I am Carter Schoffer. I am a personal trainer, a writer, and a researcher. I have been studying and writing about the effects of exercise and nutrition to reduce body fat, improve endurance, and enhance health. I was born in 1979, and I am now 32 years old. I have always been interested in health, and I have always been interested in the body. I have always been interested in the effects of exercise, eating, and nutrition on the body. It all started when I was 11 years old.
Carter Schoffer is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon and is a member of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. He specializes in the treatment of lower limb disorders and sports medicine. He is also the founder of Body Optimization, LLC, a free-to-use, online, body-optimization program offered to all without charge, that has been proven to be a safe and effective means to lose weight and enhance fitness.
Carter Schoffer is a strength and conditioning coach and the former Director of Sports Nutrition and Performance for in London, Ontario. And now we’re talking about physical transformations with the man behind hundreds of them.
I’ll be releasing interviews with five of the best instructors in five different areas of expertise over the following five days. Tomorrow is Dr. Krista Scott-training. Dixon’s women’s Christian Thibaudeau will be doing bodybuilding on Wednesday. Eric Cressey will lead athletic preparation on Thursday, and Dave Tate will lead powerlifting on Friday. And every day, I’ll provide a link to a training program created by those professionals to work alongside. And all members will be able to participate in such programs for free. Membership comes with perks, as they say.
What about now? An interview with Carter Schoffer, the developer of a revolutionary new 12-week Body Transformation Program.
Carter Schoffer’s bio
Carter Schoffer is a strength and conditioning coach and the Director of Sports Nutrition and Performance at Science Link, Inc., the parent business of. He lives in London, Ontario.
Carter develops and maintains the training and nutritional programs of customers from all over the world, ranging from leisure exercisers of all levels to top athletes participating in college, Olympic, and professional sport.
Carter has also created a 12-week program called Body Transformation for Men as part of the Christmas bonus package for subscribers. If you’ve purchased, you may get started right away by clicking the link above (you may have to log in, as well).
What are you waiting for if you aren’t a member yet? It’s now or never to get started and Get. You’ll get PN in time for the holidays, along with the Body Transformation program and all of the other extras.
Carter is a difficult man to reach, but I was fortunate to get him on the phone last week for a few minutes to discuss training and diet, as well as how he got into coaching.
Q & A with Carter Schoffer
: You’re still very young, but you’ve been working with customers and athletes for quite some time. Have you always wanted to work in the area of strength and conditioning?
Carter Schoffer: Could you call me gorgeous instead of pretty? [Laughs.] But, yes, it has been a long time, now that I think about it. I’ve always loved this stuff, sports, training, everything, but I never imagined I’d make a profession out of it. In that way, I suppose I’ve been very lucky, since many people never get to earn a career doing what they love.
PN: What inspired you to pursue a career in this field?
Sports (CS). Also, there are girls. [Laughs.] No, I’ll think about it… I’d already started creating programs for friends and teammates when I was a teenager. I mean, I simply pieced things together based on what I saw in bodybuilding mags or at the gym. They weren’t quite pieces of art, but they got me started. But, if I had to pinpoint where it all began, I’d say it was in a high school class. My Biology instructor was fantastic, but he also taught a subject called “Physical Education: The Bioscientific Method.” And there, to me, was the greatest class in the world’s history. [Laughs.] It is still the case. We were taught applicable upper-level university nutrition, kinesiology, and physiology, and it wasn’t a joke. When I was in high school. It’s odd, but I still have my binder from the class. I still refer to it now and again. [Laughs.] Hold on, it’s really on my shelf. Yes, pay attention to this breakdown. Human Anatomy, Muscle Physiology and Mechanisms of Contraction, Energy Pathways for Muscle Contraction, Nutrition and Body Composition, Physical Fitness and Exercise, Cardiorespiratory Physiology, Biomechanics, Motor Ability and Motor Learning were some of the subjects covered. How fantastic is that? That was like a revelation for a youngster like myself, who was simply eating everything training-related he could get his hands on. It was my first introduction to the scientific aspect of exercise, and looking back, I consider myself very lucky to have had such a tutor.
PN: How did you get started as a professional in this field?
CS: Well, I had the wonderful fortune to meet John Berardi at the University of Western Ontario approximately seven years ago. JB was working on his PhD at the university, which is located in my city of London. I was exercising hard at the time, as well as creating programs for friends and other such activities. I’m a voracious reader, and I’d seen his writings on t-mag.com, which was then known as t-nation.com, and saw that he was a student at UWO. And it’s not often that we get specialists in our own backyard as Canadians. So I reasoned, “Why not?” I’ve just sent him an email. And he was really cool about it, saying something along the lines of, “Come by the lab and we’ll talk.” But I had no clue where “the lab” was or what it was. And you’re not the kind to ask for directions, are you? [Laughs.] So I wandered about for a couple of hours till I discovered it. But it was well worth it, and it turned out to be a pivotal event in my life. JB was seeking for well-trained people to be participants in his research, so I jumped at the chance…
PN: So you were a participant in the post-workout nutrition research?
CS: I believe I was the first one to participate. JB was doing mock tests in order to come up with procedures for testing the exercise drink he was developing, which would later become the foundation for Biotest Surge. And he was attempting to figure out what kind of workout to do. He had me come out to the gym since it was supposed to be weightlifting. Of course, this is just my second meeting with him, and I want to make a good impression. So he had us do these very hard volume circuits, and I’m going all out, slinging the weights about like it’s nothing. I start to feel sick about midway through the exercise, and he glances over, and all of a sudden, “Blaaahhhh!” – I’m vomiting all over the gym floor. [Laughs.]
PN: Ah, so that’s why he switched the protocol!
CS: That’s right; I suppose he didn’t like cleaning up vomit. [Laughs.] He eventually changed it to a cycling protocol, which was still very difficult. That one was also done by myself. But he had a little more control over it.
PN: Could you tell me more about the circuit he had you working on?
CS: If my memory serves me right, it was three non-stop circuits of 10 repetitions each of barbell back squat, standing barbell shoulder press, pulldowns, flat barbell bench press, and bent-over row. During the second circuit, I believe I puked after finishing the bent-over rows. [Laughs.]
PN: It couldn’t have been all terrible since you started working together not long after.
CS: Well, once everything was cleaned up, I did go ahead and finish the exercise, so that might have had a role. [Laughs.] But, yes, I believe, or at least hope, he was pleased by my efforts, and we got along swimmingly. The first meeting, I spoke a big game, and I attempted to back it up in the gym. I mean, I always want to make sure I walk the walk, and JB is the same way, so I believe we had something in common there. So, he asked what I was doing for training, and I assumed he was going to offer to create me a plan or something, so I showed him my most recent design. And I believe he was pleased since I ended up creating his training schedule for the following several months. [Laughs.]
But it was fantastic because he was creating my dietary plans and I was able to pick his brain the whole time. We’d go back and forth, talking about the study and finding out how to put it to use in real life. We were both at school, but we’d get together on campus and discuss business. I was dealing with a group of local athletes, whereas John had customers from all over the globe with whom he would consult through email, as well as all of the teams with whom he worked.
It turned out to be a huge number of case studies over the course of a few years. We were able to test everything in depth because John had access to all of the lab equipment, and when you do that, you really start seeing what works and what doesn’t. And that’s when we came up with this method of codifying the process. How do you get someone from point A to point B, for example? There are practically limitless point As and infinite point Bs, but the logical procedure to go from one to the other is always the same. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an athlete trying to improve your speed, a man looking to bulk up, or a lady looking to reduce weight or improve her health. It’s always a sequence of interventions followed by a number of tests to see how things went. As a result, we began to piece it all together and systematize it.
We eventually started to create this coaching program that existed completely online, first at johnberardi.com and now at precisionnutrition.com, when John had his PhD and we were both out of school. We’d get down and create plans together, go over the numbers, and strategize. Then I’d advise the clients to shut up and do it, or something along those lines. [Laughs.] I kind of became the evil policeman while John became the nice officer. But, honestly, that’s how I got started; it just kind of happened.
PN: What would you call yourself if you had to give yourself a work title?
CS: It’s fascinating because you’re either a personal trainer or a strength and conditioning coach in the conventional sense. And, to be honest, I’m neither of those things. I believe, as lofty as it may seem, I’d call myself a body optimization consultant if I had my way. Almost all of what I do is done from a distance. I am a coach, a program designer, a progress monitor, and a supporter. However, I don’t go to the gym with customers, so it’s a little different. So, in essence, I’m a consultant you hire to either complement or replace the knowledge you already have on hand. You can read all of the articles on the site, read the books, see the teams we work with, and even speak to customers and members on the forum, so you know what you’re getting with us. You may be certain that when you work with us, you’ll be getting the finest. It’s a complete crapshoot if you go into a typical commercial gym. You have no way of knowing what you’re going to receive. Some trainers are fantastic, while others are just terrible. It’s also very difficult for folks to tell the difference. We have customers that deal with both; some are dissatisfied with the counsel they’re receiving, while others, like some of our Olympic athletes, are working with the finest coaches in the world and just want another expert on their team of advisers. So it’s the portion of the title that says “consultant.”
That’s the greatest way I can explain what a competent trainer or coach accomplishes in terms of “body optimization.” You get down with a customer and determine what they want and what their objectives are. You consider where they are today, their lives, their physical condition, and their strengths and shortcomings. Then you teach them how to create the greatest physique they possibly can, using every tool at your disposal. That’s the thing: it goes beyond training. All of your efforts, including exercise, diet, and supplementation, must be coordinated. That is crucial.
PN: As a result, body optimization necessitates combining exercise, nutrition, and supplementation into a single regimen.
CS: Without a doubt. Yes, they’re components, but they’re just parts of a bigger jigsaw, and the only way to achieve results is to make sure each one is optimized separately before fully integrating them. How you exercise at the gym will influence what you eat and what supplements you need to take. Even if they’re the same age, body shape, or anything, a man who has a desk job and lifts weights four times a week would have a completely different strategy than a guy who trains five hours a day for top sports. He’ll also be taking a variety of vitamins.
In turn, how you eat will have a big impact on how much, how hard, and how frequently you can exercise. It goes much farther than that. We must consider the person’s whole existence. What do they make a livelihood doing? What level of activity do they have? How much time do they have to prepare the food? How much sleep do they get each night? Do they have a family, and if yes, how many children do they have? Do they have a nice training partner and pals who are also health and fitness enthusiasts? There are a slew of additional factors at work in each of our lives. To use that phrase again, body optimization includes all of them. Yes, it does. My goal is to devise a strategy that maximizes that client’s body in every way: how it looks, how healthy it is, how strong it is, how well it performs, how it reacts to stress, and so on. And in order to accomplish so, I need to control every single variable I can and get them to function together.
One of the benefits of being a little farther away from our customers is this. Many individuals make the mistake of concentrating only on one of those major groups. It’s like saying, “I’m going on a diet,” or “I’m going to work out more,” or “I’m going to take this or that supplement.” It’s simply simpler that way, since it’s lot easier for our brains to concentrate on a single task. Unfortunately, that is not the case. As a remote consultant, I am able to take a step back and look at the big picture. I can take a client’s comments, requests, complaints, and the like and make sure that everything I do is geared toward the larger goal, which is total body optimization. I don’t have to react or act right away, and I don’t have to make a split-second choice simply to satisfy someone. To work with us, you must commit to working with us for at least four months, if not longer, so I have that flexibility. Unfortunately, many trainers or coaches who are paid by the hour may feel obligated to keep a client pleased in the short term, even if it means jeopardizing their long-term development. That’s a common rookie blunder. The excellent trainers, the experienced ones, don’t care; they’ll tell it like it is. Consider yourself fortunate if you can locate one like that.
Even if individuals aren’t working with a trainer or coach, understanding how everything is linked is one of the greatest things they can do for themselves. They can learn how they interact, how to put together a plan for themselves that addresses all of these aspects, and how to test it to see whether it’s really working or not. In a nutshell, that is precisely what I do.
PN: Let’s take a step back for a moment. Do you recall the first time you lifted a weight?
CS: Oh, yes, I recall. [Laughs.] It still makes me chuckle when I think about it. I was probably about ten years old at the time. One of my best friends, who was a couple of years older than me, had an old-school concrete-filled plastic weight set set up on a bench. I recall benching about 100 pounds for a few repetitions each set. For the better part of two hours, my buddy and I were going back and forth. Anyway, we ended up completing about 37 repetitions apiece. So I recall later that some older students were talking about lifting, and I was trying to join in. “Oh, around 3700 pounds,” I say when they ask how much I bench. [Laughs.]
But it was in 9th grade that I had my first serious encounter with the iron game. The weightlifting group was run by my football coach and the biology instructor I mentioned before. As a result, I joined after the football season ended. I had the good fortune of being taught how to squat, deadlift, military press, bench, and row correctly. Those lifts were the emphasis of the bulk of my training. Which was wonderful since I wasn’t one of the unfortunate souls who had to learn on the Universal.
PN: Were you an active child as a youngster? Were you one of those men that seemed to be in fantastic condition all of the time?
CS: No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, Simply stated, I was overweight. By the fourth grade, I was 5’5″ and weighed 175 pounds. And it wasn’t until much later that I became interested in organized sports. I eventually became really interested in baseball and football, which helped me lose weight. At the age of 13, I could throw a fastball in the low 80s, but I never really learned to place it. [Laughs.] In a Canadian equivalent of a Pop Warner league, I played both sides of the line. As I grew older, I began to become more sporty and active, which helped my body composition.
But I did become anorexic at one point. I’ve just stopped eating. It wasn’t a matter of bodily distortion; the reality was that I was overweight. When you’re 97 pounds, it’s not like you’re thinking, “I’m not skinny enough.” And, thankfully, it was under control, in the sense that after I’d dropped the weight, I was able to resume eating. But for the most of eighth grade, I didn’t eat anything. I dropped weight, but it had a negative impact on my total development. My whole family is over 6 feet tall, but I’m just 5’9”. So I lost all this weight the incorrect manner, which is to say the most unhealthy way imaginable. In the end, I wasn’t jacked, slender, or anything like that. I still didn’t look the way I wanted to, and I didn’t know what I was doing. But I was self-aware enough to realize that I needed to find a better approach, and I needed to do it quickly.
So I knew from an early age that I would have to study all I could about exercise, diet, physiology, and everything else I could possibly learn, since it would never come naturally to me. I knew that learning everything and figuring out how to make it work for me was the only way for me to be healthy, athletic, and in excellent condition.
PN: Has your experience with an eating problem benefited you as a coach?
CS: Well, I’m hoping it will help me connect to others who are suffering since I’ve been there. Every small amount of progress I’ve made has been earned via hard effort. I’m not one of those genetic freaks that never has to exercise and can eat anything they want. I’ve been there, and I know how it feels. So I’m hoping it will help me better comprehend them and what they’re going through. But I believe it also aids me in intervening when necessary. Because you have to interfere as a coach. I had wonderful mentors, coaches, and instructors who wouldn’t take anything less than my best, and I was fortunate to have others step in and assist me when I needed it. So I’m comfortable stepping in for others because I know they need it and are in serious danger if they don’t. So, if I can assist customers in the same manner that I’ve been helped in my life, I’ve done a good job.
PN: What distinguishes those who get things done from those who don’t?
CS: Putting a plan of attack into effect, whatever that strategy may be. People are much too frequently paralyzed by analysis. Before getting off their butts, they wait for the ideal strategy. And successful individuals attach determination to their objectives, but they also recognize that these are lifelong endeavors. You might be motivated by a specific goal, such as losing ten pounds or benching a certain amount of weight, but I believe what sets you apart is the realization that eating well and exercising consistently are worthwhile pursuits in and of themselves. People that succeed find methods to enjoy the process, whether it’s via the food they consume, their exercises, or something else. They are content with their lives.
So it all boils down to having the right viewpoint. I occasionally use an example with customers who are frustrated because they haven’t seen a significant change in a few weeks or even months. I’ll work out how many weeks they’ve been alive. A 30-year-old, for example, has lived for almost 1500 weeks. Even though the 30-year-old has been working hard for three months, he has only completed 12 of the 1500+ weeks! They didn’t have a goal, weren’t working toward it, or were actively doing activities that were counterproductive for more than 1488 weeks of their life. So that individual has put in one week of productive labor for every 124 weeks of unproductive or inefficient effort in their lifetime. So don’t be discouraged by the 12 weeks of excellent fortune! Get rid of the 1488 terrible ones and start putting excellent ones in their place! That is the correct viewpoint, and although it is critical to achieve short-term achievements in order to keep the fire burning, it is equally critical to remember that.
PN: What qualities do you look for in a client?
CS: Someone who is driven by their own intrinsic motivation. Someone who has taken the choice to do something for good. We’ve worked with a diverse range of people, including players from almost every sport, corporate executives, students, retirees, and stay-at-home parents. And it doesn’t matter where you are right now, whether you’re a beginner or an expert athlete, whether you’re lean or fat, whether you want to enhance your performance or just improve your quality of life. It makes no difference what the objective is or who the individual is. All that counts is their desire to put in the work and keep it up. All I want is for you to do it.
PN: What about the coach, then? What qualities do you look for in a good coach?
CS: I believe there are a number of things. To begin, you must have a strong understanding of psychology, as well as the ability to inspire and influence others. If it were simply about program design, it would be so simple. Top coaches, consultants, and trainers all understand the importance of being able to read people and exploit their mental and emotional strengths and limitations. A connection must be established; you must get to know each other and learn what motivates them and what does not. A good coach is similar to a good teacher. Most of us can recall at least one instructor who has left an impression on us. The one who helped you believe in yourself by making you think that they believed in you; the one who didn’t give up on you when you were struggling and knew when and how to ignite a fire under your butt when you were dogging it. That is exactly what a good coach must accomplish.
Another important need is adaptability. A competent coach must be adaptable in terms of who they teach, how they train, the methods they use, and the approaches or tactics they employ. Great coaches find out what that individual need and tailor their programs to achieve that goal. And it’s the expected outcome, not always the one you want. A competent coach may need to overrule the client on occasion. You may have a client who wants to bench three times per week but needs to improve their posterior chain and subscapular stability. So you have to figure out what a customer requires, check whether it aligns with their desires, and then try as many various methods as you need until you discover one that works.
“Use no path as the way,” as Bruce Lee famously stated. When questioned about his fighting technique, Bruce said he didn’t have one. Instead, he attempted to be like water, flowing and adapting to the opponent, changing his strategy until the opponent was defeated. The same may be said about coaching. You don’t want to defeat your customers, but you do need to adapt to them. [Laughs.]
PN: You only provide online coaching to your customers. In fact, most of them would recognize your work more easily than they would recognize your face on the street. What impact has the internet had on your work?
CS: Well, it offers a platform for one expert to reach a larger audience, and vice versa, for that larger audience to reach expertise they would not have otherwise. It wasn’t an easy adjustment, however. I believe we were one of the first, if not the first, to use a distance-based Internet connection. We were just improvising as we went along. The best part is that it gives the trainer or coach access to the whole globe. We’ve worked with customers from all over the world, including Africa, Australia, Japan, Brazil, Portugal, Mexico, the Czech Republic, England, and Germany, to name a few. As a result, I may now claim to be world-famous. [Laughs.] However, it does make it more global. So you had these fascinating situations, such as a customer in Ghana who has remote Internet connection but no actual access to a contemporary gym or Western medical, and so on. That is an extreme example, but you should be more conscious of the client’s lifestyle in general, since it may vary significantly from your own. It presents me with difficulties I could never have anticipated. It also allows you to cooperate in ways that were previously impossible. Prior to the internet, having a skill coach, a sports psychologist, a doctor, a strength coach, a nutrition coach, and all of these experts working with the same player would be impossible. We now have methods to track someone’s journey on the internet and communicate that data with whomever needs to know. As a result, you may have top specialists in each area keeping an eye on you, almost like your own personal board of advisers.
Another effect is that it forces us to keep track of everything. All of my programs are written, and in order for them to make sense, I have to go into considerable textual detail. As a result, I’m forced to clarify my own thinking process and explain every aspect of the software. And because I’m not in the gym with my clients, I can’t just eyeball it, listen to their tone of voice, or read their body language to see how they’re doing. I need to be certain. I need to be able to put a number on it. So we have all of these measurements that we track on a regular basis, whether it’s body composition, recovery, blood work, strength, flexibility, or anything else. We’re also working on a web-based program called the Results Tracker [Ed: only available to beta testers], which essentially keeps track of everything for you online. So everything is in black and white; either it works or it doesn’t. And I believe that this pushes me to remain on task, as well as keeping the customer on track. Even shooting digital pictures is a good example. All of our customers must take pictures and submit them to me, as well as look at them themselves, which is frequently motivating in and of itself.
PN: Do you ever grow bored of staring at other men’s undies?
CS: I don’t have anything to say. [Laughs.]
PN: How do you believe the internet has impacted fitness enthusiasts?
CS: There’s a lot more direct access to the professionals now. If you wanted to study the Westside Barbell approach before the internet, for example, you had to go to Westside Barbell or know Louie Simmons directly. And that’s assuming you knew what Westside was in the first place. However, good news travels quickly these days, and you can read everything Dave Tate has written and learn a lot about the most creative powerlifting system available without ever leaving your computer. [Laughs.] So, if you really utilize it, it’s great. However, it is a two-edged sword. Every keyboard jockey may now claim to be an expert in their field. If you spend more than a few minutes on any forum, you’ll see that this is true. A 140-pound bodybuilder with a 20%+ bodyfat percentage preaches about how to diet and train to be a 220-pound bodybuilder with a 5% bodyfat percentage. Or a 300-pound self-proclaimed powerlifter who can’t bench a plate is lecturing others on how to use bands and weight releasers effectively. So the issue is still figuring out who to trust and keeping them responsible by putting their advise to the test.
PN: Let’s suppose someone approaches you and says they’ve been trying to become slim, muscular, or both for a few years but haven’t had any success. What do you think they’ve been doing wrong, if you had to guess?
CS: First and foremost, luck has nothing to do with it. But, in general, if results are missing, the individual is either not changing his approach or changing it much too often, in other words, changing for the sake of change rather than need. Those are two issues that I often encounter, although they are clearly generalizations, and there are a plethora of other options. Another issue is a lack of intensity at the gym, with individuals being much too gentle with themselves. It’s meant to be difficult at least part of the time, and if it isn’t, there’s a problem. But there are others, which is why we have a screening procedure in place to determine what is holding the individual back.
PN: Is that individual likely to be performing some things correctly, or will a complete redesign of the strategy be required?
CS: You’re doing a lot of things correctly if you’re eating healthy meals and doing weights. That’s the starting point. From then, it’s all about maximizing how you lift those weights, or the workouts you do; how much or how much volume you use, how hard or intense the lifts are, and how frequently you lift the weights. And, of course, what they’re eating, how much of it they’re eating, and when they’re eating it. It is difficult to say how far the individual is from optimal performance. Some just need a few changes and someone to look at the big picture for them, while others need a smack across the face. [Laughs.]
PN: What role does nutrition have in bodily transformation?
CS: This is essential. Nutrition, like exercise, is crucial. People frequently say things like, “Nutrition is 90% of the equation, while training is 10%,” or even, “Nutrition is 50% of the equation, while training is 50% of the equation.” They’re missing the point, in my opinion. It’s like if you’re asking, “Which comes first, the lungs or the heart?” The bottom line is that if you can’t breathe, you’ll die, just as if you can’t pump blood, you’ll die. They’re both essential, and there’s no space for dissenting opinions; it’s a given. But which do I see the most people ignoring? Nutrition, without a doubt.
PN: Carter, thank you so much for taking the time to do this for us.
CS: No problem, whenever you want.
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