While our unofficial motto here at T-mag is "look good naked," we sometimes forget that it doesn't much matter how good you look, naked or otherwise, if you're as daid as the mullet that's packed on ice and sitting on the fishmonger's cart.
Neither is it much good if you always feel crummy because you have bad chemicals gumming up the works, or so much sludge pumping through your arteries that George W. has recently authorized oil companies to tap your Alaska-like ass for some crude.
And given that we concentrate so much on looking good naked, we often neglect the health aspect of our sport, passion, vocation, avocation, or whatever category you want to dump this thing we call bodybuilding.
It's with this last point in mind that I offer these simple tips to clean livin', T-man style. These aren't generally things that you'd read in GQ, either, like "loofah dead skin off your body so your skin appears youthful." No such luck.
I figure that if you're reading this site, you know you're supposed to exercise, drink in moderation, get regular sleep, and refrain from running with scissors. The following stuff's at least a little more edgy and scientific.
Avoid fried foods as they angry up the blood
Baseball player Satchel Paige said it years ago and I'm sure he would have been hard-pressed as to why you should avoid fried foods, but nevertheless, he was right on the money.
Unfortunately, when you fry foods in oil, saturated or otherwise, you change the chemistry of the oils, in effect making them fairly toxic. Add to that the fact that grocery store oils are already bleached and full of trans-fatty acids (which are actually more destructive to the health of your coronary arteries than saturated fat), and you've got yourself one wicked devil's brew.
Instead, steam or microwave your food. And if you do fry, use low heat and water or broth and add some good oil afterward for flavor. Or if you must use cooking oil, use small amounts of something that's more heat stabile like peanut oil, or saturated fats like coconut oil.
Don't eat fats that are solid at room temperature
You know that Skippy's Peanut Butter that comes in a big ol' honkin' jar, with the tasty chunks on top? Bad stuff. The fact that the oil is solid at room temperature indicates that the stuff has been treated and as such, is full of trans fatty acids. As mentioned earlier, trans-fatty acids could very well prove to be the number one culprit in coronary heart disease.
If you're going to eat peanut butter, eat the stuff with the liquid floating on top. It's a bitch to mix in, but if you heat the jar (minus the lid) in the microwave for 30 seconds, it'll stir right in.
Similarly, avoid eating butter and margarine if possible. While we all know butter is generally nasty stuff, it may well be that margarine's worse since it's solid at room temp because of high trans fatty acid content.
Embrace the Salmon
Really, hug a salmon. It shows the salmon that you love it, and it'll reciprocate in ways you didn't think were possible for a salmon. No, what I really mean is to include salmon – scads of it – in your daily diet.
Salmon is incredibly rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which, because of modern food processing and McDonald's, are becoming increasingly rare in our diets. If you include more Omega 3's in the diet – from either salmon or fish oil capsules – you can expect some incredible things to happen to your body.
For one, you could very well get leaner, as a number of studies have shown that a diet rich in Omega 3 fatty acids can increase the production of a number of important mitochondrial enzymes that play a part in fat oxidation. In fact, some of the changes seen in mitochondria are very similar to what you might see in a person who just started doing Tae-bo or aerobics of any kind.
Furthermore, these Omega 3's seem to have potent anti-inflammatory effects, which could lead to relief of asthma and various musculoskeletal problems such as tendonitis. How much? Well, occasional T-mag contributor Eric Noreen recommends as much as 10 grams per day, derived from either Salmon, fish oil capsules, or other dietary sources such as canola oil (which contains smaller, but still respectable amounts of omega-3's). Personally, however, for the reasons stated above, I avoid all supermarket oils.
Don't eat anything that comes in a box
Prior to oh, about the 18th century, very few people had diabetes. Then came the invention of industrial-type mills that were able to grind flour to a fine powder. Whammo! Cases of diabetes start to pop up within a decade or so.
It might be mere coincidence, but I tend to think not. Instead, I think that the fine milling greatly increased the glycemic, or insulin, index of the foods it was used in. Prior to high-powered milling, flour had big chunks of fiber in it, kind of like the paper you used to use in 1st grade. As such, it digested slowly, as the bread-equivalent of a two-by-four is wont to do.
That wasn't the case with the new grain products. The fine powdery flour was digested much more quickly than even sugar, and consequently caused a big tidal flood of insulin to be released. After years of eating this way, the peasants first became insulin resistant, and then fat. And some would develop diabetes.
It's no different today. Almost any food product you can think of that comes in a box is highly processed, and as such, the insulin index is way off the scale. It's my belief that eating high insulin-index, boxed foods, causes most of the obesity in the country.
And furthermore, these processed foods almost always contain an abundance of trans fatty acids, simply because they don't go rancid as quickly as unsaturated oils.
In short, buy fresh foods whenever possible.
Avoid Environmental Estrogens
We've made the case in this mag that estrogen might very well be more highly implicated in prostate growth and perhaps even prostate cancer than DHT. We've also made the case that an abundance of estrogen can cause gynecomastia, add undesirable body fat, make it harder to put on muscle, and make you as weepy as Sally Struthers.
Most of you know that it's normal for some Testosterone to aromatize into estrogen. In fact, the Testosterone and estrogen molecules are very similar; T has 21 carbon atoms and 21 oxygen atoms. Simply remove one particular carbon atom and presto! You've got estrogen. Trouble is, as you get older, levels of this aromatase enzyme increase.
As if that weren't bad enough, those of us in the modern world are constantly being bombarded by environmental estrogens (xenoestrogens) and plant estrogens (phytoestrogens), both of which mimic the real thing and are collectively known as hormone disrupters.
These mock estrogens are prevalent in some of the foods we eat (soy protein, predominantly), and in many of the chemicals we use every day like air fresheners and cleaning products.
They're also present in plastics, and if you heat plastic bowls in the microwave, some of these xenoestrogens leech into your food. The same thing occurs when you cover leftovers with plastic food wrap.
The amounts that leech into food are infinitesimal, but the exposure can add up over the days, months, and years.
As such, follow these simple rules:
• don't use air freshener, not even those damn scented Christmas trees that hang from your rearview mirror (not that any T-man would!)
• don't heat your food in plastic bowls
• don't cover your food with plastic wrap
• use lemon or citrus-based cleaners, or vinegar
I also recommend that you include a dietary estrogen blocker in your daily supplementation. Biotest's "M" fits the bill perfectly, but in lieu of that, at least get some of the herb known as "Vitex agnus-castus." ("M" contains Vitex, among other things, but vitex is probably the only ingredient you'll be able to find on your own without too much trouble.)
Kick Homocysteine's Ass
Did you know that half of the people who die from heart attacks have normal cholesterol levels? Makes you wonder, doesn't it?
It might very well turn out that cholesterol had nothing directly to do with coronary heart disease. The real culprit may indeed be high levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that is a byproduct of protein metabolism. The trouble is, homocysteine may irritate blood vessels, which can then allow cholesterol to set up camp and eventually block the arteries. It can also cause cholesterol to convert to oxidized low-density lipoprotein, which is more damaging to arteries.
Things that cause high homocysteine levels are low levels of thyroid hormones, kidney disease, anabolic steroids, or simply a deficiency in folic acid and other B vitamins (B6 and B12).
A healthy person generally has between 12 and 15 µmol per L of homocysteine, but any of the aforementioned conditions or situations can send it skyward. Luckily, to control homocysteine levels, all you usually have to do is include extra B vitamins in your diet. As mentioned, folic acid is the predominant one, and it's a good idea to take at least 400 mg a day as a preventative, or between 800 and 1200 mg per day if you already have high levels.
It'd probably be a good idea to have homocysteine levels checked the next time you have a blood test.
Interestingly, the nitrous oxide they use to put surgical patients to sleep, the same patients who might be undergoing heart surgery, tends to increase homocysteine levels, which might make the post-operative period even more dangerous than it ordinarily is. If you know anybody who's going to have heart surgery, suggest that he or she undergo a one-week course of Vitamin B therapy before surgery.
Some Proscar a Day Keeps the Butt Doctor Away
While it seems that estrogen might play an accessory role in enlargement of the prostate, possibly leading to prostate cancer, it's fairly certain that DHT plays a leading role, too.
As such, it might behoove any man over the age of 35 to start taking 1 mg. of Proscar, or finasteride, daily, as a preventative. As an added bonus, it'll possibly help grow back some scalp hair, or at least prevent you from losing any more.
(While Propecia is the finasteride-based FDA-approved drug for hair loss, it's five times more expensive than Proscar, the prostate drug, even though it's one-fifth the dosage. Odd, huh? Guess it shows how drug companies take advantage of our vanity. Most T-men end up buying Proscar through the Internet in its 5-mg size and then either grind it up or cut it into five roughly 1-mg pieces to save some money.)
Keep the T Percolating
It's my belief that every man over the age of 30 get his Testosterone levels – both free and total – checked every year, along with estradiol levels. This may seem a particularly young age at which to start worrying about T levels, but as I've said before, I think something funny's going on around here, Lucy. I see athlete after athlete with low T levels, and that shouldn't be the case. Whether it's caused in some part by the aforementioned xenoestrogens or particularly tight Michael Jordan underwear, I don't know.
Regardless, something's going on. While most of us can function quite adequately with average or low T levels, my life, at least, is not about being average. I want that T to hover right up near the top so I can call on it to kick Holy metaphorical ass when called on to do so.
While most Docs won't offer T replacement if you're on the low end of the normal scale, some will. Believe it or not, often the most progressive toward this end are gynecologists, especially those that deal in infertility. As such, it might be worth asking your wife or girlfriend to quiz her Doc about his or her thoughts on T replacement for younger men with low-normal T levels.
In lieu of that, most of you know we offer an effective pro-Testosterone supplement in Tribex-500. Of course, like any supplement or drug, it won't work in everybody, and of course, regular injections of T give much more precise benefits.
Eat Lots of Dirt
Okay, what I really meant to say was to eat your vegetables, but if I titled this paragraph with something so seemingly mundane, something so often harped on in the lay press, you would have scooted right past it wouldn't you have? I almost don't blame you, but give me a minute.
In my years of dragging this dick across the earth, I've come to realize that bodybuilders pretty much subsist entirely on only 10 to 15 different foods, 10 to 15 of which aren't vegetables. That's why practically all of us suffer from varying degrees of zinc, magnesium, and copper deficiencies.
Let me put this as succinctly as possible; we need those assorted tubers, roots, leaves, seeds, etc. While those in the supplement biz often try to duplicate vegetables by attempting to distill the vital nutrients and shoving them into a pill or capsule, it ain't nearly that easy.
Take for instance the fiasco known as St. John's Wort (yeah, I know it's not exactly a vegetable, but the point fits). For centuries, peasants and earthy types in general have used it to combat depression. But when scientists decided to conduct studies, they used only St. John's Wort's active ingredients. The tests flopped. Zippo. Depressed people remained depressed. But, when other groups tested the effects of the whole herb, depressed people started singing show tunes, or something like that.
It seems that herbs, and if you agree with my logic, vegetables, too, probably have scores or hundreds or even thousands of other phytonutrients, antioxidants, and assorted biochemicals that might have a synergistic effect on depression.
The same is probably true of vegetables and fruits. While taking Vitamin C is fine and dandy, it probably can't replace the nutritional glories of broccoli, cauliflower, kale, tomatoes, rutabagas, etc.
Try to incorporate some into your diet every day. 'Nuff said on this subject.
Sure, take bacteria out to the opera, read 'em great works of literature. Okay, I'll stop. But have you ever gone on a course of antibiotics, only to find that your digestive system stopped functioning? Well, that's because the antibiotics wiped out all the friendly gastrointestinal fauna, too. And, without these friendly gastrointestinal fauna, you have trouble processing and digesting foods, and if that's the case, you're not getting the nutrients you need, macronutrients or micronutrients.
Without proper bacteria, protein digestion is sub-par, as is assimilation of various vitamins.
That's why it's a good idea to eat some plain, live yogurt every day. There are certain substances that you can take to feed these bacteria, too. The little nubbers seem to like fructooligosaccharides, which are found in varying degrees in certain fruits and vegetables. They also thrive on a substance called GDL (gamma delta lactone), which is popular in Japan and often taken as a supplement. And when given GDL, the lucky person who hosts the bacteria experiences increased nitrogen retention in his gut.
The only place – as far as I know – that you can get it in America is in Biotest's Advanced Protein. Biotest doesn't usually advertise the fact, but it's in there because Tim, me, and the rest of the Biotest boys like healthy digestive tracts. In fact, we often pit them against each other in feats of strength or digestive prowess, but I digress.
In any event, eat your yogurt.
Most of the injuries you'll experience in the gym will be caused by short, tight, muscles. It's a fact. And if you don't stretch, you'll soon have some sort of setback that will set you back months or even years. Count on it.
Rather than go into a dissertation about the different types of stretching, I'm going to suggest a book, an unlikely book based on its title. It's called The Golf Biomechanic's Manual, and T-mag contributor Paul Chek wrote it. Now I don't golf. Tried it a few times and was bored to tears. Started trying to see if I could scatter geese instead of aiming for the hole. But this book has so much direct application to bodybuilding and weight lifting in general that it's amazing.
It gives specific stretching recommendations (as well as exercises) for specific complaints, as well as simple tests you can do to assess your flexibility. I highly recommend it. Trouble is, at $79.95, it's pretty pricey. Still, it's worth it. You can get it by calling Chek's company at 800-552-8789.
I could probably think of more, but the preceding rate the highest in TC's User's Manual of His Body. I, for one, don't want to be a bodybuilding equivalent of a Jaguar automobile – looks great, but for the most part, runs like shit and has to be in the repair shop every week.
I think that cars, and bodybuilders, should hum along like fine-tuned examples of German engineering. Incorporating some of the stuff I mentioned might just help.