Lee Haney rose to the top of the sport with exceptional balance, conditioning, and fullness. In a recent Escape Fitness interview, Haney fired shots at Open bodybuilders for poor nutrition and relived his first Mr. Olympia victory in 1984.
Bodybuilding legend Lee Haney dominated the IFBB Pro League during the 1980s. He is an eight-time Mr. Olympia winner (1984-1991), a reign he made possible with an unyielding work ethic and sheer determination. During his bodybuilding tenure, Haney faced the cream of the crop, having battled with three-time Mr. Olympias Sergio Oliva, Frank Zane, as well as Lee Labrada, and Rich Gaspari.
Since Haney’s dominant title run, the sport has undergone dramatic changes. After Haney retired on top in 1991, mass monsters would soon stake their claim in the division. Despite changes to the category, fans, and bodybuilding veterans alike agree that Haney displayed one of the most complete physiques ever.
While he competed in a different era, Lee Haney has continually warned competitors today about who they choose to train with. And now it appears Haney is taking issue with Open competitors who have developed a seemingly unhealthy relationship with food.
Lee Haney Talks Poor Nutrition & Offers Advice to Bodybuilders: “Always Stay Within Striking Distance”
According to the bodybuilding icon, low-carb diets are for ‘fat boys.’ He encouraged athletes to keep a healthy relationship with food so it’s easier to prepare for bodybuilding shows.
“Low carb is for fat boys. If you look like a porkey the pig in the off-season, you’re fat! You got to burn that stuff off. When you trying to get rid of all that weight through aerobics and starvation, your muscle is not going to have that life to it.
That life force where it looks great on stage and it’s popping because you’re aerobic-ing yourself to death and stress will show up on your physique, it’ll tear you up. So, my message has always been in bodybuilding as I share with young athletes, always stay within striking distance. Train around, no more than around 12-15 pounds over your competition weight,” said Lee Haney.
Haney says 3% body fat is the goal on stage and believes athletes can adjust their nutrition based on where they are in their respective prep.
“If you’re 15 or 16 weeks out, if you’re 15% body fat, then guess what? You can drop a percentage every week until you bottom out at 3% or 3.5% you’re ready then. And if you get there too quick then guess what? Increase the food intake. I don’t believe in zero carbs. I never had to do that. I was a carb monster. My carbs would be 4 to 500 grams of carbohydrates a day because I was never a fat boy.”
“These guys get 40, 50, 60 pounds overweight and they have to traumatize themselves, eating chicken and green beans, what kind of life is that? It’s terrible man. It’s ignorance,” added Haney. “Never go below 50 grams of carbs. Zero carbohydrates for me, keto for me, if you want to call it keto, we just said lower your carbohydrates.”
Unlike his contemporaries, who consumed sunflower seeds, almonds, and walnuts, Haney underscored that modern competitors carb up with bacon, cheese, and ‘garbage.’
“The muscles overcompensate when you put the carbs back in, that’s why we want to hit the stage and we’re full and the muscles and the veins are popping. Even on another point, when we do carbohydrate deplete, we don’t use bacon, cheese, and garbage. We used sunflower seeds, we used almonds, we used walnuts.”
“They have half-truths [people in fitness and bodybuilding], they don’t live and they haven’t lived what we lived. When I say we, we’re bodybuilders, that’s what we do. We understand the science of food. They don’t [online coaches]. They just read stuff and don’t get it right and get a lot of people hurt living off statins.”
Haney on Winning 1st Mr. Olympia in 1984: “It Was a Dream Come True”
Haney said he won his first Mr. Olympia weighing 233 pounds. He credited Arnold Schwarzenegger, Frank Zane, Robby Robinson, and Ed Corney as early influences.
“Winning a Mr. Olympia is a miracle in itself and to be there on the same stage with Frank Zane and Robby Robinson, Sergio Olvia was there… wow. You know, that was absolutely incredible. It was like a dream come true man. You watched these guys in the magazines, you grew up admiring them, there you are, standing on stage with them. To be the winner and the victor, wow. Thank you, lord,” added Haney.
“The previous year I weighed 243 but winning at 233. I had went back and figured out through my notes and studied what had went wrong. No one had stepped on an Olympia stage at the weight and at that height. I knew that was a winning package. You size up your competition. I always knew if I had a combination of Arnold, Robby, Frank Zane, Ed Corney, who can beat that? And I felt that’s what I had achieved during my whole career, not just for that one but during my whole career. That’s what I wanted to be like, a combination of all of those gentlemen, those awesome legends.”
Haney isn’t the only bodybuilding veteran from a different era taking aim at the Open category. A few months back, 1990s standout Rich Gaspari accused Open bodybuilders of abusing steroids instead of depending on consistent training. In an additional Fitness, Fame & Fortune podcast, Gaspari said he personally favored the look of Classic Physique Olympia Chris Bumstead over recent Men’s Open Mr. Olympia winners.
Given his expertise, Lee Haney is determined to educate new talent making their way into bodybuilding. He stands by his approach, which saw him set the all-time Mr. Olympia win record that was later matched by Ronnie Coleman.
You can watch the full video on the Escape Fitness YouTube channel below:
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