1. Can you tell us about yourself (education, profession, where you were born, where you live, etc?
I was born in Providence RI. I went to college at The University of Vermont, earned my Doctorate of Dental Surgery (DDS) at The University of Maryland at Baltimore, earned my Medical Degree (MD) at The University of Texas at Southwestern Medical School in Dallas, Texas, completed my Internship in General Surgery, completed my residency in Maxillofacial Craniofacial surgery and Fellowship in Cosmetic Surgery in Dallas, Texas. Currently, I practice with my wife, Dr. Michelle Cabret-Carlotti in Scottsdale, Arizona. We are co-owners of the Carlotti Center for Maxillofacial & Cosmetic Surgery. We have two daughters, ages 7 & 11.
2. How did you get started in fitness?
I loved to ride and race motocross as a kid which happens to be a very physically demanding sport. I was skinny and needed more upper and lower body strength and endurance. Therefore, I started working out with my cousin Peter at the age of 14 and fitness became a major part of my life from there on.
3. Given your demanding career as a renowned plastic surgeon and family man, how has fitness fit into your busy lifestyle? For you personally, how do you find that balance?
I can tell you that for 5 years, it was NOT easy to do and due to a lot going on in my life, I stopped working out and eating healthy. The consequences were significant as my body, and mind literally deteriorated. I reached a point of epiphany and decided to take my life back at the age of 41. Essentially, I rearranged my work schedule, coordinated with my daughter’s after school activities, got up earlier to eat properly, sought out help from friends to work out with, became a student of nutrition, and slowly and gradually made health/workouts/diet an integral part of my day that NEVER was “trumped” by any other facet of my life. Honestly, it takes that singular attitude, which perhaps is a bit selfish, to take back your life.
As I made progress, friends such as Bam Bridges (a very successful female figure and bikini athlete) encouraged me to compete in Men’s Physique. As a type A over-achiever type, this pushed me to limits of physical and dietary discipline that honestly I did not know I was capable of.
4. You currently experienced a chest injury during your training, I’m sorry to hear about this. As an injured athlete currently, do you have conflicting desires as a medical professional and as serious bodybuilder?
Three weeks after my last competition in Las Vegas for the USA Nationals in Men’s Physique, I tried for the first time a new close grip bench press technique with my elbows hugged to my sides. After several previous heavy sets without incident, I decided to drop the weight and work for 12-15 reps at 205 lbs. On the fourth rep, at the top of the extension, my wrists were unknowingly were cocked and the bar literally fell out of my hands. The bar crashed on top of my chest below causing a horizontal (nipple to nipple) fracture of my sternum (chest bone). This is a similar fracture once seen in car crashes before the advent of airbags when people would lurch forward and impact the steering wheel. I also suffered a mild cardiac (heart) contusion (bruise).
Unfortunately, there is no surgical procedure to treat this injury and the recovery is protracted (8-12 weeks). It hurts constantly. Getting up from bed is the worst and suffice it to say I cannot workout upper body or core in the slightest for perhaps the entire 3 month period. It is also brutal as my job as a surgeon is very physical as well so it is quite painful in the Operating Room as well. A new challenge to say the least but it gives me much greater appreciation how potentially dangerous the things we do in the gym really are and how form is exceptionally critical to prevent injury. Even more so, I have a new respect for how much I miss my intense workouts. For now, legs, legs, legs. That’s it.
5. You started back into the fitness lifestyle at the age of 40 and took your physical performance to a nationally competitive level. How did you find the drive to begin, how did you get started, and what kept you going?
As I mentioned, I have always been an over achiever. When I golf, I like to play with professionals. I love to lecture on cosmetic surgery on the national level because I like to associate with the best in the world. The guys I train with are stronger, younger and all have experience beyond mine. I like the chase and the pursuit of undetermined limits. So, when Bam Bridges suggested something I had never considered, it was easy bait for me to push myself towards competition. As I saw results, as I visualized success, the drive became exponentially greater to suffer through the diet, brutal workouts and minor setbacks.
Getting a plastic trophy is not the reward. Truthfully, it has been transforming myself in to someone I could respect that mattered most. Friends, colleagues and strangers all of as sudden started asking me for advice and as a Physician, I had answers. Great feeling to help others!
6. What is the most challenging thing you deal with in order to stay in top shape?
I work hard. Sometimes complex reconstructive surgeries can go up 6 hours. You can’t go 6 hours without eating. Again, I had to change my way of doing things and I pre-prepared meals and literally had my staff pull down my mask and feed me in the OR. Also, after a long day, at times it can be quite hard to find that second wind to go give it your all on say, dead lift day. But, I learned to eliminate excuses, put myself in the zone mentally as I walked into the gym with the same intensity and focus I do as I enter the OR. My Zen. When you are in that frame of mind it is peaceful and singular. The body just responds.
7. I understand that you soon will be turning 45. Has age been a factor for you in achieving fitness goals?
Well, something definitely happens after you turn 35! Your body just does not accept indiscretion, poor diet and injury like it did earlier in life. It sure seems like it does not take much alcohol intake and a hangover is a guarantee, for example. Eating junk has a consequence which results in fatigue and lethargy. It seems like some of my worst injuries have occurred while sleeping! So yes, age does play a role. Therefore if you want the physique of a young athletic person, you need to work twice as hard, eat well and permit recovery after workouts.
That said, in the body building world some of the absolute BEST competitors are in the Master’s divisions. Muscle maturity, mental maturity as the dedicated and determined know how to handle pressure, intensity and be self-disciplined. We are also very fierce competitors as we get older because achievements just seem to matter more as we fight against the odds of age and looking at our cohorts who think of “middle age” as a setback where as I see it truly as our “prime.” It is a question of mind over matter and age just does not matter!
8. From your training and experience in the medical world, were there any glaring conflicts of information that stood out to you as you became entrenched in the fitness world? What are some of your lessons learned from your fitness lifestyle vs. what is commonly practiced in the physician world?
To excel in literally anything, you must first become a student. You must then incorporate that knowledge with experience and then you find wisdom. Glaring in my mind was the over-training most people do in the gym failing to give the body adequate time to rest and not recognizing that health is 80% kitchen and 20% gym. Go do 2 hours of cardio so you can have that bowl of ice cream. Gym trainers who charge folks $80/hr, most of them, just don’t get that. Their clients week after week show up looking no different and often times are injured. The fuel they use is grossly deficient and slowly, and assuredly they stop coming and give up.
The notion of lifestyle change just never registers. I have also seen the opposite extreme, particularly in women. Some can view food as mostly bad for you and restrict their diets so much so that they literally are starving themselves of the nutrition they need to recover from high intensity workouts. They over train and under eat. This is where education is essential.
9. Can you tell us more about your first competition experience? What was the preparation like? Did you come close to giving up before the show?
It was a great new experience for sure. I competed in the Arizona Western Regional NPC Championships in both the Master’s class and the Open class. The preparation was very difficult, but honestly, I believe my coach may have restricted things in my diet too early (carbs, salt, calories) which made me quite weak with likely electrolyte imbalance on the day of the show. I gained a lot of respect for the difficulty it is to coach someone for the first time as all ” bodies” are not created equal and respond differently. The fact is that I showed up looking pretty great and placed 2nd. Not bad for my first show and I was pleased that I qualified for Nationals.
Truly, I never considered giving up and that is not in my personality. Sure, I lost my cool a couple of times as I was starving and glucose was low. Lol. Hell, one day as I was backing my wife’s SUV out of the garage, I forgot to open the garage door! Yep, broken car and broken door. All I could think to tell my kids was “don’t tell you mother” which of course they did. We all laugh about it now.
10. Tell us about your competition history and the titles you’ve won.
Because of my busy schedule, I have only competed twice in Men’s Physique. I had intended on competing in a Men’s Master’s Physique event this year, but my injury has likely sidelined me until 2014. Also, I was on track to compete in a Men’s Masters Power lifting competition this year, which again is off. I placed 2nd in the Men’s Masters in the NPC Arizona Western Regionals and in the top 2/3’s in the Men’s Open Class B at the USA’s in Vegas.
Truthfully, I had no business competing in that event as there was no Master’s division and I was on stage next to guys who were 20 year younger than me, most of whom are full time fitness professionals and on average had competed in many, many previous events. But, like I said, I love to push myself to roll with the best. These athletes were the best and it was a great honor to stand beside them. My goal for 2014 is to seriously contend for a Men’s Master’s Physique Pro Card.
11. We’re curious, what is your diet like? What do you eat in a typical day? Do you avoid anything in your diet?
Well, no cookies, candy or ice cream, that’s for sure. Honestly I really do not have sugar in my diet, except for the amount that is in blue berries and bananas. I eat 5-7 small meals a day the biggest of which is breakfast. Breakfast consists of 8 egg whites and a 1/2 cup of steel cut oats with either a banana or blue berries.
My second meal is usually a 50g protein shake. Third meal is chicken with broccoli, snow peas or spinach. Forth meal is another protein shake. Dinner is ground turkey, lean red meat, chicken, fish and either asparagus, kale or broccoli with sweet potatoes or quinoa. Almonds before bed.
My supplement regimen includes 5000 units of Vit D per day, 10,000 mg of Glutamine per day, 10,000 mg of Argenine per day, 1000 mg Vit C, 1000 mg Calcium, Multi Vitamin, BCCA amino acids post-work out and other various supplements as I am in those last few weeks of contest prep. I force myself to drink at least 3/4 gallon of water per day and limit my caffeine intake to one cup in the morning (of course with no sweetener).
I have learned to avoid soda, sugar, fried food, fast food, and simple carbohydrates. For many years, I really was a wine connoisseur and would have at least 3 glasses per week. If I drink 2 glasses a month, that would be a lot now. Understanding those empty calories in alcohol and the effects on liver metabolism really steers me away from alcohol unless it is a special occasion. Bright side is, no more hangovers and in the State of Arizona which has the toughest DUI laws in the USA, I am everyone’ best friend as a sure thing designated driver!
12. What’s your training routine? What specific program do you follow? (Please include a few details – training split, sets/reps, exercises, types of cardio, etc.)
Cardio is really not a staple of my workout. If I do any, it is on “off days” and that may consist of 30 minutes of interval training on the recumbent bike or treadmill. I get my cardio from workouts that are high intensity, meaning they are basically one big “super-set” from beginning to end. If I am benching, maybe I am doing abs in between sets. Workouts are efficient, devoid of chatter and small talk with others and I can usually accomplish everything I set out to do in 60-90 minutes depending upon which body part I am working.
I split body parts differently throughout the season. In “off season” I do chest/triceps as one day, dead lifts and quads as another, shoulders and biceps as another and hamstrings and back and biceps as another. Usually I take one day off every 5th day. If I really push myself in any of the days mentioned and I am still sore, it is not uncommon to take 2 days off in a row. Again, respecting the body’s need to recover is critical. As a true gym addict, admittedly my “day off” is my worst day of the week. I hate it, but I have learned to recognize its nature in the process my body needs to grow and build lean muscle mass. With respect to reps, it really depends on the season.
In the building phase, I may be as low as sets of 1-3 reps in heavy dead lifts or in bench press. When it comes to the weeks before the contest, I may be doing sets of 12-20 reps as I push to squeeze out water and fat.
13. Are you taking any supplements? Did you specifically use any of your medical knowledge to determine your stack?
Again, Argenine, Glutamine, BCCAs, Vit C, Multivitamin, Calcium,, digestive enzymes and protein supplements are my mainstay. I really do love Monster Milk. N.O. Explode (non-caffinated) works well for pre-workout energy. Put it this way, even with the discounts, I spend about $200-$300/ month at Hi Health. I think a lot of people can get fooled into believing that lots of supplements are the key to either recovery or growth. They forger the basics that really come from a balanced anabolic, Nitrogen positive anabolic diet.
Personally, I am a clean athlete. I have never taken anabolic steroids and will never. There is a lot of controversy about the long term heath risks for both steroids and HGH (human growth hormone) and as I get asked these questions routinely by my patients, I do not recommend that they use them for sound medical reasons.
14. As a world renowned Maxillofacial and Cosmetic surgeon, can you tell us the biggest obstacle or setback you had to overcome?
Candidly, the education process is brutal and long. I finished my training at age 33. This basically meant I did not have a “20’s” to speak of. On average, I spent over 80hrs per week in the hospital and I distinctly remember that when I rotated on Cardiothoracic (heart) Surgery, I was in the hospital for 130+ hrs/week. You come out steeped in debt, no clue how to run a business and are expected to take great additional financial risk to open and start a practice. Thankfully, I had my wife Michelle to help share in that daunting task.
Taking care of patients and being successful recognizes that one must treat every patient with the enthusiasm as if they were your first and treat every patient as if they could be your last. We do quite invasive things for people. It is privilege and awesome responsibility. People expect “perfect” and as we know, no one is. So, the balance of maintaining a personal life with my wife and kids amidst the pressures of our profession is all the more difficult, but candidly very rewarding.
15. What do you feel you can contribute to the fitness industry companies that are looking for strong credentials like yours?
My grandfather, Albert Carlotti, Sr. was off the boat from Italy and came to the USA with nothing. He became very successful, even following the depression in 1929. He always said to me, with respect to success in anything, “stick to what you know.” Meaning, make sure as you start any endeavor, make sure you have the requisite knowledge otherwise you are destined to fail. I have been a student of health, the human body and the psychology of how physical changes affect the psyche (as a cosmetic & reconstructive surgeon) my entire life. I tell patients 60% of what I do is in the operating room and the other 40% is being their “coach.”
The fitness industry is equal in that regard. Managing people’s expectations, giving them sound guidance and sharing experience will always make the difference. I think I can set a good example to others who themselves find it difficult to balance a very busy life with the requisite time it takes inside and outside the gym to make a commitment to change in their lives. I can help them visualize and focus on the task at hand while at the same time seeing the big picture in the face of anticipated setbacks along the way.
16. What’s next for you? When and where can we expect to see you compete? What are your future goals in this industry?
Someday, I will be Albert Carlotti, Ifbb Pro. Whether it is 2014 or 2015 remains to be determined. My interest in becoming part of the fitness industry is as sure as my drive as a young person to become the surgeon I am today. Whether I become a spokes person for a particular product line I believe in and endorse, open a studio to help train other athletes and develop an online resource for those struggling in their beginnings or those who want to take it to the next level is not even a question. These are future goals I will realize.
17. Any shout outs?
I certainly appreciate my friend Bam Bridges, past Coach Ivan Almonte, my training buddies Anthony, Danny, Mike, Taylor, James and Grant. A special shout out to all of those in the industry who continue to inspire me such as Jeremy Buendia, IFBB Pro. I have been fortunate to have a true Kindred Spirit in my life and my wife Michelle and daughters support all that I do in life. That is what it is all about after all.
18. Last words, where can we find you on the Internet?
For now, until my fitness website is up and running, I can be found on by medical practice websites at www.CarlottiCosmeticSurgery.com and www.CarlottiOralSurgery.com. Follow me on Facebook (Carlotti Center)as well!