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Cory Holly - INBA Natural Mr. Hawaii

Dr Cory Holly Shares his Diet and Training Tips

Infofit: Dr Holly, let’s start this interview off with some background information about yourself. Did your interest in bodybuilding start as a child or were you an athlete and turned to bodybuilding later in your teen years?

cory hollyCory Holly: I was infatuated with sport as far back as I can remember and played them all. For me sport was a tremendous release and I only played for fun. The better I was the more fun I had. I started lifting dumbbells at age 12. Next I ordered the Charles Atlas Dynamic Tension course from the back of a Superman comic. Then I saw a picture of Arnold in Joe Weider’s Muscle & Fitness Magazine. After that I was hooked for life.

What is your training like currently?

Infofit: What is your training like currently? Would you say you primarily stay within a certain rep range or do you switch it up and do some light days as well as heavy days?

Cory Holly: After trying virtually every weight-lifting system known for decades, meeting the champions, training in many gyms worldwide and interviewing hundreds of athletes, coaches and experts, I created what I think is a highly functional and sustainable workout program called Five Steps To Health.

The program includes five workouts a week, five phases per workout, five meals per day, five supplements to take and five principles to live by. Workouts are an hour long and each workout includes a warm-up, resistance training (one body-part), core training, cardio interval training and a complete full body stretch. This is the program I employ myself unless I’m training for a special athletic event.

Reps vary from 3-6, 6-12 and up to 20

Reps vary from 3-6, 6-12 and up to 20 to fully recruit the various subsets of muscle fibers. One of my training principles is two steps forward, one step back, as opposed to constantly moving forward without regard to how the body adapts to the stress of training over time. This is why I’ve never been injured in the gym during my 43 years of training, and I train hard and heavy! Sport on the ice or field is where the injury action and real risk of damage is! Weight-training in the gym performed correctly and progressively is incredibly safe!

I love bodysurfing. In Hawaii you never stand up against a wave. You catch it or dive underneath it. If the wave catches you, you go with it and ‘float’ while submerged. You learn to recognize and ‘feel’ the sets coming in, but you never take a wave head on. The secret of steel is in the hand that wields the steel, not the steel itself. The mind guided by reason must always lead.

Infofit: Does your training change depending on if you are preparing for a contest or if it is the off-season?

Train Progressively Always Increasing the Weight

Cory Holly: Of course. For nine months I train much heavier to build strength, thickness and fiber density. By heavy I mean what’s heavy for me. I eat more dense low-glycemic carbs and enjoy drinking ice cold natural beer. Tracy and I also drink mead on special romantic occasions. I train progressively always increasing the weight when nature and my individual growth rate permits.

I don’t mess with Mother Nature cause she always wins. 100 days out I begin to decrease carbs and fats, increase my protein intake, decrease the amount of weight lifted, increase the number of exercises and sets and increase the overall volume of training in the gym.  Plus add a short morning mountain hike and late evening stairs to the mix. Strip away the fat, keep the muscle and never compromise health. That’s the goal.

Infofit: What is your diet like right now? Is it true that you do a couple weeks of cutting and then a couple weeks of bulking?

My Diet is Clean, Simple and Basic

Cory Holly : My diet is clean, simple and basic. It consists of mixed animal proteins like salmon, bison, halibut, turkey, prawns, eggs, etc…huge rainbow salads, organic greens, homemade dressings and a wonderful variety of fruit like fresh papaya, pineapple, mango and berries mixed in my shakes. I also juice every morning like clockwork.

Wheat is Off the Menu and Dairy is Next to Nil

I prefer organic, non-GMO and wild food, but our conventional food supply makes it difficult at times. Generally my intake of things like yams, brown rice or lentils is low year round. Wheat is off the menu and dairy is next to nil. I think of sugar as a pathogen. I’m an endomorph and motor much better on a Paleo diet compared to the more common Big Agro approach.

I calculate everything according to my genetics, body type and experience in advance of the show one year out. I use the principle of periodization and create a mezo, macro and micro cycle, each with a unique phase of nutrition and training. I take a slow, methodical approach, like how a carver chips away at a rough block of stone with a chisel to create a three-dimensional sculpture. I think of myself as Michelangelo’s David hidden inside a block of marble waiting to be revealed.

Metabolic Thermo-Burns

The last ten days are what I love the most because it’s the most difficult. Two gym workouts a day (double-split), two practice sessions for posing, plus evening stairs and sprints or what I call metabolic thermo-burns. All of this on 6 skinless chicken/turkey breasts, 4-100g whey isolate shakes (water only) and zero carbs. My energy just flies through the roof!

Infofit: Do you currently use supplements? If so, what do you prefer to use and why?


CH: Tons. They are the carbon added to my diet of iron that makes it as strong and flexible as steel. Any diet is better with them than without. Protein shakes are the central player in my arsenal and war against oxidation, gravity and entropy. Whey protein isolate, mixed plant and hemp isolates, hemp, flax and chia seed oils, creatine monohydrate, D-ribose, L-glutamine and vitamin C powder (calcium ascorbate). All these go into the shake 2-4 times daily in a base of filtered water. Protein shakes are the cornerstone.

I choose supplements with the most evidence, history of safety and best quality control. I take a multi-mineral complex, mixed carotenoid complex and vitamins A, D, E and K. I also take extra calcium and magnesium, zinc, tyrosine, ginkgo, melatonin, B-complex, B-12, B-5, CoQ10, lipoic acid, HMB, shark liver oil, primrose oil, EPA/DHA and acetyl-L-carnitine. In addition I use botanical adaptogens, mushroom extracts, various joint formulas and homeopathic medicines. I prefer powder, caps and injection over hard compressed tablets.

Infofit: If you had to give us just one of your secrets to bodybuilding success, what is your best piece of advice/info. for everyone?

Secrets to Bodybuilding Success

CH: Consistency and math. What I mean is that in the same way engineers rely on math and physics to build and fly airplanes, do the same with your health and training. Create a lifestyle and health program that is theoretically compatible with all known physics and biology. One that is doable in real time and sustainable long term. Like Einstein’s theory of general relativity. Before it was proven it was just a theory, but the math was right. Later they proved it. No emotions get in the way of math. Just rely on the math and do what the math says, but make sure the math is right.

Don’t rely on “how you feel”, unless you’re raring to go and supercharged with personal power. Positive emotions are wonderful. But don’t listen to that other crap in your head, like “I’m too tired, or too broke, or too fat, or too skinny or too whatever”. It’s all a lie. Rely on the math and do the WORK. That’s how I spell health…..W.O.R.K. Think like a scientist. Live like a Greek God!

Would you say that with all the nutritional science you relied on is available through your CHI Sports Nutrition Course?

CH: Absolutely, plus it’s constantly being updated with new evidence from research papers, science institutes and new books. That’s the beauty of digital online education. Nothing is static, like science itself. Like the universe it’s always growing and expanding. As a kid I always thought, “Where’s the Owner’s Manual for this body I live in? Did I miss out? Every car has one. Where’s mine?”

That’s one of the main reasons I wrote the CSNA education program, to provide each student with a personal Owner’s Manual on Health: How to Get Well and Stay Well. I refer to mine constantly.

Can you tell us a little bit about your first contest and the thoughts that went through your head both before and after the contest?

CH: My first show in 1998 correlated with turning 40, which begins the Masters Age Class, plus natural bodybuilding had just been reborn and finally offered someone like me a level playing field. My personal philosophy as a naturopath and human is Do No Harm (Primum non nocere). If steroids were legal in sport and beneficial for health, I might consider taking them. But they have a HUGE downside and are not permitted in most sports, including natural bodybuilding. Do No Harm applies first and foremost to self.

There are two distinct forms of bodybuilding, so-called “natural” or what I like to call biological, and of course the one most people are familiar with, which I call pharmaceutical. Pharmaceutical bodybuilding is the GMO version of the sport.

Natural bodybuilding events rely on the same standards of drug testing as the Olympics. For example, at this last show in Honolulu, every athlete was urine tested according to W.A.D.A. standards; same as any Olympic athlete. There’s a reason why bodybuilding is not an Olympic Sport and why at the so-called “highest” level there is no drug testing. If tested, every contestant would test positive.

As an idealist I have always been attracted to the nobility, discipline and virtue inherent in the lifestyle of natural bodybuilding. Sport doesn’t build character, it simply reveals it. Natural bodybuilding is not only a great way to improve your physical appearance and optimize your health; it’s also sharpens your mind. I also love how muscle looks when it’s spread out proportionately on any physique.

I never worry or even think about winning or losing. I take on the challenge of personal achievement, do the work, explore the science, look forward to a good time and always learn from the experience. Sport is principally about having fun, and although this cliché may seem out-of-date, I think it captures the true meaning and purpose of sport, “It’s not whether you win or lose but HOW YOU PLAY THE GAME.

Life is a sport, so by ‘game’ I really mean the game of life. Aristotle said you could judge the morality of any society by simply observing the sport(s) that same society accepts and popularizes. We have a long way to go.

You seem to have your hands in a little of everything—CHI, research, bodybuilding, and writing. You must not have a lot of downtime. Speaking of that, is there anything new you will be covering?

CH: I’m currently writing a new series of short 101 cost effective digital courses that focus on one topic, like natural thyroid health for example. Each course will require reading specific sections of my new Encyclopedia of Sports Nutrition, as well as listening to specific audio tutorials and watching certain YouTube videos.

I’m also designing a new bodybuilding event called the Cory Holly Classic (CHC) that will redefine bodybuilding as we currently know it. This is something I’ve very excited about. There will be no fitness, figure, sports model or bikini diva categories; strictly biological bodybuilding. The drug testing procedure will be replaced with a new Biological Biomarker Blood Assessment (BBBA) process that I developed to determine the effects of banned substances on the biology of the participant. Instead of trying to identify the actual banned substance, which we all know is not 100% reliable, at this event we will measure the negative effects of the drugs and banned substances on the body, which are impossible to hide or mask.

There will also be mandatory fitness testing as well as full judgment of all posing routines. Each of the three categories or rounds will be comprised of ten components worth 10 points each for a total of 300 points. The overall male and female winner with the highest point score, as determined by biomarker assessment, fitness testing and posing routine judgment, will be awarded the ‘Classic Cup’ and declared the World’s Most Functional Athlete.

There are really no limits to what I personally want to achieve because I keep thinking of new things that excite and stimulate me. I think of myself as a sovereign free agent bound by nature and obligated to no one except me. Life is precious but brief, so I like to make each nanosecond count. I walk 3-5 km daily. No car or cell phone for this cookie, but believe me, I get around. World travel is what I live for. Read Dr. Colgan’s new book The Quiet Mind. Down time isn’t always measured by quantity of time away from work. My downtime is my work and for that I’m very grateful.

Where do you see the sport of natural bodybuilding down the road? Do you feel natural bodybuilding seems to be going in the direction where you have to be the biggest and the most massive person on stage and neglect the conditioning and symmetry aspects of the sport?

CH: Unfortunately, most natural shows today are imitations and not drug tested, or they allow competitors who used drugs in the past to compete. Steroids and hGH both influence gene expression. Once that line has been crossed, you carry certain genetic advantages that life-time non-drug users can’t compete with.

Natural bodybuilding needs to become more like conventional sport, as in short and sweet and more entertaining for spectators. Today the events go on and on way too long. Each event or ‘game’ should be presented to viewers like a hockey, football, basketball or baseball game. They should be limited by time and entertainment rich.

Also, bodybuilding, as in the true original functional form, needs to be taught in school to every student. Bodybuilding is just another name for the ‘gymnastics’ that Socrates, Plato and Aristotle all clearly believed was crucial for inner growth, self-mastery and personal emotional development beginning at the youngest age possible. Natural bodybuilding is first and foremost about conduct and mental discipline, followed by symmetry, muscle quality, muscle separation and posing ability. It’s as much an art as a science when performed correctly.

Natural bodybuilding is less about what you see in the mirror compared to what it takes to ‘get’ what you can see in the mirror. Both the journey and the destination are equal in value. It is natural beauty and cognitive balance personified, but all that is ruined by business, arrogance and performance enhancing drugs.

If there was one thing you could change about the sport of natural bodybuilding, what would you change?

CH: I would introduce a 10-category mandatory fitness testing component the day before the show to test the athletic ability and performance of each participant. I’m a competitive hammer thrower so I know what it takes to perform as an athlete, not just look good pumped up in underwear.

Originally, bodybuilding used to require a demonstration of strength and function on stage. Today even the posing routine is no longer judged and that is totally unacceptable. Natural bodybuilding is ultimately about creating the most functional, health-rich and disease-resistant body humanly possible without drugs. It’s like building a modern day Spartan with the brain of Einstein or creating a Philosopher-King as depicted in Plato’s Republic.

Is there anything else you would like to add to this interview?

CH: Most people don’t understand what natural bodybuilding is because they’ve never seen the real thing. I intend to change that. They think it’s about building muscle and showing it off. It is not.

Real bodybuilding is about creating a work of art, conquering self, overcoming fear, trusting in the reliability of reason, applying the scientific method and recognizing that life is a gift. Optimum health is not a human inalienable right, it is a state that must be understood, achieved and continuously managed.

Popeye said it best, “I yam what I yam, and that’s all what I yam”.

Dr. Cory Holly completed his Doctor of Naturopathy degree at Clayton College of Natural Health in 1992. He studied exercise physiology and biochemistry at Western Washington University and apprenticed at the Colgan Institute of Nutritional Science. Dr. Cory Holly is the Founder & President of the Cory Holly Institute (CHI).  Dr. Holly specializes in product formulation, dietary analysis and exercise management. He is the author of the sports nutrition CSNA education program, a dozen books, courses, and hundreds of magazine articles. Dr. Holly a masters athlete competitor, an active lecturer speaking at seminars, universities and trade shows on topics related to sports nutrition, anti-aging, health & fitness.

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