What It Means To Be Swole

An Interview with Diet Guru Chris Janusz

We live in a society of specialists. You don't just go to the doctor anymore, you go to the podiatrist, urologist, or any one of a number of "ists." Lawyers specialize in divorce, contracts, or defending mobsters. The same thing is true of practically any field simply because, as knowledge expands, it's just too damn difficult to be an expert in every aspect of a profession.

The same is becoming true of weight lifting and bodybuilding. Witness "SwoleCat," a.k.a. Chris Janusz. While he knows plenty about lifting weights, he's made a reputation for himself as the guy who gets you shredded in the last few days before an event or contest.

His mark is clearly visible on some of the more successful bodybuilding competitors in the last few years. T-mag's own Christian Thibaudeau is a recent example of what "SwoleCat" can help a dedicated individual accomplish.

Those of you familiar with SwoleCat know that he's not shy and that he's passionate, knowledgeable, outspoken at times, and in every sense of the word, hardcore.

Let's hear what he has to say.

In the Beginning...

Testosterone: Chris, before we get started, the curiosity is killing me, how did you get the nickname SwoleCat?

SwoleCat: It's a name that came from people seeing me at the gym I used to work out at, and they would say, "Damn, that's a swole cat," or "Damn, that cat is straight swole!" Meaning, "Damn he's buff!" So, my friends started calling me SwoleCat, and the name just stuck. When I joined my first message board on the net, I chose the name SwoleCat as my screen-name, and it's been that way ever since.

T: Fair enough. Lets start with a little personal background. Where did you grow up, and what did your parents do for a living?

SwoleCat: I was born in Louisiana and then raised in California from age 2 on. I am an only child, and my Mom teaches in California while my Dad runs his own art gallery and custom picture-frame shop.

T: I've always thought that it's interesting to see how people's lives are shaped by their parents. Obviously the "teacher" within you comes from your mother, and your father's influence has helped you with your website development, among other things.

SwoleCat: Yes, totally. Both of my parents are great communicators in general, and are true "people persons." That means a great deal when you're interacting with others. Also, when you're "coaching" or "teaching" someone in regards to diet and exercise, it's very valuable to be able to get along with and understand people from all walks of life. You have to – or else you're facing an uphill battle when it comes to helping them achieve the look he or she is after.

T: Well, we're five minutes into this interview and I can already tell by your mannerisms and enthusiasm that you have a competitive edge about you. Did you play sports growing up?

SwoleCat: Yes, I was a basketball freak and played that growing up. I also loved baseball. I was mostly known for my jumping ability and sprinting, so basketball was always my favorite. Interesting enough, I also had pretty good speed. I ran a 4.4 40-yard dash and nearly walked on at a major University for football, but a tendon tear prohibited me from chasing that dream.

T: So when did bodybuilding enter the picture and do you remember the first time you set foot into a weight room?

SwoleCat: Yes! It was because I severly tore tons of tendons and totally tore the planteris tendon in my right foot and leg. I guess it never mentally "healed" from that event. I know I've never been the same on the court. It wasn't long after that accident that I began taking a right turn into the weight room upon entering the gym, instead of going to the left to play hoops.

T: Well, your physique indicates that you've spent a few hours in the gym. A lot of people don't know this, but from time to time you compete in amateur shows, right?

SwoleCat: Thanks for the compliment! Yes, it's my hobby, lifestyle, living, career, and calling. I'm never going to be a competitive bodybuilder as a pro, and would not want to have to do all that's necessary to compete at that level. I'd rather look great, help others look great, compete from time to time, get some acting, TV, movie-extra roles, do printwork, run a web-site, run a personal training and dietary-consultation business as I'm doing now – and just spread myself out into many areas.

Is This Cat for Real or What...

T: Just so our readers know that you're not an "armchair expert," what are your personal stats?

SwoleCat: I'm 6'1", 232 lbs with body fat around 6% or so at this time. Right now I'm cutting for pics in about 3 weeks. My arms are over 20 inches, but I'd have to measure the other parts, as it's been years since I've done that! I was always one to go by the total package, meaning that I would assess how I looked from head to toe, and focus on adding size to certain areas I felt needed attention. I never relied upon the tape measure, or the scale. Both can contribute to some serious mental games.

T: You have built quite a reputation as a pre-contest prep expert and diet guru. Tell us exactly what it is that you do for a living.

SwoleCat: Currently, I provide dietary consultation and personal training to people around my local area with my techniques, but most notably via the world-wide web at numerous message boards all across the Net. I've helped hundreds, and I hope to help thousands more. The programs I currently offer are SwoleGenix and SwoledUp. SwoleGenix is a lightning fast, fat-burning diet that ensures you keep ALL LEAN MASS, while lowering body fat significantly.

Many find they gain lean mass on SwoleGenix due to the patterns they receive, however that's not the focus of the program, but it's a nice plus! SwoledUp is my lean-mass gainer, enabling one to bulk up at a bit slower than normal. However, you accrue far LESS body fat while attaining that lean muscle when compared to traditional bulking diets.

I mentioned earlier that I'd like to get into the movie and TV extra scene, do some printwork, etc. I'd like to eventually be what I call the "Master P. of the fitness industry." I am also going back to school to work on my degree in nutrition so as to become a registered dietician in a hospital one day. That's my ultimate goal. I already have a BA in English and Human Communication, so I'd like to keep adding to that.

Getting Down to Business...

T: Now I understand that even though you're primarily thought of as a contest-prep expert, you actually spend more time working with people from all walks of life, including recreational bodybuilders, businessmen, and even housewives.

SwoleCat: Yes, and this has been quite the most amazing experience and fun with all that I do. There will always be a few people getting ready for shows that need all of the intricate detailed days laid out for them, but there are thousands and thousands more who are what others may dub "regular Joe's." These are people from all walks of life, who are not the typical bodybuilder; they are not fitness oriented; they don't know what terms like carbs and macro-nutrients mean; and they need something that's structured and easy! I make it a point to explain to people that my methods do require you do a little bit of weight training, but you don't have to be some hardcore, muscle-bound fanatic. I do help some who don't ever want to touch weights, but I don't encourage those types of lifestyles as what I like to do is a two-fold body transformation – not just a typical fat loss oriented diet, with no regard to lean mass. However, you don't need to be doing a contest to work with me, you can be a "regular Joe" and succeed.

T: So how did you get interested in dieting and macronutrient manipulation? Was it out of need from your competitive days or was it something else?

SwoleCat: In all honesty, it was from my life experience of having anorexia nervosa when I was a senior in high school. I remember seeing my senior portraits and thought my face was too fat. I then simply stopped eating. Keep in mind I knew nothing about nutrition at this time in my life. To make a long story short, I almost died one day while at work. I was only 155 pounds at my current height of 6'1", and I looked very scary. I hid it from everyone, but word soon got out. I then ate "somewhat" normal again, and ballooned back up over my starting weight. Tired of all the madness, my research began. I read everything I could get my hands on, believed in the low-fat craze of the early 90's, found out that did not work for my body type, and kept learning.

Once I began to play basketball a lot, I ate healthier, but it was nothing like a bodybuilder's diet, or what one would eat to keep a lean/built physique. Once I caught the weight bug, I tried it all! I knew about low carbs, ketones, etc., even before Atkins and BodyOpus hit the mainstream media. I never stopped learning and listening and experimenting. Finally overcoming the "madness" of an image problem within yourself is a very valuable tool. Once you've made yourself over, you simply want to show and tell everyone how rewarding it is. It's those people that I aim to reach.

T: So where did you go for early dietary advice. Books? Muscle magazines? Other body builders?

SwoleCat: Books, hospitals, not so much magazines as 99% of the dietary and training advice in those types of publications don't work for you or me. I learned a lot from some old-school bodybuilders in the area as well, and have since helped a few of them with my practices, and they are amazed that I can now teach them.

T: Sort of like the student "teaching" the teacher?

SwoleCat: Something like that. In all honesty, it's really about give and take, and teaching what you have been taught.

T: All in all, how many years would you say you have under your belt perfecting what you do today?

SwoleCat: Ten years of constant learning and attacking that "image" problem I spoke of. I don't have the actual statistic, but I did read somewhere that about 90% of all bodybuilders and fitness fanatics had some type of eating disorder. Let's face it, once you're in shape and you look good, you never want to lose that. You either live it, or you don't; it's as simple as that.

T: Besides working with our own coach Thibaudeau, any other "names" you can mention without breaking any client-trainer confidentiality?

SwoleCat: There are a few on the verge of going pro, but I don't know if they wish for me to disclose their names for reasons other than dietary advice. Names I can give you are names of people you can find in the forums around the Internet, those "regular Joe's/Jane's" who write about their results, post their comparison pics, etc. Those people make up about 85% of my clientele, and I treat them as if they are just as important as the big-name people are. After all, it's their success that determines mine!

T: If you're not going to name names, then at least tell us what kind of results you're getting.

SwoleCat: Results will vary depending upon the individual and how much he or she has to lose, or wishes to gain. The one constant in all of this is the fact that no matter what your respective goals may be, you can be assured that if I decide to take you on as a client, you will succeed, and you will reach your goals. Many are shedding fat, and keeping all their lean mass, some are even gaining lean mass, all while "dieting." Supposedly that is not supposed to be possible, but I know this to be quite the opposite! SwoledUp clients are seeing gains in strength, lean body mass, and recovery time, all while keeping any body-fat gained to an absolute minimum. Bulking up with me is not an excuse to eat crappy food and frequent a fast-food joints to "get those calories down." That's old, very old, and we all know the ramifications of eating crappy to try and get bigger or stronger.

T: Ever get anyone super shredded, like 3% or less?

SwoleCat: I have, of course, for my shows. There's CT who got super shredded, and a few models who wish to look like those on the cover of "Men's Health" who have gotten darn close, yes. Those who don't compete don't want to get down to such low amounts, as staying there for long periods of time is unhealthy, and you can't have any kind of "life" so to speak. If you're getting paid for being ripped, like for TV appearances, commercials, etc., then I'd say it's worth it. Other than that, just maintain a nice six pack, and don't worry about being see through like Saran Wrap. Happiness is a big part of what I do, and you may look great at 3%, but you won't be happy for more than a day or two, trust me on that one! Take your pics, get all the memorabilia you can, and then "live" again.

T: Swole, I think what everyone wants to know is "How the hell do I get ripped, and how fast can I get there?"

SwoleCat: Come see me, and it'll be fast! {Laughter} Seriously though, I do get results and they come quickly. There have been people who used diets that had some of the same principles as mine, but the fact that there were a few differences that prevented them from getting ripped. Obviously, some have more to lose than others do, and that will determine the timeframe or "rippedness."

Lost Secrets and the Writing on the Wall...

T: Lots of guys complain that genetics hold them back, or they don't have time to diet, all of which I think is total bullshit. Is everyone capable of sporting a six pack regardless of genetics?

SwoleCat: Yes, I believe everyone can sport the six pack! Genetics may determine calf size, but everyone has abs. Whether or not you can see them is up to the person making the choices that go into his or her mouth. Some have wonderful ab muscles underneath a layer of Crisco, and they blame it on genetics or that "their body won't let them get ripped." I don't believe that to be true.

T: Obviously you can't give up all your secrets since you make your living through personal consultations on dietary manipulations, but how about talking about the top three dietary disasters you see day in and day out?

SwoleCat: Number one would be the mixing of fats and carbs, and that's my number one pet peeve. Number two is not getting enough protein, but yet these people want that lean, hard look. You don't get that from "Lean Pockets" and crap like that. Number three is a two-fold complaint, which is the avoidance of fats like there's no tomorrow, and cutting off carbs after 3 p.m. or something like that. Why cut off a nutrient at a set time, if a certain activity you're doing later on is going to require those macronutrients and their ability to shape, repair, or mold you? It's never cut and dry like that. I would encourage people to read my post on "Why I don't count calories." It ran in CT's forum, and can be found at my forums as well. It goes into more detail about macros and such.

T: You said you despise carbs and fats mixed together. Are we describing a basic misunderstanding of insulin spikes where we selectively store fats, or is there something more we're missing here?

SwoleCat: It's two-fold. For one, you can simply eat too many clean carbs, even without fat in the meal, and store some of those as fat, high glycemic or not. A surplus is a surplus! If you then add fat to the mix, you're storing fat for sure, and also store a bit more from the excess carbs. So you shoot yourself in the foot once, then you reload and take aim at the other foot as well! No matter if the carbs are low glycemic or not, it's always best to avoid mixing the two. Even if one were to get lucky and store NO fat from mixing both, one could still encourage fat to be LET GO by focusing on other macro amounts and mixes. So, it's not just avoiding damage done, it's also knowing one can improve his or her look by knowing what foods you SHOULD combine, when, why, etc.

What's interesting is that I haven't even mentioned exercise yet. Exercise is a part of my program though, but it goes to show that you can work on your look at all times by doing little things, not just when you're hitting cardio or weights. Those who are sensitive to carbs from the get-go should be real wary of mixing fat and carbs together. I'd have to say that about 1/2 of all my clients are very carb sensitive, and adding any fats to carb meals absolutely kills them, as does eating too many carbs, the wrong kind, wrong time, etc. The other 1/2 of my clients simply don't know how to diet, hit cardio, work out, and know how to recover with certain nutrients and rest.

T: The second item you mentioned is not getting enough protein. Now I know you're not a big fan of counting calories, so do you advocate counting grams of protein?

SwoleCat: If you're working with me, I know that you'll get enough because we'll be using one of my formulas. This formula allows for plenty of protein in the diets, no matter what the stats. For those not on my programs, I advise you to get at least 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body weight while maintaining, and for those who are cutting, aim for about 1.5 grams for each pound of lean mass. Not fat mass, LEAN mass. The trick then is to know what to do in regard to carbs and fats, and that will depend on your stats, activity, and what your goals are.

T: So, do you want to tell us what this secret macronutrient formula is?

SwoleCat: Damn it Bob, I knew you were going there. {Laughter} I can't divulge all my secrets, but what I can tell you about my formula is that it works by way of height/weight/level of activity/etc., and adjustments are then made by me in 1-3 weeks to fine tune it and have it run at a most-optimal pace. Reason being, no one person will EVER react the same way to a diet, it's a fact! It's a macronutrient-based diet where we look at levels of activity and address those activities with macros in proper amounts. The formula is simply an easy way for me to plug and play with numbers in a spreadsheet format.

T: Now for your last pet peeve: the timing of carbs and limiting of fats. I assume you're referring to supplying your body with the correct kinds of carbs and fats.

SwoleCat: Yes, all carbs are not created equal! Carbs serve a purpose in the body, and we can focus on making sure that they do what they should, but don't hinder our look. Same goes with fats. Fats are avoided by many because they're supposed to be "bad" for us. That's a gross generalization, and is just totally not true. I'm not saying carbs are bad, and I'm not saying fats are always good, but there's a time, place, and reason for them all to be ingested, and that'll be determined by you and how you want to look, your goals, stats, etc.

T: With a slew of good advice out there on dieting, why do you think that there are not more guys sporting a six pack? Is it willpower, misinformation, laziness? What gives?

SwoleCat: Sometimes, it's a few little errors that end up making all the difference in the world. Another issue is consistency and execution of a dietary program. I provide a service that not only includes customized Eating Patterns and a Training Frequency Schedule, but an entire month of consultation from me as an integral part of one's success. Oftentimes people want to have someone by their side, guiding them, making adjustments, watching them, or kicking their butt into shape. It's encouragement and support to do well, and the experience not only should work, but it should be fun! That is what this is all about, looking great and having fun!

T: Any of our readers will tell you cutting can be a real bitch, but how about bulking? What are some keys here so you don't end up looking like the Michelin Man?

SwoleCat: Again, one should understand the purposes of fats, carbs, and protein in regards to how they make you look, what their "job" is in shaping the body, and how to manipulate them. Don't make junk food a part of your bulking period just for the sake of gaining weight. That weight is going to be fat, and you'll just have to diet it off later. Adding muscle and bulking with lean mass is different than bulking in the traditional sense. Focus on the times when the body can use the most nutrients, beware of times when it's sensitive to fat storage, and rely on healthy, nutritious foods when you bulk up. The Michelin Man syndrome is from those who just eat everything in sight either because they are tired of dieting and wish to "let go" a bit, or they have no idea how to add lean mass correctly. You don't have to attain a fat ass to gain some nice quality mass!

T: I think what I'm starting to hear from you is that timing is a factor often overlooked, whether you are bulking or cutting. It's not enough to just eat the right kinds of foods, is it?

SwoleCat: Right! Timing is everything when it comes to achieving a look. The old comparison about the gas in a car making it run, well, it's very true! 2500 calories eaten one way will lead to a far different outcome than those calories broken up and distributed to you by me!

T: So in general should we be planning meals around activities just completed, or should we eat for activities we're about to start.

SwoleCat: Both! I work on a 24-hour clock, and an on-going body-comp change. I don't just think: 6 meals a day, sleep at night, wake up again, etc. You have to sleep, yes, but I think long term, not just day to day! This is a mistake lots of people make. You have to think long term, not just day to day.

T: How about mental preparation when it comes to dieting? Almost anyone can diet hard for about 4-5 weeks when something hits them that totally derails all their efforts. They go completely mental and the next thing you know they're at a Quickie Mart scarfing down slurpies, microwave burritos, and any other gooey piece of crap they can find. It's a complete gray-matter meltdown.

SwoleCat: By all means, yes. It's hard as hell to diet and look ripped 24-7, and have any lean mass to speak of unless you weigh 150, in which case you better have abs. So, even for someone like me who is 230 and has the six pack and does cardio almost daily, eats the same stuff day in and day out routinely – does it because it's his "job" – it gets boring. I lose it at times, and go insane by drop-kicking the hell out of some Frosted Flakes or something like that. This is precisely why I structured my diet to not give those insane cravings, and have it be something that won't derail those who use it. I realize that normal, everyday people that I help won't always have as much willpower as I may have, or as a pre-contest bodybuilder may have, and that has to be taken into consideration for any program. It all boils down to presenting something that works, but making sure they can make it work for the period of time needed for results to surface! That is key, and it's what I aim to do.

T: Some of our more astute readers probably know you from your days as a moderator on the Fina board. Currently you only work on programs centered around a drug-free approach. Why the change of heart?

SwoleCat: Well, I still moderate at the Fina board, but I never designed dietary programs for enhanced athletes as a service to the general public. The construction of SwoleGenix and SwoledUp were created with the natural trainee in mind. Those "average Joe's" we spoke of earlier aren't going to want to make anabolics a part of their diet, when it's hard enough for them to include flax oil in protein shakes. Besides, I never wanted to make drugs a part of a program, as that just invites failure, and I wouldn't view the program as being "real." My audience is comprised of a lot of people who will never touch AAS, and I know that and needed to provide something that did work for those types of people. I found that in SwoleGenix and SwoledUp!

Put up or Shut Up...

T: I've noticed that if someone is genuine and asks for advice you often go to length to provide it, but if someone is a smart-ass or know-it-all you don't hesitate to put them in their place.

SwoleCat: No hesitation at all on my part. If someone is directly challenging what I do or is attempting to debunk other topics of discussion without having anything knowledgeable or legit to say, then you better believe they'll hear from me. Now, I don't address everyone, as I simply don't have the desire or energy or time to do so, but for those select few who really have issues, they'll hear from me. I usually have great backing from others when I do this, so it's justified as they had it coming!

Even so, "It's all good." Let's look at it the way I do, and the way others who share the same hassles do. No one will want to mess with you, prove you wrong, or talk shit about something they know nothing about, unless you're someone who is in the spotlight. You can see it all too often with people who are attracting attention, building relationships, and notoriety. Well, that is when the "haters" come out of the woodwork, and there have been plenty, as I have had my share. However, they only make me stronger, and their own insecurities and issues eventually stick out like a new zit on the end of your nose. Eventually, they see that for every 1 or 2 haters, I have 100's of supporters. So, you simply take the good with the bad.

You can't please everyone, and the ones I do aim to please are the ones that decide to ignore the haters. My attention is focused on them. It's impossible to be "popular" and not have people trying to take you down. They've been trying for years, but for some reason, I keep on going, getting bigger, helping more people, and opening more avenues. Those who also have some vendetta against me on message boards don't realize that every time they mention me, attempt to defame me, detract business, etc., they're only helping me with even more advertising, and bump the thread right back up to the top! So, here's my official thank you to all of you!

T: Holy Crap, that's a mouthful, I'd ask if you're done, but I can see you're just getting warmed up.

SwoleCat: Yeah, Bob, I also want to put to rest this "idea" people have of receiving the same diet as everyone else. Honestly, if you're presented with a diet that will get you ripped to hell, would you reject it because someone else may be using it too? Well, if that's the case, that's very stupid reasoning, but this subject came up recently at one of the larger, although highly juvenile boards on the Net. I won't mention it to save whatever face they have left.

Let's think about it like this: There are millions of people in the world, some will have identical macro amounts for their programs – that's the nature of where I begin with a client! However, what I adjust for you 3-4 weeks down the road will NEVER be the same as someone else. Customization does not end once you get your program; in fact quite the opposite is true. Consultation is more than half of the program for all my clients. Take CT for example, he received the same values as someone else most certainly has before, and look at what he accomplished. His progress and changes were unlike any other client and what I did for him down the road and others, are all case-specific. I have a semi-pro at my site on SwoledUp and he's just another example of how my programs are individualized. What we changed for him days and even weeks later as minor alterations differed from what I would do for someone else. The entire point is that one must begin somewhere, and all will react differently to what's outlined 3 to 4 weeks later. It's this attention to detail and your responsibility to check in with me that assures your success. I've been delivering this type of individualized service for over 2 years with tremendous success.

Remember, it's about you and your goals, it's not about me. Do you expect everyone else to NEVER have similar guidelines or even exact ones? If you do, you don't know dieting very well at all. If you don't understand the procedure, then you quite simply should quit talking out of your ass! Thanks for letting me vent! {laughter}

Random Thoughts and Mental Musings . . .

T: I always like to end an interview with a lightening round. I'm going to throw a few topics at you and I want your completely honest and unrehearsed gut reaction. Are you ready?

SwoleCat: Hit me.

T: Pro bodybuilders

SwoleCat: Straight awesome individuals with dedication and perseverance who are totally down with the sport, and live, breathe, and die as iron brothers.

T: The world's most worthless supplements.

SwoleCat: I'd say those that you can make yourself at home. Instead of paying $60 for a creatine transport system, you can make your own with Kool-Aid, Splenda, ALA, Creatine, and Vanadyl Sulfate! Of course any supplement is completely worthless if your training and diet do not support the purpose of the supplement to begin with.

T: "Before and After" contests.

SwoleCat: They're a good way at encouraging fitness, and I like them if they're aimed at helping the actual people, not as a means of making a millionaire another million.

T: A deserted island, a case of chocolate pudding, and Monica Bryant.

SwoleCat: Same deserted island, coconut crème pudding, and Angel Teves. Now you're talking! {Insane laughter}

T: Swole, it's been a pleasure talking with you, thanks for your time. I wish you the utmost success with your new website and career.

SwoleCat: Thank you very much, this has been a pleasure. You have enabled me to share what I love to do, and to dispel many of the "myths" people have about my services! I always enjoy talking shop with fellow T-Maggers, and I look forward to possibly writing a few articles myself in the near future.