Ask any iron hurler in the gym which protein source he grows best on and the answer will be practically universal: "I eat chicken because it's lean, but I get biggest and strongest eating red meat." Back in the '70s, when Arnold and Franco were kings - and folks like Purdue didn't mass-produce chicken breasts yet - red meat was the supreme choice of musclemen worldwide.
This reliance is more than just myth, instinct or personal taste; beef's dominance for muscle-building is factual. For starters, beef is a potent source of high-quality protein. For example, four ounces of lean roast beef yield about 22 grams of complete protein. In addition, beef contains high concentrations of creatine, which is a muscular fuel necessary for sustained contractions and growth. And when compared to chicken, beef has tremendously higher quantities of carnitine and BCAAs.
Other nutrients found in high concentrations in red meat include potassium (which is important for GH and IGF-1 production), alanine (which spares muscles from breaking down for energy during workouts), iron (critical for blood building) and zinc (necessary for protein synthesis). And don't forget that red meat is a rich source of B-vitamins, including B-6 (a requirement for proper recovery) and B-12 (essential for production of red blood cells and to metabolize byproducts of BCAAs for additional energy).
The real problem with beef consumption today isn't the deleterious effects that it is purported to have, but instead the bodybuilding mystique that idolizes chicken for protein intake. Sure, you probably don't want to down fatty prime rib if you're keeping an eye on fat intake. And super-lean cuts of beef are pretty expensive if you're eating several pounds a day. This is why most bodybuilders steer toward chicken.
But Kai Greene isn't like most bodybuilders.
To build the most muscular physique in bodybuilding, Kai has always relied on beef. The Brooklyn Behemoth first experimented with a high beef diet early in his career. He grew well on a high-protein diet when he first started pumping iron, but soon found that chicken, fish and eggs- the usual suspects in any bodybuilder's meals - just weren't anabolic enough for him. After testing various high-protein foods, Kai finally discovered the muscle-building power of beef. The more he ate, the bigger and stronger he became. It was this change in his diet that helped catapult Kai's career and gained him an IFBB pro card in 2004.
Yet after winning his pro card, his money placements in the IFBB were few and far between. He was 14th in the '05 New York Pro in his debut. In the 2006 IronMan event, he didn't even make the top 15. Same thing with the '06 New York Pro. Squeeze in a 14th at the 2006 Colorado and sixth at the '07 New York Pro and you get the picture.
Kai simply wasn't fulfilling his tremendous physical potential eating what other bodybuilders ate. It was at this point that his trainer, Oscar Ardon, pushed him to increase his meat intake even higher. He'd seen it earlier in Kai's career, and surmised that could be the monster mass-building technique missing from his diet. Soon enough, chowing down as much as eight or nine pounds of lean steak a day provided the edge Kai needed to thicken his physique beyond imagination and provide deeply cut and striated muscularity. And it paid off at the '07 Keystone Pro Classic, when he hit paydirt, taking third place. Shortly thereafter he won the Colorado Classic.
Still, he was not yet in the upper echelon of IFBB superstars in anyone's head when 2008 rolled around. Worse yet, all that meat was difficult to digest, wreaking havoc on his stomach and leaving him feeling bloated and uncomfortable. Fortunately, it was at this time that Kai formed an alliance with the new supplement company MuscleMeds, and began taking advantage of their nutritional research.
Seeing the gains this muscle monster had made by eating beef, yet noting the problems he was having digesting huge amounts of bovine protein, MuscleMeds scientists developed Carnivor, the world's first beef isolate protein powder. One of the biggest dividends of this partnership that Kai enjoyed was personal testing of this exciting new protein supplement. With 20 times the creatine of beef, 350 percent more concentrated amino acids than steak and no fat or cholesterol, Carnivor allowed the Predator to fine-tune his high-beef protein strategies and totally overhaul his physique.
What followed was a third place finish at the '08 Arnold Classic and a win two months later at the New York Pro. The gauntlet had been laid down, and Kai was on crash course with the biggest names in pro bodybuilding. Continuing his high-velocity training and ultra-high beef protein isolate intake, The Predator hit the stage at the 2009 Arnold Classic at a shredded 260 lbs. of beefy sinewy, paper-thin skin and rope-like vascularity. Surprise, surprise - Kai Greene crushed the competition. His fourth place finish at the '09 Olympia six months later would have been a godsend to most bodybuilders, but to the Predator, it was a dismal disappointment. So he went back to the basics by keeping his protein consumption high with 3 to 5 Carnivor shakes a day and hitting the gym in super-hardcore fashion.
In the gym, it is his extremely high protein intake that fuels his incredible workouts. Heading into the '09 Olympia, Kai pushed poundages that would make other pro bodybuilders collapse. Twelve weeks out, he weighed a whopping 314 lbs. of sheer muscle mass. He grows on "oldtime" lifts, so there's no playing with cable crossovers or other "shaping" movements for this powerhouse. He routinely pushes six reps on the bench with 495 lbs., inclines a whopping 425 for eight repetitions, squats 685 for six ultra-deep reps and pulls deadlifts of 585 or more. Single-arm dumbbell rows of 200 lbs. and bent rows with 405 add beef to his massive back.
"I train heavier now than even two years ago," Kai says. "But the weights are just tools. I don't care how much is on the bar - I let Oscar figure that out. My muscles don't know what I'm lifting as long as I'm blasting out in full intensity. I train heavy, but use instinctive intensity techniques to increase stimulation. Bottom line - I only use the weights as a tool to build my muscles."
The Predator's training looks something like this: He hits chest and abs or chest and calves on day one. Kai's massive quads are blasted all alone on day two. He confesses that he can't focus on anything else if he's hitting legs hard enough. "Kai will be lying down on the floor between sets," says Oscar, "that's how hard he trains. He does squats and leg presses only. If he can do more exercises than that, he's not training hard enough. He has the best legs in IFBB because of this!"
The day after legs is reserved for rest, followed by a hamstrings day. Or he might opt to work hammies the day after quads, followed by a rest day. It all depends on his recovery and how he feels.
Shoulders are always done by themselves, usually after the rest day. A back workout is also done by itself, on the following day. Then the big guy takes another rest day after back. "We always rest after back and legs," Oscar explains. "We use so much energy and reserve that we have to rest. If Kai trains the next day he won't have energy physically or mentally. And just going through motions isn't good enough. Every training session must be good."
The final day of Kai and Oscar's lifting rotation is reserved for arms. On occasion, they'll cycle in another day for traps and calves. "There is no set schedule," admits Kai. "We just keep repeating the rough schedule and adjust it depending on how I feel, how my strength is holding up, etcetera."
The Arnold Classic Champ starts each day with 30 minutes to an hour of cardio on an empty stomach, after taking MuscleMeds' MethylBURN fat burner. In the offseason it's done at a moderate pace more to keep his metabolism active and to increase capillary density in the muscles to allow for greater anabolic growth. Leg day is the only one where he does no cardio because he's saving up his energy to get under the bar for squats. But when the contest prep kicks in, he goes hard on the Step Mill (his favorite cardio machine) using interval training for two minutes hard followed by one minute for active recovery, and then repeating the cycles. As the contest approaches, Kai will double his cardio sessions each day from the eight week mark, for up to an hour each time.
He will hit the weights in the afternoon, often after a nap and im mediately following his second daily dose of MuscleMeds' Arimatest for testosterone release (the first one comes with breakfast). This allows him full recovery from the cardio session, plus the opportunity to get in two more meals. Then it's time for the heavy iron pumping, right up to the day of the show. Kai never does "shaping" exercises or trains light. But he does allow for complete recovery.
"A bodybuilding program has to be able to be modified so you can have adequate recovery," says Oscar, who not only serves as Kai's mentor and coach, but also his training partner. “Every day utilizes other bodyparts, so you have to be ready. It's bodybuilding - not body maintenance. If you have the same muscle mass and strength as 10 years ago, you're not doing it right. After all, if you were working 10 years at a company and were making the same salary today as when you started, you wouldn't be satisfied with your 'pay maintenance,' now would you?"
Kai's diet is more structured than his training program. One thing he learned early on in his bodybuilding career was not to gain gross amounts of excess weight in the offseason. There is a point of diminishing returns here, too, where you gain some strength and mass as your bodyweight goes up, but eventually all you're putting on is excess fat that you'll just have to trim off the next time you compete. So even when Kai's bodyweight reached the 300 lb. plateau, it was mostly lean muscle mass.
The bodybuilding forums are replete with factoids about Kai's dietary peculiarities, but let's take a closer look at the reality. Truth: He has eaten 50 egg whites per day at various times in his career, going back to his early 20s when he won his first competition. Training at the legendary 5th Avenue Gym in Brooklyn even way back then, Kai was never without his gym bag, which was filled with food. He'd also down a dozen chicken breasts on a daily basis. His protein intake could be as high as 850 grams a day. He has always been high on sweet potatoes for carbs, plus fiberous carbs to keep him feeling full when dieting.
"Kai found out pretty early in his career that the only thing he's allergic to is lactose," says Oscar. "This is why he gave up on casein supplemen
ts and was a 'real food' bodybuilder for many years. Eating 500-800 grams of protein a day isn't easy, but he discovered that eating lots of steak was the best way to get the massive protein and creatine he needed, while avoiding milk products. At one point he was eating six to nine pounds of steak a day! But this started to mess with his stomach, so he was between a rock and a hard place."
"I love steak," says The Predator, "but after awhile I had trouble digesting it in big amounts. I went back to eggs and chicken plus steak, bu
t found I didn't grow or get stronger like I had on steak alone. When I signed with MuscleMeds, one of the first test products for me to evaluate was Carnivor. I said, 'No way - a beef protein isolate supplement?' Give me that!"
Suddenly Kai began to become more anabolic than ever. His mass and thickness exploded almost overnight, and his strength went through the roof. Carnivor was the secret protein product that put him on the IFBB map.
Aside from huge amounts of protein, Kai says he can digest pretty much anything else. He also eats carbs and some fat for energy and protein-sparing effects, especially in the offseason. His favorite carbs include oatmeal and raisins in morning, plus rice with his steak mid-morning. After training, he'll use a carb drink with another meal. Baked potatoes or sweet potatoes are included in almost every meal. If he feels sluggish or bloated, he'll cut back on the carbs. He can go higher or lower, but his protein level stays pretty consistent. But come contest preseason, he will eliminate the starchy carbs in the last eight weeks, while dropping his protein intake a little so he can lower his total calorie intake.
Ten weeks out from the Olympia he was eating 500-600 grams of carbs and 500-700 grams of protein daily. He'd start with egg whites and meat with carbs in the morning, followed by his first Carnivor shake two hours later.
"I love Carnivor instead of having to eat so much meat because it's much easier to digest," Kai adds. He typically drinks three Carnivor shakes daily along with his meals to help digest and assimilate the protein better. After training, he downs his second Carnivor drink with rice and chicken breast or eggs. Then he'll have another shake at night with oatmeal before going to sleep at about midnight. He may add in another Carnivor shake mid-afternoon, or double the powder in one of his shakes for extra protein. The last supplement he takes before retiring is Hexaghen in order to help him release GH and IGF-1 throughout the night for continued anabolic growth. At 8 a.m. the next morning he's back up to start it all over again.
"Kai does bodybuilding to the ultimate degree," says Oscar. "It's kind of like making a custom made suit - it works only for you. You must listen to your body and constantly adjust your system. Still, this is not an excuse for slacking off or not giving it your all. Kai is very strong mentally and instinctively understands when he requires rest or a change. Laziness is not a part of his personality. He does not use anything as an excuse not to work hard."
"I love bodybuilding and this is what I've wanted to do my entire life!" exclaims Kai. "Just standing on that stage holding that Sandow statue in my hands after winning the Olympia is what I'm living every day for!"