Legend and Business Icon Rich Gaspari
Watching Rich Gaspari bound up onto the stage at his Muscle Beach Hall of Fame induction recently--the physique of a serious bodybuilder hardly concealed by a conservative short-sleeved polo and slacks--it's easy to forget that it has been almost thirty years since he first leaped into national prominence at the 1985 IFBB Night of Champions and 1985 Mr. Olympia. In many ways, Gaspari is the champion who never left; he has been both an ambassador and innovative force for the sport ever since his retirement in 1996.
So swift and startling was Gaspari's ascent to the peak of the profession (he was 22 years old when he placed second in his debut at the Night of Champions, 23 when his storied three-year rivalry with Lee Haney began at the 1986 Mr. Olympia) that he was dubbed "The Dragon Slayer," a name he bears with pride to this day. Indeed, since he left the stage, Rich Gaspari has never ceased finding new dragons to slay, both in the gym and as the CEO of Gaspari Nutrition, one of the industry's acclaimed manufacturers and retailers of cutting-edge sports supplements.
Though he is little more than a year away from receiving his AARP card, Rich Gaspari has little enthusiasm for reflecting on the past. Instead, he is laser-focused on the future. In a sport where many once-celebrated pros are content to slap their name on a supplement line and coast into a retirement consisting of appearances and photo ops, Gaspari adheres fiercely to a "Walking the Walk" philosophy. Easily the most visible CEO in the bodybuilding marketplace, Gaspari stars in a hugely popular and ongoing series of intense "Walking the Walk" training videos on the web and is the centerpiece of a $25,000 Train with Team Gaspari Contest in which contestants compete for the opportunity to train with high-profile athletes like MMA champion Frankie Edgar, former IFBB champ Flex Lewis, and, of course, Rich Gaspari. In most ways, his training regimen is as grueling and productive today as it was thirty years ago. Recently, we got the always-on-the-go CEO to sit down briefly for a short interview.
Rich Gaspari: You can't surrender to lowered expectations. I always say that I want to be in excellent condition, not for my age, but for any age. That's the mindset that you have to possess. Now someone might say, well, your body can't do at 48 what it could do at 20, and to a certain narrow extent, that's true. On the other hand, I know a lot more at 48 than I did at 20. About how to train, how to eat, how to rest, how to grow. I've got supplement technologies and training methods that weren't available to me two and three decades ago. I do a five-day training regimen, one body part per day, maximum focus and intensity. I eat seven times a day, each meal two hours apart, to maintain optimum metabolic and anabolic efficiency. I stick to a 40/45/15 protein/carbs/fat regimen. I've always had a good bodily metabolism, so I don't have to do a lot of cardio, but I do some cardio for fat-burning purposes. Also, speaking of an advantage I have now that I didn't have years ago, I'm gluten-free. I cut all wheat-based products, barley, refined carbs, out of my diet and substituted in sweet potatoes, brown rice, and fruit. A lot of fruit. At Gaspari Nutrition, our flagship muscle-building protein, MyoFusion, is gluten-free. I take that every day, and I use it in recipes when I cook. And I've never felt better.
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ProSource: A lot of athletes in the ProSource family regard you as an inspiration. As a guy who got into the sport at age 15 and 89 pounds, what do you have to say to a beginning bodybuilder who's maybe struggling and not seeing the results they would like to see?
Rich Gaspari: Well, first of all, let's define expectations. Not everyone is going to be a champion pro bodybuilder. Everyone can't win the Arnold Classic. At that level, there is a genetic component to it. A guy like Arnold or Flex Lewis, they have a genetic predisposition to building muscle. That's a fact of life. It's like I was saying before with metabolism. I've always had a fast, efficient metabolism. I don't have to do a lot of muscle-deteriorating cardio to burn fat. That's an example of a genetic advantage. Now, having said that, everyone has the capacity and the opportunity to get in top condition. Achieving that is an ongoing process; you have to stick with it. Also, you have to be willing to experiment and find what works for you. Switch up your workouts, shock your muscles. Don't fall into a rut. Learn from the people around you in the gym. Stay focused. Bodybuilding goals are achieved over the long run. There are no quick fixes.
ProSource: Okay, here's a desert island question. You're stranded on an island with access to only three kinds of supplements. What do you take with you?
Rich Gaspari: [Laughs.] Okay, first, let's remember that supplements are food, so if you're not going to bring food with you to your desert island, you're not going to last long. Supplements are proteins, they're carbs, they're amino acids. The basic building blocks of life. So, first, I'd bring a protein supplement. A protein supplement is actually the most inexpensive and efficient means of adding protein to your diet. Ounce for ounce, it's cheaper than chicken or steak or fish. You need a top-quality protein with highly bioavailable amino content, processed to preserve maximum nutritional value. Secondly, a multivitamin. A good one, like our own Anavite, goes beyond the basic vitamins and minerals to cover compounds you're going to need on your desert island, like a clinically active dose of beta alanine, and L-Carnitine L-Tartrate for enhanced recovery. Finally, because I'd be training like crazy on my desert island, in the absence of anything else to do, I'd want a quality pre-workout supplement like SuperPump Max.
ProSource: Gaspari Nutrition has a terrific reputation in the industry. What, in your mind, is the most important characteristic of a successful supplement company?
Rich Gaspari: In Gaspari Nutrition's case, I think it's obvious to our customers that we're just like them. We're athletes; we care about our bodies and our conditioning. I'm right out in front, using our products and sharing training tips in our videos. You can go on our site and "Train With Rich Gaspari," you know? I think the typical customer would be surprised (or maybe they wouldn't) at how many supplement companies out there are run by fat, tired guys in suits. Guys who, if they weren't selling supplements, would be selling ceiling fans or something. We're not like that. Also, just as important, be truthful with your customers. You have one chance to impress a new customer. If you lie to them, if you make an outlandish claim, you're done. That customer is gone forever. Honesty is essential to existing in this business over the long haul.
ProSource: You've always had a great relationship with ProSource, as Gaspari and ProSource have prospered over the last decade. What's a key characteristic you associate with ProSource? What, in your mind, is responsible for ProSource's success?
Rich Gaspari: ProSource was already established as an industry leader when we first got started at Gaspari Nutrition. They had set an example that we very much wanted to follow. Not just in the high-quality of the ProSource brand of supplements, but also in honesty. ProSource was the first big manufacturer/retailer to set a high standard for communicating accurate information to customers. Before ProSource, there was a substantial portion of this industry that was real "back of the magazine" stuff. Outlandish claims, very little actual science, skimpy research and development. ProSource was a pioneer in changing all that. The ProSource supplement buyer's guides that they starting issuing in the 90s were a revelation. For the first time, you had unbiased, in-depth reviews of brand-name supplements. That was just unheard of. And that commitment to accuracy and integrity continued right through their general business practices and customer service. You would call ProSource on the phone to order a product, and you'd get a supplement expert on the phone who was knowledgeable about the products. That was a big step forward and it continues to this day, with their customer service and also through their website, which is a premier source of cutting-edge information on supplement science and training trends. We're two companies, Gaspari Nutrition and ProSource, that believe in the same things.
ProSource: Thanks for the good word, Rich, and thanks for sharing your thoughts with our readers.
Rich Gaspari: My pleasure.
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