T Nation

What I Like About Chris Shugart, Agreements

Over the course of the past year, I’ve seen both a great deal of praise and criticism of the man. I, myself, don’t agree with him on everything and, looking back, criticized him in a rather immature way on this board and I apologize for this.

After re-reading his articles, I’ve come to agree with him on several key things:

Most, I’d say 90% of the male population, do very poorly with the over-bulking approach; it’s only a tiny minority of men that can consume tremendous amounts of food, some of it being absolute crap, and appear “bulky” or “smooth” as a result.

Most guys that I’ve met or spoken with who’ve tried this approach wind up looking like lops of shit and resent the fact that they are stuck with having to lose the excess baggage afterward.

I believe, but can’t prove, that there is a tiny minority of me who are “genetically set up” to tolerate huge amounts of carbs and actually have a hard time getting fat! Folks that have done well with the bulking approach, guys like Gary Strydom, Lee Priest, Rory Leidelmeyer, Ronnie Coleman, and Dennis James are rare. Even Flex Wheeler has been known to indulge in BK and McD’s weeks before a show, and while not coming out on top, looks a hell of a lot better than the average T-Nation poster would do with such an approach.

Most men would benefit more from an upper/lower split or TBT program than a bodypart split. I’ve seen dozens and dozens of posters on popular internet message boards weighing a buck-seventy at 5’8" to 5’10" following advanced 4- to 5-way splits. When I was aspiring to compete in bodybuilding (that aspiration went away last year), of course I followed a split routine; they have their place. But I also had a bodyweight of 230# and could put up some impressive numbers.

The fact is, like CT and Dave Tate have explained before, that most men lack the strength and muscle mass that warrant the use of a split routine. How much damn recovery do your pecs need if all you can bench is less than 225 pounds? Most guys can’t induce the amount of trauma in a muscle that warrants 5 to 7 days of rest in between sessions for that muscle.

Cardio should be taken seriously all year long. With modern sedentary life for nearly all folks consisting of sitting at a desk, in a car, or on a couch 99% of the time, activity in addition to weight training is need to control weight.

Most men do great on a low- to moderate-carb diet. This goes for the same reason as the need for cardio all year long. Sedentary life requires little carbs for functioning, let alone that most people are not genetically inclined to metabolize carbs well.

I can hear the shit already from the hardcore bodybuilders on this site!

Look, I’ve been following bodybuilding and attending shows since I’m 16 years old. I’ll be at the NY Pro this year and a couple of others at the end of the summer and the beginning of the Fall, NPC and INBF (natural) shows. I have nothing but respect for the sport and its impact on health, science, and nutrition. Bodybuilders have always been at the forefront of physical enhancement.

And you also might mention two successful young men on this site who’ve done very well with the bulking and split routine approaches. BUT, the OBVIOUS reasons as to why these men are successful is because of their genetics (although they might deny this success ingredient and say, “bullshit, look how skinny I was when I started”) AND because they’ve put the bodybuilding lifestyle at the top of their priorities.

The people that I’ve spoken with here privately have NOT put the bodybuilding lifestyle at the forefront of their lifestyles and have FAILED at this approach. That is, they have NOT:

Sacrificed or redesigned some areas of life at the expense of bodybuilding.
Managed to consume planned meals nearly all or all of the time.
Managed to complete planned workouts nearly all or all of the time.
Shown aspiration of looking like a bodybuilder or competing in a bodybuilding contest.
Acquired the experience and knowledge to be successful in bodybuilding.
Even created a life that supports all of the above.

Yet they try this approach, which doesn’t even suit their lives or their personalities, and drive themselves fucking bonkers over things like carb cycling, refeeds, splits, and supplements, again, all while weighing 170 to 200 pounds at heights of 5’8" to 6’2" with 14 to 20% bodyfat. ORDINARY guys trying to do off-the-wall shit.

Here’s where I DON’T agree with Chris.

He says that consuming a protein-sparing modified fast consisting of all or nearly all solid food only looks good on paper and that this approach results in failure for most who’ve tried it.

Well, it doesn’t look good only on paper. I think I look pretty good after 4.5 weeks on a PSMF having dropped 15 pounds of flab. In a recent conversation with my fellow RDs, quite a few discussed the success they had with their clients using PSMFs that consisted of nearly all solid food. When I did the Rapid Fat Loss Diet recently, I consumed TWO protein-shake meal replacements in 4.5 weeks, excluding mid-workout nutrition!

How can their be a difference in success between liquid nutrition of 1,200 calories and a whole-foods diet of 1,200 calories? A whole-food approach has worked for thousands of people already and it’s been established that the key to maintaining weight after the diet lies in ongoing nutrition education.

Another idea that SEEMS to have been promoted in his writings is that cheat meals have no place in a diet. Of course writings can sometimes be misinterpreted, but that seems to be his general flavor when discussing cheat meals.

Well, of course there is no GREAT place for Whoppers and fries in a diet; we can sure live without any of them! But are most people, myself included, going to exclude all of the fun and social element that comes from indulging here and there, perhaps once or twice per week? Me, I’m not giving up certain parts of my diet, and I doubt most people will either. I’ve never and never will tell a client that they can’t ever indulge sometimes.

What do you people think?

PS: I don’t mind opposing views at all, so the bodybuilding bunch can take a stab at me, despite the fact that I still have love and respect for the sport and hobby and it’s participants.

The only thing i have a problem with is the genetics argument. Its nice to guess and say, “You only go results because of genetics”. But we don’t KNOW that. I havn’t tested anyones DNA, i have not met anyones family and i have never seen a study that examined the effectiveness of a bodypart split on different gene groups. Our personal observations are from limited sized groups, etc. You can believe it if you like, but no one should ever suggest it in a factual manner. Because no one can prove it.

Its the same as the “i am fat because of my genes” argument. which no one on this site would hesitate to argue with. Which is really weird considering that if i can say that genes are the determining factor in making you large and muscular then why can’t genes help store fat? I am not saying genes don’t have an effect. They probably do. I just can’t show how, or quantify it. If you have the genes, i doubt they can tell the difference between splits.

Caloric excess >> Resistance training > general health > Lifestyle > genes.


I have no idea what you’re trying to get across.

I believe we’ve proved it.

The fact is that by nature, there are physically and intellectually gifted people.

Do we need studies to prove this?

“If you have the genes, i doubt they can tell the difference between splits.”

What does this mean?

Well seeing as how he is a contributor here, I’d like to see him on this thread just so it wont be weird if we start geting to deep into the cons… just a sugestion…Chris?

As for my pros and cons of CHris

I feel like I can relate to him. He seems like he’s a step a way from some kind of eating disorder but it also seems like he scores a lot of ass because of his low bodyfat. THe V diet is a very meticulous diet and it has its own forum. I’ve lurked on it and people have really gotten great results.

I don’t like how he’s prejiduce towards fat people. I think it’s a lifestyle and although it is not the lifestyle he has chosen, there is no need to bare hate towards them.

Cheat meals are bad news if you have an EATING DISORDER. Most don’t. I do. I have my opinion about whether someone else, but won’t say.

So if you have an eating disorder, you really have to wean yourself off of using food as a reward.

My dieting has been going great. No more cheat days. In a cheat day, I would literally eat until I felt sick. I have almost had what felt like a heart attack after a Thanksgiving meal.

You can tell a lot about a person through his writings. Aristotle called this ethos. When someone writes about food as a disease, you get the idea that, well…

The problem is that, if you’re writing for a broader audience, you have to escape solipsism. I do have an eating disorder. No one else I know has the problem with food I have. So if when talking to others I projected my eating disorder onto them, my writing would be less applicable.

WELL, I know what you mean, but make it a cheat meal not a cheat day :smiley:

I have yet to see any topic with Mr. Shugart present that he does not ridicule Bodybuilding/ Bodybuilders or the sport in general.

Besides that yes he is grand… just a pity we are on a bodybuilding forum !

I like Shugart. I like his articles. I feel we have something in common as FFB’s and he writes a lot about food and the attendant psychology which are things that I’m interested in. I agree with you though that his tendency towards 100% compliance is a little unrealistic.

For some time I was pretty fanatical about adhering to discipline such as “no cheat meals unless you can see your abs” etc. I ended up pretty miserable and completely without any sort of social life/stress relief etc. 100% compliance with a diet, while possibly effective, and certainly something to be proud of, kind of limits all other options. I’ve done a lot better in terms of progress -and- mental health with the occasional controlled cheat meal.

I’m not sure what this thread is really about (why we need to voice our personal opinions of Chris Shugart) but since he seems to be a semi controversial figure that most of us have read a lot by, I too have something to contribute. I’ll keep my comments about the V-Diet to myself on a Biotest website. I’m sure it’s effective…

I think the point of the V-Diet is not the amount of liquid food, but rather the lack of foods that resemble something tasty but unhealthy. From what I’ve read, you’re supposed to look forward to the healthy solid meal each week, and in theory, this desire should replace the desire for donuts, pizza, beer, and deep-friend twinky bars.

But I agree with you, a low carb diet plan consisting of plenty of protein and healthy fats, totaling to around 1200 kcals would have the same effect as the V-Diet for those who do no necessarily crave crappy foods. It’s just that many people who start that diet have no clue what eating healthy really is.

Hell, I’ve been a skinny bastard for most of my life, and it wasn’t until recently that I cleaned up my diet.

A few other reasons I like reading Shug’s stuff:
-the sarcasm… I was raised on it.
-the recipes… they all look so good.

Sorry brick, but thos 150 lbs guys that follow splits with no success, don’t blame the splits. Blame their lack of food.

As someone who used splits and TBT, and uses TBT with his clients, I don’t see how one can refute the superiority of splits for size gains.


The point of the V-Diet is rapid fat loss.

“… but rather the lack of foods that resemble something tasty but unhealthy.”

Any PSMF worth its salt is only going to consist of clean food. And if you consume solid foods, you can make them tasteful with spices and calorie-free condiments.

Maybe you can develop a desire for protein shakes, but you can also develop a desire for bland foods like chicken, egg whites, turkey, very lean beef, etc.

And I’ve heard about the whole convenience thing about the V-Diet, not having to weigh out foods. Well, obese dieters are going to have to figure out how control food intake AT SOME POINT, whether they it be the with the calorie-counting method or the portion-control method. I believe most ordinary, non-fanatical folks (you know, like 99% of the adult population) are not going to fucking weight out food with scales and measuring cups for any significant amount of time!

It’s true though, a PSMF has lessened my cravings for cheat foods. I went to a sushi place last night for a cheat meal and I ordered two rolls that I used to love, high-calorie rolls with fried tempura, fried soft-shell crab, cream cheese, and big huge avocado slivers (avocado is healthy, but the amount they put on and, in addition to fried food, can really make a greasy, high calorie meal). I couldn’t finish my meal and felt a bit lousy afterward. I used to feel fine after grease-ball cheat meals.


Thanks for adding, though I don’t understand how you can’t see what this post is about in all 1,000+ words of it.

The guy has received a lot of criticism, including some from me. And when I criticized him, I did it in a rather juvenile manner. But after two stints on a PSMF, I went back and re-read his material and believe that he offers a lot of good content for ordinary guys that want to be fit, stay in shape, be lean, or whatever terms you prefer.

I DON’T like what he has said about RDs sometimes. It is ironic though, considering a man he holds in high regard, Lonnie Lowery, is an RD. Actually, several contributors on this site are RDs: Chris Mohr, Mary Spano, Thomas Incledon, Eileen Bonci, and that guy who writes with Berardi, _____ Andrews (forgot his first name).

He has poked fun at bodybuilders and bodybuilding. But I do recall him once say something like (I can’t find the exact quote): I respect bodybuilding, those who like to compete naturally for fun and personal reward. You know, he said something of that nature.

What I think he tries to get across is that the ways of genetically gifted, advanced bodybuilders are inapplicable to most ordinary men who want a decent body. And I agree! I personally like splits but don’t use them anymore because of my changed physique and fitness goals. On a 1-10 scale for genetics, say Flex Wheeler is a 10. I rank myself genetically as a 7. I gained a shitload of mass on a split routine and put up some impressive numbers. BUT, I also altered my lifestyle drastically to consume 4,000 to 5,000 kcals and have near-perfect attendance at the gym for 4 to 5 sessions per week. Most men don’t want to or can’t do that. Some simply don’t have the life for it!

[quote]jehovasfitness wrote:
Sorry brick, but thos 150 lbs guys that follow splits with no success, don’t blame the splits. Blame their lack of food.

As someone who used splits and TBT, and uses TBT with his clients, I don’t see how one can refute the superiority of splits for size gains.[/quote]

I’m not dissing splits. As I said numerous times on this board, I used them for a long-ass time. I reached a bodyweight of 245 with an upper-lower powerlifting split, and settled in at 230# on a four-way split. I only gave up aspirations of powerlifting and bodybuilding about six or 7 months ago.

Splits ARE superior for size gains! If a client wants SOME size gains and general fitness, I think TBT or an upper-lower split is the way to go. If a client wants serious size, to look like or maybe closely resemble a bodybuilder, then I say do a BODYBUILDING ROUTINE (a split). But I believe that these people should be properly educated on what it takes to reach a high level of competence in that department.

The same goes for strength. If one wants SOME strength, then any rational upper-lower or TBT program geared towards strength can produce that result. BUT… if one wants to really put up some serious numbers (in my view, 405+ bench, 550+ squat and deadlift depending on bodyweight) then they are going to have to follow a serious powerlifting routine.

As you can see, we’re talking about specializing and Shugart has touched upon this before.

But how many guys want to or need to specialize? How many guys have the proper habits and lifestyle for specializing?

I like that he understands that many people have a relationship with food that is emotional and not always pragmatic. I get the feeling he writes for these people and not so much for the ones who eat because they need food to build their bodies.

I agree with most of what he says and do not find it to be dissonant or incompatable with the stuff that applies to elite body builders. The issue is that too many believe their are elite body builders and that he is trashing on them. The dirty bulk is a bad idea for most people, but there are some who will respond extremely well by eating like this. If you’re one of these people, his stuff doesn’t apply to you, and you’re one lucky SOB!

When I was bodybuilding, my routine went like this:

Day 1: Chest, biceps

Incline flies (pre-exhaust)
Incline dumbbell press
Pec-Deck (pre-exhaust)
Hammer Strength bench press


Reverse curls
Incline hammer curls
Machine preacher curl

Day 2: Legs

Standing calf raise
Seated calf raise


Glute-ham raise
Leg curls


Walking lunges
Leg extensions

Day 3: off

Day 4: Shoulders, triceps

Seated shoulder press
Lateral raises
Machine lateral raises


Close-grip bench press
Tricep pressdown

Day 5: off

Day 6: Back

Machine pullover (pre-exhaust)
Lat pulldown
Bent-over lateral raises (pre-exhaust)
Dumbbell row

Day 7: off

I loved this routine, and typing about it actually makes me remember doing it and even makes me think of trying a split some time in the future again.

So, clearly, in now way do I have a problem with splits.

[quote]matko5 wrote:
In a cheat day, I would literally eat until I felt sick. I have almost had what felt like a heart attack after a Thanksgiving meal.

WELL, I know what you mean, but make it a cheat meal not a cheat day :D[/quote]

This “advice” only reveals you lack of understanding of what I wrote.

My current diet is low calorie and low carb (but is NOT a PSMF) involves sliced turkey, ham, and roast beef. It says right on the label how much is in each slice.

So I grab six slices of ham (35 calories each), and sandwich each slice between a piece of cheese (80 calories each). Easy as can be.

When I need a shake, I throw in two scoops of protein and 22 almonds.

Neither is easier or harder than the other.

[quote]CaliforniaLaw wrote:
In a cheat day, I would literally eat until I felt sick. I have almost had what felt like a heart attack after a Thanksgiving meal.

I can relate to you CL. I need to stay away for sweet foods because once I have a little, I eat until everything is gone. I have never understood those individuals who can have a small piece of cake, a single chocolate bar or not eat the entire box of cookies.

People told me that my will power was bad but I don’t think it has anything to do with will power, I think it’s instinctual. I can definitely see a time in our evolutionary history were gourging on high calorie food was the appropriate thing to do - we needed to get the food in while it was there because once it was gone, it was gone.