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Dr. Zak Pallikaros

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Zac Pallikaros

Zak Pallikaros (AKA Dr Zak) is the man behind the fantastic Protein Bread and Protein Pasta ranges we have right here on MuscleFood, although there's much more to this passionate business entrepreneur than delicious nutrition.

A self-proclaimed "skinny kid" at school, Zak was always into fitness but he desired to put on lean muscle mass and bulk up, so he researched the ins and outs of bodybuilding and decided to really give it a go 18 years ago.

10 years later and Zak turned pro taking the bodybuilding world by storm.

He has a wealth of bodybuilding wins under his belt including Mr Cyprus (2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 & 2010) NPC Jay Cutler Classic (Las Vegas, 2011), UKBFF British Championships (2013) and he's even been invited to compete in the Arnold Classic in America in February 2014.

After that, he's heading back to Las Vegas to compete in the Jay Cutler Classic in April 2014!

Dr Zak's

It's obvious that bodybuilding is Zak's passion as well as his hobby, but he also has a love for science and has numerous top quality degrees to prove it including a BSc in Medicinal Chemistry, MPhil in Biotechnology and PhD in Biochemistry.

He had worked as a Biochemist for 8 years before making the brave decision to give up the job in order to pursue his hobby and, thankfully, the leap of faith paid off.

He now has his own gym [Dr Zak's Pumping Iron Fitness Gym], his fantastic Scientific Nutrition range and he's continuing to train hard and compete to the very best of his ability.

Yet while his successes are plentiful he's adamant none it would have been possible without the support and love of his family.

Here's his story…

Training Plan:

I train 3 times every week early in the morning

Dr Zac Training



  • 1 hour Cardio (Incline fast walking treadmill)


  • Legs (QUADS)


  • 1 hour cardio (stepper)
Dr Zac Training



  • 1hour Cardio (Incline fast walking treadmill)


  • Chest


  • 1 hour cardio (stepper)
Dr Zac Training



  • 1hour Cardio (Incline fast walking treadmill)


  • Back


  • 1 hour cardio (stepper)
Dr Zac Training



  • 1hour Cardio (Incline fast walking treadmill)


  • Legs (Hams, calves & glutes)


  • 1 hour cardio (stepper)
Dr Zac Training



  • 1hour Cardio (Incline fast walking treadmill)


  • Shoulders


  • 1 hour cardio (stepper)
Dr Zac Training



  • 1hour Cardio (Incline fast walking treadmill)


  • Arms (Biceps & triceps)


  • 1 hour cardio (stepper)
Dr Zac Training



Meal Planner

Pre contest diet:


  • Black coffee + half grapefruit

08:00 - Cardio (45min-1h)



11:30 - Training (1h)




20:30 - Cardio (45min-1h)




Interview with Zak Pallikaros

Ok, let's start with the basics what age are you and how long have you been in the bodybuilding industry?

Well, I'm 43 years old and moved to the UK from Cyprus when I was fifteen with my family. I began Bodybuilding 18 years ago but I really stepped up my game 10 years ago. That's when I began to take it seriously.

Tell us how and why you first got into Bodybuilding…

I was always really into sports and athletics as a kid, but I was also very skinny and wanted to put on weight. Not just any weight, though, lean muscle. I suppose I was inspired because I loved watching the Rocky films and Arnie movies!

What made you want to pursue it to such a high level?

It all started off as a hobby but by the time I finished my PHD I was competing in local competitions and winning them. I spent 9 years working as a Biochemist then decided one day to do a 180 and have a complete career change.

How did people react when you first told them you were going to pursue it as a career?

It was a massive step at the time. I mean I had a decent job with a decent wage and I knew I'd be taking a huge gamble letting those things go, but I also knew I was going to make it work.

I had great support from my family and I suppose I just knew it was my chance to do it, or I'd forever regret not doing it.

For those of our customers who may wish to follow a similar path as yourself into the industry – what are the financial costs like, being a top tier athlete?

Honestly, it's not a cheap sport and having a good diet is crucial. I reckon 70% of bodybuilding success is down to diet. You can't expect to eat badly and look a certain way, the quality of your food is really important too so you have to be willing to spend for top quality produce.

I currently eat 6 or 7 meals a day. That means I'm eating roughly every 2 hours and each meal is based around a high protein intake for muscle growth.

Honestly, it's not a cheap sport and having a good diet is crucial. I reckon 70% of bodybuilding success is down to diet.

I also take vitamins and minerals to help keep my body healthy and the costs are high. It's a strict lifestyle but it also prevents frivolous expenditure so instead of spending money on take-outs, I spend it on healthy food and nutrition.

It is a tough lifestyle, but it's worth it. Currently, I've been dieting for 13 months because of competitions. To maintain a Bodybuilding physique you need to be willing to invest time, be dedicated and have a lot of willpower. Dieting like this can get to you but, to me, it's the norm now.

What's your training schedule like at the moment?

I wake up and do one hour of cardio then I grab some porridge. I eat protein and carbohydrate every 2 hours after that then at two or three in the afternoon I do my weights workout. This lasts around one hour and a half and I train different body parts everyday.

Then, at 9 or 10 in the evening I do another hour of cardio to burn fat pre contest. My training may be intense by my passion keeps me going!

Have you any competitions coming up?

In October I won the British finals and I was planning on taking a break after that competition but when I was receiving my prize they handed me my ticket to the Arnold Classic in America. And when you're given the opportunity to compete there you don't turn it down!

So, I thought, "no problem," it would mean training hard for 4 months [The competition is on the 27th February] then after that I have the Jay Cutler Desert Classic in Las Vegas in April. I've already won this competition twice before so I really wanted to go back!

I imagine competing to be highly challenging not only physically but mentally too, how do you prepare?

The shows are very mentally draining. It's because you're stepping into the unknown but at the end of the day if you've trained hard and worked hard to look your best then you can't do much more once you're on the stage.

I set my own goals and I never go on thinking I could have done more. I know I'm not going to question myself physically. You do tend to feel tired and drained because your body fat is so low. You feel week and that's not pleasant. But what can you expect when you're at 3 or 4% fat! It's definitely hard to prepare for the low days.

There's a lot of controversy surrounding the sport in particular around the use of supplements – some people say they're safe, other say they're not – what do you think?


To be honest, if you take the best drugs but don't train well, they're not going to work! They're there to help you get the physique, but they won't do it for you.

If used correctly with caution then they can be a benefit. Nowadays, though, there's this mentality of "the more the better", and you can see people ruin their physiques because they take too much. You just need to look at pictures of some of the bodybuilders in the 70s and 80s. They looked chemically enhanced and it wasn't right.

Luckily now I think they're trying to go back to the aesthetically pleasing look. It's meant to be a healthy sport and some people ruin it and its image by abusing drugs thinking it will give them a quick fix.

They don't do enough cardio and rely on the weights, but to succeed your heart has to be healthy too. It's supposed to be a healthy lifestyle choice!

It's good to see the authorities have stepped up their doping controls. It seems they're willing to take a more year round approach which I think will have a massive impact.

What's do you think your greatest achievement is?

In Bodybuilding? It has to be this year at the British finals. I won it back in 2010 so to win again was a massive achievement.

It was the toughest competition to date. I thought I wasn't even going to place let alone win and then I got invited to the Arnie Classic… I think I look better now than at 30!

What has been the most challenging aspect of your career and training?


Running a business! I'm at the gym [DR ZAK'S PUMPING IRON FITNESS GYM] fourteen hours a day then I'm trying to balance my family [Zak has two kids] with the work load as well as get my training in there too.

But I love what I do. I like to try and keep everyone happy and I tend to plan every minute of my day. As I'm getting older, though, my metabolism is naturally slowing down so I try to keep my diet as strict as I can because I know the rewards for doing so are great.

It may be a tough balancing act but I get a buzz from what I do and I have a great team of people behind me.

Personally, What do you think is more important – spending time in the gym or eating right

The food is 70% of the battle. Anyone can train hard day after day with no results because of a poor diet. The body is like a machine. Good intake equals good output.

Recovery is also really important but nutrition is number one.

The food is 70% of the battle

What do you think are some of the biggest mistakes people make when they first start out in the industry?

Most commonly – they don't sort out their diet.

Secondly, they look for the shortcuts rather than paying attention to diet and training hard, they turn to performance enhancers.

Thirdly, People think it's easy! Many people struggle to find the balance between personal and gym life. I've seen loads of people neglect family life and relationships because of the gym and while it's important it should be something you enjoy and can share with your family. This sport isn't going to get you rich quick and consistency and balance in life are extremely important.

Tell us a bit more about your scientific nutrition range…

High Protein Bread

Well I set up my gym seven or eight years ago. It was always a dream of mine to help people reach their fitness goals. I never really trusted anything man made so I decided to make my own.

I then met some people for the US and I was inspired to try and develop a low carb, low fat, high protein bread. Every bodybuilder avoids bread because of the lack in nutritional benefits so I wanted to change this!

From bread I moved to pasta. Loads of people avoid it because of the same reasons as bread but my protein pasta is ideal for a quick snack for every bodybuilder.

I have some other products in the pipeline too – flatbreads and peanut butter! Essentially I just want to try and make the lean, high protein diet more interesting. Having products like these adds a variety you never used to be able to get.

I used to eat 12 to 15 egg whites for breakfast to get enough protein, now I have two slices of protein bread with 6 egg whites and it works out the same.

Essentially, I thought about what I'd need and use through the day and thought of ways to get that content in an easier and tasty way in my diet.

You've many top quality degrees – how have they helped your bodybuilding?

Dr Zak - The Scientist

I was always into the sciences and just by luck I saw a PHD opportunity at the Royal Free Medial School [UCL Medical School] that was going to be researching steroids.

Because I was into my bodybuilding quite a bit then I knew this research PHD was going to be ideal because it would give me an in depth knowledge and understanding of steroids.

The timing was perfect and everything worked out!

In general, though, my education helped me drastically from day one because I knew the details of how protein and carbohydrates work in benefitting the body.

At the end of the day, knowledge is power so I researched and learnt everything I possible could about the sport, nutrition – everything – and this really helped me compete. I always encourage a person to educate themselves in all aspects of the sport because by understanding it fully, you'll be more likely to succeed, that goes for the drugs too…

If you could give just one of your secrets for BB success what would the best piece of advice or information you'd tell everyone?

You need to have a good support network around you to succeed. Without my family I wouldn't be where I am now. You really need the support as a lot of sacrifices are made, and it's not just you making them. At the end of the day, it's not just you in the sport and it's not an easy lifestyle so by having people who love and care for you around you it makes it easier.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Dr Zak's Protien Bread & Protein Pasta

A lot of people ask me if I've any regrets giving up the job and going for this lifestyle – but I honestly have none. Bodybuilding makes you a better, stronger person. It gives you determination and will power, which is always a good thing. The best thing about it is you get to set different goals every day – every year and strive to reach those.

It can be extremely rewarding albeit extremely challenging at the same time. There's no doubt it keeps you on your toes but the lifestyle tends to make you feel better.

If you are thinking of going for it, though, you need to strike a balance between your personal life and the sport. Make sure no one suffers because then you won't enjoy what you're passionate about.