As part-owner of functional food company Sinister Labs, Flex Lewis recently equaled Arnold Schwarzenegger’s record total of six Olympia titles and his success both on stage and the boardroom is a lesson to anyone
Although a naturally gifted athlete, Flex is characterized by a track record of having worked immensely hard to achieve success. “If we go back to the beginning, Flex was the name I’d taken on in school as I always had a developed physique from a young age. I’d always loved physically working out. That said, I didn’t initially set out to be a bodybuilder – my original training routine was more of a powerlifting split. I just loved playing sport in general. Rugby is something I excelled in, and it’s particularly popular where I come from in Wales. With the success of my early rugby and weightlifting career, I saw bodybuilding as another sport I could be successful at.”
Flex’s career began to skyrocket before the dawn of social media, so his methods of making a positive impression are intensely old-school, and – let’s face it – proven. “I’m all about the hustle and the hard work. When I started out, and even when I first arrived in America, there was no social media. You had to physically go and get in the face of the pros, those you looked up to. I also attended many meets, greets and signings.”
The transition into the digital age soon came around, and despite his traditional grounding, Flex observed the potential for growth from social media. “Every month I used to read all the main bodybuilding magazines, and it was always an ambition of mine to get inside them or on the cover. When social media grew, a lot of pro-bodybuilders didn’t bother with it. I was one of the first that did. It allows me to show my training and personal life, and people really feel they can relate to it. I guess that’s what is social about it.”
Although you wouldn’t normally consider an individual’s diet to mirror their entrepreneurialism, this is certainly the case with Flex. “I’m at a catch weight, where I compete in the 212lb class. I HAVE to make this weight and so I eat precisely to the point where I don’t have the typical off season.” As an example of that, Flex has to limit how often he eats out and how focussed he must be about the food on his plate. “I’m lucky in that my wife, a registered dietitian, is knowledgeable about nutrition and health. She noticed my previous diet wasn’t working – I wasn’t myself and didn’t feel great in response to some foods. She urged me to undergo a food allergy test, and it turned out that I was experiencing a lot of irritation. I was allergic to 70% of my previous diet, so we set about improving my gut flora, reworking my digestive tract and removing nuisance foods from my plan.”
These changes worked wonders, and Flex soon started to reap more rewards.
“My body responded really well. I keep things basic, but it works for me. I like to base my current meals around foods that get the job done, taste good, and always use my own Sinister Labs products to complement my menu choices and training routine. “I go for plenty of poultry alongside rice or cream of rice as my go-to meal. I’ll opt for one salmon meal a day and eat steak 3-4 times a week.”
Professional by name, professional by nature. The day-to-day life of a modern day pro bodybuilder is indistinguishable from that of other elite-level athletes,
a fact Flex is keen to escalate. “There really is no difference, just that body-builders compete for the physique itself. Part of what motivated me to move to Florida was that I’d be around the best in all sports – boxing, football, and basketball. I sought out a community where others have a similar drive for success.”
Beneath the surface, bodybuilding is arguably more advanced than many other sports with a global audience. “Dedication to training and nutrition is exactly the same in bodybuilding as it is in other elite sports, but in terms of sport science, the iron game comes out on top. Nutritionists and strength and conditioning coaches working in bodybuilding are so far ahead of the game.”
Driving the growth of a business is something that comes naturally to Flex. In the same way that he has built a body that’s beaten the world’s best six times over, his entrepreneurial career is equally impressive. “I started out back in Wales by forming my own removals company. I thought to myself, ‘Yes I’m capable of lifting things’, and that proved useful.
I was awarded Young Businessman of the Year by Prince Charles (heir to the British throne) when I was starting off. To me, this confirmed the crossover to bodybuilding: no handouts, no shortcuts, just roll your sleeves up and go with it!”
Breaking the mold: Sinister-style
Such is Flex’s passion for noticing gaps in the market, it spurred him on to create a nutrition and functional food company in the same vein: Sinister Labs. Together with industry expert Scott James, the stall was set out. Within the Sinister Labs range, you’ll find bars, cookies and pancakes, with the onus on real food. Eating real food promotes adherence to a plan. Carefully selected ingredients have also been added to provide additional fuel. Whereas fast food adds junk, functional food adds nutrition.
This is particularly the case with the SINFIT pancake stacks that are currently sending a host of social media platforms into overdrive.
While many supplement brands operate in a similar fashion with powders, pills and shakes, Sinister Labs’ are the industry’s first solely functional food enterprise. Flex was instrumental in driving its creation. “We’ve taken to enrobing our cookies and bars with nuts, fruit and other beneficial ingredients that really work for you. This adds a textured layer that’s unique to our brand. The SINFIT cookie was launched at Arnold Classic 2018, and it took off like crazy. Already we’ve gained a loyal following. So many companies go for spreads and nut butters, but ours is the only kind you can find with added caffeine.”
Caffeine is a proven ergogenic aid that boosts muscular contraction and reduces your rate of perceived exertion – how hard your training appears to the brain. This allows you to keep working out for longer, with much greater intensity – and as Flex proves, if you roll up your sleeves and put the hard work in, you get results.