Q&A with 2013 IFBB New York Pro Champion Mamdouh "Big Ramy" Elssbiay:

FLEX: I’ve read that a lot of pro bodybuilders get massages often in order to help their muscles recover faster. Do you get massage therapy and do you think it helps you recover from your workouts? 

BIG RAMY: I get a massage and/or physical therapy at least once a week, sometimes more often when preparing for a contest. A lot of research shows that deep tissue massage helps to keep the muscles loose and flexible in addition to speeding recovery from hard training sessions by reducing inflammation. There is no way I could train heavy every single day without it. The deep tissue massage is not very relaxing, and sometimes it even hurts as my therapist works through the aches. You have to make sure you choose a massage therapist who is used to working on athletes and who knows their anatomy. If you can’t afford to get massages then buy a foam roller and use it at home.

FLEX: Do you think it’s better to eat your protein in the form of chicken or steak and not drink protein shakes? Which do you prefer?

BIG RAMY: There’s a place for both in your diet, but I prefer whole-food meals over shakes for a few reasons. Food keeps me full longer, which is important when dieting and all you’re thinking about is your next meal! A shake is digested so fast that I find myself starving not long after I’ve had it. Another thing people forget is that eating and digesting your meal speeds up your metabolism. Finally, I’m a big believer that you can absorb more amino acids from real food as your body breaks the food down. I still have my post-workout shake every day, though. I mix a fast-acting protein like whey isolate, plus some simple carbs like dextrose, then I add BCAAs and glutamine. About an hour later, I have a whole-food meal at home. If you need to drink shakes for convenience, one piece of advice I’ll give you is to make sure it’s a high-quality protein.