Original article: Muscle & Fitness June 2003

What fuels baseball super hitter Barry Bonds?

Natural talent and a voracious regimen of bodybuilding style training and nutrition.

By Jim Schmaltz


In a moment portending doom to the emotional stability of National League pitchers, Barry Bonds stepped up to the plate on Feb. 28 for his first spring training at bat and smacked a towering, see-you-later, nice-to-have-known-you home run.

Then, in a scene much like the one played out 613 times before in 17 seasons, the 38 year old San Francisco Giants slugger took his familiar stroll around the diamond, ignoring the dejected glare of hapless Cubs pitcher Mark Prior."Unbelievable," Cubs outfielder Sammy Sosa, no homer hitting slouch himself, said afterward. "That guy is ready."

"Ready" would seem an inadequate description. Bonds was, as they say, born ready. The son of Major League great Bobby Bonds, Barry's genetic gifts were further nurtured by his godfather, Willie Mays, whose home run total of 660 will likely be surpassed by his godson later this year - an accomplishment that makes Barry wince when he considers eclipsing his idol. Bonds is also in reach of Babe Ruth's 714 round-trippers - which doesn't make him wince - and may have a shot at Hank Aaron's mark of 755 homers, a record long thought to be untouchable. No more.

Bonds has a history of making history. When he strides to the plate, it's not an at-bat, it's

an event. Two years ago, the Giants outfielder stunned the baseball world by breaking Mark McGwire's record of 70 home runs in one season, rocketing 73 out of ballparks from sea to shinning sea. Last year, he won his first batting title, registering an average of 370 while winning a record fifth MVP award. He hit only 46 home runs in 2002, seemingly below his standards, but you can hardly blame him. He was walked 198 times (a record), 68 time intentionally (another record). If the rest of the league wasn't so terrified of him, Bonds might have smacked another 73 homers.

Welcome to Barry's world. A place where Cy Young award winning pitchers suddenly become quivering nerlings who'd rather give Bonds a free pass to first base than test their fastballs against his bat speed. A place where a ball he smacked out of Pac Bell Park is so valuable that it can become the center of a landmark legal case, as his 73rd home run did when two men fought over who legally nabbed it in the stands (the judge made them split the revenue from the ball's sale). A place where Americans can temporarily forget their troubles, as they did when Bonds chased McGwire's record in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

While he may not have the charisma or PR savy of Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods, Bonds resides in their rarefied air. He is a confounding bundle of contradictions, an enigmatic living legend, scourge of sportswriters, doting father of three, and a studied professional who finds himself in his prime while pushing 40.

On July 24, he will turn 39. At an age where most players are struggling with eroding skills and gray stubble, Bonds is flourishing, statistically and physically. At 6'2", 230 pounds, he's in the best shape of his life, which sounds like a hoary cliché until he peels off his shirt to expose sledgehammer biceps and thick, contoured delts worthy of Michelangelo's craftsmanship. It's the physique of a man who works at it.


Bonds' imposing musculature reflects this new dedication to the physical arts. Working with personal trainer Greg Anderson, the superstar slugger has refined his weight training and nutrition regimens, and it shows. "Definitely, my improvements as a player are down to training and nutrition," Bonds tells MUSCLE & FITNESS. "Without a doubt. It has made me a better athlete than I was before."

While he's no newcomer to the gym, for Bonds, it's a case of old dog, new tricks. "I started weight training when my son was born in 1989," says Bonds, referring to Nikolai, his first-born. "Before, I would train really hard in the off-season and work out just a little bit during the season, trying mostly to keep my flexibility Then I'd hit a wall in August. But the last few years I've been training all year, and that has changed my whole career, because I don't get weaker during the year. I don't suffer a down spell or hit bottom. I stay strong all year."

But Bonds' rejuvenation owes itself to more than sets and reps. He's now calibrating his athletic performance at the cellular level. Since winter of 2000, Bonds has worked closely with San Francisco-based nutritional consultant Victor Conte of Balco Laboratories. Conte precisely measures the nutrient levels in the outfielder's blood, and then prescribes specific supplemental regimens to correct imbalances. Like the managers of every National League team, Bonds has noticed the difference.

"I'm just shocked by what they've been able to do for me," he says. "Before I didn't understand how important these nutrient levels were, because I was just listening to old standard nutritionists who tell you to just eat 4,000 calories a day. Everyone's body changes over time, and every individual is different. To have your blood drawn and analyzed can tell you what your body produces more of, what it lacks. You're able to create a program that fits for you as an individual."

This attention to detail is the latest advancement in sports science (see "Personalize Your Supplement Program," March 2003), and Bonds is a true believer. Given the chance, he spouts like an evangelist at a revival meeting about the importance of mineral levels and blood work.

"People don't understand how important this is," he explains. "I visit Balco every three to six months. They check my blood to make sure my levels are where they should be. Maybe I need to eat more broccoli than I normally do. Maybe my zinc and magnesium intakes need to increase, and I need more ZMA. Nobody ever showed it to me in a scientific way before, how important it is to balance your body I have that knowledge now."


This commitment to arduous training and analytical supplementation may surprise those who assume that Bonds merely needs to roll out of the rack every morning to be the greatest baseball player in the world. Like any athlete, he needs structure and discipline, and his training and nutrition regimens provide the support.

"The training has helped me mentally as well as physically" he says. "The discipline of training and watching what I eat carries over into my playing ability. Being a professional athlete, it's easy to get distracted. You're going to make your millions anyway so it's easy to rest on your laurels."

This dedication reinforces the lessons learned as a youngster. Yes, role models matter, even to Barry. "I learned by watching Muhammad Ali and Magic Johnson when I was younger. I learned that those great athletes are self-motivated. They don't need anyone to knock on their door. They don't need a wake-up call; they're self-motivated. To be the best, you must be self-motivated.

"I remember a line in a movie: If you wake up in the morning and all you want to do is sing, then you're a singer.' I wake up wanting to do my job. I want to play baseball, I want to train."

Of course, adds Bonds, it helps to have a few irritants on your side. "Victor will call me to make sure I'm taking my supplements, and my trainer Greg will sit near my locker and stare at me if I don't begin working out right away. I have these guys pushing me. I'm irritated by them most of the time," he says, chuckling.

With his status already established as one of baseball's all-time greats, why does he do it? Why sweat and toil with huge weights, suffer through the ascetic discipline of dietary restrictions?

"When my son Nikolai was born, that changed my whole life," he says. "I have three children now. I have this big responsibility in front of me. I want what's best for my kids."

Asked if he would walk away from it all - the glory, fame and riches - for his family, Bonds replies without hesitation: "Definitely."

The moment of Bonds' departure is one of great consequence, and not just to rotisserie fanatics and bleary-eyed statisticians. When will the King of Swing hang it up?

'As long as I can see, I can hit a baseball. I may not be able to catch it in the outfield because I'm getting slow, but I can hit a baseball until I'm 50. And the only reason I say that is because Willie Mays comes down to spring training. He's in his 60s, and Willie Mays can still hit home runs. So can my Dad, and he's 57 years old.

'Am I going to be able to play at a level of a major league baseball player, five, six, seven years from now? Sure, I can play at the level of a major league baseball player, but will I play at a level I think that I should be playing at? No, I won't be able to do that five, six, seven years from now.

"I think that there's a time, maybe after 20 years in the game, for me to step aside and allow a young man who deserves to start his life and his career. My children will be in high school. As a father, I need to be home."

For now, pitchers will continue trembling, scoreboards will continue lighting up, and stitched rawhide will continue to sail over walls covered in ivy and spilled Budweiser. And as long as his name is scribbled on a lineup card, the weights will clang; the nutritional supplements will be taken.

"I've tried to install into my children that as long as you work hard at whatever you do, you're always a winner," says Bonds. "Always. You don't lose by working hard. You only lose if you make excuses. You don't lose by trying."


Barry Bonds’ nutrition regimen is based on his particular needs as measured by BALCO Laboratories. Victor Conte, head of BALCO, supplied Muscle & Fitness with the following program Bonds currently follows.



50 grams special whey protein blend

25 grams complex carbohydrates

5 grams glutamine peptides

5 grams New Zealand colostrum


1,000 mg phenylalanine

1,000 mg tyrosine

10 mg Vitamin B6

200 mcg chromium (as polynicotinate)

2 mg copper (as sebacate)


50 grams whey protein isolates

50 grams dextrose

5 grams glutamine

2 grams arginine

200 mcg chromium (as polynicotinate)

1.5 grams magnesium creatine

1.5 grams creatine monohydrate

5 grams New Zealand colostrum


10 mg iron (as glycinate)

200 mcg selenium (as selenomethionine)

10,000 IU Vitamin A

500 mg Vitamin C

800 IU Vitamin E

400 IU Vitamin D

25 mg Vitamin B1

25 mg Vitamin B2

25 mg Vitamin B6

500 mcg Vitamin B 12

400 mcg folic acid

500 mg omega-3 fatty acids

250 mg d-glucosamine sulfate

350 mg n-acetyl d-glucosamine

200 mg omega-6 fatty acids

150 mg chondrotin sulfate


50 grams special whey protein blend

25 grams complex carbohydrates

5 grams glutamine peptides

5 grams New Zealand colostrum

Before Bedtime

3 capsules ZMA, which contain 30 mg zinc (as monomethionine/aspartate),

450 mg magnesium (as aspartate) and 10.5 mg of Vitamin B6

200 mg L-theonine

50 mg 5-HTP