He’s the man behind all the swoons over Morris Chestnut in The Best Man Holiday. He’s labeled the “world’s most ripped fitness model” and has graced over 40 fitness magazine covers and has written more than 150 articles over the past 5 years. It appears by looking at his covers that he has landed more covers than any African-American male fitness professional expert or fitness personality. World-renowned fitness expert and fitness personality Obi Obadike believes there is no greater feeling than to help enrich the lives of others. But his journey hasn’t been easy. He has dealt with racism and discrimination and had to establish himself as a force to be reckoned with overseas before being embraced here in the U.S. as a fitness authority and cover model. But his perseverance and dedication to changing attitudes towards African-Americans in fitness has paved the way for others that have followed him.
How does he keep his body in shape? Get the answer to this question and more in our exclusive and candid interview with Obadike, and get inside the mind of one of the most decorated fitness experts around!
BFT: So yeah let’s get into it! Just to give you a little background on Black Fitness Today, we founded BFT basically with the goal to provide a resource for the African-American community because a lot of fitness magazines and websites don’t cater specifically to our audience. So we wanted to be a right hand in providing information and tools to start changing statistics and attitudes towards fitness in African-American community. Our goal is to create our own platform where we can create opportunities for African-Americans to be featured on covers of magazines and be highlighted for their excellent work in health and fitness.
Obi: Sure. Yeah I think it’s great. No doubt. I totally get it and understand — being African-American and in the fitness industry myself, it can be very difficult to get on magazine covers and I’m actually surprised at the success that I’ve had because I went through a lot of racial biases, discrimination and a lot of garbage just to get on a magazine cover let alone multiple covers. So I understand the plight that you guys have and being of color it’s very, very difficult.
BFT: How have you been able to break through racial bias and discrimination in the fitness industry?
Obi: What’s so funny is that when I came in the industry there weren’t really any fitness experts or fitness models or personalities of color on fitness magazine covers. Anytime you saw a fitness magazine with a person of color on the cover, it was a mainstream crossover actor like a Will Smith — so when I came in the game there wasn’t really any black fitness fitness personality landing multiple covers every year; it made me so angry when I would go to the stores and see the clear lack of black representation on these covers. I had an opportunity to break into the fitness industry when I was in my early 20s and just like anybody else when you don’t see those opportunities for people that look like you on covers it’s like, why should I even try? I’m going to get turned down.
Then in 2008, that’s when I said I really wanted to do this and to break into the industry and create an opportunity for others to succeed. Initially when I started to approach fitness magazines I was getting turned down by most of them, and there was one magazine in particular that doesn’t exist anymore that said “we’ll put him in the magazine but my publisher won’t go for a black guy on the cover.” There was another magazine that said “last time we tried an African-American fitness couple cover was in 1988 and sales dropped.” A third magazine said hey “black covers don’t really do that well in sales.” It was almost like they were saying putting me on a cover would be a risk and it was one of the dumbest things in the world because when you look at magazine covers, white Caucasians typically have to tan to look like our complexion in order to look more marketable and here you have someone with a permanent tan that can’t even get a cover! [laughs]
So I started reaching out to the international magazines and flew to Australia on my own dime and went out to a lot of international countries because they didn’t seem to have the color issue like domestic magazines. So most of my success as a cover guy during my first two years was internationally, and once I started landing international covers and developing a huge social network following, then I started reaching out to some of the domestic fitness magazines again and those no’s started turning into “okay well maybe we’ll give you a chance” so it seemed like it was a lot easier to break-in internationally than domestically. And I don’t want to come off like I’m better than anyone.
I’m just a guy that is so blessed and I am flattered that any magazine would see anything redeeming in me to put me on any fitness magazine cover.
BFT: That’s a huge accomplishment!
Obi: Thanks. I appreciate that. So for me it wasn’t trying to establish myself as cover guy, my thing was using the cover as a vehicle to promote health and fitness so that people would actually listen to what I had to say and to also promote my brand.
BFT: You were an athlete yourself, right?
Obi: Right, yeah I ran track at Cal State Fullerton. I was the school record-holder in the 100 meters, 200 meters and 400 relay and that’s really where I found my love for fitness. So yeah as a track guy and basketball player my love for fitness came from playing sports growing up.
Here’s a reader question: You mentioned some of your obstacles breaking into the fitness industry. How did you stay focused on your goal of being the guy on the covers and writing fitness articles after being turned down so many times?
Obi: I knew that eventually someone would give me an opportunity and I knew that I had a lot to give to the industry, and help bring fitness to everyone – not just to black people – but all sorts of people. So for me, it was just knowing that having confidence in my ability not as a model, (it’s so funny I don’t even promote myself that way, I promote myself as a fitness entrepreneur) it was knowing that I have so much to give and want to help people so I think that was what kept me focused. Anytime you’re of color and you’ve been discriminated against or dealt with racial biases, we all can identify with that.
I actually had this conversation with Morris about some of what’s he’s been through in Hollywood and some of things that the cast went through for Best Man Holiday – an all African-American cast – they actually had to read and audition and these are all established actors! And now look, the movie exceeded expectations and will probably make over $100 million. I’m so happy for them because Hollywood is so tough on people of color, particularly African-Americans — so I can identify with them as a guy trying to land fitness covers and even with the success I’ve had, I still have to deal with the stuff.
I had to beat down doors just to get an opportunity to be on magazine covers and I still have challenges. It’s getting better, but can still be very difficult.
BFT: We definitely understand the challenges, we’ve had our share of difficulties as a brand that focuses on African-American health and fitness. But it only makes us push harder, because it goes back to companies being hesitant to take the risk on a demographic that traditionally has not taken its health seriously. We know that we will break through our barriers.
Obi: Absolutely. You guys keep doing what you’re doing. You’re doing the right thing. We definitely need more black representation when it comes to fitness that’s for sure.
BFT: So, what would you say is the most rewarding aspect of being a fitness professional?
Obi: The most rewarding part is being able to change peoples lives. I know it sounds cliché but you can’t put a price tag on comments like “you have changed my life ” or “you gave me confidence, my self-esteem is high, I feel better about myself” – you can’t put a price tag on that. And not just celebrities, because I train a lot of regular people who just want to get in shape, so when you hear that, it’s unbelievable. When people say they’re motivated by your pictures or that they can’t believe I’m following them on Twitter, when I get messages like “seeing you’re pictures makes me want to go to the gym,” stuff like that keeps me going especially when you have bad days. Getting messages like that lets you know that you’re making a difference.
BFT: What is your personal regimen as far as fitness and nutrition? How do you become the “world’s most ripped fitness model?”
Obi: [laughs] You guys found that on the Internet huh? That’s so funny. For me, it’s just making it a lifestyle and falling in love with foods that are healthy. I can eat chicken every day and never get tired of it. For breakfast, I have a whey protein shake and oatmeal, although I’m not really a big breakfast person. For lunch, I’ll have a chicken sandwich, lots of veggies and a baked potato. For dinner, I’ll have a lean steak, some brown rice and some spinach.
I always tell people I’m a boring eater so if you try to find entertainment off my food you better go somewhere else [laughs].
BFT: Yeah that’s one of the hardest things is finding that balance with the foods you enjoy and being consistent with clean foods because it can get mundane.
Obi: It’s hard for a lot of people because when you’re dieting a lot of food is similar in plain taste such as chicken, turkey and fish. But you know, I follow the 80/20 rule – maintaining a clean diet 80 to 90% of the time and then cheating 10 to 20% of the time. As long as you’re training hard and keeping up with your weight lifting and cardio, if you follow those ratios you should be able to maintain a fairly good shape. Stay drug free, take a basic multivitamin and fish oil supplement, that’s it.
BFT: You mentioned the 80/20 rule – what is your favorite cheat meal for that 20% part of the ratio?
Obi: My favorite cheat meal is probably some pizza and fried chicken. To me when you cheat, you use the cheat as a reward for eating healthy throughout the week, but you know when you cheated too much; it’s not supposed to be an all-you-can-eat cheat! You don’t want to ruin the healthy week you had by cheating the whole damn day [laughs].
It’s important to have a cheat meal especially for psychological reasons, as long as it’s not overboard.
BFT: Right. For us, ever since we’ve been on our journey, we always look forward to our weekly cheat meal, which is usually on a Saturday night. It’s rewarding but you really begin to value the healthy habits more and look forward to getting right back to it the next day.
Obi: Yeah, absolutely.
BFT: As for as nutrition, what is your general guidance for people looking to lose weight or get in shape?
Obi: I’m a big believer in the 40/40/20 ratio. 40% protein, 40% carbohydrates and 20% fat. Generally that’s what works for myself and my clients from a maintenance standpoint. If you’re on a fat loss diet, you may need to take down the carbs as you progress, but overall that’s what I suggest.
BFT: Is there a difference between training men and women? Do you change the ratios?
Obi: It depends on their goals, their training and diet history. There so many different factors in putting a program together that it’s hard to say that this is just what it is for women, so it really depends. Typically when I have put together programs for women that want to lose weight, I typically have them on the 10 to 12 calorie-per-pound diet.
BFT: What is the minimum amount of calories that a person should take in?
Obi: Anything under 1200-1100 calories can be dangerous because you put your body into starvation mode and your metabolism starts to slowly shut down. I think a lot of people think that the less you eat, the more you lose and that’s not necessarily true. There is a limit where if you go under it, it can negatively affect your goal of losing weight.
BFT: You’re college career was affected by injuries. It seems like there are so many non-contact injuries in sports today. How big are you on injury prevention?
Obi: Huge! I’m a big proponent of stretching before and after exercise including upper body and lower body on a soft surface instead of a hard surface. Then making sure when you train, that you train symmetrically and make sure that you don’t have any imbalances. A lot of times when you have injuries it comes from those imbalances. With my hamstring injuries my quads were very strong and at the time I had very weak hamstrings and the imbalances were causing the injuries, along with being stubborn and not stretching the way I was supposed to. Also, when you stretch and improve your flexibility, it leads to better range of motion which actually helps you optimize your training because you’re able to train the body part to the best of its ability.
Here’s another reader question: Do you have any fitness products or DVDs available?
Obi: Yeah, absolutely — I have an online training service and six-part e-book fat loss system that is very affordable called Ultimate Fat Loss For Men and Women available in my online store.
Here’s another reader question: What are good Ab exercises?
Obi: Kneeling cable crunches, plank punches, Russian twists, feet off the ground, and sprinting. Sprinting is a really good ab workout. But most ab exercises have to be done slowly, it’s not about speed, you really want to feel your abs being worked. Lastly, it’s like the old saying goes abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym.
There’s no such thing as spot reduction, so you can just do a bunch of ab exercises and think that the fat is going to melt away — you have to lose weight circularly.
BFT: So what’s next for you?
Obi: I am one of the fitness experts that helped launch Turner Broadcasting’s brand new digital health and wellness brand. I hosted and produced most of the exercise videos on the Turner Health and Wellness brand website. I am on hold for a couple of TV fitness health show host and co-host opportunities so hopefully in the 1st quarter of 2014 I should know if those things on hold will materialize. Ultimately what I want to do is host my own fitness TV show. Modestly speaking, I feel like I have a very strong on-camera ability skillset to influence and motivate millions of people to be fitter and healthier. I believe it will happen much sooner than later.
Here is a boot camp exercise video I hosted and produced for Turner Broadcasting’s brand new health and wellness brand called upwave:
I recently signed as a spokesmodel/face to a brand new national chain of gyms launching the first week of January called Ripped Fitness. The first RIPPED studio gym will open just in time for the new year of 2014 at 14 Rye Ridge Plaza in Rye Brook, New York.
I am the creator of the training method that is going to be taught in all of the boot camp workout classes called the Ripped Method which combines 30 minutes of HIIT cardio and 30 minutes of body-weight exercises in a HIIT class boot camp format.
The owner of Ripped Fitness named Brian Ripka who is a brilliant entrepreneur wants to have over 100 studio gyms within the next 3 to 5 years nationally. The RIPPED method is the new hybrid workout that defies categorization and delivers unprecedented fat loss results and will have the ability to burn up to 900 calories per class. It is very exciting to design a training method that will help a large group of people get in great shape. I am very excited about the launch of this new brand of chain of gyms.
To read more about who they are please go to their website or their social media pages below:
BFT: How can the BFT community stay connected with you?
Obi: For anybody that wants to contact me: