Engineering the Alpha – Q&A with Adam Bornstein and John Romaniello

Based on cutting-edge, scientifically validated methods known only to the fitness elite, Man 2.0: Engineering the Alpha provides a step-by-step roadmap to regaining your health, looking your best, super-charging your sex life—even reversing the aging process. The systems in this book have changed the lives of countless men who’ve worked with Romaniello and Bornstein.

We recently sat down with the authors of  the New York Times bestseller to address some frequently asked questions about the book.

SMB Staff:

The plan in Engineering the Alpha is quite comprehensive but definitely appears to be slanted towards fat loss. What do you recommend for those looking to gain muscle mass?

John Romaniello:

Yeah, it’s definitely a bit more of a “fat loss plan”, but there are muscle-gaining components to it. Phase 3, for example, is all about muscle gain, and phase 2 and phase 4 also have aspects there. That said, speaking generally, 75% of people that come to us need to lose fat, and only 25% are looking to gain serious amounts of muscle. So really, by necessity, it’s a body recomposition program. Is it going to pack on 20 lbs. of muscle in 16 weeks? Possible, but not likely. It happened for a few of the skinnier guys we tested, but it wasn’t the most common result. The program isn’t an unadulterated bodybuilding program. If a male hardgainer follows this, a much more likely outcome would be a 10 lb. gain while also getting shredded, which isn’t a bad tradeoff. On the other hand, while someone who’s more endomorphic might gain close to 15-20 pounds and not get quite as lean. The genetically gifted will get the best of both worlds, of course =) Gotta love them genetics.

Adam Bornstein:

Just to add to what Roman said, the important thing for hardgainers to recognize – the balancing of the hormones specifically with regard to insulin and testosterone, those things will help them with all of their other programs down the road. Guys want to freak out about “Will this exercise boost testosterone so I grow more muscle with each set?”  Yeah, that’s not how it works. Wish it did. It’s a bigger picture approach. Do all this stuff and the hormonal ecosystem will be better. Fix the system and then all the steps you take—while combined—will lead to better results. It’s like a car engine. If the engine has a leak, it won’t work as well as it can. We’re cleaning up all the leaks and then putting in premium fuel.

The program is structured in a way that teaches proper form, movements, patterns, and all that other stuff. So while they will make progress on it, the great thing is that every program they do after this will be more effective. Which is not something that can be said of most exercise books.

SMB Staff:

In the book you advocate consuming a lot of fats, what’s your response to those that have been mislead to believe all fats are unhealthy?

John Romaniello:

It’s an adjustment for some. Remember, fat doesn’t make you fat. And the right fats can help with testosterone production. And because you’re going lower carb in the first phase, it means bump up the fats.

If people ask me, it’s simple: Start with more red meat. This will pack on the calories and fats making it much easier. Most people try to eat the shit out of almonds. That’s a lot of almonds. So fatty meats, fatty fish, eggs—and Adam would say more eggs. Cook in coconut oil. Enjoy coconut butter. And if all else fails, you always have almond butter. That shit is awesome.

SMB Staff:

The primary diet principle in the book incorporates fasting. We know this can work well for fat loss, but what are the implications of fasting on muscle gain?

Adam Bornstein:

Fasting works for both goals. We’ve seen that it can be incredibly effective for pure fat loss. We’ve also seen that it can be extremely useful for a body recomposition approach, like we use. For pure muscle gain, it can certainly work very well, depending on the person. There may be some issues with a model like 16/8, because for some guys it will be hard to get all their calories in 8 hours. Most hardgainers struggle with getting enough food at all, without imposing a time limit.

Obviously, that doesn’t mean you can’t gain muscle with intermittent fasting. Depends on the model you use and maybe even some adjustments you make. With something like 16/8, as long as you’re okay with eating a high volume of food in just a few sittings, you’ll be fine. For people who get full really quickly, we usually make modifications, expand the feeding window, and encourage eating a lot of calorically dense foods. But, if someone still struggles, we don’t have a problem with letting them go back to a model that looks more like frequent feeding. The entire draw of intermittent fasting is freedom; the point of fasting is to remove the shackles, not to replace them.

If people want to eat for 20 hours out of the day, we’re not going to stop them. We think that there’s more benefit in limiting it to a shorter period of time, but for guys–especially skinny guys–looking to gain muscle it probably won’t make as big of an impact. Chow down.

SMB Staff:

What was it like working with Arnold Schwarzenegger on this book – any stories you could share?

John Romaniello:

Working with Schwarzenegger was awesome. Definitely a dream come true for any musclehead, especially to have him write the foreword. That was just really, really cool of him.

Our whole relationship with Arnold came to be when his Body Man (or special assistant) signed up for my online coaching program and became a client. He was making good gains, and all that. About three months in, while they were traveling to (I think) Belgium, Arnold decided to jump in and do one of his workouts with him. After the workout, Daniel (Arnold’s assistant) e-mailed me and said, “hey the boss wants to know why we’re doing squeeze presses instead of flys.” So, now I’ve gotta write an email justifying my choice of chest exercises to the man who has probably the greatest chest development in the history of chests. F**king surreal. Thankfully Arnold liked my explanation and did not send a T-8000 back to the 80’s to kill my mom and prevent my existence. So, really, a win all around. All joking aside, it feels cool to have him trying out our workouts and getting results from them, that’s fun, and a real honor.

SMB Staff:

When bodybuilders hear “testosterone”, the conversation quickly steers towards anabolic steroids. What’s your general feeling there?

John Romaniello:

Ah, yeah. I think it’s natural for people to think “steroids” when they hear that word. And I suppose it’s just as natural for them to question our ‘status.’

That part first: Adam is what you’d call is completely natural. I am what you’d call “mostly” natural. And by that, I mean that when I was in my early 20’s, I used prohormones. This is back when they were legal and you could just grab them at GNC. This was when I was about 23. The interesting thing was that about a year of two after I had done that, I went through a period of experiencing low testosterone.

Of course, I can’t say that those things were related and to be honest I don’t think they really are; but I can say confidently that it obviously didn’t help. The experience with low testosterone was one of the catalysts for researching all of this to begin with and that led to developing many of the techniques in this book to raise testosterone naturally. So, if the prohormones were partially to blame, at least something good came of it. Either way, I think it’s worth having out there simply in the interest of full disclosure.

As for my general feeling on steroids…meh. I don’t really give a f**k. I just accept it as part of sports and bodybuilding. Doesn’t bother me on a moral level, and I see the draw for anti-aging purposes and all that. But, obviously, it makes more sense from every conceivable angle to start with boosting your body’s own production of these hormones, whether it be for anti-aging or physique enhancement or higher sex drive. Exogenous hormones (regardless of whether they’re prescribed or not) should be the last stop.

Buy Engineering The Alpha on Amazon


John Romaniello HeadshotJohn Romaniello, one of the most highly regarded experts in the fitness industry, has written for Men’s Health to Fast Company, and been featured on programs such as Good Morning America. An advisor to nearly a dozen fitness and tech companies, Roman lives in New York’s West Village, and loves the NY Jets, unicorns, sarcasm and writing about himself in the third person. For more about Roman, check out and



Adam Bornstein HeadshotAdam Bornstein is an award-winning fitness and nutrition writer and editor. Named ”one of the most influential people in health”, Bornstein was previously the editorial director for LIVESTRONG.COM and the fitness editor for Men’s Health magazine. He is the author of 5 fitness books has appeared on Good Morning America and E! News. For more about Bornstein, visit

One Comment

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  1. Hi!
    I followed the program and I was very pleased with the results.
    So thanks for the research!
    But I have a question:
    Will this work as well for my wife because we want to start the program together again.
    Or is this program only for men?
    Wich program/book can you recommande than for women?


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