Instagram, @thefittestdoc - photo by Andrew @schrockmedia
Hi! Tell us about yourself and your training
Hello! Thanks for asking me to do this and giving me the opportunity to introduce myself! My name is Dr. Nick and I currently live in Colorado. I recently moved here from the midwest. I spent most of my youth in the midwest and grew up primarily in Lansing, MI.
I currently am a practicing primary care physician both in a private practice office and across 23 states where I am the “doctor in your pocket” as a full scope doctor with SteadyMD.
In my personal life, I don’t have any children yet, but I love kids and…one day! Otherwise, I have been training at the gym since I was 14 or 15, going (kicking and screaming, at first) with my dad to the local YMCA. I hated working out at first and was much more interested in playing computer games.
Regardless, my dad kept on making me come to the gym with him and I’m glad he did. I eventually fell in love with training as I started to develop abs and other muscles and, slowly but surely, started to resemble the masculine males I’d see in comic books and had known from superhero figurines growing up.
After that, I was self driven and would eagerly go to the YMCA with my dad whenever I could. For years, my training continued and, likely secondary to the huge androgen hormone surge that accompanies puberty, both my height and muscles grew and, at 6’3”, I filled out my frame to a level I was beginning to be happy with.
At around 21 or 22, I began to become bored with traditional, mono-structural “bodybuilding-esque” training (whose programs and exercises I would often get from Men’s Health), and instead became intrigued by something I saw on the Olympics at that time: Olympic Weightlifting.
I couldn’t wrap my head around how people were moving 200/300/400 pounds from the ground to over their heads in the time it took me to bench press half that weight 1-2 feet.
So I stopped mono-structural lifting and started to teach myself clean and jerks at the YMCA just by watching YouTube videos from the Olympics. I learned slowly and moved the bar incorrectly, I still have video from back in the day to prove it, but I kept the weight light and didn’t give up.
A few years afterward and now in medical school, I was training Krav Maga at a place called, “Ohio Krav Maga & Fitness” when I was approached and encouraged by a local member to give CrossFit (also taught at the same facility) a try.
Knowing that CrossFitters regularly trained Olympic Weightlifting and feeling like I had great baseline cardio endurance enough to handle it due to training martial arts most of my life, I agreed.
No surprise: The CrossFit workout destroyed me. Haha. That started my love for CrossFit. I had simply never met anything that could wreck me quite like that could and the element of there always being some skill I could work on until I got it and then subsequently work on perfecting it hooked me. That was 2010/2011 and I have been doing it since.
Outside of CrossFit, I have loved martial arts since I was a kid and had training in Kuk Sool Won, TaeKwonDo, Judo, Jujitsu, and Krav Maga. Otherwise, my main sport growing up was soccer.
Outside of physical activity, I enjoy playing chess, editing video in Final Cut Pro, learning new and burgeoning aspects of medicine, and all things cars.
Describe a typical day of training
I believe in the efficacy of constantly varied functional movements performed at relatively high intensity. I believe in this, quite simply, because I don’t believe that muscles should only be for show. Your body should be a direct representation of what you’re capable of doing with it.
Additionally, I believe the movements and activities required of us human beings, as common or rare as they may be, should be replicated in and trained for in what is, quite literally, a “human lab”: aka the gym.
So to me at this point, doing mono-structural movements that isolate one muscle away from another, seemingly ignoring the fact that, in the real world, they all work together, doesn’t make sense. Especially when you consider the fact that “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link”.
With that said, I believe in prioritizing the care of my patients and, as such, am an athlete second and a doctor first.
To that end, I only train for an hour a day; usually at 5-6am before I go to work. Currently, I do the Crossfit class workouts programmed by Coaches Taylor Sleaford and Jon Colborn of CrossFit Omnia. Every hour long class is split into a “warm up”, a “strength session” OR a “skill session”, and a “metabolic conditioning session”.
Typically, I love the strength sessions the most as each and every one gets me closer and closer to my lifetime goals of a 600lb deadlift, 500lb back squat, and 400lb bench press.
I still have a ways to go to achieving those three as my deadlift is currently at 520lbs, back squat at 450lbs, and bench press at 310lbs. But it’s been absolutely amazing seeing myself go from weakling to this functionally capable with CrossFit and I can’t wait to see where I ultimately get to.
Powerlifting movements, however, are not my favorite. For me, my favorite movement in all of CrossFit is the snatch. I think I favor it because I remember not being able to snatch 95lbs when I started and now I’m at 275lbs (with a goal of 300lbs). It’s a movement with so much nuance and skill that I don’t understand anyone who doesn’t love it.
In my gym bag, I always have a pair of Olympic weightlifting shoes, finger tape, an Apple Watch for tracking workouts, gymnastics grips, a heavy “Zeus” jump rope, and a skinny speed rope.
After training is done every morning at 6 a.m., I make a beeline for home, take a shower, and get ready for a day of seeing patients.
How do you keep going and push harder?
I think the thing that above all motivates me to keep training and to push even harder is the fact that I believe nothing in life is absolutely stagnant.
What I mean by that is that, at any given moment, we are either improving or we are worsening. If you are human, there is no “middle ground”…you cannot be holding a “constant” level. That just doesn’t happen. So, with that mindset in mind, I sure as hell want to keep improving and continue to beat my “self from yesterday”, because the option otherwise is self defeatist.
I make time for training (at 5 a.m. of all hours), by keeping in mind that one hour of training is literally only 4% of my day. If I can’t dedicate 4% of my day to ensuring and solidifying my own health and vitality, then I’m living in a way that indicates that I don’t respect nor deserve my good health.
I’ve managed to keep training for so long by always finding gyms where people are stronger, fitter, and better than me and then surrounding myself by them. That gives me all the motivation I need to push harder in such a way as to consistently improve myself.
My best hacks for improving in the gym include emphasizing recovery (which includes knowing when to take days off), prioritizing sleep hygiene and sleep quality, eating unprocessed, whole foods, taking my supplements daily, and lifting/working out with people who are fitter than you.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
I’m doing well today. Training is going well, as our current strength cycle (during our ‘strength sessions’) at the gym is focusing on back squats/front squats/bench press/and weighted chin ups.
So I’m definitely looking forward to the end of this eight-week cycle and being able to test my new one rep maxes on those respective movements to see what my new abilities are.
Over the next five years, my goals are to hit the strength numbers that I touched on earlier, as well as to return to doing individual CrossFit competitions, which I dismissed many years ago after realizing how mentally draining they were. I think I’m ultimately ready to handle the stress of that “mental draining” again.
How do you recover, rest and handle injuries?
I mainly avoid injuries by focusing on technique above all. I believe that the gym is nothing more than a place of physical experimentation for all of us. And part of that “lab mentality” has been my realization that all activities in the gym are nothing more than applied physics.
With that thought in mind, I very much believe in finding the path of most bio-mechanical advantage, even when tired, and great technique is the only thing that ensures that.
Another thing I’ve been lucky to discover is that emphasizing great technique and prioritizing it prevents you from injury. I’ve been very fortunate to focus on this, as I believe it’s the main reason, along with great coaching, that I haven’t been injured in almost 10 years of CrossFit.
Every night, I sleep about six to nine hours depending on the strain I put on my body during the day and how much sleep it will take me to adequately recover. Given how crucial quality sleep is for recovery, I also believe that emphasizing it (and recovery) has kept me and keeps everyone else away from injury.
How is your diet and what supplements do you use?
I don’t count calories. I do track (in MyFitnessPal) protein, however, and I make sure to try and hit my body weight in grams of protein every single day. Doing that has enabled me to see the most results from my training.
The only other thing I try to emphasize from a food consumption standpoint is eating whole foods. Don’t get me wrong, processed foods are often delicious. If that meant they were good for overall health, though, then I don’t think we would have seen the dramatic rise of metabolic disease in this country so intimately correlated with the rise of processed foods since the mid-1900’s. So I try and limit processed food intake.
When going out on social occasions, I try to make an effort at either choosing the healthy option OR ordering my food in such a way as to make the unhealthy option a healthy option. I’m certainly not perfect at this and do sometimes break, though, and make bad decisions. I’m only human. *Shrug*.
Supplements wise, I only take things I’ve personally researched and have found to not only be quality, but also have their claims of efficacy backed by research.
I’m very lucky to have had the supplement brands I personally use reach out to me and am now sponsored by each of them.
I use Blonyx chocolate egg white protein powder, Blonyx HMB+Creatine, Blonyx Beta-Alanine, and Ancient Nutrition Multi-Collagen powder. Pro-tip: Using discount code “thefittestdoc” will get you a discount code on either of them.
It isn’t a supplement I ingest, but one supplement to training I’ve seen disregarded time and time again is sleep. I’ve personally had so many overweight patients come to me not focusing on sleep and, after we work on it together over a period of weeks to months, they suddenly start losing weight that was so stubborn previously.
A 2010 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine clearly demonstrates how devastating poor sleep is for achieving your body goals.
To optimize my sleep, I use the most effective blue blocker glasses I have ever personally tried and one that has worked for so many of my patients: Carbonshade.
Regarding time of food intake, I personally have found that intermittent fasting works best for me considering my sometimes 12+ work days. Given that, I essentially fast for 16-18 hours (during which I drink water, coffee, and tea) and eat all my food in a day within a 6-8 hour window.
When it comes to junk food cravings, my “vice” is, and always has been, candy. Usually: Gummy bears/worms. When I am craving them, I let myself have them because they are usually high in carbs and low fat.
In general, even though I try to avoid processed food, when I am craving my vice, I’ll let myself have it because I think the “poison” of processed food is intrinsic to their “high carbs AND high fat” nature.
So if I find one that isn’t both of those things and is, instead, only one and I’m craving it…I let myself have it, especially on days when I train.
Ideally, though, if you were to give in to your cravings, the best time to do so from a physiological standpoint is immediately after your training session, especially if you did a HIIT session or heavy weight lifting. Doing so will lead to much less of that extra energy you’re about to eat going to adipocyte (fat) deposition.
I don’t bulk and cut. I try, in general, to stay lean all year. In 2014/2015, while training at my CrossFit gym in Ohio, I was a nutritionist caliper measured body fat of 4.9%. I’m currently sitting at 11.5% body fat and am actively trying to get back to 4.9% just because bodyweight exercises in CrossFit are so much easier when you’re not carrying 25 extra pounds of fat.
What has inspired and motivated you?
I’m a bit of a nerd so the books that have motivated me are atypical. They include “Why We Sleep” (Matthew Walker), “The Obesity Code” (Jason Fung), “Sleep Smarter” (Shawn Stevenson), “Ego Is The Enemy” (Ryan Holiday), “Salt Sugar Fat” (Michael Moss), and “The Hacking of the American Mind” (Robert Lustig).
Music wise, I listen to whatever is playing at CrossFit during the workout since they have a huge speaker and it blares out into the gym.
The best advice I’ve ever received that has helped to squash anxiety before it even arises was someone telling me “Life is 10% what happens to you, and 90% how you react to it”.
People in fitness who inspire me and whom I actively follow on Instagram include Mat Fraser, Neal Maddox, James Townsend, and basically anyone stronger than me.
Instagram, @thefittestdoc - photo by Andrew @schrockmedia
Advice for other people who want to improve themselves?
In my opinion, what a lot of people get wrong about the gym is going into it with the deep seated belief that it’s “about them versus everyone else in the gym”. I don’t believe that and, actually, I believe that’s the main reason why so many people injure themselves as they try and keep up with people they have no business trying to keep up with.
The best statement I’ve seen relating to this is “Your competition isn’t other people. Your competition is your procrastination. Your ego. The unhealthy food you’re consuming. The knowledge you’re neglecting to learn. The negative behavior you’re nurturing and your lack of creativity. Compete against that.” I couldn’t agree more.
Find ways to log everything you do in the gym such that, at any given time, you’re able to look at your numbers/performance from the past and *actively* compete against yourself. That’s the way forward.
Are you taking on clients right now?
I am still accepting new patients in 23 states across the U.S. (will be more soon but 23 at the moment) with SteadyMD and I physically see patients in Colorado.
As an online doctor with SteadyMD, I see all types of patients, from those just wanting a doctor to consistently refill their medications without them needing to set an appointment for whatever time slot is open in three to four weeks, to those sick of waiting in doctor waiting rooms and spending hours at their clinic, to those wanting help with improving their performance/results in the gym or just general weight loss management.
My SteadyMD patients seem to just most enjoy near instant access to me from the comfort of their phone or laptop. And I most enjoy how focused they seem to all be on preventative healthcare, as I prefer proactive health care as opposed to reactive healthcare.
Where can we learn more about you?
You can learn more about me at steadymd.com/doctor-nick-nwabueze/.
I also have a YouTube channel at The Fittest Doc, though I have yet to release any videos this year although I fully intend to.