Niko Belezos
Niko Belezos

School: Massasoit Community College (Brockton)
Major: Liberal Arts Science Transfer; Broadcast Meteorology
Hometown: Hingham, Massachusetts
Fitness Goal: Bodybuilding

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  • Why did you start training and what motivates you?

    At age 3 I was diagnosed with a chronic kidney disease known as Minimal Change Nephrotic Syndrome.  This is a condition characterized by a malfunctioning of the kidney filtration units, allowing blood albumin to become filtered through the kidneys and excreted through the urine.  As blood protein holds water in the circulatory system through osmosis, the lack of albumin allowed all the water to escape into my tissues. This results in dehydration, severe edema, and muscle wasting during periods of relapse.  The go to treatment for this condition is heavy doses of constant corticosteroid therapy to suppress the immune system since a stimulation of the immune system is what causes the kidneys to act up.

    At age 4, due to a number of clotting mutations combined with my condition, I experienced 2 strokes from a blood clot in my brain and was then put on copious doses of Coumadin.  After this I was forced to refrain from all contact sport as a result of the bleeding risk from the Coumadin.  After years of Prednisone, and then methylprednisolone therapy, I began to gain gross amounts of weight in the form of both water weight and fat weight.  There was very little exercise I could do from the combination of the bleeding risk coupled with the severe edema from my condition and the corticosteroids.  I spent my entire childhood sheltered.  I feared anything that might trigger an immune-response which severely limited my ability to socialize and play with my friends.  To make matters worse, the corticosteroid therapy essentially dropped my IGF and Growth Hormone levels to near zero preventing me from growing. I spent my entire elementary, middle school, and even high school years as the short, fat, midget kid, being mercilessly bullied at every opportunity.

    Even by age 14 I was still only 4 foot 3 inches tall.  Finally I got insurance approval to go on HGH therapy.  In the next four years I would only grow another 6 inches, despite being on 9-13IUs of Somatropin per day.  I had absolutely no muscle mass whatsoever and by age 17 I had a BMI near 50.  By this time I had joined the rec center gym and was doing some lifting, but all in all I had no idea what I was doing and I made very little progress.  During the summer of my junior year of high school I made the decision that I had had enough and I wanted to become a bodybuilder.  I was tired of being the weird, fat, sick kid that no one understood.  In addition, I also had several female interests and I knew with the way I looked that there was no chance I could have any sort of sexual appeal.  At my next doctor’s appointment I told my doctor I was absolutely at my boiling point.  I told him I would do anything to get off of this horrid medication that had destroyed my life. By this point I had already developed cateracts, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, and I was walking around in a leg brace; all of which were side effects from the treatment.  The only other option was chemotherapy, something I had spent years refusing, despite suggestions by my doctor.  In pure desperation I agreed to begin a three month treatment of Cyclophosphamide and from that moment I have never looked back.

    When I went back to school and entered my senior year, I put myself on an extremely low calorie diet and began doing all the cardio I could.  Within a few months I had dropped thirty pounds and I could not have been happier.  For my new year’s resolution in 2010, I joined Norwell Athletic Center (at the time Family Fitness) and began working out there daily.  Eventually I hit a plateau in my weight loss journey which resulted in my eating less and less and working out for hours per day.  There were several days when I would only eat maybe 200 calories and workout for three or four hours.  My family was extremely concerned that I had developed anorexia, and I most likely did.  I was losing muscle rapidly and my performance in school was suffering.

    Finally they agreed to pay for a personal trainer and I was able to get my diet and workout routine back in check.  I soon developed a massive crush on a friend of one of the girls who worked at the gym and I was determined to date her, even though she was way out of my league.  While I never ended up going out with her, she became my motivation to begin bodybuilding.  At the time I did not understand why I was not gaining muscle even though I was dieting and exercising constantly, so I went online and began reading everything I could about bodybuilding.  I soon realized that my entire diet was completely wrong and that’s why I was not getting results.  I jumped headfirst into the strictest bodybuilding diet and workout routine I could muster.  I spent every waking moment planning my meals and my workouts.  I read everything I could about supplements, proteins, and pre workouts.  Within a short period of time the muscle and strength began piling on and I would just push harder with every workout.  I had workouts where I would break capillaries and pass out.

    Of course the overexertion too quickly eventually caught up with me and within a few months of beginning I destroyed my shoulder. I was out of the gym for five months during the spring and summer of 2011 and I lost virtually all of my strength.  When I went back I basically started from square one.  All of my muscle gains were gone and I gained back quite of bit of fat, but I was not about to give up.  I jumped back into it with all the motivation and fortitude I could muster.  For the next three and a half years I dedicated my entire life to the sport of bodybuilding and even when I lost my motivation, I kept on going.  It became an addiction that I could not stop.  I will never stop.  My goal is to look like Sylvester Stallone and by God I will make that happen even if it kills me.  The old me is dead and the new me is slowly coming alive.

  • What impact has training had on your college life?

    I am sorry to say that the typical college experience and bodybuilding do not go hand in hand.  You cannot go out and play beer pong three times a week and eat raman noodles all day and expect to get results in the gym; it just does not work that way.  Bodybuilding requires a multitude of sacrifices in order to succeed.  So what sacrifices have I had to make in college in order to reach my goals?

    • Probably the most significant thing I had to forego (or at least limit) is my partying. Typically one might think of the college experience as never ending party filled with constant alcohol, sex, and drug consumption.  While that may be true for some, this will not be the case for the college bodybuilder.  For one, alcohol is significantly detrimental to muscle growth, and its use in bodybuilding is strongly discouraged.  In my first semester of college I drank every weekend, sometimes twice, and I made no gains whatsoever.  On top of that I gained both water weight and fat weight, despite the fact that I was dancing all night.
    • The second way in which bodybuilding has impacted my college experience is in my social life. A serious bodybuilder cannot just skip a workout because a girl wants to hang out or a friend wants to go to the club.  Work must always come first and when the work is finished, then you can play.
    • Finally, bodybuilding has made finding time to study quite a bit of a challenge. My first priority before everything has always been when and how to fit in my workout.  I have had to stay awake studying all hours of the night because I just needed to fit in that two hour workout and post workout meal.  Even during finals I went out and lifted on three hours of sleep and then pulled an all-nighter, just because I refused to miss a workout.

    Bodybuilding has impacted my college experience in a number of positive ways as well.  Instead of destroying my health with alcohol and drugs, I spend much of my spare time looking for ways to improve my health and well-being.  I have also become much more popular with the ladies, which is something I never would have been able to do in the state of health that I was in before.

    Even with all the sacrifices I have had to make in college as a result of bodybuilding, the rewards outweigh them exponentially.

  • How do you balance being a college student and meeting your fitness goals?

    The key word here is balance.  It is very important not to time things out well and not go all out on certain things.  Plan your time well.

    • Always have alternatives for when you might miss meals. Protein bars are one of the most useful inventions out there.  There is no excuse to ever miss a meal while in college.  If you know you’re not going to have time for a meal in between classes, keep a protein bar handy and eat it in the bathroom or on the walk to your next class.
    • While there are some things that must be sacrificed in order to become a successful bodybuilder, do not go to the extreme. Even if you cannot go out and party three or four days a week, there is no reason to eliminate social events entirely.  Plan out your week and maybe include one night where you can go out and blow off a little bit of steam.  Too much sacrifice will eventually burn you out and put a massive toll on your emotional stability.
    • Do not procrastinate on your studies. Procrastinating is difficult enough for the average student, but when you add in the sport of bodybuilding, it can be a recipe for disaster as I learned just this past semester.  Plan plan plan!
  • Best place to eat around campus?

    While it might not be the healthiest choice compared to what I eat at home, I like subway as my go to place when I need food.  The best way to do it is to order a foot-long oven roasted chicken sub on the 9 grain Honey Oat bread, double the meat, and overflow it with every vegetable they have.  For a little bit of extra flavor I like to add light mayo and either buffalo sauce, sriracha sauce, or sweet onion dressing.

  • Typical Workout Routine

    I personally have found that more is always better.  Now you may hear some guys say that the rest time is more important than the workout; I disagree with that.  While it is very important to sufficiently rest a single muscle group, I will not hesitate to work one or two muscle groups every day.  The only time I take a rest is when I am absolutely exhausted. I generally follow this type of protocol, although I do change my workouts slightly every week.  I like to mix my sets and rep ranges to I can get stimulate every part of the muscle.  I include light sets (12-18 reps), Medium sets (8-12 reps), and heavy sets (5-8 reps)

    Day 1: Chest

    Incline Dumbbell Press (4 Sets total: 1 medium set, 2 heavy sets, 1 drop set)

    Barbell flat bench (4 sets total: Set 1: Medium Weight, 10-18 reps, Set 2: Increase by 20 pounds, reps to failure, Set 3: Increase by 20 pounds, reps to failure, Set 4: Same weight as set 3, reps to failure + dropset)

    Cable Flys: (6 sets total: 2 medium sets, 1 heavy set, 3 drop sets)

    Incline Machine Press: (4 Sets total: 1 medium set, 2 heavy sets, 1 drop set)

    Additional Machine Press: (4 sets total, whatever you feel like doing)

    Day 2: Back

    Pull ups/Chin ups (6 sets until failure, as many different grips as possible)

    T bar rows (4 sets total: 3 Heavy sets, 1 drop set)

    Lat Pull Downs (3 sets total: 2 Heavy sets, 1 drop set)

    Close Grip Lat pull downs (3 sets total: 2 Heavy Sets, 1 drop set)

    Bent over back rows (4 sets total: 1 medium set, 2 heavy sets, 1 drop set)

    Cable rows (4 heavy sets)

    Day 3: Arms

    EZ bar bicep curls (4 sets total: 3 heavy sets, 1 drop set)

    Tricep cable pull down (4 sets total: 1 medium set, 2 heavy sets, 1 drop set)

    Hammer Curls (4 heavy sets)

    Tricep Dip Machine (4 heavy sets)

    Single Arm isolation curls (4 sets total: 3 heavy sets, 1 drop set)

    Skullcrushers (4 Heavy sets)

    Ez Bar preacher curls (4 heavy sets)

    Single Arm cable pulldowns (4 heavy sets)

    Single Arm cable curls (4 heavy sets)

    Machine tricep press (4 medium sets)

    Day 4: Shoulders

    Cable lateral raises: (4 sets total: 1 light set, 1 medium set, 1 heavy set, 1 drop set)

    Machine shoulder press (4-5 sets total, 3-4 medium sets, 1 drop set)

    Upright rows (4 medium sets)

    Shoulder shrugs (4 heavy sets)

    Machine raises (4 heavy sets)

    Day 5: Legs

    Hack Squats (4 sets total: 1 light set, 1 medium set, 1 heavy set, 1 drop set)

    Leg Press (4 medium sets)

    Leg Extensions (4 sets total: 1 medium set, 1 heavy set, 2 drop sets)

    Seated Leg Curl (10 sets total: 10 rep sets, 1 minute rest in between sets)

    Standing calf machine (8 medium sets)

    Abs: Every other day

    Nautilus abdominal weighted crunch: 10 sets of 10 reps, 1 minute rests in between

    Lower back: Once per week

    Deadlifts (5×5)

    Romanian Deadlifts (5×5)

    Cardio: 15 minutes of High intensity elliptical during cutting

  • Training Philosophy

    When it comes to training, my philosophy is not complicated.  Find what works for you and stick with it.  In recent years bodybuilding has evolved from just simple common sense to some complex laboratory experiment.  I find that this just over complicates things. Why try to fix something that is not even broken?  Sometimes all it takes is some good old “bro science”.  The classic bodybuilders of the 60s and 70s did not sit there saying that everything had to be done this way or that way.  They did not argue about this supplement needing to be taken with that supplement to yield these results. All they did was eat as much protein as they could and train until they could not train anymore.

    Bodybuilding takes time; it is not something that can be done overnight.  You must dedicate years, or even your entire life to reaching your goals.  Always do you and do not allow others to tell you otherwise.

    To those just beginning or even those veterans who need a bit of extra motivation, check out this link below.

    https://opisina.wordpress.com/2012/03/01/6-rules-of-success-arnold-schwarzenegger/

  • Typical Diet

    In bodybuilding, one will find that there is no “one size fits all” diet.  Your diet will depend entirely on your body type and genetic build.  For example, a skinny ectomorph who has a hard time gaining even an ounce of fat will has a drastically different diet than a stout, strong endomorph who gains fat and muscle with barely any effort whatsoever.  As someone who gains fat very easily I have to be very careful with my diet, especially when it comes to the intake of carbohydrates.  I generally am heavy on the protein, moderate on the fat, and I only use carbohydrates sparingly.  My diet changes slightly from day to day depending on my schedule and what I have around the house, but generally I am pretty consistent about how much I consume.

    A typical day might go as follows

    Meal 1: 3 whole eggs sunny side up cooked in butter, ½ cup 2% Greek Yogurt

    Meal 2: 6oz red meat, 1 cup peas or mixed veggies

    Meal 3: 1 cup 2% Greek Yogurt, Protein Bar

    Meal 4 (Pre workout meal): 3 eggs sunny side up, 1 slice Ezekiel bread w/1 TBSP sunflower seed butter

    Meal 5: (Post Workout shake): 1 cup liquid egg whites, 1 TBSP cocoa powder, 2 packets stevia, a few drops of vanilla

    Meal 6: 8-10oz of meat, large salad with oil, balsamic vinegar, and Feta

    Meal 7: 6oz meat, 1 cup mixed veggies

    Meal 8: 6oz canned salmon (made into salmon salad w/light mayo), 2/3 cup of peas, 1 slice Ezekiel bread w/1 TBSP Sunflower seed butter

    While my diet might have some variations, I generally try make my meals from a list of approved foods

    Proteins: Tuna, Salmon, Chicken (white or dark meat), Turkey (White or dark meat), Ground beef (at least 90%), Ground Bison, Lean cuts of beef, Reduced Fat Cheese, Reduced Fat Greek Yogurt, Eggs, Egg Whites, Whey Protein, Soy Free Plant Protein, Dairy Based Protein Bars

    Vegetables: Mixed green salads, Dark leafy greens, Frozen peas, Frozen mixed vegetables, Peppers, Onions, Cucumbers, Broccoli, Green Beans

    Fats: Olive Oil, Avocado, Extra Virgin Coconut Oil, Butter, Meat Fat (limited), MCTs

    Carbs (Limited): Ezekiel bread, Sweet Potato, Low Sugar Cereal, Oats, Quinoa

    Snacks for when I have a sweet tooth: Sugar Free Dark Chocolate, Regular Dark Chocolate, Sugar Free Light Ice Cream, Chocolatey Protein Bars, Almond Milk (Sweetened), Granola, Flavored BCAA

    Condiments: Ketchup, Sriracha, Hot Sauce, Salt Free Seasoning Blends, Spices, Low Sugar BBQ Sauce, Mustard, Light Mayo, Stevia, Erythritol, Marinara Sauce, Salt Substitutes, Unrefined Sea Salt (limited)

    Avoid at all costs: Sugar, Soy, Alcohol, Refined Carbs, Refined Starches, White Bread, Meats Containing Antibiotics and Hormones, Fast Food, Heavy amounts of sodium, High Fat Protein, Trans Fats.

  • Favorite Supplements

    Like every other person in the world, I am always inclined to try out the latest and greatest supplement promising to give me amazing results.  Unfortunately, these are often nothing but scams and exaggerated claims.  Still, there are some supplements out there that do in fact provide quite a bit of benefit to the amateur (and even veteran) bodybuilder and truly live up to their name.  However, the most important thing to remember is that no supplement cannot replace a good diet and training routine.  You could be taking the greatest supplement ever created, and unless you are already putting in 100% of your effort into reaching your goals, you might as well just flush your money down the toilet.  In bodybuilding, results are roughly 65% diet and 30% training. The supplements are only there to give you that extra 5% to put you at 100% efficiency.

    For those of you who are putting in the work and want to incorporate a little bit of an edge, here are my favorite supplements and companies overall.  My choices are not made based on taste or popularity, those are meaningless.  I’ve comprised my choices solely on effectiveness and quality.

    Favorite Proteins

    Whey Complex: Optimum Nutrition 100% Gold Standard Natural

    Whey Isolate: Now Sports Whey Protein Isolate Unflavored

    Plant Protein: Nitrofusion

    Time Release Protein: Controlled Labs Pronom 23

    Favorite Pre Workouts

    Stimulant Free: IForce Hemavol

    Overall Favorite: Controlled Labs White Flood Reborn

    Best Pumps: USP Labs Jack3d Micro

    Current Pre workout: Top Secret Pump Igniter

    For the stim junkies: Tie: Hi Tech Pharmaceuticals Jack’d Up, Cannibal Ferox (new formula)

    Favorite Testosterone Boosters (stacks)

    Athletic Edge Nutrition APE

    Pharmafreak Test Freak

    D-Aspartic Acid + LeCheek Nutrition AD-3

    Iron Mag Labs Anabolic Matrix RX

    Favorite Intra Workouts/BCAA/EAA

    EAA: Controlled Labs Purple Wraath

    BCAA: Modern BCAA

    Current BCAA: Inner Armor BCAA 12:1:1

    Honorable Mention: BPI Blox

    Multivitamins:

    Source Naturals Men’s Life Force Multiple (Best Overall)

    Rainbow Light Men’s Performance Multivitamin (Best Value)

    Universal Animal Pak (Most Intense)

    Optimum Nutrition Optimen (Best Budget Friendly Multi)

    Favorite Companies Overall:

    • Controlled Labs
    • Optimum Nutrition
    • Chaos & Pain
    • Now Sports

    Make sure to keep an eye out for various detailed supplement reviews which I will be conducting periodically.

  • Workout Playlist

    When it comes to lifting, I like to combine music that is both high energy as well as pleasant sounding.  My favorite genres to listen to while training are probably big room house and hardstyle.  These are my top motivational workout songs

    • Angerfist – Knock Knock
    • Miss K8 – Breathless
    • Angerfist & Miss K8 – New World Order
    • Showtek – Booyah (Party Favor’s Trap Remix)
    • DJ Coone – Zombie Killer
    • DJ Coone – Chapter 2012
    • DJ Coone ft Substance One – Drowning
    • Headhunterz ft Psyko Punkz – Disrespect
    • Brennan Heart – Imaginary
    • Wild Motherfuckers – Wild Wild West
    • Da Tweekaz – Natural Born Raver
    • Tune Up! – Ravers Fantasy (Roazt Bootleg)
    • Eva Shaw – Space Jungle (Showtek Edit)
    • DJ Coone – Times Gettin’ Hard
    • Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike – Mammoth (Coone Remix)
  • Tips for other college students who want to meet their fitness goals?
  • Training Schedule

    Everyday: 7-10pm