We talked with Andrew Chappell in November, 2019.
👋 Hi! Tell us about yourself and your training
Hi I’m Dr. Andrew Chappell. I have a PhD in nutrition and degree’s in sports science and human nutrition. I’m also a pro natural bodybuilder with both the World Natural Bodybuilding Federation (WNBF) and Drug Free Athletes Coalition (DFAC). I’ve been involved in the health and fitness industry since 2004 and took part in my first bodybuilding competitions back in 2006.
I was 19 years old, and it was the British Natural bodybuilding Federation (BNBF) Scottish championship. I won the Jnr class (under 21 at the time) and went onto compete in the British finals where would I come 2nd. I’ve been hooked on bodybuilding ever since.
Fifteen years later, I’ve competed in around 30 shows, winning eight Scottish and six British titles, and two pro cards; I’ve also competed in seven international competitions and six pro shows.
My best placings are a 3rd place at the DFAC Worlds as heavyweight in 2017 and the 3rd place in the middleweight class at the WNBF Worlds in 2019.
I’ll win a pro show one day hopefully, but for now I’m content with the packages I’ve brought to the stage and the placings, even if I am always the bridesmaid!
More important than placings though, I love this sport, I’ve met so many wonderful people, and had so many fantastic experiences thanks to bodybuilding. I’ve also managed to craft a career out of researching bodybuilders.
On the research front, I work as a lecturer in nutritional studies at the Robert Gordon University and I’m a registered sports nutritionist. I also run my own coaching company called, ProPrepCoaching with my partner Steff Noble, who is also a Pro Natural Bodybuilder with the WNBF and DFAC.
We offer a professional coaching service, which is unique, you get two professional bodybuilders offering online coaching in the same package.
We work with all different types of athletes from strongman to powerlifting, triathletes to rugby players and general lifestyle clients. We get a real buzz out of coaching and love working with clients to help them reach their goals.
As a researcher, I specialise in studying bodybuilding populations. I’ve published on bodybuilding dietary strategies, physiological and psychological effects of dieting and bodybuilding supplements.
The long term goal is to try and develop some evidence-based guidelines for bodybuilding populations so competitors can maximise muscle mass retention and reduce their bodyfat levels as they prep. I use my research to inform the strategies I use with my ProPrep clients.
Be sure to check out my research papers on pubmed, just search Chappell and bodybuilding. I’ve included a few links to some of my research below that I’m sure your readers will fine interesting. Be sure to also check out my Facebook and Instagram for updates on my latest research.
Some of my studies:
- Nutritional strategies of high level natural bodybuilders during competition preparation
- Nutritional Peak Week and Competition Day Strategies of Competitive Natural Bodybuilders
- Nutritional strategies of British professional and amateur natural bodybuilders during competition preparation
⏱ Describe a typical day of training
Training varies depending on the time of year (off-season/on-season), current goal (bodybuilding/strongman/powerlifting) and phase of training (strength/ hypertrophy). I like to periodise my training and work in blocks that last between six to 12 weeks. One thing which is common to all my phases are the core exercises, and my rate of perceived exertion.
I always do compounds (squat, bench, deadlifts, shoulder press, rows, etc.) and I always work as hard as I can within the rep range specified. I’m always trying to increase the weight lifted from week to week, be it three rep or 15 rep schemes.
The programmes that have given me the best results for bodybuilding are classic style body part splits. When it comes to strength training, full body workouts multiple times per week work best for me. I tend to utilise both during the off-season.
I also like to focus on weak body parts with touch up training (extra exercises multiple times per week) or I might include additional days training for that body part.
Typically, a session involves a strong coffee, warming up with barbells with some dynamic mobility. I then focus on the big exercises, with some warmups (two to three sets of a light weight).
It’s then anything from nine to 20 sets a session per body part. Compounds are usually always first and then smaller assistance or isolation exercise follow. When I’m prepping for competitions, I’ll add cardio to the end of the sessions. Usually anything between 15 to 30 minutes, low intensity, fast walking on an incline.
When it comes to strength training, I like to use bands chains, specialist bars-giant tyres, farmers walks, atlas stones. They are great for conditioning and building the physique as well as full body strength.
The most recent training split I followed while prepping for the WNBF Worlds looked something like this:
- Day 1: Back and Hamstrings
- Day 2: Chest and Calves
- Day 3: Arms
- Day 4: Quads and Calves
- Day 5: Shoulders and Abs
- Day 6: Rest
- Day 7: Rest
👊 How do you keep going and push harder?
I’ve been doing this for so long now it’s a way of life. I think it’s important though to consistently set new goals from season to season. I set short, medium and long-term goals consistently to keep me focused.
For example, it might be to complete more sets, reps or weight lifted on an exercise, compete in a local powerlifting contest or prep for a guest spot. Doing this helps me keep my eye on the ball, which is important since it might be two years between bodybuilding competitions. I think it’s also important to know when to take a break, when to go at it hard and when to take your foot off the gas.
Bodybuilding is full on, and time off gives you a rest both mentally and physically. In the off-season, I’m more relaxed than most, it’s important for me to be able to unwind. I’ve been in the sport for a long time so being less ridged and being able to relax I think has stopped me from burning out.
In terms of hacks, motivational music helps, I like Rage Against the Machine. I also like to visualise sets; I look at the photos of my peers and write goals in my training diary.
It’s also great to have a training partner like Steff Noble. We set high standards and she inspires me to give my all.
I don’t think you can train 100% all the time but these little things help when I lack motivation. I like to think I nail about 95% of my sessions in the off-season, it’s harder to get that consistency during the competitive season when you’re on lower calories, but I’ve always maintained that if you’re on it more than 80% of the time, then it’s enough to make progress.
For me though, the training isn’t really the hardest part of bodybuilding, the diet and the monotony of it is far more of a challenge. People often say to me they couldn’t be a bodybuilder because they couldn’t do the dieting. It’s tough, it’s psychologically marathon. At times its pure drudgery.
Developing good habits and routine is vital since motivation only lasts so long. That’s not really a hack, but If you can do that, then you’ll stick to a plan regardless of how your’re feeling.
🏆 How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
It’s taken me a long time to get to the top of the natural bodybuilding game. Most guys tend to peak about my age, 33.
This is my 6th year as a pro, I’d love to break my duck and eventually win a pro show since I’ve had several 2nds and 3rds. So that’s a goal, going forward I’d also love to compete more often in the classic classes with the PCA, UKBFF and NABBA over here in the UK. Every year the UKBFF give invites to the Arnold Classic Europe so I’d love to qualify.
Winning the Pro World middle weight title with the WNBF is my long term goal at the moment. I was close in 2019 so I don’t think it’s an unrealistic goal for 2020 or 2021.
That aside I’ll be looking to progress in my research and teaching career, with more studies on bodybuilding populations and ambitions of producing more sports nutrition educational material based around bodybuilding.
I’m available for seminars and have some scheduled for Italy and Germany next year. So if people around the UK and US are interested and want to book me, I’d be interested to hear from you.
Finally, I’d love to see ProPrep continue to grow. Coaching and helping people reach their goals is something myself and Steff are both passionate about so I can’t wait to see where we take business in the future and how our clients progress.
🤕 How do you recover, rest and handle injuries?
I generally find if I’m eating enough, I’ll recover well. I eat a lot of carbs, around 5 to 7 g per kg of BW, and I find this makes a huge difference to how I recover. I also auto regulate. I know when I’m in the gym and I’ve done enough so I don’t tend to do sets for the sake of it.
Sometimes it just ends up being junk volume. Usually in the off-season I’m looking at three to four sessions per week with weights. On-season, rest and recover becomes more vital since I can train five sometime six times per week and my energy intake is lower.
To help with recovery, I like to incorporate Pilates and yoga into my training, I find this helps me recover, and conditions me for my training. It also helps me unwind. I’d recommend yoga to everyone with a busy lifestyle. It’s good to just have that one hour per week where you can let the outside world melt away.
I also like to use the spa at the local health club. Jacuzzis, steam and saunas are good to unwind, which helps recovery. There’s also some potential advantage to utilising the heat to boost recovery, it definitely helps me when my joints are sore.
If I’ve got time, I also like to get some deep tissue work done once per month, it’s good to get knots worked out and niggles addressed. The key message here I would say is it’s important to look after yourself. You pound yourself all the time and it leaves you susceptible to injury, so keep yourself loose and mobile.
On the topic of injures, ice is something I swear by in the initial stages of any injury, followed by anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen), compression and rest. Sometimes it’s possible to work around injuries with heat and cold rubs if you get an injury you can’t work around my advice would be to seek professional help.
See a qualified sports physiotherapist who’s used to working on athletes like bodybuilders. The human body is complicated, and self-diagnosis often leads to crude and inefficient rehab.
🍎 How is your diet and what supplements do you use?
I’m what you’d call a “clean eater”, I make a plan, and I stick to it for the duration of the diet. I don’t do refeeds, although I do carbohydrate cycle. I try to keep as much variety in the diet as I can with plenty of whole grains, starches, vegetables, low fat dairy, nuts and lean cuts of meat.
I also eat the same things day in and out to reduce the variation in energy intake. I’ve found this approach makes it easier to monitor weight loss and to manipulate variables.
The diet for competition prep usually lasts between 32 to 20 weeks. That’s a long time but it’s important to take it slow to retain muscle mass while losing bodyfat.
I also peak for competition. I’m often right on the cut off for my weight class so sometimes the plan might vary depending on weight limits. Peaking usually involves water loading and cutting, carb depleting and loading, and sodium depletion.
I’ve gone as high as 2400g of carbs over three days and and drank up 26L of water. If you want to know more about peaking for bodybuilding you can check out my research paper on the subject with my colleague Dr. Trevor Simper.
As for the off-season, things are much more relaxed, I’ll eat similar foods to my contest prep but in higher quantities. I don’t have designated cheat or refeed days, but I’ll usually have three or four meals or things off plan per week. Often, it’s at the weekend or when I’m traveling and it’s not convenient or practical to prep a whole load of food.
Going out with friends and enjoying social events and having foods off plan isn’t an issue for me, I eat six to seven times per day, seven days per week, that’s 42 to 49 meals, a handful of meals here and there isn’t going to make or break my diet.
I like a glass of wine, I like whisky, cigars and chocolate cake. I don’t binge drink and I don’t binge eat; balance is important. Life’s for living so I’m not going to deprive myself in the off-season. On season is different, but you need to enjoy the off-season, otherwise I don’t think you’ll last very long in this sport.
For macros I’ll consume:
Calories; 34 to 41 kcal / kg BW,
Protein; 2.0 to 2.7 g/ kg BW
Carbs; 4.0 to 6.0 g/ kg BW
Fats; 0.5 to 1.0 g/ kg BW
Calories; 37 to 45kcal / kg BW,
Protein; 1.6 to 2.3 g/ kg BW
Carbs; 4.0 to 7.0 g/ kg BW
Fats; 1.0 to 1.4 g/ kg BW
The overall amount of energy I consume will come down as I try to lose weight along with the relative energy intake. For example, this year I started my diet at around 3900kcal per day (42 kcal per kg BW, at 92kg). By the end of the diet, I was on about 2700 kcal (33 kcal per kg BW, at 80kg).
In terms of supplements, it depends on the time of year and the season.
In the off-season I take:
- Fish oils
- Vitamin D during the winter months
- Protein powders
- Carbohydrates and electrolyte powders
- The occasional pre-workout
On-season, I’ll use the same supplements as the off-season but I’ll also use:
- Caffeine gum
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin B complex
I always use sodium bicarbonate
The brands I use include Extreme Nutrition, Boditronics and Peak Ingredients. I use Seven Seas fish oil and I tend to use supermarket own brand multivitamins, I see them more as an insurance policy rather than being vital to maintain health.
👍 What has inspired and motivated you?
I draw inspiration from those around me and the goals I set for myself. I’m extremely intrinsically motivated, I do what I do for me and I’d still bodybuild even if there were no shows to do; for me it’s a lifestyle. There are external motivators of course and winning competitions, acclaim, respect from your peers and new life experiences are also great motivators, I mentioned some of these earlier on like trying to win a Pro World title.
Lots of things inspire me though, in life and in bodybuilding, I like music, art, architecture, nature, science, history, sports, books, and the human condition. I take pleasure from seeing people do things well and can appreciate the skill in simple tasks or in the complexity and beauty in nature.
Specifically related to bodybuilding though, I train around some real monsters in the gym. They always egg each other on and it’s important to hold your own in an environment like that. Most of my friends are pro bodybuilders, strongmen or high-level athletes. We all hold each other accountable and it helps maintain standards.
My partner Steff who I mentioned is one of the best Pro Figure athletes in the world. She inspires me to be the best I can, and I always try to maintain standards to motivate her and she does the same for me when I’m less motivated.
When I was young it was always about being number one, wanting to prove myself. These days my thinking has changed, I still want to win, but I like the thought of inspiring others with my physique. I have a classic look that people seem to like, so if I can be a positive role model and a force for good, that motivates me.
If I’m lacking in motivation I’ll listen to music, as I mentioned above, I like Rage Against the Machine, and I usually listen to metal. If I’m lacking motivation I look at training videos and photographs of past bodybuilding champions. I tend to look up golden era guys from the 70s or 80s, and I got into bodybuilding in the early 00s so all the guys from the 90s and 00s are my go-to motivators. The physiques of the 70s and 80s are what I strive to try and replicate. If I’m ever in doubt, I just ask myself, what would Arnold do!
✏️ Advice for other people who want to improve themselves?
Always try your best and don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t be scared to start something new and don’t put too much weight on what others think about your ambitions. Be realistic, but don’t let nae sayers hold you back and stunt your growth.
It’s always good to experiment and work things out for yourself, but initially I think it’s always a good idea to lean on more experienced individuals in any walk of life. A mentor is helpful, but do some research on your topic before you dive in.
In terms of bodybuilding specific advice, the above still applies, however the following might also be useful:
Training wise, form is paramount. Being able to move the big weights that add the muscle will come later, just be patient.
Consistency and good habits are more important than beast mode and training infrequently. Aim for lifestyle change and balance, not disordered eating and all or nothing.
Finally, energy intake is probably the main thing holding you back when it comes to dieting. Most people realise you need to eat protein but are unsure about fats and carbohydrates.
Aim for a diet which is roughly 30 to 40 kcal per kg BW and 25% protein, 50% carbohydrate and 25% fat. If you do this and lose weight you’ll know you need a little more food, if you gain weight you know you’ll need a little less.
🤝 Are you taking on clients right now?
Yes. I run a company with my partner Steff Noble called, ProPrepCoaching. So if you’d like to come on board with the number 1 Pro Bodybuilding couple in the UK, we’d love to work with you. Our website is www.proprepcoaching.com. Also check out our Instagram, YouTube and Facebooks.
We take on all kinds of clients and aren’t exclusive to bodybuilding. We work with lifestyle and general weight loss clients too, pro bodybuilders, strongmen, powerlifters, rugby players and triathletes. From soccer moms to shredded beasts!
📝 Where can we learn more about you?
Visit my website:
Andrew Chappell Bodybuilding & Fitness
ProPrepCoaching by Steff Noble & Dr Andrew Chappell
You can find me on ResearchGate if you’d like to read any of my published research.