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An Interview with Mike Roussell

Written on January 31, 2008 at 1:54 pm, by Eric Cressey

By: Eric Cressey

Mike Roussell is one of my few “go-to” guys in the world of nutrition, and you can count on hearing a lot more from him in the months and years to come.  Mike is very unique in his academic background, real-world experience, and – perhaps most importantly – the passion he brings to the industry.  Last week, I was a guest on his show (www.MaxOutRadio.com), so it seems only fitting that he gets to drop some knowledge bombs on my readers this week with an interview in our newsletter.

EC: Hi Mike, thanks for taking the time to be with us today.  I know quite a bit about you, but I’m sure our readers would like to hear a bit more about where you are, where you’ve been, and where you’re going.  Tell us your life story.

MR: Okay, this will probably bore everyone except my mother and my wife, but here I go. I played just about every sport growing up and eventually blew out my knee in high school. I picked up Muscle & Fitness one day while in rehab and the rest is history.

I have a B.S. in biochemistry and have spent a good deal of time doing organic chemistry synthesis. After college, I went to medical school, but halfway through my first year I knew it wasn’t for me and that wanted to pursue nutrition full time. So I left medical school and got a job in a biochemistry lab along with a position that allowed me to actually develop the nutrition curriculum for first year medical students at University of Vermont. During this time, I applied to nutrition graduate schools. I’m now at Penn State studying to receive my PhD in Nutrition.

During this whole academic journey, I have always been busy working with people and their nutrition, body composition, and performance goals. That’s what I love. I love seeing people succeed – helping them achieve their best body. There is no feeling better than when a client shares with you a story about how someone noticed changes in their body. You can see it in the client’s face and hear it in their voice how great it made them feel. It is special to be able to help people with that. I’m lucky.

EC: All our readers can insert the obligatory “awwww” as if there were playing with a puppy. I, on the other hand, will start right off with a tough question. I just wrote a two-part article about what I learned/did differently in 2006; what were a few of your “epiphanies” last year?


1. Butter is good. I realized that I don’t eat enough saturated fat. Chances are that you might not either. I’m big on olive oil, nuts, and avocados – all of which are great, but they weren’t giving me enough saturated fat. I was down at around 4% of total calories from saturated fat. I’ve doubled that now that I use butter on a regular basis. Plus, it makes food taste so good.

2. Alwyn Cosgrove is a sadist. I realized this after doing six weeks of his Afterburn II program.

3. It is important to write your goals in the present tense and keep them at the front of your mind.

4. It is really important not to blindly believe the things that you believe. I’m a big fan of fish oil and no matter how much I believe that fish oil is anti-inflammatory, we really have no idea how it works its anti-inflammatory magic. I was really stuck on the traditional way of thinking about fish oil’s mode of action, but the research says the opposite and there are a lot of people out there that refuse to see this.

5. It is better to embrace reality than fight it. Chances are you already know the answer to a problem with which you are struggling, but you don’t like it, so you are waiting for a new one. Let’s take diet, for example. Many people eat like crap on the weekends and it kills their progress. They know they don’t stick to their meal plan over the weekend, but they continue to look for the new diet, supplement, or guru that will allow them to achieve their goal. Just clean up how you eat on the weekends, and you’ll be amazed at the results.

6. You can never read too many books especially, in areas about which you know nothing.

EC: I managed to escape academia, but you’re still up to your neck in it. What’s new in the lab? Have you won your Nobel Prize yet?

MR: Well, over winter break, I just finished a review article on lifestyle interventions that affect HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol). It is going to come out in the first edition of a new journal called the Journal of Clinical Lipidology. Basically, the best way to increase your good cholesterol is to have 1-2 alcoholic drinks per day. This will increase HDL-C by about 7%. Exercise only increases HDL-C by about 4%, and when you lose weight, your HDL-C actually goes down! However, once your weight loss stabilizes, your HDL-C will increase by about 4% from where it was before the weight loss.

I’m also working on a grant for the USDA that involves giving people fish oil and monitoring various biomarkers – but I won’t bore your readers with the details.

One more thing: there is a really cool type of compound called Resolvins that are created in the body when you take aspirin and fish oil together. It could be the responsible for the anti-inflammatory actions of fish oil (that means we’ve all been wrong about fish oil’s mechanism of action). There has been essentially no work in humans with these compounds, so I have some plans to do some work with Resolvins and humans subjects this spring – again, really cool stuff (in a serious science nerd way).

So, as you can see, I am definitely up to my neck in academia!

EC: Where are most people missing the boat when it comes to nutrition in terms of:

a) general health

b) physique improvements

c) performance enhancement?

MR: Overall, people are missing the boat with compliance and not sticking to their plan. Generally, they eat too many starches – and at the wrong times.

a) General Health – Not taking high quality fish oil or getting enough of a variety of fruits and vegetables.

b) Physique Improvements – Undereating. This crashes your metabolism and makes fat loss really tough. The same goes for building lean tissue. If you aren’t growing even though you “eat a lot,” you need to eat more.

c) Performance Enhancement – Under recovery. Performance athletes really beat up their bodies. This places unique metabolic stressors on their system that proper nutrition can almost erase. Protein and carbs during and after a workout is a must. Total calories are also very important, but they need to be good calories. It drives me nuts when athletes put tons of effort into training but the guy behind the counter at McDonald’s knows them by name!

EC: As I’ve done in previous newsletter interviews, I’m going to ask you to give me your top five training/nutrition resources for people looking to take their knowledge to the next level.

MR: Here are my top five not in any particular order. I’ve actually read all of these books several times.

1. Enter the Zone, by Barry Sears – This book lays a great foundation of the effects of different macronutrients and the power of food.

2. The Anabolic Diet (now called The Anabolic Solution) – This book is a classic and definitely the most popular low carb diet in the weight lifting world.

3. Nutrient Timing by Drs. Ivy & Portman – This is a great resource on the biggest breakthrough in sports nutrition.

4. Precision Nutrition by John Berardi – John does a great job of laying out how you should structure your nutritional approach. I currently use this will all my clients.

5. Naked Nutrition – This is the nutrition manual that I just published – and I know you liked it!

EC: Yes, it was fantastic.  Can you tell our readers a bit more about it?

MR: Here’s the thing: personally, I do not enjoy writing out meal plans. I love doing phone consults and working with people, but making meal plans isn’t any fun. So, I decided to put the entire step-by-step system that I use to develop meal plans for people into a manual. I also go into great detail about how to adjust your meal plan depending on your goals; that is the heart of the manual. I also lay out my “Six Pillars of Proper Nutrition,” how to maximize nutrient timing, how to prioritize and plan supplementation depending on goals, and a bunch more.

EC: Sounds like a definite winner and something that’s really needed. Be sure to keep us posted on its release! Where can our readers find out more about you?

MR:  I have a main website, www.MikeRoussell.com, where I host my newsletter, blog, product reviews, articles, and my nutrition coaching.  They can check out the Naked Nutrition Manual here. a.link:link {font:bold 11px Arial;color:000000; text-decoration:none;} a.link:visited {font:bold 11px Arial;color:000000; text-decoration:none;} a.link:hover {font:bold 11px Arial;color:000000; text-decoration:none;} td.link {padding:2px 10px 2px 10px; cursor:hand;} font.divider {font:11px Arial; color:666666} div.body {font:14px arial; color:000000;} body {font:13px arial; color:000000;} td {font:13px arial; color:000000;} a:link {color:0000cc;} a:visited {color:990099;} a:hover {color:cc0000}

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