A:Growing up in California had a big part of my interest in health and fitness. California has always been more progressive, when it comes to fitness, so even when I was a kid I was exposed to healthy eating and a fitness lifestyle at an early age. The early pioneers of fitness, like Jack LaLanne and Joe Gold were from California, and then of course the Golden Age of Bodybuilding was rooted there as well, attracting the best bodybuilders from all over the US and around the world, including guys like Steve Reeves in the 60’s, Arnold and Zane in the 70’s! I also think there’s definitely a correlation between warm climates and fitness. When a place is warm you wear less clothes and are more motivated to stay in shape. Nobody wants to go to the beach and take off their shirt when they are out of shape. That’s why everyone wants to get in shape before a tropical vacation.
Q:True! When did you discover the gym?
A:Before I ever had a gym membership I had a Jack LaLanne's free weight set with a bench. I got that for Christmas when I was 16. That was the only present that I wanted. Growing up I was pretty skinny so I wanted to weight train to put on weight and get stronger. I was never an athlete. I had some athletic ability but I never did much in the way of sports. I was more of a nerd. I was into art, computers and science – but that’s before being a nerd was cool. Back then- those were fighting words! Nowadays it’s cool to be a nerd….because they rule the world. LOL! When I turned 17 a friend of the family saw that I was really into working out. He had a big piece of land and said that if I did some work around the property he would buy me a gym membership – and that’s what he did. He also took me down to a local nutrition store and bought me my first tub of protein powder. That was the beginning of a lifelong passion.
Q:How did you know you were ready to compete?
A:I never really had any interest in competing at first. I knew about competing because I read the bodybuilding magazines to learn more about training. This was pre-internet so magazine, books and the big guy in the gym were the only resources I had. Like I said, I was more of a nerd bodybuilder– always studying training and nutrition. I had a passion for it and therefore an insatiable thirst for knowledge. By the time I was 25 I had put on some good muscle and I was super lean. I wasn’t very big but because I was pretty ripped a friend in the gym that competed kept hounding me to do a show. Finally I gave in and said that if he helped me I would do it. Ironically enough, after I committed he took a job out of town and bailed on me. Being one to never quit, I asked around on how to diet and pose. My first show was the NPC Contra Costa in the Bay Area. I placed 3rd in the first show. Even though I never played much sports, I’ve always had an extremely competitive nature so after that 3rd place I of course, wanted the win. That’s what really fueled me to go back and learn more and train harder.
Q:Do you track macros and micros?
A:In order to really maximize your growth potential and or to get lean you have to know your macronutrient requirements. Anytime I start a new goal I always go back in and reevaluate my nutrition strategy. I’ll calculate my protein, fat and carbohydrate requirements and then track them for a week. My eating is pretty habitual so after a week I don’t have to calculate it anymore – it’s just automatic. I can accurately guesstimate where I need to be. If you have to calculate your nutrition everyday you’ll tire of that quickly. There’s no way you can make that sustainable over a long period of time. It has to become automatic where you don’t think about it – you just do it.
Q:What did your pre contest diet look like?
A:My pre-contest back then looked a lot different than it would look now. Back then I didn’t really know anything other than what I was reading. Over the years I’ve tried every kind of nutrition strategy you can think of. I figure you can’t make a judgement about something unless you’ve tried it for yourself. It’s the only way to find out if it will work for you. Just because it worked for someone else doesn’t mean it’s the right fit for you. I don’t compete anymore but now if I do a photoshoot I use a carb-cycling strategy of 3 days of low carb followed by 3 days of higher carbs. This helps me gradually lean out without sacrificing lean muscle. It’s not a fast process so you have to be patient – but good things come to those who are patient. Anything fast usually comes at a price. No matter what strategy you use, at the end of the day there is going to be some kind of carb manipulation. If you want to get lean you have to get your body burning stored bodyfat as a source of energy. If you’re loading up on carbs then you’re body doesn’t need to use fats as an energy source – and even if it did, all those extra carbs would then just be stored as fat. My generic rule is – protein + fats and very little carbs OR protein + carbs and very little fats. Pick your energy source – fats or carbs but you can’t do both. Right now I’m testing out a ketogenic diet just as an experiment. I have no doubt that it will get my lean – it’s just a matter of whether it’s sustainable for me. I like fruits and other carbs that would take me out of ketosis. That’s why I like carb cycling. I never build up cravings for either fats or carbs because I’m only sacrificing one or the other for 3 days at a time.
Q:Smart nutrition for sure! Describe your transition from bodybuilder to co-founder...
A:I’ve always loved fitness but I never had aspirations to become a professional bodybuilder, so I was looking for a way to do something in an industry that I was passionate about. When I was in college I was a personal trainer and I enjoyed helping people achieve their fitness goals. The only downside is I was only able to work with one person at a time. Now with BPI Sports I’m able to help hundreds of thousands of people at a time. That’s why we provide free content such as training and nutrition programs. We don’t see ourselves as just a supplement company. We are a health & fitness company that’s committed to helping people find success with their fitness goals. That’s our guiding light. It’s what drives all of the product innovation and it’s what keeps us passionate and excited to come to work each day. Ever since I started training I’ve used supplements, so I always think from the perspective of a consumer first. We create the type of products that I would want to use myself. They are in fact the supplements that I use. I make sure that everything that we make is the same high level of quality that I demand for my own fitness goals.
Q:Tell us about BPI and Cutler Nutrition..
A:I’ve known Jay for many years and I’ve always had a lot of respect for him. There’s a reason he has a huge following and it’s because of the way he lives his life and treats other people. He’s always a gentleman and always takes the time for others. This is why he has such a great reputation. It’s always a lot more fun and fulfilling to do business with people that you like and respect. There has to be an alignment of personal values. That’s why we decided to partner with Jay. Originally he just represented BPI Sports as an athlete but then we formed a partnership with Jay to create a new line, that was developed by an athlete for athletes. That’s how Cutler Nutrition came to be. It’s the same quality you would expect from a BPI product but with Jay’s input on product formulation.
Q:Jay is a legend. What next for you business wise?
A:Since my focus has always been on helping people achieve their fitness goals, I’m always looking for new and innovative ways to do that. Let’s face it, living a health & fitness lifestyle is a big commitment. It requires a lot of time, energy, work and dedication and that’s once you know what you should be doing. For someone new to it, there’s also the hurdle of learning how to train, learning to eat right and learning how to make it all habitual. This can be daunting for many people. That’s why there’s so much opportunity to find new and different ways to help people be more successful with their fitness journey. There’s also the responsibility to provide good quality information. There’s so much bad advice and bad information floating around the internet and social media that I feel a high level of frustration. Achieving your goals is hard enough when you know right from wrong, but with so much bad information it can really frustrate people and turn them away from their fitness pursuits. I used to do more content years ago when I worked for Muscle & Fitness magazine but once I started BPI I didn’t have time. I was wearing so many different hats to get the company up and going that creating content unfortunately fell to the bottom of the list. Now that I have an incredible team behind me, I’m freed up to start doing more content again. I just jumped back on Youtube recently for the first time in years. Expect to see some great content on there. We’re getting ready to launch some cool weekly training tips that focus specifically on how to address weak body parts. Everyone has some muscle group that always lags behind. Some people have great legs and a big back but maybe no chest or small arms. For the next guy it’s the opposite. The point is, that very few of us have perfectly balanced physiques – but that’s what makes training fun. It’s not just about becoming a bigger or smaller version of ourselves. It’s about selectively shaping and sculpting our physiques. Brining up our weaknesses and carving your own ideal version of yourself. Frank Zane was once quoted saying, “I only do an exercise if it puts muscle exactly where I want it”. I’ve always loved that philosophy and that to me is what bodybuilding is really about. I’m going to do my best to carry that torch and share everything that I’ve learned through my 25 years of training to help others achieve their goals.
Q:Can you give us all of your social media handles?
A:Youtube: James Grage Instagram: James_Grage_Fit
Interview done by Elliot Rivera for healtHaven.com