American Health: a history of insanity pt 4

Posted on April 19, 2011. Filed under: Nutrition | Tags: , , , , |

As people sip their Muscle Milks and Myoplexes, I wonder if they realize how far this industry has come.

I remember asking my mentor about supplements and especially protein shakes.  He told me two things:

  1. Go out and get some evaporated milk and eggs and mix it up its the same thing
  2. At your age, the only supplement you need is lots of good food

I will talk about the second tip later on, but at the time the first tip was correct.  Reputation wise most supplements, including shakes were nothing special.  Merely a convenience to be added in to whatever you threw into a blender.

Not to mention the talk of certain protein powders being laced with hormones to build word of mouth.  And build sales.  It’s bad enough that they often tasted bad, but with less reputable brand you had to worry about them being laced with some form of drug so you could “feel” it working.

Now they jut add caffeine or creatine, or both.

A lot of the things a bodybuilder did was done out of trial and error.  But they knew what worked.  Avoid refine carbs to stay lean.  Cut carbs to get even leaner.  Up your carbs to gain size.  And above all eat.

Nowadays if one wishes to gain weight they get a “Mass gainer” shake from the local supplement store.  Back in the day the Iron Guru Vince Gironda recommended this recipe for a mas gainer shake.

  • 12 oz half and half
  • 12 raw eggs
  • 1/3 cup milk-and-egg protein powder
  • 1 banana.

You were supposed to make one to three shakes a day, and drink either throughout the day between meals, and/or before bed.  I did the math, that’s 1300 calories a shake easily.  And when you add in that Vinge advocated eating dozens of eggs and pounds of red meat daily.  It’s not hard to see a person gaining weight from that.  No lab needed.  🙂

But all that changed when Met-Rx came out.  And so the story goes . . .

This is how it was told to me.  Dr Connelly originally developed Met-Rx protein powder to help hospital patients, burn victims I believe, to increase their health and recovery.  Many things applied in bodybuilding and fitness comes from therapeutic principles.

The reason for this is to increase size strength muscle you must enhance recovery.  Also a lot of research into the field of building mule or losing fat is very, very new.

This is an important fact many fitness gurus glaze over.  there is very little actual research into what works for fat loss and muscle-building.  Majority is anecdotal.  And what does get proven is based on what coaches are already doing, mainly because they have no other direction to go with.

Bill Phillips, a young entrepreneur printing a newsletter and sending out from his garage, saw the potential in Met-Rx.  And started a company with Connelly, and Jeff Everson (ex-husband of Ms Olympia Cory Everson).

The marketing behind Met-Rx was in a word, genius.

He established his reputation by writing a seemingly objective book on supplements that blasted products as being total garbage.  I think I still have a copy of one the old books in my parent’s basement or attic somewhere.  Then he spoke of a genius doctor that had developed a product that he called “the most incredible nutritional supplement ever developed!”  😀

Unfortunately, it wasn’t available to the general public.   😦


Like Muhammad Ali reinvented boxing promotion, Bill Phillips had reinvented the art of hyping supplements by generating a monumental interest for this specially engineered “wonder” food, Met-Rx.  When the time was right Bill revealed the name of the wonder supplement in his “Natural Supplement Review,” which in his benevolence he did not sell, but gave the book away to readers of his now Muscle Media 2000 magazine,  along with complete ready-to-mail order forms.

This tactic still gets used today, because it still works.

Connelly had used the “mother’s milk” concept developed by Rheo Blair and had a professional food formulator put it into a flavored pre-mix. To help with the “taste issue”  the formulator added aspartame, in order to maintain sweetness, keep the sugar levels low and the protein content high.

Seems simple now, but at the time this was cutting edge in the industry.

It has also been mentioned that the first batch of Met-Rx had a little something extra to build word of mouth.  again, never proven.

Considering how well-known the Met-Rx name is today, you can only imagine how taken a back the founders were of the success back in the day.  Remember, up until that point the market was strictly the bodybuilding crowd, Met-Rx was the first brand to really establish itself in mainstream athletics.

I still remember pictures of the Dallas Cowboys QB Troy Aikman on the labels.

Eventually they parted ways, and my understanding is that it wasn’t the mot pleasant parting.  Then Phillips went on to start another company you might have heard of, EAS.

Since they could no longer sell Met-Rx, they sold Myoplex.

EAS was also the first company to hit on selling creatine with the product line, Phosphagen.  A common as it is now you have to understand creatine was not cheap back in the day.

The process for development was not yet streamlined as it is now.  When it first came out a 500g bottle sold for $70.  To give perspective, the highest quality creatine monohydrate direct from a manufacturer, is about $9 per 500g.

Side note:  Just get a high creatine monohydrate.  There is no valid proof that any of these other fancy creatine are any better.  None.

Of course this didn’t matter because EAS had hit on something else.  If you charge more, people associate greater value to it.

A classic example of this, and a personal favorite of mine, is Cybergenics.

Talk about a hustle.  For some to young to remember Cybergenics was the “complete workout nutrition program.”  And it has to be the mot brilliant hustle in supplement history.

I still remember to this day making my mentor about Cybergenics.  He told me even he was curious, and he had found somebody who had ordered it.  He then showed me the workout and nutrition plan.

It was a six-day a week split body workout plan, combined with a general calorie controlled plan.  The package also came with their “special supplements.”  My mentor and coach told me just looking at the program, the supplements could be nothing more than sugar pills and you would still see results from it.

If I can find an old magazine with the original ads , I think that is also in a basement somewhere, I will scan and post it.  You have to see these ads, with the before/after photos to believe it.   L. Scott Chinery, the mastermind behind the Cybergenics line, sold products costing up to $200 for what was little more than small dosage of vitamins and minerals , with a few herbs thrown in to fill out the label.

The company made millions selling hype to an unsuspecting public.  Even steroid users were apparently repeat customers. They were convinced that the stuff must be good because it cost so much.

The best part, or worst part, depending how you look at it is that just before Cybergenics was to be found out, Chinery sold the company to some unsuspecting sucker.  The company went from worth millions to dollars in a period of months.

🙂  I’m sorry, but that is hilarious to me.

So that is a quick synopsis on the oh so fun history of health and nutrition in the US.  And that barely covers it.

Now don’t get the wrong idea, I am actually pro supplement.  I just feel you should be aware and get things that are actually helping you.

In fact I will even tell you what supplements I use and have had clients used in future blogs.  Don’t worry, they are all available to the public  😉

Best Health,

Coach W


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