Muscle Talk - By International Protein

Getting prepped for competition - tips from expert coach - Joey Cantlin

February 10, 2021 International Protein Season 3 Episode 5
Muscle Talk - By International Protein
Getting prepped for competition - tips from expert coach - Joey Cantlin
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, we've invited guest speaker Joey Cantlin who's renowned for prepping athletes for competition. He's been a judge on the international stage and he's a wealth of knowledge.

  • How to get ready for a show
  • It takes time and commitment 
  • Intermittent fasting in comp prep?
  • How an extremely low body fat percentage affects you
  • Judging in India


Muscle Talk - Bodybuilding podcast by International Protein

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Ash Horton:
Welcome to Muscle Talk, where you'll get world champion advice about nutrition and stacking on muscle. Our host, Christine Envall, she's a three time world champion body builder and IFBB professional, a food scientist, and a founding co-owner of our Podcast sponsor, International Protein. In this episode, we've invited guest speaker, Joey Cantlin, who's renowned for prepping athletes for comps. He's been a judge on the international stage and he's a wealth of knowledge. So Joey, you're renowned for prepping athletes for comp, tell us how you got started in your career.

Joey Cantlin:
So I think I've been in the industry from around nearly 28, so about eight years. I was actually pretty, this story it's not funny, but it's kind of funny. I'd been a PT for probably a year. And then I just had someone pick up my card at the gym that wanted to do a show. And she said, do you specialize in prepping people for shows? And I said, well-

Ash Horton:
Yes. Did you say yes? Did you fake it until you make it?

Joey Cantlin:
No, I was honest about it. But when I got into the industry, nutrition really fascinated me. It was something that I was always really keen on learning a lot of. I'd spend a good year up late at night, watching videos, reading lectures, and stuff like that, reading transcripts. I said, look, I've never actually prepped someone, but I've been preparing myself to do this for a long time now, so I'm happy to do it if you trust me to do it, and sure enough, she did.

Joey Cantlin:
And then there was another girl that started maybe probably halfway through her prep, and they both ended up doing actually really well. They both look fantastic. And then luckily enough, one of those girls was quite popular on Instagram and it was pretty hard to be well-known on Instagram then, it wasn't much of a thing. So I was lucky enough to get a lot of exposure from that, and here we are.

Ash Horton:
That's brilliant. And you actually specialize in helping female athletes too, is that right?

Joey Cantlin:
Yeah, the last couple of years it's been more men, but still a lot of females, but earlier in my coaching career was majority females, just because that's where it started. Being very female specialized it was hard to break into that male section, and get men to trust you as well, because men are a little bit different. They're a little bit more self-sufficient in this industry.

Ash Horton:
And when you're prepping females, it's far more critical with the body fat. Can you elaborate on it?

Joey Cantlin:
It can be. So when I look at a female athlete, it's important to just view them as an athlete, just an athlete, not a female athlete, not a male athlete and start working with them based on that. And then you just keep track of the trends. And then sometimes a female might show more female dominant trends, some don't. So it's important to just treat every athlete like an athlete in the beginning, and then it can get a little bit different from there.

Christine Envall:
So how would you start out, with a person comes to you and says, okay, I want to get ready for this show. What are the first things that you do? Or what do they need to bring to you? And what do you bring to them?

Joey Cantlin:
Well, the first thing I always do is obviously conduct a consultation, and you try and get a good idea of how long that person has been training for, how long that person has been tracking for, where their knowledge base is at. Because some people, they can jump straight into a plan without having to actually have the education because they already have it, some people actually need to be educated. So obviously we get all their statistics and whatnot, and set them up on a plan from there, and just adjust from there. But people who don't have as much experience, then it's a little bit more of an education first kind of thing, and teaching them the importance of nutrition, training around all that stuff.

Christine Envall:
We've done a lot of talking here about plans and programs. Do you find some people that want to compete, have no routine, or they really don't understand that? Is that what you bring to them? [Inaudible 00:04:12]?

Joey Cantlin:
Yeah. So some people already have that routine set in place, and they've already been practicing along the lines of what they already need. But some people just come to me and say, I want to do a comp, but they haven't actually committed to going to the gym three to five days a week, once in their life. They haven't ever tracked their food. So for those people, I say, okay, we can do this, but for you, you're not going to be starting a contest prep for six to 12 months because I need to see that you can commit yourself without the deadline of a show.

Christine Envall:
And how do you do that?

Joey Cantlin:
You just have to tell him that, that's basically what it takes. And sometimes people are willing to get stuck into it, sometimes people aren't. But you can find out pretty quick, who's going to be able to do it and who can't.

Christine Envall:
So when it comes down to the diet side of it, someone who's not really had a set diet, how do you get them onto that? Is it a cold turkey he'd eat or off they go? Or is it, you find it you have to work with him, and they keep falling off, and getting back on, and...

Joey Cantlin:
Well, everyone's different and some people take a little bit longer than others. In the beginning, someone who may not have as much experience or just doesn't have that level of discipline, you try and work around what they already do, and mesh it between what you want them to do and slowly transition them into exactly what you want them to do. Because I find with some people, some people are all in or all out, but some people are just often all out. So you have to slowly get them into it.

Christine Envall:
So I was pointing at you, then Ash.

Ash Horton:
Is that what that was?

Christine Envall:
[crosstalk 00:05:55] all out. Because that's something that we do talk about a lot here is that, having a program and I know I haven't prepped a lot of people, but when I look back over the years, I did prep a lot of people. And that's where I would always start, how do you take someone who eats three times a day, to try to get them up to five or six and without messing with their own routine too much, but giving them what they need to do. And then obviously the things which were non-negotiable and it pretty much, it's like, no, you have to do this. So you work on the training, and on the nutrition, and the mindset side of things, or do you just, what's your main focus?

Joey Cantlin:
A bit of everything. So some people, I only work with them for their nutrition because they're competent enough in their training. Some people are the opposite. Some people do their own nutrition and I do their training.

Christine Envall:
I know for myself, I have a very definite idea as to where I think people's macros need to be for competition. And it's not a lot of flexibility, regardless of what a person... Do you have that same approach? Or each person, you might have a radically different macro based on what you think they need? How do you approach the nutrition side of it?

Joey Cantlin:
Everyone has different requirements, and everyone's genetics are different as well, which is why I always tell people when they first come to me, the last thing I want to do is throw you straight into a diet because I need at least two months to see how that person responds to set protocols. So some people might have a very adaptive metabolism. So that would mean that when you're going on the way down, their metabolic rate adapts very quickly, so you have to adjust their calories a little bit more frequently. If I don't know that going into a diet, then I'm going to be scratching my head quite frequently and we might not make it. So you've got to take into account, obviously physical differences, and sex differences, and that stuff, but also genetic variability, which you can pretty much find out through that initial phase.

Christine Envall:
But do you have certain foods that you, the chicken, and the rice, the oatmeal and that stuff, are there certain things that regardless of who the person is that's going in the diet, or how do you approach that? Is it a little bit more flexible than that?

Joey Cantlin:
In terms of food choice I try to be fairly flexible, because I find if the athlete is allowed to have some flexibility and pick things that they like, they're probably going to be more adherent. If I set out a meal plan for someone, I usually just give someone their macronutrients and give them a list of foods that I'd recommend. But if I tell them that they can only eat these foods, they might come to me two weeks later and be, by the way, I don't like that food, so I just didn't need it. And I'm like, well, the whole plan is stuff now because you just spent two weeks on X amount of calories when I thought you were doing this. So I try and give them a little bit of flexibility, so it's a little bit more enjoyable.

Ash Horton:
So you're not a hard ass on them, you're a friendly [crosstalk 00:08:44].

Joey Cantlin:
Everyone requires different approaches. Some people I've got to be really hard on, because that's just how they respond. Some people you can baby them a little bit.

Christine Envall:
That's I never worked out as a coach because I'd like...

Ash Horton:
I don't think you could tolerate people.

Christine Envall:
No. [crosstalk 00:09:00] As you know, I don't understand if I've told you how to do something-

Ash Horton:
Why can't you do it?

Christine Envall:
Exactly. Because I operate at that level, and that would suit certain people.

Ash Horton:
Absolutely.

Christine Envall:
And I've absolutely spent a lot of time.

Ash Horton:
So you're a patient man, that's what we're saying.

Joey Cantlin:
My patience has worn thinner over the years. I'm a lot more stern with people now.

Ash Horton:
That's why you're dealing with the better athletes as time goes on.

Christine Envall:
But what I was going to ask was, even close to a show, the two weeks out where it does get really critical. How do you then adapt that where a person's had that flexibility to swinging them back to, to deplete and to carb up, you actually need to follow exactly this? Or do you not use that approach? How do you [crosstalk 00:09:49]

Joey Cantlin:
I start tightening the reins as we get closer, so I do it progressively, so it happens under their nose and they don't realize it. So for example, your margin for error at 20 weeks out is going to be a lot smaller at two weeks out, and that margin of error just shrinks, and you pretty much include that in the plan. And then before they know it, they're being a lot more precise with their food selections, and their boundaries with their flexible dieting targets.

Christine Envall:
So we had a little note about obviously intermittent fasting for active adults. And that's something that I see that crop up more and more. Is that something that you're using with active adults or competitors? Or can you just talk a little bit more about, what you mean by intermittent fasting. Because I know there's so many different methods of doing that, and I'm just wondering, have you used it in comp prep? Or when you say active adults, you're talking more just about people who are wanting to be fit and healthy, not specifically going for a competition.

Joey Cantlin:
I think intermittent fasting it's something that everyone can use to some degree. I don't think it's an optimal approach, but for some people it's the only approach that they can do. So for example, like shift workers, they might have periods of time where they can't eat for six to seven hours. I've worked with paramedics for example, and if they've got a day where they've bought a patient in and then they immediately get a call out after, and that happens three or four times in a row, all of a sudden they haven't eaten for their whole shift. So for them it might be, have a meal at the start of the day and just fast for like 10 hours a day for that next 10 hours and then finish all of their food after that. So it really depends on the person's lifestyle. If you don't require intermittent fasting, I don't tell people to do it.

Christine Envall:
That's a Podcast that we do want to do at some point in time, because it's something where I think, like I say, if you have to do it, it'd be very hard to stick to. If you don't have to-

Joey Cantlin:
Because you'd sitting there twiddling your thumbs going, okay, when is it time to eat?

Christine Envall:
Because I think we don't realize how much of our day is associated around or centered around that. And even if it's like, oh, I have to go and get something, or plan something, or to prep something. And I know when you're competing, you need that something to divert your mind, which I think I want to delve into that a little bit. And I know, in your mindset it wasn't the topic, but I'm bringing me that, to me that's what differentiates a lot of the times success and failure.

Joey Cantlin:
Absolutely.

Christine Envall:
And again, the female, male difference. Do you find that your clients do rely on you for that? That mental push to get them to stay on track, and how do you deal with that when the client, if they coming with reasons why they can't do something, or they're just really struggling with that confidence. How do you deal?

Joey Cantlin:
At times, I think everyone goes through that to some degree, obviously varying degrees. Some people struggle more than others. I've had a lot of athletes who don't require any metaphorical kick up the ass. I've got some clients who were just completely bought in from the get go, and all the way till the end. I think some people don't realize how much having an extremely low body fat percentage actually affects you, in every capacity. Some people start behaving in ways that they thought they never would. They're all of a sudden lacking motivation to the ends degree. And sometimes that's just a conversation you have to have with people say, hey, I know it's hard right now, but it's not going to be like this forever. And that's why we don't walk around shredded all the time. Just try and teach them the importance of just getting in and getting out. It's not going to last forever. This is why diets don't last forever.

Ash Horton:
So what happens to people with, do they get really cranky? Have you got any really funny stories on that?

Joey Cantlin:
I'd have to, I'd have to sit down and think for a while about any funny stories, but people do change. And I think the biggest problem with it is they don't realize they do. When they're being grumpy, or angry, or lacking energy, and just being moody all the time. They don't realize they're actually doing it-

Ash Horton:
Perfect. [crosstalk 00:13:48] Christine?

Christine Envall:
Well, I apparently about a month before, a couple of times I didn't talk, I didn't realize that because in my head I wasn't having a lot of conversations.

Joey Cantlin:
It's funny you mentioned that, because I was the same when I dieted for my last show. My partner at the time, she often used to joke about, oh yeah, I didn't have a boyfriend for three months. And I think back now I'm like, damn I really did not talk much. You're just exhausted, and your body, without realizing you're in energy conservation mode. So you're trying to save every little bit of energy you have in talking, it's one of those things.

Christine Envall:
And that's the thing that you're not aware of, because as I said, there's a lot of conversations going on in your head. And I know for me, the last two weeks was so radically different to the diet. I would say set and forget, like you said, you've got to tweak it along the way, but those last two weeks is when you really start to manipulate and change things. And I'd be running through where I was at, what I would need to do, what type of carb I would need to do. When I have to deplate, did I have to deplate fully? Think about my last show, the success of that, the timing of that, so that was taking a lot of my time from probably that eight to six weeks out. And so that was very busy, but it wasn't being verticalized. I wasn't bouncing off ideas, and things like that. And say, you'd come home from training, do the second cardio session, and just do lights out.

Joey Cantlin:
That's it. And like I said, the scary thing is people don't realize they're like that. So sometimes you have to pull them aside and be like, wait, get your shit together. You still got to be an adult.

Ash Horton:
Just switching the conversation up. You've done a little bit of judging on natural federations in India, right?

Joey Cantlin:
Yeah.

Ash Horton:
Can you tell us about that?

Joey Cantlin:
That was very interesting. Specifically, just mainly because of the people that we judge. So Indians, genetically, they're typically very small people, so they have quite small joints. So just a little bit of muscle on, makes them look unbelievable. So I remember in one division, I think it was the men's physique overall, they were incredible. I didn't expect them to be as good as they were, I got to give them credit. And I was like, these dudes are like quite jacked.

Joey Cantlin:
Anyway, we finished up the judging and that was the intermission for the show. And I went backstage to have a chat with some of them, congratulate them, and they were up to my shoulder. And I'm an average height guy, and these guys are tiny, but on stage they just looked unbelievably huge. That was really interesting. But judging is something that I get a lot of joy out of, it's very interesting.

Ash Horton:
Are you getting asked to do a lot of judging these days?

Joey Cantlin:
Yeah. There's a federation that I do judge for almost every season.

Ash Horton:
That's cool.

Christine Envall:
In India, obviously because International Protein's strong over there. It'd be coming up two and a half years now and just growing and growing. So the Indian, and their love of bodybuilding-

Joey Cantlin:
It's crazy.

Christine Envall:
It is. And I don't know if you've got to travel around too much there, but it's almost like every second little shanty shack thing, got a big muscle body painted on it, and it's a gym.

Joey Cantlin:
It doesn't look like a gym from the outside.

Christine Envall:
But it's a gym. And they have it's almost like a cultural thing where bigger people do have a better status. We were at the expo there and the guys who like, because as you said, a lot of them are physically quite small and the ones who are big, they had an entourage. Dude walking around and he's got 50 people following him because they just want to be around the big person. And we took our strong man, [inaudible 00:17:17] over there, and they just went nuts. Because he's picking up two Indians at a time and throwing them around and they were just like, I want to be next and stuff, but just their passion for it was just crazy. So I'm going to ask you, how many competitors did they have at that show?

Joey Cantlin:
Wow. Had more than I thought they would. Individual competitors, maybe 120.

Christine Envall:
Okay. Because I've heard they've had six or 1200 people at a show, just because it's such a huge population, and the staff is just-

Ash Horton:
Didn't you tell me that they consume the most whey protein out of all countries?

Christine Envall:
Maybe Trey told you that. I don't know if I told you that, but with the population that they have, it would make sense. Because we sell, Superior Whey is the number one. The gourmet WPI is going off over there because it's sweetened and free, but the Superior Whey, they just love that product, and will hammer.

Joey Cantlin:
I don't know the exact numbers, but for a very first ICN show and for where it was, it was a lot more than I thought it would be. But the amount of people that were at the show, oh my God. And the crowd was going wild. They were really passionately into it. It was great. I had a lot of fun over there, and they're great people too.

Christine Envall:
That's right. They're so interested as well.

Joey Cantlin:
They're hungry for knowledge. We even did a registration day, the day before, and there was three of us judges and we had to be there just to communicate with the competitors, and have a chat with them. They just had so many questions. It was great.

Christine Envall:
Let's talk a little bit more about judging because back in the day or not so long, I judged on and off, through over the years, what do you find the hardest about judging?

Joey Cantlin:
When there's a really close decision, but the two physiques are different. That is really close because you got one guy who is, let's say we've got, you go bodybuilding, right? You got one guy who he's massive and just maybe lacking that last bit of condition, but then you got a guy who's really small, lacks a bit of shape, but he's just shredded to the bone and it's like, which way do we want to go? What do you want your Federation to be known for? Mass or condition? So I think that's the hardest bit, is having to make a decision where it's never right, but it's never wrong.

Christine Envall:
And that's why body bodybuilding is a subjective sport, and I know that-

Joey Cantlin:
Certain judges like certain things.

Christine Envall:
And I know back when I was judging, Victoria was known for liking the shredded look, and the New South Wales judges were known for liking the bigger look, generally every time would go that way. So you knew that the biggest smoother guy was going to win in Sydney, and then the shredded guy was going to win in Victoria, Queensland. I'm not quite sure. I think we're a little bit more across the board there, but it is that thing. And that's what I always found really tough. And I'd be like, please let there be something in their posing routine, you can let me split these two.

Joey Cantlin:
I always find, okay, you got to look at that bigger dude and say, is he that big to the point where it justifies him being soft?

Christine Envall:
If he was shredded like that guy, would he be bigger than that guy?

Joey Cantlin:
Exactly. He's got to be pretty big, and pretty well shaped. He's got a tick, a lot of other boxes if we can let him get through on that condition.

Christine Envall:
I'm assuming in the judging position, you get a lot of criticism.

Joey Cantlin:
Yeah. I've been lucky enough not to really cut much at all, but I know in bigger shows and bigger federations where there's more at stake, some of the judges get a lot of flack.

Ash Horton:
So you need some pretty thick skin. Have you ever had any flack?

Christine Envall:
I would get asked questions and I'd always-

Joey Cantlin:
I get a lot of questions.

Christine Envall:
Very blunt about my answers, and then I didn't get much questions after that.

Joey Cantlin:
We always give competitors feedback. And if they come up and say, well, why didn't I win, I give it to them straight, I'm like, well, the other person was better. And I could give you 10 reasons why.

Christine Envall:
Exactly. And I think that's what people appreciate. Even if at the time that's maybe not what they want to hear, but if you have a valid reason and a area where they can improve, then I think they'd take that on, and obviously that's constructive criticism. But if you were fluffing around, I don't know, I'm not quite sure why, then it sounds very dubious.

Joey Cantlin:
You're helping them in their journey. And as long as they come to you as a reasonable approach, and that's a good thing.

Christine Envall:
Well, that's what it's about too. It's about having better competitors on stage next time. Them improving as a competitor.

Joey Cantlin:
And it's important to let you know the competitors know if it was a close decision. So it was very close, and just because you didn't win, it doesn't mean you weren't incredible. That person was just that little bit better. And I think sometimes people struggle with that is when they don't win, they feel like they've failed or they feel like they look crap. And it's like, no, you actually look really good. And someone who looked like a veteran pro showed up, that's unlucky.

Christine Envall:
And that's the thing, because you are competing against who's there on the day. You might've been shoe in if that person hadn't turned up, but that's how bodybuilding goes every time.

Joey Cantlin:
Exactly. It's just all about what shows up. And like I said, with the big and the small guy, you don't know what's going to show up.

Christine Envall:
And that's the thing again, where a lot of the time of the judging panel, it's why they have an uneven number, so that it [crosstalk 00:22:33]. Because subjectively you and I may have a different opinion, on size a little bit over condition. And then so you have to assume that four people went one way, three people in the other. And that's the thing that gets that close. But it's a very Aussie thing I think where, coming second is the end of the world.

Joey Cantlin:
We don't celebrate it anymore. It counts as a loss.

Ash Horton:
You guys come second in the rugby all the time. What are you talking about?

Christine Envall:
I don't follow what, Rugby?

Joey Cantlin:
Is New Zealand still best?

Ash Horton:
Of course they are, they always have been consistently.

Joey Cantlin:
I'm very sure that's because that's all they do over there, isn't it?

Ash Horton:
Something like that. Of course the sheep as well, but we won't get into that.

Joey Cantlin:
We'll leave that one out [crosstalk 00:23:23]

Christine Envall:
Ash has to bring it down a level.

Ash Horton:
So Joey, let's give you a little bit of a plug here. Obviously you're good at what you do. If people want to get in contact with you, or they want to start prepping for a comp, what are the steps they need to take?

Joey Cantlin:
Just send me an email.

Ash Horton:
What's your email?

Joey Cantlin:
[email protected] If you want to view some of my work, or the clients I've worked with, you can check me out on Instagram @JoeCatlin PT. I don't have a website. I've never had a website.

Ash Horton:
Probably don't need it.

Joey Cantlin:
I've never needed it. I know lots of people who do have websites, who doesn't really help that business anyway. It looks cool to have one. Maybe I will get one, one day, but I just use Instagram.

Ash Horton:
Perfect. And is there any pre-work they can be doing in the meantime before they come to you? If they could come to you on the ideal platform, what would it be?

Joey Cantlin:
Start practicing what you're going to need in prep. So start practicing tracking your foods. Start actually putting in the work towards building your physique. So don't come to me, and you've had four weeks of training, or you've only been training for three months. You need to have been training for a substantially longer period of time to even consider going into a show. And I get everyone's got to start somewhere, but there is no point going into a 24, 30 week prep when you don't have any muscle, or any shape, because by the time you cut down you just going to look skinny.

Ash Horton:
So are there reasons why you turn people away? And if they are, what are they?

Joey Cantlin:
Well, the first reason will be because I'm just too busy at that time. I've always been big on trying to help as many people as I can, but it obviously gets to a point where you don't want to affect the quality of service as a coach. You've still got a lot of people who are paying you for a good service, so you do have to put that first. Although it's tempting to try and get as much business as you can, you've got to sometimes turn it away. And some people just aren't ready to undertake something like that yet. They might have some behavior traits that just don't align with getting ready for a show. They might not have good behaviors around eating. I find that's a pretty common one, is people come to me and they're using bodybuilding, or bikini shows, or fitness shows as a way to fix their eating disorder, or to further fuel it without realizing it. So if you can see that behavior, you say, hey, I can work with you, but we need to do these things before we start a contest prep, or consider competing.

Ash Horton:
This has been really interesting. Christine, do you have anything else you want to throw in there?

Christine Envall:
It was a little bit around the, how long before someone should compete. Because I feel that came up when we talked about if someone's only got a little bit of training under their belt, what is the average amount of training that someone would have? And I know it's different for everybody, but what would be the, is it two years of training? Or one year of training? Before you would say, you're going to have enough muscle to step on stag? what's the average?

Joey Cantlin:
Well, like I said, it differs between people. Some people have incredible genetics and they look at a dumbbell and they grow muscle. Some people might need three to five years of actual solid training before they look like they belong on a stage. Some people might need six months. I would say average is maybe 18 months you want to have at least been training for, but then you've got the nutrition component. You should be relatively well-educated around nutrition, and that's why I try and get people in their off seasons before they even consider starting prep.

Christine Envall:
That's what the point that I wanted to make. Because I know a lot of people do, they get so excited because they see people on Instagram that are competing, walk in the gym, two weeks later, they wanting to do a comp. And that's probably the first thing that's going to kill their enthusiasm for training, because it is still hard work. I don't want to put people off by-

Joey Cantlin:
It's very hard.

Christine Envall:
We don't want to underestimate, undersell, the work, then the commitment that it does take.

Joey Cantlin:
Absolutely.

Christine Envall:
But no, thank you.

Joey Cantlin:
Thank you for having me. Much appreciated.

Ash Horton:
Fascinating stuff. Thank you very much.

Joey Cantlin:
No worries.

Ash Horton:
Words of wisdom. If you like what you've heard, recognize that these tips they're free. So show your support by becoming a loyal International Protein customer by jumping online, hunt our product down, and hit that by now button. So once again, like, share, and subscribe to our Podcast so we can continue to bring you these episodes from our one and only Aussi Muscle Guru, three times world champion, Christine Envall.