Intermittent fasting wasn’t always a part of the daily routine for Charles Forbus. That is until he decided at age 45 that it was time to fully commit and get in the best shape of his life. Five years later, he’s still improving, looking better every year than the year before. I caught up with Charles by phone just as he finished his normal 5am workout session.
Morning Charles! I know you’re probably trying to get your day started so I won’t take a lot of your time. As far as Facebook and Instagram go, it looks like you started your quest to be in top shape about 2013. But is that when you started exercising or had you been doing it before?
I’ve always been into it, I mean, how old are you?
Okay, you remember back in the Bill Philips Body for Life Days and all of that stuff—
I’ve been in it since then. Probably around my middle to late thirties I let myself go too far and then I just had to mount a comeback.
So what was it that made you say at 45, I want to get in great shape?
I absolutely didn’t like what I’d seen in the mirror. And then my wife, she’s always been in good shape and I saw a picture of us at the beach and she looked great and I looked terrible. I was like Wow! That was the number one trigger.
Trying to get in shape at that age, you’ve got a lot of obstacles. I mean, you’ve got aches and pains, you do a fairly physical job so you’ve got to deal with being tired from working all day. What were some of the things that you did that made it possible for it to stick this time?
Well, being a little older, I had to alter a lot of exercises just a little bit. Like I realized that like on bench press, if I stop short of touching my chest about an inch or so that my shoulders would stay in better shape. I mean I would go out there with about 180 and if I touched my chest with it, my shoulders would start aching. But if I would stop a little bit short of that, or on pulldowns and chins I never go to a dead hang because it will start making my shoulders ache. And I probably haven’t done a standard squat in years. I do like trap bar deadlifts. It’s just a little bit of a change in the motion I guess. Just enough that I never have any lower back pain if I stick with the trap bar deadlifts. It’s little things like that; just altering exercises if I find anything that’s going to cause me aches and pains, I’m going to find a way to do something a little bit different.
That exercise where you talk about stopping just short of touching your chest seems like it’s easier but it’s called a Spoto Press but it’s actually harder! So you’re actually doing more work than you would if you went all the way down to your chest because you can’t rest the bar. The entire time the tension’s on the muscle. So do you find that helps you with gaining muscle, trying to keep muscle tension on all of the time when you’re lifting?
Honestly I only did it because of the shoulder pain. I got a pec tear about two years ago. I was being pulled behind a boat on an inner tube and I got slung and got a pec tear so I’ve got a little bit of an issue with the bench press now anyway but I’ve found that stopping short right there, I’ve actually been doing it even before 2013 so I really couldn’t tell you the truth about whether it helps me build more muscle or not. I just know it keeps me healthy!
Well with age comes wisdom, you know that there are certain things you just can’t do. Did you already have all of your gym equipment or did you start buying it when you decided to get in shape?
I bought some more when I decided to start. Some of it’s been around for a while. I bought that Powertec the multi gym they make—
The leverage gym?
Yeah, and the main reason I got is because of the pec tear I was trying to rehab. I was trying to make sure that I did stuff that was a little bit safer until I got back into the groove. Plus it had that squat station on it so I didn’t have to do free weight squats if I didn’t want to.
Where’s your gym? Is it in the basement, garage, out back? Where is it set up?
It’s out back in a portable building.
And how long have you had that? Did you have the building and then put the gym in there or did you get the building because you had a gym?
I lived in another house when I was single and I had the gym in a spare room. And when me and my wife got married and we got this house, there wasn’t a room in here that really it fit in and I got that building and put what I had at the time in there.
You mentioned that your wife has always been in great shape so it was probably fairly easy to convince her that this was something to do because you were spending money on new toys. Does she exercise with you?
Yes and I tell you, don’t underestimate that power that somebody is doing the same things you’r e doing. If she was able to eat fudge brownies and do anything she wanted to do and look good, it would be hard for me to do the things that I do. We do the same things, like she’ll watch what she eats, she works out so it’s like we’re both doing the same things and motivate each other.
Do you all exercise at the same time or do you just both know that you work out and that’s one of the topics of the day that you all discuss? I saw a couple of pictures where you guys were in the gym together but I can’t tell if that’s a regular thing or not.
Not too regular. She likes to work out in the afternoons and I like to work out in the early morning.
I mentioned the fact that you have a physically demanding job, is working out in the morning one of the ways you manage to stick with it?
My number one thing is if I did it when I came home, it’s always . . . everybody’s home with me. In the morning, nobody’s awake but me. If I wait until I get home in the afternoon something could come up like, “Hey we’ve got to run by So and so’s or one of the kid’s got a practice you’ve got to take him to or I need you to go to the store . . . something could come up and get in the way so easy. It happens so often! I realized that it could be tough to get in four workouts per week trying to do it in the afternoons.
How many kids do you have and how old are they?
Two, one of them just turned seven and the other is thirteen.
Oh yeah, you’re in the thick of it! You have practices, youth sports the whole nine. So Charles, I know you’ve had your stuff for a long time but what did you start out with?
The very first thing I bought was a power rack.
Really? Wow! And what year was that?
Oh I’ve had that thing a long time! Probably about fifteen years.
Now what led you to buy that? Because most people don’t realize they need a power rack at first so what led you to get a power rack?
Well, like I said, I’ve always been into working out some. When I was younger, and on the go in the band, it was really hard to put on muscle I guess because I was doing so much stuff. I was going to a commercial gym but I was single so my life revolved around just me so when I wanted to go to the commercial gym I’d just go. Then the band had taken off and I found that my hours were so weird . . . like if I didn’t want to work out until ten o’clock at night the gym wouldn’t be open here. So I bought that power rack and started doing it from home. And at the time, I would do some at home and some at the gym if I was up and around while the gym was still open.
What are some of the places where you like to buy equipment?
That power rack, I think it was Yukon Fitness. Mostly I look in the pawn shops and the traders now, craigslist. Because somebody will have some weights they ain’t never used and are ready to get rid of.
Yeah, I do that too. Even though I have pretty much everything I want, I’ll drive down the road and still keep an eye out. Here in Georgia there’s always weights on somebody’s porch and I’ll check it out see if it looks like anybody’s using them. I’ve stopped before and just asked, “Hey how much would you take for that and I’ve gotten some pretty good deals. Of course then sometimes they won’t sell you what you want unless you agree to take a whole bunch of junk that you don’t want. But then I usually take that to Play It Again Sports and trade it in for something I do want. That’s part of the fun of it too, buying and selling stuff.
Plates is what I’m looking for most of the time because if you buy a brand new 45 it’s pretty expensive. Somebody’s trying to get rid of an old Olympic set you can get a pretty good deal on it.
So how do you keep things organized? Because you’ve got fifteen years’ worth of stuff how do you keep it from being just a junky mess?
It’s a really tight space as far as the amount of stuff I have in there. And some of the machines are only used by me and so I’ll just leave the weight I’ll start with next time on there. And as far as the little plates, it usually is a bit of a mess. Where the end of the bench is, there’s usually some of them laying on the floor, some of them laying on the floor where the squat station is. I do have one of those weight trees but I’ve always found that whatever weight I need usually has something in front of it because it’s not a enough room on the tree to get everything on there anyway.
I asked that because you’ve got kids and whether they train with you or not, their tendency is to wander through the gym. So what do you do to get the kids involved in fitness and how do you keep them safe while they’re in there?
Oh yeah the little one will take one of those fitness bands and stretch it around the machines and next thing you know it’s like you’ve got Spiderman in there while you’re working out.
Ha, ha! That’s part of the fun of it too though. That chaos because they’re growing up seeing you exercise and they’re saying, “Daddy and Mommy must think this is important. Do either of them work out or do they just like to come out there and hang out with you?
The little one will come out there and hang out and the oldest one will go through phases where he’ll work out for a few weeks, say six weeks and then he won’t touch it for a few months.
He’s the one that’s got the picture where he’s flexing?
Yeah, he’s pretty well built for a little skinny kid anyway so I guess he ain’t got the motivation right now.
Gotcha, we’ll revisit him in about ten years or so.
I’m a big believer in how environment plays a role in keeping you motivated. What do you do for motivation inside the gym? I mean it’s five in the morning do you have posters on the wall? Do you have a TV in there? Do you play music?
All I have is music inside the gym. Motivation, that’s one of the reasons I do Instagram posts. To keep myself accountable and if I look on there at my pictures and I realize that I look worse this year than I did last year, that fear of going backwards and everybody seeing it on Instagram is kind of a good motivation for you too. So I keep that as a progress tracker. And I do have some fitness pictures on my phone for goals like if I could look like this that would be A plus!
How does it play into it, seeing all of the people around the world on the Garage Gym Life Instagram feed, exercising in different ways. Like we’re all alone but we’re not alone, know what I mean?
It is neat to see other people’s gyms and to then see them doing certain things. I’m like, “I’d have never thought of that!” And then seeing how they can work with way less equipment and it’s amazing to me and that’s pretty inspiring. It ain’t the equipment that does it, it’s you!
Well you inspire me! I wasn’t kidding when I said that on Instagram. I’m at the point where just lifting weights to get stronger in power lifting isn’t a good idea. I honestly think my performance will get better if I get in better shape. Let’s say, I compete in the 198lb class. If I put on more muscle and have less bodyfat so I can stay in 198 that means more of my weight is going to be something that helps me lift weight. And then I’ll be healthier too. I’ve had three chest injuries related to bench pressing and then just aches and pains from my elbows etc.
I have gotten fairly strong at some of the exercises; I tried to be smart enough to realize that. Now if I was a competitor like you or like my buddy that’s a strongman competitor there would be a goal to be strong. But for me I’m just doing it for my health and my looks. For me to push and push to get stronger is probably begging for an injury. If I can get stronger I will if I can add reps I will but I’m not looking to make sure of that. Because it’s just like dieting if I diet for a year, you know sooner or later you’re going to quit losing weight. You just can’t diet all of the time.
That was going to be my next question. I notice that every year you set the goal of getting in better shape. How long do you diet, how long do you come off the diet for and how often do you do that during the year?
The last time, I started January 1 and went all of the way to July. I did take a few breaks in there where I’d come back up to what I would assume was my new maintenance level of calories just to get a break from the diet. Like I said, you can’t always go down. I’ve lost thirty pounds or really close to it.
What was your starting weight?
I was 220 and I weigh 190 right now.
Oh wow! How tall are you?
I’m 5’10. The breakthrough for me was I’d been doing it so long; doing the six meals a day that everybody does and when I tried the intermittent fasting plan where I could just skip a couple of meals and when I got home at night, eat most of my food then. That was a real big break for me so I didn’t have to take Tupperware and protein shakes with me everywhere.
Yeah, that’s a big deal. So intermittent fasting is how you do it now?
Yeah, pretty much. There will be days when I don’t do it exactly but most days after I work out I drink BCAAs, then I’ll eat an 800 calorie lunch maybe and then when I get home eat a pretty big meal. I’ll eat 1,500 calories.
Most of the time as we get older our metabolism slows and you’re taking in a lot of calories in just two meals but I guess it doesn’t matter because you work out first thing in the morning.
So you have a meal at lunch, another meal at dinner and then you have BCAAs right after your workout and that’s it. Is that right?
Yes, every now and then in between meals, I might eat some cookies or some kind of small snack but I try to eat lunch and dinner only and then when I’m on a diet, I track those macros pretty closely. But this last time I just made sure I ate 150 to 200 grams of protein a day and then kept my calories the same so I didn’t care if the rest of my calories came from fats or carbs and just ate like that. That worked the best.
So you’re taking in 2,300 calories over the course of two meals plus whatever’s in the Aminos. That’s a fair amount of calories to make sure you don’t shut your system down. How did you come up with that plan? Did you hire a diet coach or just go off of what you’ve learned over the years?
Just researching on the Internet. I was looking around on the Internet and I was putting on a little more muscle. I guess because I was slowing down, getting on in life. It seems like muscle was coming on but I was also getting fatter. I could not stick with that six meals a day that I’d always heard was right. I was not able to make it work. And I’d seen an article on intermittent fasting and the guy was talking about doing it like that and when I did intermittent fasting for those first two years and on those meals I didn’t even count or watch what I ate. I ate everything I wanted and I still lost a little bit of weight. And then that stopped, that’s when I started having to count calories too.
How do you count calories?
My Fitness Pal. I’ve got a food scale in here and usually when I eat I just weigh it out. If I’m eating out, I have to take a little bit of a guess of course but if you do it long enough you’ll start to be pretty close anyway.
So that lets you eat what everybody else in the house eats? You don’t have to have a special diet? That’s a big deal again because you’ve got kids.
Yeah, I didn’t want to be on some special bodybuilding diet and then we can’t go out to eat or do anything you know?
That’s pretty awesome.
Okay, like I said, I’m not going to take a whole lot of your time but how could somebody connect with you?
You mean like on social media?
Whatever you want. I realize that you don’t do this for a living but let’s say someone wants to learn more about intermittent fasting or they’re 45 just want some encouragement or advice? I can’t give them your phone number so how should they get in touch with you?
A direct message on Instagram to @luggnut45 is probably the best way.
So you don’t mind people direct messaging you?
No, not at all.
No naked pictures of dudes though right?
Preferably not! Ha ha!