Aesthetics sport ambassador Neil Anderson Interview January 20, 2017 09:53

Urban Lifters talks to our aesthetics sport ambassador Neil Anderson about life in the the world of bodybuilding...

💥How did you get into bodybuilding?

I have always had a notion for bodybuilding. As a young lad in my early teens I was training for athletics (pole vault and sprinting) as well as playing rugby competitively, surfing, mountain biking and skateboarding. Always active at the time, the notion of training was already as much to be strong but also to look strong too. I read Mike Mentzer books and watched the super human characters in movies at the time with Arnie and Stalone making their mark on the era. This proved to inspire me and had me train and eat obsessively in my teens.

💥 Tell us about sports and competition history

I had always been fiercely competitive as a kid and remember being dropped to school early to sprint the track as a 10 year old. I was aiming to be the fastest kid in school as my mother and father had both been. Despite my shorter stature as a late developer and young for my year I was a muscly kid, and always surprised my peers and those older than me with my strength and speed. So I was the fastest kid and went on to compete heavily in athletics and continued to play rugby. I had to make the decision as to which I would carry on at the age of 15 as the rugby left you in a bad way for the training for pole vault. Training at the time included, weights, sprinting, gymnastics and pole vaulting. I was dominant at the provincial level and top 3 in Ireland but realized that to be at the top condition really meant a lot and the frustration of missing out on an Irish championship win had hurt. I focused on diet and researching training concepts both specific to performance and continued the interest in hypertrophy/bodybuilding concepts. Unfortunately I pushed too far and a run of injuries at a critical time in my career put an early end to my high hopes. Frustrating as it was looking like all the hard work was paying off with performance in my last year stepping up dramatically. National record and a win in the Scottish indoor championships as well a bronze in the Irish seniors in a field that hosted 2 commonwealth athletes were a couple highlights that last year. The injury proved a major setback to my training the next years and consequently required two surgeries. I got back to training with real vigor whilst traveling in my 20’s and getting commercially involved in personal training. My love for training never waning, late 20’s bodybuilding and surfing were my focus and whilst living in Spain the inspiration of great physiques at pool parties is what made me step my game up. I came home for a visit and whilst at the gym was spotted by top NABBA judge Patrick Sweeney who suggested I did the Mr NI first time MR the following April. I still had no idea that you didn’t need to look like Dorian Yates to get up on stage as a first timer. A great mentor Patrick really gave me a massive head start particularly when it came to posing and critiquing my physique as I developed. I trained at Pro Gym too at the time getting the feedback from all the guys that had endless experience amongst them, especially the watchful eye of Dave Fox, NABBA legend himself was a great pedigree to be involved with. Indeed the scene in Derry was unique and more apparent than Belfast and had the Likes of Derek Lynch also giving his support made the push to stage a pleasure. I won that Mr 1st timers and went on to get a runners up trophy in the Mr Britains. The following year a Novice win and an invite to the NABBA worlds as a Class 2 open competitor. A year away from competing and an unfortunate holiday spill saw me tear my ACL, however I won my pro status in the WBFF as a muscle model a few months later in the London O2 arena. Since have had top 5 European, top 10 worlds and 2nd in the 2016 LA pro as a WBFF muscle model. With my ACL repaired I’m looking forward to the season with a stable knee!

💥 What are your goals for the year ahead?

This year I plan to bring my best condition and package with fuller legs than before. I am aiming to compete from June and do a bit of the pro circuit in the States. I am also working with a company between Northern Ireland and the States that is due to launch 2017 a very exciting product that is pretty ground breaking! So plenty on the horizon and an exciting few months ahead.

💥 You travel a lot for competition. Is it difficult to keep diet and training on track?

It was once said of me by an early mentor that I’m the most laidback bodybuilder, now I wouldn’t say that but I don’t weigh food and simply stick to principles when it comes to my diet and am good at eyeballing what I need. When I get on a flight I pack water to have a litre of water every two hours on the flight. I bring my own food and will eat steak tartar or some sort of fairly plain foods in New York for example when I go to LA. You can only carry food as far as the States so you have to make do at that stage. In the later stages I may be drip feeding carbs depending on my look and when I’m on stage. I would favour simple chicken, fish or veg or like I said steak tartar and some salad. Training wise I make sure to get plenty sleep on flights and train depending on energy when I land, day 1 I like to train so I can get settled and have a good sleep. I tend to land about 3 days before a show so I can adjust to the climate a little and adjust water according to hydration levels at that stage. Wholefoods tends to be my go too and then good steak houses in the last 24 hrs before going on stage.

💥 Is it important to train big compound lifts when specializing in asthetics?

For me compounds are always going to deliver, the bigger work loads adding the greatest bang for buck to the physique. When performed well I believe that and genetics will identify the aesthetic shape. Of course a bit of refining will be involved and isolating areas that don’t activate as well as they should for example. Growth is more systemic in my experience so spending endless hours isolating is not going to have the same impact as big movements moved well.

💥 What is an average day for you... training, work and eating?

I tend to work long hours, always have and that doesn’t drop during the season. I can be in the gym at 06:00 and not leave until late evening a lot of the time. Clients 1-1’s, writing articles, diets and programs, when I’m not I’m training eating or get home to cook. At the end of the day this is part of my profession so balancing client commitments with training and diet is all part of the process fitfodder deliver whole ingredients for me to save on time and effort to source quality, and Generation Café (Gym Co Belfast)do Fresh cooked chickens to add to my salads for example which makes the world of difference having fresh cooked food.

Regards work, I figure a well stimulated mind goes toward a good shape at the end of the day with glycogen use for hours of brain activity bound to add up over time too, especially in the relative absence of cortisol (associated with cardio for example). During prep I get up and make breakfast, whole eggs and avocado early in prep and may range to a period of steaks with avocado salad or nuts and leafy veg during a second phase and maybe into fish and eggs to ring the changes. I eat salads with whole chickens, homemade dressings and plenty fish, I tend to eat big as I am able to cut carbs well. I eat about 5 good sized meals a day spread as best I can, eating until satisfied. Utilising the glycoltic pathways to ensure slow steady glucose release from fats and protein through the day allowing a steady insulin state and good glucagon response. Alongside heavy lifting and busy work schedule I rip through fat at relative rest as is the choice, I do no training that invokes adaptation for energy efficiency, so no moderate work at all. I would take an 8 hour sleep over an early breakfast or training session, to keep the intensity when I do train and allow cortisol to be optimal. A great study showed sleep groups with 8 hrs compared to 5 and it stuck with me as the 8 hour group burned 55% of kcals from fat whilst the 5 hour group 35% and less utilized obviously. The other point of interest was Ghrelin caused the 5 hr group to consume greater Kcals the next day by an average of 200kcals, equally cortisol was less favourable in 5 hr group. So sleeping well during prep for the quality of training and hormone profile etc has always been important to me. I train 6 days a week in prep until a handful of weeks out and condition dependent add sprints and or double splits to achieve condition. Again I rate rest early on to avoid niggles, aches and to get the most out of the least amount of time, this gives me somewhere to go weekly if I am not coming in at the rate I want. Offseason I train 4-5 times a week, goal dependent and weaknesses etc. I seem to never stop eating and eat big, I have some ‘dirty’ foods as I please but my tendency is to remain fairly clean as a steak and potatoes and spinach pine nuts and blue cheese salad floats my boat more than a cheese burger ever would for example.