to train your mind first by performing repetitions of key personality traits that will prime you for success over your goals. Go out and effectively evaluate your supplement intake, particularly your choice of protein powder. And improve your training performance and results by correctly combining your nutrition and supplements.


Mark Robinson is an accredited dietitian and natural bodybuilder. He runs a dietitian business ‘Health Man Mark’ (www.healthmanmark. com) and, with his business partner Rob Quatro, is the part owner of 360Health Natural Supplements ( See their all-natural WPI ad to the right.

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