"I'm not a quitter. It’s like a dog you know, you can kick a dog so long and it'll do two things. It's either going to roll over and die, or it's going to bite you and attack you. And I'm the kind of person that is the type of dog who would bite back, I wasn't going to roll over and quit."
A very influential man named Mike Katz said these words in a famous 70’s bodybuilding film. This mentality had him coming back over and over again to the stage, always looking to improve and achieve his goals. A modern day example of this determination is recently crowned IFBB Pro John Meadows.
John started competing at the young age of 13 years old, ever since he started weight training; he knew he wanted to be a professional bodybuilder. John played football, did track, and wrestled in high school, so the weight training was crucial for his success in these sports. But as soon as he finished high school, he completely focused on bodybuilding and never looked back.
John placed last to guys much older than him at the first show he did in 1985, but he kept working hard at improving his physique. In 1992, after years of improving, he won the 1st place award at the teenage Mr. Cincinnati show. This kind of work ethic is what has caused him to keep coming back, despite many whiffs of a pro card in the IFBB. He had heard it all, that he would never win a pro card, that his physique just wasn’t good enough, that he could not control his midsection, but he went on to show that determination can get an individual very far. While he was on his quest for a pro card, John has also coached some top names in the bodybuilding world, and has helped many guys turn pro through his online coaching business. He has one of the most reputable bodybuilding sites online under the name of Mountain Dog. I had the pleasure of interviewing John and getting a look into this pro’s life, while getting some advice all of us could apply to our own fitness journey.
Juan: Hey John, thank you very much for giving us an insight into the life of such a reputable trainer and IFBB pro. Congratulations on your recently earned pro card, we know you’ve been trying to get it for many years. Did you get demotivated at any point in this journey, and what drove you towards going back over and over again for it?
John: Of course, the most frustrating thing is that I was told my issue was not my muscle or my condition, but that it was my structure; and this was something I could not change. This assessment was correct, so I had to develop my physique in a way that made me look better aesthetically. For example, year after year, I tried to get a bigger quad sweep and wider shoulders to accentuate a V-taper, because my pelvic girdle is so big. Every time I thought about throwing in the towel, I would make some improvements, and then think: “hmm...well maybe I'll look better on stage this time, so let’s find out!” and that old “dangle the carrot” trick worked on me. So I just kept hanging around trying to get that carrot.
Juan: It definitely worked! What went through your head when you realized that you had earned that pro card you had been fighting so hard for?
John: I was completely overwhelmed with emotion. The moment they announced second place, I heard the crowd go crazy. I knew it was because they knew that I was the winner. I tried really hard to control my emotions, but cried anyway. Backstage there were so many people crying for me, it was truly touching. The following week, I got emails from people all over the world saying they actually cried when I won. I am so thankful for this moment, and the support I received all along the way; I will never forget it.
Juan: Wow it sounds like an unbelievable moment, I remember myself refreshing online forums every second waiting to hear the winner of this event. Now, at this point in your bodybuilding career, what would you say have been the biggest setbacks you’ve experienced and how did you overcome them?
John: 10 years ago I lost my entire colon due to a disease I had, which was idiopathic myointimal hyperplasia of the mesenteric vein. This led to me having 6 surgeries in total; everyone around me, including myself, thought I would never compete again at a high level. I just kept fighting through this while staying focused on my training. I decided to live my life and not feel sorry for myself, this mindset, focus and work ethic eventually paid off.
Juan: Definitely a major setback in your career. How did you get this disease and how did you have to change your training, nutrition, or just overall lifestyle after this?
John: Many people have asked me how I got the disease in the first place; the truth is that I don't know. It would take a novel to tell you all the different tests they did to me to figure it out, but the answer they gave me was that it was idiopathic, meaning they had no idea. The good news is that this experience didn't really derail me. Initially I had to be very careful about how heavy I trained as they used the same incisional line to open me up for every surgery. This means that I was at high risk to get incisional hernias, which I did, and man did I. I think I got 4 or 5 until I had a giant mesh put me in me and my abs literally sewn back together. At the risk of sounding gross, I do have to always be aware of where bathrooms are, as not having a colon means I really don't have much transit time for food, not the luxury of simply holding it in when I eat. To put it bluntly, when I have to go, I have to go.
Juan: Wow that definitely makes your life different. In order to keep improving after this, what major changes have you done to your diet and training throughout the last 10 years to keep getting better?
John: The biggest change was the emphasis in nutrient timing, specifically what I consume around and during training. This enabled me to recover much faster and train more often. Once I nailed this, my progress took off in a big way.
Juan: You train many high level physique athletes around the world. What would you say are some of the biggest mistakes in regards to training and nutrition you see these individuals making?
John: Nutrition wise, it’s the lack of belief in nutrient timing. For people who train hard and with high volume, nutrient timing is critical to maxing out your potential. Training wise, it’s not understanding the most effective way necessary to create hypertrophy. Many erroneously rely on just going heavy all the time, regardless of form, injuries, etc. it’s just not an approach that will survive the long haul.
Juan: It is very interesting you keep mentioning nutrient timing and how underrated it can be. Can you please give us a little bit more information on specifically what you mean by this?
John: Nutrient timing is a very important part of my own, and my client’s plans. The harder you train, and the more volume you train with, the more value it brings you. If you don't train hard or with much intensity, nutrient timing loses most of its benefits. When I say nutrient timing it's more of what I eat pre and intra workout. Most people associate nutrient timing with what they eat post workout. If you address muscle protein breakdown while you train, you really are getting ahead. I would say 95% of the people I coach see very good increases in recovery allowing them to train more. The more you can train and recover, the better you can get.
Juan: In the clients you train, what do you recommend they do to improve lagging body parts?
John: They must learn to maximize the mind to muscle connection. Most people just tag on a few sets at the end of their workout to target their weak body parts. They think this is good enough, but it's not! They must learn to maximize the mind to muscle connection, and then increase frequency. Without a great mind to muscle connection, you can add all the volume and frequency you want, but it won’t help.
Juan: If you could go back to your first Jr USA contest in 1998 and talk to young John, what advice would you give him in regards to your bodybuilding journey?
John: Well, I competed with a guy in that show named Tommy. He also won his pro card the same show that I did this year. We both went head to head for the overall in the over 40. I would talk to both him and I, and I would say: “even though you didn’t win this show, don't get down, and above anything else, make sure your focus for every show you do from now on, is to simply get better. Forget about placings, and other people, just focus on making you better. If you get better and better, eventually your time will come.”
Juan: And the time has certainly come, we are all excited to see you do some damage on the pro circuit. What’s next for John Meadows and what footprint do you want to leave in the bodybuilding world?
John: I want to leave a massive legacy, not from winning titles, but from changing the way people think about training, nutrition, and the ability to have a successful business. I want to show people you can actually make a good living in the sport. I want people to see that it is ok to be humble and to have class, and these are not signs of weakness, but strength. I want competitors to all be semi social and support each other, the bash fests need to end.
Juan: I totally agree, we need more humble bodybuilders who truly want to help. Thank you very much for the interview John and for giving our OPA readers an insight into your life. Where can we follow you on social media, what coaching services do you offer, and how can we contact you?
John: You guys can follow me on:
Facebook: John Meadows
And check out my website where it will show you all the programs offered as well as products such as our new food bars at http://mountaindogdiet.com/
With the pursuit of achieving the best possible physique and helping hundreds of clients do the same, Juan Rojas has dedicated his life to finding the best strategies for transforming human bodies. Constant research, trial and error and continous education in the exercise physiology and nutrition field, Juan Rojas thrives off finding the most efficient ways to transform your body and live a happier and healthier lifestyle.