Man on a Mission

An interview with Udo Erasmus, the Father of Fats

If dietary fat had a different name than bodyfat, maybe fewer people would be fat "phobic." To the general public, the very word "fat" carries a negative connotation. It's associated with heart disease, cancer, hardening of the arteries, and ugly body flab. Yet, despite the similarity in sound, the two are as different as violins and violence.

Most bodybuilders are aware of this — they know that fats are essential. Fats provide energy. They help the body to burn stored fat. They're also necessary for hormone production (including our favorite, testosterone). But there's more to the slippery stuff than you may realize. That's what Udo Erasmus is out to prove.

Udo is one of the original pioneers in the study of fats. Long before the Atkins diet, the Anabolic diet, and their subsequent descendants, the Zone and the ketogenic diets, Udo was advocating the proper use of fats for optimum health, immunity, and athletic performance.

Udo's academic credentials include a BS in zoology, an MA in psychology, a PhD in nutrition, and graduate studies in genetics and biochemistry. A major turning point in his career occurred back in 1980 when he was accidentally poisoned by pesticides. When traditional medicine was unable to provide help, Udo concluded that his health was his responsibility and sought the answers that he needed by fervently delving into the research literature. He also paid special attention to a misunderstood area:

The effects of fats and oils on human health.

This meant tracking down thousands of original research studies, many of which were inaccessible to the public. Udo's investigation culminated in the writing of his groundbreaking book, "Fats That Heal, Fats That Kill."

Since the release of this landmark bestseller, Udo has set about preaching the gospel of good fat. If you'd like to have a better understanding of how fats can help you with your bodybuilding goals, you'll be interested to hear from the man reverently known as "His Royal Oiliness."

T: Hi, Udo. I understand that you're currently touring the country doing seminars. Can you tell us a little about that?

UE: That's what I do. I travel around the country speaking on this issue because I believe that Americans need an "oil change." The fats that Americans are using play a major role in the cause of most of the degenerative conditions in a way that traditional medicine doesn't address. Cardiovascular disease, type-II diabetes, arthritis, and cancer are all preventable with what I call "fats that heal."

T: Are all bad fats saturated fats?

UE: Not necessarily. It's also the fats that've been processed by destructive methods. This includes margarines and shortenings, which contain trans-fatty acids.

T: So hydrogenated fats [those that solidify at room temperature] are bigger culprits than saturated fat. This includes peanut butter, which is essentially peanuts and Crisco, isn't it?

UE: Exactly. And trans-fatty acids are what raise LDL, the "bad" cholesterol. But some of the oils which are considered to be "good," like olive and canola oils, have also been processed by destructive methods. Actually, all supermarket oils, except for extra-virgin olive oil, fit into this category.

Virgin olive oil isn't a great source of omega-3s, but it has many of the cofactors that are required for optimum health. Supermarket oils are treated with Drano window-washing acid bleach in order to give them a long shelf life. They're treated with a corrosive base, corrosive acid, then bleached to clean up the rancidity. Also, any time you fry with fats, you're changing the chemistry and turning them toxic.

T: Which of the essential oils are most beneficial to bodybuilders?

UE: Flax oil, which contains the omega-3s, should be considered a "must have" supplement for bodybuilders. If bodybuilders want to lose subcutaneous fat, then I'd highly recommend additional flax oil. The muscles will look shredded! Some of the bodybuilders that I've worked with have taken up to 14 tablespoons of the blend with amazing results. Flax oil alone may not be enough, though.

In my Udo's Choice formula, I mix unrefined organic sunflower, sesame, primrose, oat, rice, and wheat germ oils in order to get the proper ratio of omega-3 and omega-6. If you just take flax, you may become omega-6 deficient, but most people get enough omega-6 in a standard diet. Unfortunately, it's from poor sources. Symptoms of omega-6 deficiency are dry eyes and skin, joint pain, and skipped heartbeats.

The ratio should be 2:1 in favor of omega-3. The blend will help regardless of your present diet. As long as you get enough of the good fats, you can get away with a little of the bad fats. But keep in mind that essential fats and saturated fats compete. You have to make sure that the essential fats always win the competition.

T: Do you recommend never cooking with oil? No fried eggs, no tomato sauce, not even broiled chicken?

UE: No frying! Frying foods increases cancer and the chance for heart disease. Once you heat oil, you're changing the chemistry, big-time. Smoke, as we know, causes cancer and other problems.

T: So browning of meats is also out?

UE: Yes. We tell everyone to steam his or her food. That's what everyone around the world used to do. Steam, boil or pressure cook your foods, then add the oil blend. You can add oil to your shakes, pour it in fruit juice...

T: Oil in fruit juice?

UE: Yeah! It sounds strange, but it's very good.

T: Bodybuilders understand that fats are necessary for the production of testosterone. But do all fats increase hormone production, or is it specific fats?

UE: The EFAs give the glands more energy to do their work which, in part, is hormone production. Omega-3 deficiency causes weakness due to lowered testosterone levels. We worked with one bodybuilder on a high-protein, low-fat diet who took just three tablespoons of the blend. Within two days, he increased his poundages and amount of repetitions. He was also recuperating quicker, and his buddies were asking him what he was on!

T: How do prostaglandins fit into the picture? How do fats affect them?

UE: Prostaglandins are the hormones that are made from essential fatty acids. There are different kinds of prostaglandins, each with a specific function. They're necessary for everything from protecting the arterial wall to maintaining an erection!

T: Waiter, more oil here! I don't have to worry about getting too much, do I?

UE: It isn't likely, unless you take in so much that your liver can't handle it. The liver has to process fats, so you wouldn't want to bog it down with too much at one time.

T: I imagine that's where one's instincts come into play. You "feel" weighed down by all of the fat.

UE: Some people can handle more than others. And, of course, adequate EFAs are essential to liver health. They help the liver do its job.

T: Which is something that bodybuilders, especially those using anabolic enhancement, should be conscious about.

UE: It's often overlooked, but health is important to bodybuilders. Sometimes, they think just in terms of more muscle mass and forget that healthy liver function, in particular, will optimize the output of the other glands and organs — which equates to more energy, more strength and, consequently, more muscle.

T: I understand that you believe gland meat to be superior to muscle meat.

UE: Yes. Liver stores all of the body's nutrients. But you have to be careful not to eat old liver.

T: Because liver is also the filter of the body's toxins?

UE: Right! If the liver isn't functioning properly, it will collect those toxins.

T: Would you then recommend desiccated liver?

UE: Desiccated liver is simply liver with the water taken out. If you want the benefits of liver, they can help, as long as it's from an organic source. This is an issue to which athletes need to pay more attention. You need to go organic.

I have a crude saying concerning the environmental issUE: you can only shit in your nest for so long before you're nesting in your shit. If we continue to pollute the environment, we pollute ourselves because the environment is our food. If a bodybuilder refuses to pay attention to his health by eating non-organic toxic food, that will ultimately interfere with his ability to get bigger. Health is required for optimum muscle growth.

T: How is your concept different from the various high-fat diets that have recently gained popularity?

UE: Most of them will aid in fat loss, but I have concerns because the quality of the fats isn't taken into consideration. Also, staying in ketosis can be hard on the liver and kidneys.

T: So it just can't be all bacon and rack of lamb...

UE: The most important action to take regarding fats and strength, as well as fats and health, is to bring in and optimize the good fats. Having done that, rack of lamb is okay, but fried bacon is better avoided. The fact that bacon has nitrates and fries in its own fat makes it a very bad choice. I'll give credit to Atkins for proving that a high-fat diet will help weight loss, but it's his only claim. He never mentions cardiovascular disease or gland function. My method is healthier and more beneficial to bodybuilders.

I also believe that bodybuilders should be using digestive enzymes that are rich in protease. That can take a load off of your digestion which, in turn, will free the immune system from having to get involved in digesting foods. It also insures the proper assimilation of proteins. When proteins aren't digested, it causes a host of problems like bloating, leaky gut, and gout.

T: Are you an advocate of low-carb diets?

UE: Not for bodybuilders! I don't buy into the 40-30-30 thing because it varies from person to person. A bodybuilder needs carbs for energy and is more likely to burn carbs than a sedentary person. Carbs should be ingested slowly so that you don't get a big insulin spike. The key is to get it in at the rate that it burns.

T: Chitosan has become a popular supplement. What's your take on using it for those occasional "bad fat" meals?

UE: Chitosan doesn't work much differently than psyllium. Too much of either will remove the good fat along with the bad. Psyllium absorbs 40% of its weight in water, which helps in elimination. But if you take it without enough food, you can cause yourself a lot of gut problems.

The notion of eating bad fats and making sure that they don't get absorbed isn't the smartest way to go. What we really need to do is to get enough of the good fats. If you take chitosan, you have to make sure that you supplement with extra EFA and additional vitamin E. If you eat enough vegetables, which have all of the nutrients that you need, you'll get plenty of fiber without having to take "crab shells" [of which chitosan is made].

Fiber is important. It removes cholesterol, toxins, and heavy metals from the body. It also stabilizes blood glucose, both high and low. We make a gentle fiber product called Beyond Greens which has fiber from flax, slippery elm, acidophilus, dulse, kelp, and just a little from psyllium. It attaches to the sugar in your digestive tract and slows down its absorption. This is very beneficial to bodybuilders because it hinders the glycemic action of certain sugars and prevents the glucose from being stored as bodyfat. Fat also slows down the glycemic index, but fiber actually does a better job of it.

If anyone wants more information on any of these products, call 800-446-2110 or visit the Fats That Heal website. They're also available in most health food stores. You have to search, though — the different products are sometimes scattered instead of being together in one place.

These are life-altering products. I'd suggest trying them and, if you like, buy them by the case and freeze the remainder. It's cheaper that way, and you won't have to worry about the freshness expiring if it's frozen.

T: Is the blend available in a capsule? Some people may have a problem drinking the oil straight.

UE: The blend is available in capsules, but you'll need 14 pills to reach the recommended dosage. It isn't cost-effective, but it's good for traveling on planes and such where you wouldn't want to spill it on your suit. But drinking a spoonful or two is fine for most people. The oil doesn't taste terrible — it's not as nasty as cod-liver oil.

T: Nothing is as nasty as cod-liver oil.

UE: People actually like the taste of Udo's Choice. It's not ice cream, but it isn't horrible. I suck the oil right out of the bottle! I'd suggest getting used to it. It's your life.

T: Last question, what's the lesser of two evils: butter or oil?

UE: Butter. However, you're still going to get toxicity, so my advice — don't do it!

T: Thanks, Udo. I'll keep it in mind.

UE: Thank you. And stay healthy.

Going into this story, I thought that I had a pretty good grasp on the benefits of fats and oils. Coming out of it, I realize that my supplementation of essential fatty acids from the "right" oils has been drastically deficient. Time to up those omega-3s!

Admittedly, some of Udo's recommendations may be difficult to "swallow." Boiled meat? Steamed fish? I don't know about you, but a life without charred meat isn't worth living, as far as I'm concerned.

Nevertheless, Udo gave me a lot to think about. From here on, flaxseed oil won't just be a "now and then" supplement. It should be a part of the bodybuilder's daily intake, every bit as important as protein and vitamins.

And maybe I'll pass on the Wendy's Double Classic cheeseburger today. Grilled chicken with extra-virgin olive oil? That doesn't sound so bad.