Interview With Paleo Bodybuilder Mario Singelmann
Meet Musclemania Pro, 100% Natural, Paleo Bodybuilder Mario Singelmann. He is the world’s first bodybuilder to earn a pro card. For those who are interested in bodybuilding on the Paleo Diet, Paleo Bodybuilder Mario Singelmann is the man to take cues from. In this interview, we ask him questions about his early years, how he got into bodybuilding and the difference between training for his competitions on a Paleo Diet instead of the conventional competitor’s diet.
1. How Did You Get Into Bodybuilding?
I would say that my path started with high school football, I began lifting in high school to try to match up with my peers who were physically larger and stronger than me. You can get away with athleticism in many sports, but in football, size and strength are key. After my freshman football season, I basically began lifting weights on my own, at home and never stopped.
I continued lifting through college somewhat seriously, and I’d definitely made strength gains, but didn’t “look” strong. One of my grad school classmates had a bodybuilding background, and when we became good friends fitness was (of course) discussed, and he eventually became my bodybuilding mentor. I went from lifting to “be strong” to lifting to “look strong.” I had plenty of strength, and what I wanted was the body transformation! I’d found the new challenge I’d been searching for.
Later, at a high school reunion, I found out a buddy of mine, Nick was going to compete in a natural bodybuilding competition. I wasn’t aware of the scene, attended his show, and decided I would and could do this!
2. How Did You Get Into Paleo? Was the Transition Easy for You?
Well I didn’t get into Paleo without putting up a fight, I’ll admit that. Now one of my best friends, Karen Pendergrass wouldn’t stop pestering me about Paleo, but I thought I knew it all. After all, I knew the “conventional wisdom” about nutrition and bodybuilding, right? I told her I would give it a chance after my second bodybuilding show was over, and I did.
I gave it a real shot for thirty days. In that time, my abs started showing every day (never had that before, despite always carrying low bodyfat), my training sessions and lift improved, this “hardgainer” was putting on muscle, and I felt great!
I had ZERO negative to say about adopting a Paleo lifestyle, so I never stopped. For me, the addiction to feeling (and admittedly looking) good was all the incentive I needed. The inflammation I’d always had that hid my abs was a direct result of my diet (grain consumption).
I think my transition was fairly smooth. I’d dieted like a conventional bodybuilder for shows twice now, so dietary discipline was something I was accustomed to. I think what was easy to understand was the negative reinforcement when briefly reintroducing grains and dairy to my diet.
My tight, six-pack abs became “washed over” by inflammation. And since people need to know this stuff…I stopped having gas. Which again, I hadn’t realized until I reintroduced dairy and grains at different times. Even now, when I’m not perfect, (and I’ll admit I’m not perfectly Paleo, perfection is impossible folks) but my body’s reactions definitely remind me why I don’t eat these foods!
Additionally, I found on Paleo, when you eat foods your body knows how to process…you “waste” MUCH less. You get the picture…kind of a disturbing way to remind yourself about how much food we eat on a daily basis that is basically empty of nutritional benefits.
3. How Was Training for Competitions on a Paleo Diet Different Than Training With Other “Traditional” Bodybuilding Basic Recommendations?
I think the best way to describe the difference is to say that a “traditional” bodybuilding competition diet is more reliant upon a measurement of macronutrients while my Paleo competition diet was more reliant upon food quality. So instead of obsessing about calories, grams of carbs and protein, I focused more on the quality of my diet.
Something that is really funny…is look at a bodybuilder’s final month of dietary prep for a competition. What are they doing? They remove protein shakes full of artificial ingredients, emphasize eating real foods, and manipulate carbohydrates. Um….sounds pretty Paleo to me, but don’t tell my competition!
Since I was emphasizing food quality, I was able to focus less on cardio and measuring food. For those who have ever been on a competition diet in preparation for a show, you understand that the process can be extremely stressful.
It’s a restriction, it’s physically and mentally draining, it’s working out excessively, and it’s all too often unhealthy in the amount of stress put upon the human body. I’d suffered from migraines and exhaustion before, and on Paleo, I ate more than ever, did less cardio, and not only looked better, but FELT better.
4. What Sets You Apart From Other Bodybuilders?
Well, two things. The most obvious is that Paleo provides my dietary backbone year round, including competition prep. So I don’t gain a ton of bad weight when I’m in my off season and excuse it to others by calling it “bulking.” Staying so close to my competition physique and weight allows me to have a much easier time dropping my body fat in preparation for a show since I’m never far off.
And during that competition prep, I take my Paleo up a notch and take food quality to its highest level. I can see and feel a difference when eating the highest quality protein sources. I actually put on a little bit of muscle now when getting ready for shows, because my diet supporting my training is never better.
I also don’t undo all the hard work of my training and discipline by eating foods that cause inflammation and hide my abs. I am reminded of a friend of mine, she is a female fitness competitor, and after all her weeks of training and dieting, she ate cheap(er) chicken (we know it’s hard to fine ANY good chicken) and it absolutely wrecked her body with inflammation just days before her show.
5. What Does It Take to Get a “Pro Card?”
To win your pro card, for starters a show has to be sanctioned as a “Pro Qualifier” for bodybuilding, and not all are. So competition definitely shows up for those pro cards. I would explain the process by saying there are basically three categories for bodybuilding. There is the “Pro” category, an “Open” (filled with former novice division winners), and finally a “Novice” category.
To win your pro card, you have to win your class in the “Open” division, which is based on height or weight. Then if you win your class congratulations….you still have to compete against all the other “Open” division winners, and ONLY that overall winner may earn his pro card. There could be others worthy of a pro card, but tough break!! That’s bodybuilding.
So earning your pro card is like joining an exclusive club, but one in which you have to earn your membership rather than buy your entrance into. There are very few of us, and that makes earning a pro card in bodybuilding that much more of an accomplishment.
6. What Could Others Who Want to Follow in Your Footsteps Learn From Your Experiences?
Well I hope others learn that competing in fitness competitions can (and should) be done in a healthy, responsible way. To be honest, competing in fitness competitions all too often results in damage to a person’s body and psyche.
No one wants to tell you that, but too many fitness competitors place unhealthy demands on their body, and the demands are so stressful because of excessive exercise and/or calorie restriction that permanent damage is done. People don’t talk about it, but participating in a fitness competition under the wrong dietary and training regimen/conditions can be the most disruptive and damaging experience you will ever incur upon your body.
I would like to show others that you don’t have to be hungry while dieting, that you don’t need to do sixty plus minutes of cardio every day, and that you CAN look and feel strong during competition prep! That saying about “You can’t out train a bad diet” simply affirms my notion that “A great, not just ‘good’ diet, will make training so much easier!” Fitness competition participation is definitely growing, but I want others to know this can be done in an easier, healthier way.
7. How Do You “Paleo It Forward?”
Well, I play my role. I know the Paleo Movement is already filled with many authors, scientists, even impactful bloggers. But you know what? I know people. I know they can’t always relate to the scientific research and findings, nor the arguments made in a three hundred page book.
In today’s world, you have to “catch” someone’s attention. Now the Paleo Movement has definitely grown, so we’re obviously doing some things right, but there are plenty, and I mean PLENTY of folks who are part of the “seeing is believing” crowd. For sure, there are great examples of weight loss and health improvement on Paleo…but nobody has reached out to the crowd to show how much the body can be physically developed on Paleo. That’s where I come in.
I’ve shared that my Paleo mentor was Ms. Karen Pendergrass, but the time and effort she spent in educating and assisting me…I know I could have never afforded her guidance if she had actually put a price on her time and efforts. While she is obviously a great friend and someone I consider my family, nothing should be free. I told her after going Paleo that I was going to become the “First Paleo, Pro, Natural Bodybuilder.” And now, years later, I am.
It’s simple. Some folks can hear all the facts and research findings, but you know what can draw others in who are skeptical?? Me. My story, my pictures, my physical accomplishments and recognition. This is my way of “giving back” and how I “Paleo it Forward.” I can reach folks that Robb Wolf and other Paleo leaders can’t. Simply by showing what is possible, and might I add, naturally.
8. What Challenges as a Paleo Bodybuilder Do You Currently Face?
Well first off, let me say that I am SO proud of my accomplishment to become the first Paleo, Pro Natural Bodybuilder. But it wasn’t easy. The time allotted to training, the discipline required year round, even giving up my summer of partying…it’s TOUGH.
One thing my closest friends and family know about me is that I’m a man of principles. I knew if I ever earned my pro card, I had to do it the right way or it would mean nothing. I had to do it naturally so no steroids or any funny stuff, and I had to do it without sponsorship/financial backing. Once I make my mind up regarding my values, I don’t budge.
I have turned down sponsorship opportunities that would surely make my life so much easier, as well as lower my grocery and supplement bills, but that I couldn’t consider “Paleo Friendly.” So I took on that financial burden myself. Sure the accomplishment is for me, but it was never JUST for me. Achieving the goal to become the first Paleo pro natural bodybuilder, it’s been for a higher purpose. To “Paleo it Forward.”
Now there are a few companies out there I do view highly, so I do hope to be able to report back soon that I have Paleo-Friendly sponsorships that can assist my training (imagine how much 300lb NFL lineman eats, that’s me), and also with my supplement requirements. Simply put, the better the quality of food and supplements I use, the better my training and results will be. Because yes, it can be better!
Hard work, discipline, dedication to diet and training…that’s a piece of cake. I have that covered. Giving my body what it needs to train and recover…that’s a challenge I will be looking to finally get assistance with, from the RIGHT Paleo-Friendly businesses! I definitely believe I’ve proven myself enough that these businesses take notice and get involved to sponsor and support my (natural) bodybuilding.
9. What Can the General Paleo Community Do to Help Continue Your Success?
Well what does a tribe do but stick together? I would LOVE to see the Paleo community come together and rally some support to help me continue my bodybuilding efforts. We are a large and growing community, and our reach is ever-expanding. What the Paleo community could do to help me is assist my voice calling for support for my Paleo bodybuilding efforts.
I’d love to be able to tell these sponsorship companies that I’m not alone, and be able to share with them how big my tribe is!! The fact is, I feel so strongly about what I’m doing and the purpose I’m serving, I’ll continue to do this by myself, but I shouldn’t have to. I’ve taken the long and hard road towards this accomplishment, and now yes, I’m asking for help. This I know…I can be better.
10. So What’s Next? What Do You Have Lined Up/going on?
So much! I’m in the midst of a move from Kansas City, Missouri to Los Angeles. I’ll be taking that step in the middle of September. So though I’ve had a great run at Gold’s Gym in Kansas City, I’ll be looking for a new place to teach, inspire, and assist clients with their health and fitness goals.
Along with being a great move for personal reasons, making the move to L.A. also brings me closer to a larger network of health and fitness individuals and opportunities. I’ll be looking forward to being closer to many of my Paleo folks and the possible collaborations that have already been discussed!
November 22-23 I have a bodybuilding show in Las Vegas where I’ll be competing in the Fitness America Weekend, making my debut as a Musclemania pro. I will definitely be working to be even better onstage! Since everyone should have goals, my new goals are to be the first Paleo World Natural Bodybuilding Champion, and along the way a top 5 place in the world, with the goal is to continue to make a devastating impact to dangerous, irresponsible, and ineffective “conventional wisdom” that plagues the health and fitness industry.
Recently, I revamped and renamed my business to “Evolutionary Strength.” I feel the name represents more accurately my evolving philosophies regarding diet, nutrition, and fitness. With Evolutionary Strength, I feel I’ve got something I can build, that I can be proud of as a legacy, and that will help others.
I’m definitely not your typical health and fitness professional, and I look forward to spreading MY message. There are so many unhealthy, money-grabbing, irresponsible professionals out there, my goal is to create a voice so large that I can take on these “professionals” and win. I used to want to take out/destroy the most irresponsible fitness group in Kansas City (they promote the worst practices regarding diet and fitness, all for the dollar to naïve clients)…but now I think even bigger. I am going to help people worldwide.
You can expect me to be much more involved with broadening my reach and influence. So new projects aside from bodybuilding and competition include much more writing (blogging, writing an e-book about Paleo and bodybuilding, submitting various articles for publication), maybe getting involved with an agency in L.A. and modeling, further developing my social media connections, and of course, continuing my work to further the Paleo movement through broadening our reach. I’m sure I’ll land on my feet offering personal training services at a great location in L.A., but I most look forward to the many projects and collaborations that are forthcoming.
11. So How Can People Learn More About You or Follow Your Path?
Easy! “Like” Evolutionary Strength on Facebook, visit my website, follow Evolutionary Strength on Twitter, Instagram, Youtube…You name it, I’m developing my social media further every day so that I can promote and educate folks about Paleo, fitness, health, and share easy ways to develop that inner and outer strength to be healthy and happy!
I will also be blogging soon and the first topic that I will cover in depth will be my current preparation for Fitness America Weekend where I will be making my Musclemania Pro debut.