Expert Advice: Shelby Starnes

The IFBB pro and trainer has a no-nonsense approach to training and nutrition that yields results.


M&F: There are only so many ways to prepare chicken. What other sources of protein do you recommend?

Shelby Starnes:

A lot of people forget about seafood. Shrimp and lean fish are fine protein sources. People think that chicken breast, dry turkey, and lean steaks are the only way to go, but seafood is fine, as are protein powders. You can also add a variety of low- to zero-calorie condiments like mustard, hot sauce, and Mrs. Dash.

What food do people abuse the most?

People overdo carbs—they think they’re healthy. “Oh, it’s a bagel, it’s OK.” Well, that’s 400 calories and a bunch of carbs. It’s probably better than a doughnut, but it’s not really what you need to be eating right now.

How much attention should be paid to the glycemic index?

I don’t pay too much attention to that. No one just eats a carb by itself, they eat it with protein, and most of my clients will also have fat in the same meal. I combine all three macros pretty frequently, and when you do that—when you combine a carb with a protein plus a fat—that lowers the glycemic index.

How important is form when you’re lifting?

Never sacrifice form for weight. You need the proper form first. Yes, gaining strength and handling heavier weights over time is going to help, but you shouldn’t compromise your form just to push more weight. That’s not going to build muscle, and it’s going to put you at risk for an injury.

What’s the best way to get a killer six-pack?

Try doing both a crunch-type movement and a lower-ab exercise—such as a leg raise. Three sets to failure for each exercise two to three times a week is ample and will take only 15 minutes. The caveat is, if your diet sucks you’re never going to see your abs. But by the same token, you can’t be a skinny dude with abs.