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JB Speaks: Mentorship and Myth-Busting

JB talks about the night when his whole life changed and why he doesn’t want to be the fitness industry myth-buster.

Dr. John Berardi — JB to his friends — is like that cool older brother who schools you on the ways of the world. He pushes you to be your best. And gives you an open-handed smack on the head when you screw up.

Talk with him for a few minutes and you get a strong feeling that he knows and understands the important domains of a guy’s life. That’s because he’s been there and done that.

He’s built and maintained a muscular, athletic body. He paid his own way through school, started a wildly successful business, and traveled the world. He’s built a network of influential friends and has an incredible family.

Yeah, if you’re a guy who wants to live on your own terms and make a mark on the world, you could do worse than taking some advice from JB.

So let’s do that.

This is the first in a series of ongoing conversations.

I’ll ask JB some questions about working out, nutrition, living a remarkable life, and whatever else pops into my head.

He’ll give us some answers.

And maybe we’ll all learn a thing or two.

JB (on left) at the Victoria, BC Olympic Training gym.

On becoming a new man.

Nate: You once told me a story about the moment you decided to change your life — when you decided to “be your own man”. I remember it involving alcohol and a long walk home. Mind sharing?

 JB: Yeah, no problem.

I think I really hit rock bottom when I was 17. I got shitty grades, experimented with drugs, drank a lot. You know, the usual “bad stuff”. But there was this one night that really changed things.

I was in a car with some friends driving down a back-road in the country. We’d all been drinking and the driver started swerving back and forth across the road. You know, for fun.

I’m not sure how fast we were going but it was fast enough that when we hit the edge of a curb the car spun two 360’s, launched over a ditch, and missed hitting this huge tree by like 6 inches. It scraped the entire passenger side of the car.

If we would have hit it right on, we’d all have died instantly, no question.

And my friends were all spooked, of course. They started talking fast, trying to figure out what to do. “Holy shit, my dad’s gonna kill me!” “We gotta get the car back on the road.” That kind of stuff.

And I was just blown away at their reactions. Because the only thing I thought of was, What the fuck am I doing with my life?

So they all piled back in the car and I just told them I was gonna walk home. My house had to be more than 5 miles away, but I just couldn’t bring myself to get back in the car. Not to get all corny, but it’s like a part of me really did hit that tree that night and died. And the “new” me was just gonna try and figure shit out on his own.

So I walked home. It took a long-ass time. Hours. And the whole time I just kind of evaluated my life and turned everything over in my head.

When I got home I went in my room and didn’t talk to anyone for a week. I just came out to eat then went right back in.

All my friends were arrested that night, and I never talked to any of them ever again.

I think about that night a lot.

Nate: So that was your wake-up call. But what did you do after that? Is that when you got into weight training?

JB: Yeah, so after that night, for the next two years, I just basically had to re-raise myself, you know? I had to construct this new person.

So I’d get up at 4AM to work at my dad’s restaurant, go to school, go to the gym, and then come home and study. That was my pattern for a while. It’s just what I had to do.

And it was about a month or so after that night where I met Craig, this bigger guy in the gym who became my mentor and coach.

To me, part of becoming a new man was learning how to build muscle and having this new confident persona. And I didn’t really know how to do that at 17. So this guy Craig sees me training one day and starts giving me some tips. Pretty soon I started meeting him at the gym and he just became my training partner.

During those couple years I gained over 70 pounds of muscle. It completely changed my life.

And when I graduated high school, I decided I was actually gonna go to college. I was just on a new path and feeling good. I wanted to see how far I could take it.

Nate: Do you keep in touch with Craig at all?

JB: Yeah, whenever I’m back in Pennsylvania I know where to find him. I’ll pop in and say hello. Let him know what his help meant to me.

And that’s just another reason I’m proud of what we’re doing with S2B. There are a lot of guys out there who are looking to change their body or life in some way. And there aren’t a lot of mentors out there who are able to help.

Even though I didn’t know it at the time, coaching was crucial to me changing my body and, by extension, my life. And I guess having a near-death experience didn’t hurt either.

Though I don’t really recommend that.

JB before.

JB after.

On Muscle-Building Myths

Nate: What are some of the the biggest misconceptions out there around building muscle? Anything you see guys doing that makes you shudder?

JB: I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. And here’s the thing: there are loads of misconceptions out there. I don’t know what they all are. Nobody really does. The ones that get debunked this year will be obsolete by next year.

And I’m to the point in my career and life now where I just want to move to a higher level. In other words, I don’t want to be the “de-bunker” or the “myth-destroyer”.

There are some guys out there who build their entire careers on finding and debunking fitness myths. And they’re generally pretty cynical and jaded and do it for the attention.

Now, is there value in that? Maybe a little. But what’s higher-level? What’s evolved thinking?

Instead of focusing on myth-busting and making people feel stupid, I like that we take a different approach of simply teaching best practices.

Want to gain muscle? We’re not gonna call you stupid or tell you every little thing you’re doing wrong. Instead, we’re just gonna give you the practices — the habits — that actually help you build muscle and have worked with thousands of our clients.

Habits like:

  • Drinking 3 Super Shakes per day
  • Working out three to four times per week
  • Taking 10 grams of creatine
  • Drinking a post-workout shake
  • Getting at least 7 hours of sleep
  • Eating two palms of protein with every meal
  • Keeping a workout journal

I’m proud of S2B because we don’t spend time saying what’s stupid. Instead, we focus our time on how we can help guys right now.

As a coach, I want your energy directed toward self-improvement. Not looking at the world and seeing who you think is an idiot.

So yeah. I can’t think of a single misconception. But anyone looking for best practices on building muscle should check out our 5-Day Free Course.

And that’s what we call a shameless plug.  (But seriously. Go check it out.)

Your Turn

Got a topic or a question for JB related to training, nutrition, or living a bigger life? Post it in the comments and JB and I may pick it for our next conversation.


23 Responses to JB Speaks: Mentorship and Myth-Busting

  1. Bachreric says:

    Great read, awesome job JB to make that transition at 17 years old. I’m 23 and know many who have continued a downward spiral rather than fully utilize their talents and work towards something worth having. Nicely conducted and presented Nate!

  2. Powerful stuff. 

    Where in PA, if I may ask? 

  3. Shane says:

    What always amazes about the fads and myths though isn’t that they’re inevitably de-bunked and replaced by a new fad—it’s that there’s usually enough truth in them to get results. Taking it to the higher level is great, and starting with simple fundamentals is definitely the way to go. Sometimes though, regardless of what information you have, you also just need to get off the couch, cook up some food, hit the gym and hey, even if parts of what you’re doing are wrong, at least when the fad’s disproved you’ll be closer to having the life you want :)

    I’d rather be the buff guy saying “oh I guess I could have eaten those egg yolks” and not the skinny guy saying “Hah! I knew egg whites were just a fad. Glad I didn’t get sucked into that one!”—while munching on a pop tart.

  4. Keenantim81 says:

    I’m currently doing S2B. I reread some of the nutrition the other day and it made me realise I’m not eating enough. My issue is financial, if I could afford to buy more food I would. I try to find new ways to buy clever. Are there any solutions you can think of? Just on a side note, I’m finding it difficult to find some of the foods Canadians and Americans seem to purchase locally to them.

    • Nate Green says:

      Hey Keenan,

      Are you doing S2B the coaching program or are you following the book? If it’s the coaching program, simply email your coach and let him know how you’re doing. 

      He’ll take care of you.

  5. chad ellis says:

    JB great stuff as always.I’ve been reaping the benifits of your knowlege since you first started writing for T-mag. Your macronutrient breakdown revolutionized the way i train myself & my students.Im currently doing the Warrior Pulse diet(Ori’s shake recommendations.Im a 127lb Thai fighter/teacher,about 7%b.f..Im taking in 4-5gms of fish oil,cook with olive oil and started taking about 3 tbs of coconut oil a week.Im just worried the extra fat(coconut) will take me to fat city.What are your thoughts on coconut oil.Thank you for your time…Chad Ellis  

  6. “Instead of focusing on myth-busting and making people feel stupid, I like that we take a different approach of simply teaching best practices.” 
    Big thumbs-up for this more evolved approach and teaching people how to create better habits. Focusing on what you want, rather than on who’s right or wrong, gets better results (and it feels better too ;-). 

  7. Bruce says:

    Liking the 5 day free course.  Thanks for sharing that program!  I have been following it closely and really enjoying the results, with some decent weight gain, and I am definitely noticing increased strength by the week, and a much better core.  At first, I hated all the warm-up components, but have learned to embrace and actually enjoy all that crazy roller work, prep/warmup/mobility work.

    My question is, what to do after this ground zero program?  Am I ready for the ‘phase 2’ program in the S2B book?  What next?  Welcome any suggestions/recommendations.

    • Nate Green says:

       Hey Bruce! Glad you’re liking the program. Ideally you’d start the Scrawny To Brawny coaching program after Ground Zero. But since we won’t be launching our new cohort till November, doing the S2B book training program will be fine.


  8. Jimmy Lamour says:

    Great post Nate & JB. I have a question regarding focusing on the important parts of your workout in order to make sure you are living a balanced life. It is very tough to get the “meat grinder” workouts in that I am used to with a business, family, church leadership commitments, friends, etc…What exercises or what do you make sure to keep in your workout system to ensure continued progress without having you in the weightroom all day. I currently am doing the 3 hitter quitter routine. I would love to hear from you JB regarding this question. Thanks.

  9. Sean says:

     ‘My life is my victory, but I had begun so far below the embrace in which I now stand.
    Rock bottom. When things can get no worse. When times seem most bleak
    and escape appears most distant. Make that the solid foundation upon
    which you climb. Though it may disheartening, you CAN shift your energy
    from a negative to a positive charge purely through will. You can.
    Imagine the unshakeable confidence you
    will have when you look back at this moment as the beginning of your
    ascent, where others would have surrendered and quit. Yet, you crawled
    and clawed toward that pinhole of hope. What obstacles could then cause
    you to falter, after having forged the strength of facing deepest well,
    and having had emerged’?     – Scott SonnonIt was very enlightening to hear about your Rock Bottom, JB. Great writing Nate, you’re getting closer to mastering the art of story telling.Sean

  10. Mshields0 says:

    Where do you see PN and LE in five years? What’s in the works?

  11. Aaron says:

    Is there a place for body part splits in an S2B type program? If so, when?

  12. Conor says:

    JB, I had the same sort of life changing time in my life about 4 years ago.  Went through a deep depression and didn’t want to go on with anything, but made some changes in my life and am now enjoying the more important things in life like family and personal health.  I’m also in the process of making the life I want like Nate mentioned.  I want to run my own training business in a town of about 8000.  I’d like to target teenagers and youth who are into sports, particularly hockey as I’m from Canada.  JB, what types of things would you say are most important for myself to have in place before starting such a business?

  13. Scott Ward says:

    I love the whole concept of not taking the negative and focusing on what people are doing wrong.  Rather, instead focusing on what people can do that is positive and will move them forward.  This can be the case for all facets of life.  This will be an interesting series, I have a feeling.

  14. Björn Rösinger says:

    Damn Nate I totally missed you are writing on S2B now…

    This is a crazy story.
    Take away message:  Always keep it simple and never stop growing.

    I WANT MORE lol

  15. Daniel says:

    I am 34 and just starting to get into making the right changes for myself.  IS that too late to look and feel awesome?

  16. Kruzann says:

    JB, I am a female Certified PT NASM and a Certified Level 1 Precision Nutrtion Trainer. I live in CA. I Picked you to become Nutrtion certified through. I got shut down with your methodology because our head trainer is a firm believer in low fat low calorie dieting. She would not at all ndorse the earn your carb for fat loss strategy … Any suggestions how I can gain some footing?

  17. JB’s life-changing moment reads just like a movie script.   In fact that fateful night would make an excellent opening to the new Scrawny to Brawny movie you may be working on.

  18. Mark Salstrom Jr says:

    It’s awesome hearing about these stories. I’ve been there myself and I’m in the process of transitioning from that point. I just about ready for the final jump and it means a lot hearing about JB overcoming similar issues.

    I’ll see you later today Nate! I wish I could be coming a bit more prepared. I got behind a chapter in Chem and it’s been kicking my ass.

  19. Scottgray0620 says:

    Dr. Berardi, 

    I must say for quite some time now I have been a big advocate of what you preach both nutritionally and the way you live your life. It was about this time last year when I actually heard your seminar at the Perform Better Chicago and walked away from it with a life changing experience in pursuit of doing exactly what you do; that is, helping others reach their goals, becoming more knowledgeable, and living life to the fullest. So I guess my question to you is what are some of the mistakes you have made along your journey that prevented yourself from living a bigger life earlier on? 

    -Scott Gray

  20. Jay-C says:

    Thanks for your honesty JB.