Dennis Fanucchi: “It’s Never Too Late for Fitness”

Dennis Fanucchi didn’t touch a weight until he was 54.

The San Francisco Bay Area native ran a highly successful bowling center with his family. Renowned for customer service, Fanucchi’s days started early and ended late as up to 5,000 bowlers and non-bowlers visited the center weekly.

Fanucchi at age 35.

When his brother turned 30, Fanucchi noticed he was putting on weight just as their father had. Concerned about his own potential for overweight, Fanucchi developed an aversion to eating, taking in just one meal a day. At other times, his love for black licorice and coffee got him through the day.

Combined with his long hours at work, Fanucchi obviously didn’t put on weight—quite the opposite. It took a blunt comment from his mother (“You look like you’re dying”) at a family function to startle Fanucchi into action.

That’s how Fanucchi’s fitness journey began, at age 54, and led to weightlifting competitions in his mid-60s. Now 75 and recently featured on Bodybuilding.com, Fanucchi, who works out at 24 Hour Fitness Livermore Super-Sport in Livermore, California, is often mistaken for someone decades younger. 24Life asked him to share his insights about his transformation.

24Life: Your first experience with a gym was as a teenager—and you said the dark, sweaty, intimidating environment made you walk right back out. So what brought you back as an adult?

Dennis Fanucchi: I had a friend, Chris Welton, who had a gym. He said to me, “If you want to work out, I guarantee you won’t have a good body. I guarantee you’ll have a great body because you’re so disciplined.”

I’d always dreamed about having a good body. But I didn’t wear a T-shirt or shorts for probably the first 50 years of my life. Chris took my measurements—I didn’t want him to, but he said, “You’ll thank me the rest of your life.” He brought weights to my house and trained me three days a week. Then he sold me a workout bar and bench that he didn’t want anymore. I had those in my office, and I used them religiously, in addition to continuing working out with him twice a week.

24Life: With all that work, how did your nutrition change?

DF: I told Chris I couldn’t eat more than once a day. He explained that I had to feed my muscles. He said, “You have to fuel up just like a car. You have a tank of gas; you’re going to Sacramento. You’re not to make it back on that empty tank.” So then I increased my intake to eating four times a day; now I’m eating eight times a day.

Fanucchi’s trophies earned in competition from age 63 to 68 include five first-place awards in San Francisco, San Jose, Central Valley and Fresno bodybuilding and figure championships.

24Life: How did you get into competition?

DF: It was when I was 63 and I was at a fitness expo. A nutrition product rep said I should do it. I asked to work with him, and he agreed. At my first show, I came in second place. Paul [the rep] said, “I’m sorry, Dennis,” and I said, “It’s OK. I didn’t expect to win.” But I went to see the judges to ask why I didn’t win. One judge said, “I’ll tell you. You have a great future in this business.” Remember, I’m 64 at this time! He said, “No one could match you from the waist up, but you need to build your legs.”

I had a hernia, so I wasn’t doing as much to train my lower body. The judge told me to get the hernia repaired and get to work. I did, and I won five of my next eight shows.

24Life: What’s in a typical day for you?

DF: I get up at 7 a.m. and have quality play time with my three rescue cats. I feed the cats (of course they all eat different food) and prepare my first meal—I crack 12 egg whites and three whole eggs, pan-fried, and a toasted English muffin.

I’m a “neat freak,” which means I clean up the mess I made immediately. Around 10 a.m., I have meal No. 2, a protein shake. The rest of the day is eating and preparing food, researching every facet of fitness, reviewing my current and future workouts, and setting up that day’s workout.

I go to the gym from 3 to 5 p.m., and if needed, I go to the store. I get home around 6 p.m. The cats are at the door waiting for me because I take them for a walk—yes, we all go for a walk, and they don’t need to be on leashes—in the common area behind my backyard.

Then I prepare more food, as I still have three more meals to eat. I finally get to sit down around 9 p.m. for dinner (meal No. 7). I go to bed around 12:30 a.m. or when I finish my last meal.

24Life: You’re frequently approached by people in the gym. What’s your perspective on your accomplishments?

DF: I can’t expect to be the same way forever. I decided to reduce my weight, [which is muscle], to a size that I can maintain for at least the next two years. I work so hard. I pose 20 minutes a day mainly for the isometrics and to keep my cuts the way they are.

24Life: What would you say to people who say it’s too late or who have given up on their fitness dreams?

DF: I get that a lot. They’ll say, “I’d like to work out, but it’s too late.” I ask, “How old are you?” They might say 48, 50 or 60. Then I ask, “Why is it too late?”

The thing is, they don’t know what to do. And if they do something wrong, they’ll get hurt. So I tell them to get a trainer at least for the first couple of visits.

The main thing is self-confidence: Don’t look around at people you see, don’t try to compare yourself to someone else your age, especially not anybody younger.

And for people who are really busy, I would say, “Don’t worry about it, this is No. 4 on your list—your family, your work, your education, then this. This isn’t going away. Just come in one to two days a week and concentrate on it.”

I preach—and I’ve proved—it’s never too late to start!

Follow Dennis Fanucchi on Instagram @denfan49er

Fanucchi with brother-in-law Tom Crane and sister Sandy.

Fanucchi served in the Army National Guard from 1965 to 1970, stationed at Fort Polk, Louisiana.

Upon his retirement, Fanucchi was featured on the cover of Bowling Industry magazine.

Fanucchi walks rescue cats Licorice, Guy and Sniff (all rescue cats) daily.

Fuel Like Fanucchi

If a few hours of shopping, chopping and packing our meals is a weekly task we dread, then Dennis Fanucchi’s dedication to his nutrition—and the meal prep required—will have most of us quietly stepping off the complain train. Here’s what a single day of nourishment comprises for the 75-year-old bodybuilder.

The only eggs Fanucchi eats are cracked by hand—more than a dozen every morning.

Meal 1: 15 eggs (12 egg whites and three whole eggs) and an English muffin

Meal 2: Protein shake

Meal 3: 8 ounces ground turkey breast, 1 cup brown rice, 1 cup spinach

Meal 4: Homemade power burrito: 6 ounces chicken breast, turkey chili and mozzarella cheese wrapped in a corn tortilla

Meal 5 (pre-workout): 1 can tuna, 1 cup brown rice; pre-workout drink; post-workout drink

Meal 6: Protein shake

Meal 7: Chicken breast or 8 ounces whitefish, baked potato or yam, 2 cups green vegetables

Meal 8 (before bed): Noncarb protein shake

Hero photo credit: Tom Casey, box24studio.com

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