The story of Nick Topel, the Body Engineer

Fitness model and professional trainer Nick Topel tackles the idea of building the human body with a data-driven approach while also engaging in everything from fashion and social media to stock trading

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Getting in shape is actually not that hard for those with both the will and the way. Getting in shape anywhere near Nick Topel’s level, however, is quite something else. The American fitness model, trainer, athlete and social media influencer has the whole “getting into shape” business down to a fine art, based in no small part on his background in engineering and driven by his passion and dedication. In his chat with DA MAN, Topel discusses the journey that took him to where he stands today, his unique data-driven approach to fitness as well as his adventures in fashion modeling and more.

DAMAN: If we could look all the way back to the start of the journey that brought you here, do you remember what it was that first motivated you to really focus on health and fitness?
Nick Topel: I don’t need much to get going in terms of focus. I’m a self-motivated person and I enjoy the mental and physical challenge of pushing my body to the limit and optimizing health. But growing up, I was a swimmer and Michael Phelps gave me that initial spark of inspiration ever since I was a little kid.

DAMAN: Still looking back, at what point did fitness evolve from a personal passion to a professional pursuit?
Nick Topel: I had a scholarship to swim in college but decided not to continue. That first year without being on the swim team felt like something was missing in my life. I applied myself to lifting weights and learning everything I could about nutrition to fill that void. Then, during my senior year of college, I started competing in bodybuilding and I won my pro-card. It all happened pretty fast and that same year my social media started growing and I signed a professional endorsement with BSN supplements. When I realized people were willing to pay me to work out is when I started taking things a lot more seriously.

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DAMAN: And, of course, we also stumbled on your website, NickTopelFitness.com. In a nutshell, if somebody is looking for your help to get in shape, what kind of training programs do you offer?
Nick Topel: Fitness has played a huge part in shaping my successes and I want to make sure that others can have the same experience. In my coaching programs, we offer something for everyone. We have low-budget get-and-go programs all the way up to full scale one-on-one coaching where we’re controlling every aspect of your training and nutrition and I’m calling you on the phone to hold you accountable. My head coach Jonathan Ibrahim and I will also be offering a life-coaching program in the very near future.

DAMAN: In particular, can you tell us about the EVOLVE program that you authored?
Nick Topel: The EVOLVE program is a 16-week training program that includes more than 90 pages of course content and four hours of video instruction designed to not only show you, but teach you the secrets of the fitness industry. I call it a “lifestyle blueprint” as it provides a look into how a professional fitness model lives their life from day-to- day with all the tips and tricks people aren’t talking about to make fitness a lifestyle and not a chore. We explain the why behind the how to empower your success long after the programs ends. You get not only training and nutrition information, but also a detailed discussion on a champion’s mindset, how to set proper goals and proper habits.

DAMAN: The About page on your website, and also a number of online biographies, mention your engineering background and, intriguingly, how it influences your approach to health and fitness. Can you elaborate on that a bit?
Nick Topel: I have a degree in mechanical engineering and since the beginning of my career I have always approached building my body like an engineering system. Just like a jet plane, or a car, the human body is a closed thermodynamic system that can be optimized. It has fixed energy needs and moving components with specific functions. I am a data-driven person, so it’s all spreadsheets and numbers for me. It’s amazing what can be done with the body when you take a very objective data-driven approach to training and nutrition.

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DAMAN: You also created The Quarter Inch Challenge, which is hyper focused on arm development. Can you tell us about the story behind this unique program? And how has it been going?
Nick Topel: Turns out that how to get bigger arms is one of the largest searched terms in the fitness industry. Everybody wants a nice set of arms. I’ve got a small frame and always had trouble growing my arms. That’s where The Quarter Inch Challenge came into fruition. The QIC is a 60-day arm training program for men designed for walk you through how a professional fitness model would focus on arm growth from the diet to the training to the mindset. I show you how to do it all.

DAMAN: Obviously, people have always wanted to be fit and healthy. That being said, do you see anything different in what motivates people these days to train and, especially, seek out professional coaches such as yourself?
Nick Topel: When I got started with my career, I think that people were more internally motivated. You had posters of your favorite athletes on your bedroom wall and your idols were playing every Sunday night on TV. You had to get the next edition of Muscle & Fitness to hear about the newest trends in training and nutrition. Nowadays, I see more people motivated to get in shape by social media. People want to look good for likes on their Instagram photos. Social media is a powerful tool which provides incredible access to motivation. But we have to be careful to not be too motivated by the approval of others.

DAMAN: What would you say is the number one challenge in your line of work?
Nick Topel: A lot of my work nowadays has to do with social media. It’s a dynamic landscape. They’re constantly changing the algorithm and adding new features—and they’re usually pretty cryptic about what’s going on. So, it’s an uphill challenge staying ahead of the engagement curve to ensure you remain relevant. Otherwise, staying in photoshoot- ready shape year-round and avoiding the social pressures of life is the true challenge. It’s gotten much harder with travel because I’m on the go for work every couple of days. Sticking to my diet in an airport and hitting the gym when you’re jet-lagged and tired isn’t always easy, but I get it done. After some time, I did come to realize part of my job is to motivate others and I actually have a responsibility to my followers to be in good shape. If not for me, then for them.

DAMAN: And on the flip side, what would you say is the most rewarding or satisfying aspect of your work?
Nick Topel: For me it’s inspiring others to take control of their bodies and to live healthier, better lives.

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DAMAN: Unfortunately, health and fitness can be quite a divisive topic, especially online. In general, how would you advise the average Internet user to weed out misleading content and identify legit online resources about exercising, diet and staying healthy?
Nick Topel: Keep in mind the supplement industry is a multi-billion-dollar industry that’s meant to be confusing. There are entire office floors of guys with marketing degrees who’s only job is to get you to buy their specific product. People get lost focusing on the top 1 percent when they’re missing the bigger picture at hand. The fundamentals of wellness—and specifically nutrition—are built on just a few key principles. Out of all the inputs to the success of your diet, 60 to 80 percent of it just has to do with getting the right amount of calories and protein on a daily basis. Everything else is just noise.

DAMAN: What would you say is a simple, everyday activity that anyone can do—that everyone probably should do—to start their journey towards becoming fit?
Nick Topel: I’d say there’s three things actually: Drink lots of water, get your protein in at every meal and walk 10,000+ steps a day without exception.

DAMAN: If we could move on to the world of fashion, we just saw your Instagram post about heading to Florida for Miami Swim Week. For any of our readers unfamiliar with the event, can you give us a brief intro? Also, are you appearing in any shows or campaigns there?
Nick Topel: Miami Swim Week is an event where over 70 different swimwear designers and brands showcase their latest lines, latest trends and swimwear. It’s inclusive, diverse and flashy summer looks. I walked the runway for my friends at Argyle Grant twice so far and I have also attended a bunch of the women’s shows going on in South Beach. I really look forward to this week every year.

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DAMAN: What do you consider to be the most memorable highlights of the modeling side of your career?
Nick Topel: Making it as a fitness model in New York has been a dream of mine since the start of my career. Some highlights include opening the runway at L.A. Fashion Week and being named one of Fit Media Channels’ top-10 hottest physiques in the world. I’m still gunning for a major campaign with a company like Equinox or Under Armor, but that will happen in due time.

DAMAN: Have you ever considered branching out into other aspects of fashion? For instance, creating an activewear line sounds right up your alley…
Nick Topel: I would love to create a men’s activewear line. I’m very much into the connection of fashion and fitness. I have a lot of skincare companies reach out as well and I would love to get more involved in men’s beauty products later down the line.

DAMAN: “Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” What is your take on this quote?
Nick Topel: It doesn’t feel like I’ve worked a single day for at least the past five years. It’s important to have passion in your work. Being happy daily at your job and loving what you do is an overall productivity booster and enhances performance ability. People who enjoy their jobs are more likely to be optimistic, motivated, learn faster, make fewer mistakes and make better business decisions.

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DAMAN: Besides fitness, wellness and fashion, what else do you enjoy? Are there any particular subjects, activities or hobbies that you’re passionate about?
Nick Topel: Not many people know but I actually spend a lot of my time trading in the stock market during the weekdays. It keeps my left brain stimulated. I love finance, studying geopolitics and using critical analysis to put it together for something usable.

DAMAN: What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?
Nick Topel: I’m a complete sucker for gummy bears. You’d be surprised at how much I can eat in a single day. I try not to splurge too often, of course.

DAMAN: You help motivate a lot of people to become the best they can be; what is it that motivates you to do the things you do?
Nick Topel: I honor the process of health and wellness and recognize the aspects it plays in all corners of my life. I’ve also been an internally motivated person, that always comes first. But nowadays, I also recognize that I’m no longer accountable to just myself, but also to the hundreds of thousands of people who follow me on social media platforms.

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PHOTOGRAPHY & STYLING STEFAN MRECZKO

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