Interview with Emil Hodzovic on Switching Up Protein for the Summer

Emil Hodzovic working out

As the weather is warming up and the summer months are in sight, we talk to Reflex Nutrition Ambassador, doctor and bodybuilder, Emil Hodzovic, on how he switches up his protein to achieve his specific training goals.

Hi Emil. Let’s start at the beginning, do you switch up your supplements throughout the year depending on your goals?

Yes, absolutely. I have some core products that I use all year round such as Nexgen Pro, Krill Oil and Creatine. Then, if I’m bulking, gaining strength or focussing on sport, I will use One Stop Xtreme both as my basic protein source and to fuel my workouts.

When I’m dieting I usually switch to Instant Whey Pro and if I’m competing in a bodybuilding show I will use Micro Whey to help minimise fat and carb intake – particularly in the final weeks before a competition.

As you can see I switch between products a lot!

And do seasons affect the type of workouts you do? For example, with summer on its way, many people look to lean down and tweak their nutrition and training plans accordingly. Do you do this?

Yes definitely. When I’m leaning down, my workouts tend to become more structured so I can track my progress and maintain my volume load (the amount I lift) across sessions.

On top of this I track my steps and calorie intake and output. The workouts are usually bodybuilding style workouts and I try to hit all of my muscle groups 2-3 times a week. I keep sessions short and sharp at around 45-60 minutes, including warm up, and then try to do my cardio in separate sessions.

Although I will use compound exercises such as squats and bench press as the base of my workouts I will also use a lot of isolation exercises to really hone in on specific muscles.

So when you are leaning down, what do you look for in a nutritional product?

When I’m trying to lean down, ideally I want a protein product which tastes good even when mixed with water (to save calories!) and has minimal carbs and fats in it. Instant Whey Pro is pretty good but Micro Whey really is the next level when it comes to good tasting protein.

How much protein do you look to consume in a day when you’re looking to lean down?

I usually aim to keep my protein around 2g per kg body weight so at 115kg this is around 230g for me. As I lean down and start to drop body fat I tend to increase my protein intake slightly to preserve muscle and can go to 250g or even 280g per day. As well as maintaining and growing muscle, protein is great for keeping you full when dieting!

Image of Reflex Ambassador Emil

How do you manage your carb intake when you’re looking to lean down?

When getting lean, it is all about calorie balance. As calories become more limited and protein stays the same or even increases, carbs become more limited as well. This means that you need to be picky with carbs – both in terms of sources of carbohydrates but also in terms of when you are eating them.

When dieting hard you want to focus on carbohydrates around training to fuel the session in the most effective way possible. For me this is often a normal meal 3-4 hours prior to working out. I tend to opt for a meal with potatoes or rice. Then an hour before my workout I have a One Stop Xtreme or an Instant Whey Pro shake along with a banana.

For people who would like to lean down for the summer, what product advice would you give them?

I would recommend taking the basic products regardless of goal and these would include vitamin D, a multivitamin such as Nexgen Pro, Omega 3s or Krill Oil and Creatine.

Then on top of this, it is very useful to have a good quality protein shake. The most important factors when choosing a shake would be protein content and quality and then taste is a close second.

For me, Instant Whey Pro ticks all the boxes here and there are a number of flavours so you’re bound to find one you like. At the moment, my favourites are Chocolate Mint Perfection and Raspberry Delight.

Thanks for sharing your insight with us Emil! If you’d like to stay up to date with Emil, follow him on Instagram.

And, if you think this interview can help others switch up their protein and nutrition to achieve their specific goals, share it with your friends and family:  

Whey Protein – The Basics

Image of Reflex Ambassador Emil

Here is Emil Hodzovic, Reflex Nutrition Ambassador, on the basics of whey protein. The who, why, what and when – Emil tells all!

Despite the huge range of protein varieties available these days, whey protein is always going to be the biggest player when it comes to protein shakes and for good reason.

It is a complete and balanced protein with high branched chain amino acid (BCAA) content and, importantly, it is fast digesting, rapidly getting vital amino acids to where they need to be. This makes it ideal as a meal replacement and before and after workouts.

Who is whey protein for and why?

Whey protein is an extremely useful tool for anyone who needs a convenient source of good quality protein. A lot of people incorrectly believe that drinking protein shakes will automatically cause them to gain muscle and become bulky, or that if they consume shakes and don’t train, the protein will turn to fat. Both of these misconceptions couldn’t be further from the truth!

For people who train hard, whey protein is a prime candidate for convenience and can provide the perfect blend of amino acids. What’s more, it promotes the recovery and repair of damaged muscle fibres when taken immediately after gruelling sessions, whether those involve weights, cardio or training for sports.

Whey protein can be used by anyone, including people of all ages who are just starting out in their exercise careers. Even people who don’t train or are injured can take advantage of whey protein to increase their protein intake or use it as a low calorie, highly nutritious meal replacement.

Whey protein can also be used in cooking and to reduce the calories of a recipe as well as adding that important protein hit! Using different flavours of whey can add a twist to otherwise bland or boring recipes.

What to look for in a good protein supplement?

An effective protein supplement should be complete and balanced with a high proportion of BCAAs. Whey protein fits the bill perfectly and generally speaking beats most other sources of protein including soy protein. Soy protein is used a lot in the supplement industry and is the cheaper, poorer quality alternative to whey protein.

On top of this, when buying protein, you want a powder which mixes easily and is tasty to consume. This means finding a flavour that you like. My personal favourites at the moment include Instant Whey Pro Raspberry Delight and Chocolate Perfection as they are versatile and taste great whether I mix them with water, milk or almond milk. They also work well with oats or stirred in with yoghurt.

When is the best time to consume protein?

The best times to use whey protein include:

First thing in the morning

It can be difficult to find the time for protein first thing so this is a perfect time for a shake. This applies to anyone, whether you’re dieting, trying to build muscle or just need a convenient tasty snack before work.

Personally, I am rarely hungry in the mornings and always in a rush but muscle retention is a priority for me so a shake with unsweetened almond milk and some fruit hits the spot perfectly.

Immediately post workout

This is the traditional time to use whey protein as you want a fast digesting, good quality protein with a complete amino acid profile to optimise the effects of the training session. It’s also hugely convenient and it means you don’t need to rush home or think about your next meal for a few hours.

Any time between meals

Whether it is for convenience or if you want to reduce your daily calories when dieting. Whey protein can be more filling and better at holding off hunger than crisps or fruit. And, it will also increase your daily protein intake.

Whey protein is an all-round, comprehensive protein supplement and can be used by anyone with any training background or history. If whey protein is the right protein for you, then shop now.

How to Build a Bigger Back

how to build a bigger back

#TeamReflex athlete and Muscle Model champion, Emil Hodzovic, gives us a run down on some fundamental movements for building a bigger back.

The back. Now, not to state the obvious but it’s behind you. This often means in a new gym-goers formative years it is often forgotten or at least neglected for more obvious muscle groups (such as the chest). However, it is such a fundamental part of a physique that physique shows have been won or lost the second the line-up turned to face the rear.

Let’s be honest, you can see a good back from the front and even clothed, a mountain range of a back will leave people in no doubt whether you even lift, more so than that chest or set of arms.

So how does one go about building a bigger back that a gorilla would be proud of? Read on…

This topic is huge. I could lecture endlessly about all of the fine intricacies of a bigger back training. Instead, I’m going to break it down into my top three back exercises. If you include these in your weekly split then you’re well on your way to a sick set of wings. If you don’t do any of them on a regular basis then you really need to re-evaluate your status as a gym goer.

 

1. The Deadlift

The deadlift is the bread and butter of back training. Before we go into some more detail, let’s just clear a few things up. Deadlifts don’t give you a thick waist. They will develop your core, just like squats and the other big compound movements but to achieve a level of oblique hypertrophy where your waist is thicker than if it just had excess fat on it is nigh on impossible. So get that excuse straight out of your head. And that’s exactly what it often is, an excuse…because deads are HARD. There is no other exercise that loads the back to the same degree as deadlifts from the sheer weight lifted. It will build both thickness and width and it will give you that 3D effect that so many people crave.

Top Tip – Deads are hard and although this isn’t an excuse not to do them, it is possible to overdo them and deadlifting heavy and often can be quite taxing. For me personally, I tend to do them roughly once a fortnight as part of my back workout but I tend to go in hard when I do. Oh, and also, don’t bounce them. It’s a ‘dead’ lift. That means a dead stop at the bottom before you go again.

 

2. The Barbell Bent – Over Row

The barbell bent-over row is next on my list of bigger back training essentials. It’s such a versatile and comprehensive movement and although you can’t load it as heavily as the deadlift, you can still shift some pretty serious weight. There are infinite variations of grips and back positions including the single arm dumbbell row and T bar row but generally speaking the barbell version is the most ubiquitous and even within just this bit of kit there is wide variation. Generally speaking, I prefer over grip and I try to get right over the bar with my back as horizontal as possible. If you’re not careful or start any higher it just ends up turning into a shrug. Within the movement, try and lift the bar to the top abs and control the movement as much as possible but you can alter the line of the lift and angle of the back so you are hitting different parts of the back.

Top tip – Depending on the variation, a little bit of leg bounce is entirely acceptable but if you’re nearly upright and throwing the bar in some sort of half range jerking movement then you’re doing it wrong… bro.

 

3. Lat Pull Down

I think the final one on the list has to be the Lat Pull Down. Often available in even the worst gyms and even more often performed horribly; it hits the back in the vertical plane versus the horizontal movement of say, the Bent Over Row. Again, there are infinite variations of grips and handles and ranges of movement but the standard wide grip front down does the job.

Top tip – Before you start the movement, grip the bar and allow the arms and scapula to extend fully – imagine you’re hanging loosely and letting the shoulder relax. Then, to begin, bring the scapula down and back, keeping the arms straight before bending at the elbows. This is the FULL range of motion and allows you to engage the lats and rest of the back MUCH more effectively.

 

… 4. Pull-ups

I know I said only three, but no discussion on a bigger back training can be complete without talking about the lowly pull up. I love this movement but in terms of sheer versatility the Lat Pull Down pips it when talking general usefulness and versatility. That said, I include pull-ups in most of my workouts as it’s both extremely effective but it’s also one of those movements that you’re kind of expected to be good at as someone who trains regularly. I often put it towards the beginning of a session as a warm up while I’m still fresh. I find I fatigue quickly on these and I try to keep them in even when gaining weight as this is essentially adding resistance to the movement over time.

 

From Strongman to Lean Machine: My Transformation Story

Reflex Nutrition athlete, Emil Hodzovic, shares his unique transformation story and reminds us that whatever your goal – enjoy the process.

A lot of people ask me about my transformation. It’s not a traditional ’12 week weight loss’ or anything like that, rather, it is my continued evolution and journey through the fitness world.

It all started when I first discovered the gym at around 16. I already played a lot of sport and I was quite slim and athletic. Like a lot of teenagers, I wanted to bulk up. I started training, and alongside rugby, I steadily gained some muscle. This was slow and I was further distracted by university, alcohol and exams but I was hooked.

After a few injuries, I was forced to quit rugby but I kept training while moving between sports. I dabbled in MMA wining my only amateur fight and I also did some kettlebell training and general functional fitness. Then, after meeting the legendary British strongman Mark Felix at BodyPower in 2010, I decided to compete as a strength athlete and this is where the real bulking started.

As with everything I do, I took it very seriously and meticulously tracked my macros up to 6000kcal a day for months on end. This packed on the size and I grew to a peak body weight of 142kg. I was pretty good at strongman and won a few competitions but ultimately when I started work as a junior doctor in 2011 I couldn’t maintain the rigorous eating and training and had to give it up.

I kept lifting weights despite not competing and I lost a little bit of weight through apathy and a busy schedule at work. I was in a pretty bad state in my mid 20’s with a BMI of over 40 and I getting out of breath walking up stairs. Thoughts of going back to strongman had made me subconsciously try to stay heavy but it dawned on me that it probably wasn’t optimal for my health so I made the decision to drop some fat. My first real ‘cut’ was a shambles but it worked. I went from 132kg to 110kg but lost a lot of muscle in the process due to lack of knowledge. Although I never stopped, my training had again taken a back seat to work as a doctor and my weight remained pretty steady for a while. I had no aim and no sport to focus my attention; I just carried on with my life.

In 2014 I did my second cut, more out of curiosity, to see what I could achieve and again lost a lot of muscle but I got much more shredded this time and my diet was much more moderate. Overall I was progressing and I was slowly discovering the bodybuilding way of training.

At the beginning of 2015 I met Shaun Stafford at an event and that was the impulse I needed. At that point I decided to compete as a physique athlete (can you sense a pattern emerging?) and got to work planning my next diet. In May of that year I stepped on stage with the WBFF as a muscle model and although I didn’t win, I’ve been desperate to get back on stage since.

My journey has been full of ups and downs and as you can see it’s far from a single rapid fat loss ‘transformation’ like social media can so often portray. There were many false starts, steps backwards and periods where other things were more important. This is real life and the most important thing is that you enjoy the process, as I did and still do.

Athlete Favourites: 3D Protein

In this blog post, Reflex Nutrition athlete and A&E doctor – Emil Hodzvic – tells us why 3D Protein is his ultimate choice of protein supplement and how it fits in with his hectic lifestyle.

 

My favourite supplement at the moment has to be Reflex Nutrition’s 3D Protein. The concept is simple – three different sources of top quality protein in one blend, each with a unique and complimentary digestion and absorption time. What this means in everyday terms is you’ve got three different ‘speeds’ of protein in a single shake from rapid whey protein, to intermediate egg white protein and then much more gradually absorbing micellar casein.

 

When do I use it?

Most people who train use whey protein powder regularly and rightly so as it’s a complete, rapidly absorbing protein. It’s perfect for after the gym when you need that immediate protein hit to optimise the hard work you’ve done during your session. What about at other times though?

In an ideal world I aim to have decent protein-containing meals at regular intervals throughout the day. This protein hit is especially important first thing in the morning and last thing before I go to bed though this realistically rarely goes to plan. Essentially 3D Protein is absolutely ideal for periods either when you haven’t eaten for a while or when you won’t be eating for a while whether it’s because you’re working, sleeping or travelling for example. As an Accident and Emergency doctor, fitness professional and physique athlete I’m extremely busy and my schedule is all over the place. For this reason I don’t know when I’m going to be training or eating day to day and on top of this my actual shifts can be totally unpredictable (as you can imagine in a busy A+E).

 

Early mornings

Often when I’m waking up early to get things done (4am, for example) I’m simply not hungry. However, just because I don’t want a full breakfast, it doesn’t mean I want to miss the chance to trigger muscle protein synthesis (MPS). You only get 3 or 4 opportunities in a day to spike this vital muscle building process so it’s a folly to neglect it. For this, 3D Protein is perfect. It provides the whey for the rapidly absorbing, high quality protein to initiate MPS, then it has the slower blend for a sustained release of protein to keep me full for as long as I need before I get round to my next meal. This means once I get my head down in my pile of work or get on the road to travel somewhere, I don’t even need to think about food for the next 4-6 hours. This would be sacrilege, usually as a bodybuilder, to go this long without eating but it’s OK as I’m confident I’ve got a steady stream of amino acids trickling in.

 

Post workout but before bed

I also like to use 3D Protein if my workout is delayed and I end up training late. It is the perfect post workout for me. Once I’m finished, I aim to have a shake immediately afterwards. If it’s my usual Instant Whey Pro shake, then that’s perfect for the post workout period, but I’m aware that I need to try and eat again before I go to bed to keep the protein going in all night. However after these late sessions I usually just want to shower and go to bed. On top of this, straight after an intense workout I don’t tend to get hungry for a good few hours and realistically I’d rather not stay up just to wait to eat again. For these reasons, 3D Protein covers me with both the rapid release whey protein perfect for post workout to ensure I get the most benefit from my training, but it also has the slower release egg white protein and micellar casein for overnight while I sleep.

 

Shift work

Finally, during my long night shifts I can never guarantee when (or if!) I’ll have a chance for a break. This means I need a quick snack that will last. I simply put 2 scoops of 3D Protein ready in a shaker for as soon I get a moment to add water and get it down. It fits the bill perfectly and even if I don’t manage to have a proper break for the whole 10 or 12 hour shift I can still pop out for a few seconds to get my shake in before jumping straight back in.

 

For me, 3D Protein is absolutely invaluable because of it’s unique time release formula and the requirements of my busy, non-stop lifestyle. There are other ways to get my protein in but none as neat and effective as this one.