An Expert for Body and Mind: Interview with Yannis Karrer

Photo: Urs Ruchti

It’s highly impressive how much Yannis Karrer can handle. This is true for his workout in the gym as well as for his workload at University. Yannis is not only a successful natural bodybuilder but also a qualified doctor and is just writing his dissertation in the field of sport psychiatry. Besides he works as an online coach. The multiple Swiss natural bodybuilding champion and WNBF pro firstly talks with AnyGains about his contest preparation.

Yannis, in what phase are you currently?

I am just in the last week of bulking before my contest preparation.

Are you satisfied with your shape?

I am satisfied with my current shape. In the past months I could make good progress in my home gym despite lockdown.

What contests are coming up?

This year my debut as a natural bodybuilding pro is planned. I am aiming at three contests: UKDFBA Pro Cup, SNBF Swiss Pro Cup, and WNBF World Championships.

How difficult is it to do natural bodybuilding beside your activities as coach and doctor?

As I am not working as a doctor at the moment, it works well enough. But when I was working as an assistant doctor, the other fields suffered considerably. I don’t yet know how to solve this in the long run.

To what extent does your medical knowloedge help you for bodybuilding?

It helps in many fields, although in medical study, nutrition was treated only sparsely, and workout scientific content not at all. For example, anatomic knowledge helps for workout, physiological and biochemical knowledge for nutrition/supplementation, and generally knowledge about the scientific process for interpreting and reading scientific publications.

Why did you start working out and bodybuilding, and what fascinates you?

I wanted to work out for an aptitude test for the Swiss Army. However, I scrapped my plan for the Army shortly afterwards. My body transformed within a short time significantly, and mine even more than those of my gym buddies. I enjoyed sculpting my physique how I wanted. It’s the artistic aspect which has fascinated me until now.

How much muscle have you built in what time?

Approximately over 55 lbs in just under eleven years. Naturally a large part of it in the first few years.

Many bodybuilders are living on the goals they set themselves. What are your goals?

Basically, my goal is the maximal exploitation of my genetic potential naturally. Moreover, I want to work out until my death and to do this sport on a high level as long as possible. A more identifiable, medium-term goal is a victory at the Natural Bodybuilding Pros and the overall win at the WNBF World Championship of the Pros.

Do you have any idols?

Babacar Niang is my idol in natural bodybuilding. Beside his total package, I admire his constantly cheerful disposition and down-to-earthness. Moreover Jay Cutler is a big idol. Beside his mindset and his success as an active athlete, he is successful in almost every other area of life off bodybuilding. And in contrast to other Mr. Olympia winners he still looks fit after the end of his career, and above all (!) he makes a healthy impression.

How does weight training affect mind and psyche in your opinion?

Physical exercise has, beside many other positive effects on psyche, a certain antidepressant effect. In case of a mental illness like a depression it cannot replace psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy, but it can support the treatment and be perhaps useful in prevention. Beside the direct impact of physical activity, the transformation of the body or the achievement of athletic goals can possibly redound to the benefit of self-confidence and the feeling of self-efficacy. Anecdotally, weight training has a meaningful and a balancing function for some people.

Does this mean that competitive sportsmen are mentally more stable in general?

Competitive sportsmen are not immune to mental illness either, and high-performance sport can entail psychic risks. Often mental strength, which is usually very distinct in case of successful athletes, is equated with psychological health/resilience. But this are different attributes which shouldn’t be conflated in any case. An athlete can suffer from mental illness despite mental strength. Psychological problems in competitive sports are unfortunately still tabued, although mental illness among competitive sportsmen occurs equally or partly even more often. I take enlightenment on this subject seriously, as my research projects are located in the field of sport psychiatry.

Can you explain the positive effects medically?

Presumably the effects are caused by various mechanisms. However, we can say that direct (for example the increase of BDNF level in special brain regions) as well as indirect mechamisms (for example via better physical health condition and higher functionality) seem to be responsible.

Can nutrition help, too?

If you want to progress, nutrition and workout go hand in hand. Even if physical activity has already per se positive effects, nutrition plays a key role when it comes to improve and maintain physical fitness.

Photo: Urs Ruchti

How does weight training help you mentally?

Training helps me in compensation for stressful and/or overly intellectual work. Moreover it gives me a certain structure and meaning in every condition of life.

What advice would you hand out to someone who wants to do weight training for strengthening mind and psyche?

Work out so much that you make progress, and so experience a sense of achievement, but mind that it’s fun! A training which is progress related and maximally effective is of no use in the long term, if you can’t/don’t like to pursue it in the long run. And most important: move! Even if you do something different from weight training, and even if it’s only for 20 minutes per week, that’s better than no exercise at all.

Yannis, thank you for this interview!

Yannis Karrer year of birth: 1995

Height: 5′ 9

Weight: off season end: 218 – 220 lbs, intended competition weight: 198 – 203 lbs

Achievements in natural bodybuilding:

1st Place SNBF Swiss Championship in Natural Bodybuilding Juniors II 2014

1st Place SNBF Swiss Championship in Natural Bodybuilding Men Heavyweight 2014

Overall Champion SNBF Swiss Championship in Natural Bodybuilding Men 2017

WNBF Men’s Bodybuilding Pro Card 2017

Instagram: Yannis Karrer (@ykarrer) • Instagram-Fotos und -Videos

Facebook: Yannis Karrer | Facebook

Yannis Karrer’s master thesis: https://bmjopensem.bmj.com/content/6/1/e000801

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