There, on Tim's desk, was a brown box, courtesy of the UPS man.
It was about 20 inches long, 20 inches wide, and about 6 inches deep.
"Tim!" I shouted. "Someone sent you something. I think it's from Italy because it's marked fra-gee-lay."
Tim walked over, looked at the box and said, "No you moron, that's fragile."
Okay, so I've always wanted to use that bit since I first saw it in Christmas Story. Nevertheless, the box contained an award plate from Men's Health magazine.
Unbeknownst to us, they'd compiled a list of the "125 Best Foods for Men." Among these healthful, nutrient-packed foods was a category for "Best Protein Shake."
Men's Health editors, in conjunction with a team of experts, deemed Biotest's Metabolic Drive to be the absolute best protein powder on the market; the only protein powder they bothered to include on their list.
To commemorate this award, I nagged Tim into doing a rare interview that ended up covering not only the award, but also the supplement and bodybuilding business in general. Here's what he had to say:
TC: How did this come about? Did they ask you for a sample?
TP: No . . . (Dead silence.)
TC: Okay, ha-ha. That was Johnny Carson's worst nightmare. Guests who would just answer yes or no.
TP: All right, all right. The editors at Men's Health have always been somewhat of an advocate of Biotest and what we do on T-Nation. They've given us props over the years on their website, and they've watched us over the years and they've recognized our efforts and our sincerity and our commitment to quality. They have people on the staff there that use our products. They knew about it.
TC: Did you know they were testing it?
TP: No, not at all. One day I came to work and there was a box with a plate in it and I said, "What is this?" Hmm . . . this is a nice plate. Look, someone sent us a salad bowl. And then I thought, "What are they trying to get me to buy?"
I kinda' got the idea that we had won something, and then I read the letter and I was impressed.
TC: So what was the award specifically for?
TP: The 125 Best Foods For Men. They went out and came up with what they think every guy should be using in their food arsenal.
TC: What else was on the list?
TP: Stuff like fish oils, power foods, etc. This is the kind of article T-Nation would do. I even went out and bought some of the stuff that was on the list. A wide variety of foods. There were 125 of them, and when they got to protein shakes, there was just one, not two, and that was Metabolic Drive.
TC: Was this based on quality of ingredients, taste . . . ?
TP: Everything. The whole gestalt of the product. I have to tell you, it really feels good. I'm very appreciative, that SOMEBODY on the planet, somebody recognizes the degree we searched for great ingredients and flavor profiles that are the highest quality.
If people completely disregard quality it's hard . . . it's very, very difficult for the protein business to survive. You and I know both know that when MET-Rx first came out, it was 50 bucks for a box of 20, or something close to that.
Who'd pay 50 bucks now for anything?
Anyhow, it's great to be recognized.
TC: Tell me about the history of Metabolic Drive. What was your vision?
TP: We wanted to go back and use the original ingredients that made MRPs so hot, which was micellar casein and whey-protein isolates. You know, those things have all but disappeared! All of the great products have been reformulated to meet the consumer demand for reduced costs.
And it's sad. There are big differences. They're finding that free-form amino acids in the array found in complete, clean proteins — the kind we use — work pretty well in recovery. Plus, like I alluded to, I think you want to be as clean as possible, given the way the gut handles proteins. The people who do the research keep coming back to micellar casein and whey-protein isolates. They're very clean and they work.
TC: You're always talking about gut health, and the vast array of nerve endings in the gut, and how it plays a large part in the immune system and health. Have you, as a consumer, had problems in the past with other protein powders?
TP: Brian Maslach (Biotest Sr. VP) who's lactose intolerant, has had problems with other products, but he's never had a problem with any of our products.
Look at our Metabolic Drive Protein Bars . . . they're the only bars I know of that have rice oligodextrin in them. And, we have real whey hydrolysate in the bar. Sometimes when I'm on the road, l literally can't stop to eat a conventional meal, so I might eat 4 of them, along with a shake, over the course of a day. With other companies' products, that kind of thing would blow my gut out.
If you didn't have the clean materials that we have, the quality materials that we have, you couldn't eat that many — or more than one, really — without producing about 40 cubic feet of bowel gas . . . not good in meetings.
That's a testament to what we're trying to accomplish. We want to give real practical dietary tools to people to utilize, to make their lives better. Metabolic Drive is not a candy bar. It's a real tool. You can eat that thing between meals when you're on the road and I tell you, it definitely works.
TC: Speaking of oligodextrin, what was the thinking behind the rice oligosaccharides in Metabolic Drive?
TP: They give rice oligosaccharides to dehydration victims to re-hydrate them. It's so incredibly soothing to the gut; it pulls water into the right tissues. It's a great, great, carbohydrate. In fact, we have a blend of two — for lack of a better word, sugars — that constitute the first complexed carbohydrate that's actually anabolic.
TC: To quote John Travolta in Pulp Fiction, that's a bold statement.
TP: No, really. We're finding people who go out on grueling bike rides, endurance athletes, high-energy-expending athletes, come back at the same weight or even heavier than what they started out!
These guys are not losing water weight. And they're building muscle even though they're hardcore endurance athletes. It's remarkable. We took a sugar called platinose and rice oligodextrn and mixed them together in a certain ratio, and these guys go out and work out for two or three hours in the hot sun, and come back heavier than when they went out and that's never been done before.
We'll be introducing that blend to Testosterone real soon.
TC: That's pretty cool, but this is the same oligodextrin that's in Metabolic Complete, right? Along with pretty cool fibers like oat fiber and apple fiber, right?
TP: Exactly. Apple and oat.
TC: What about the sweetener? We occasionally get questions from tree huggers about why we didn't use stevia.
TP: Personal preference. Every artificial sweetener tastes fake to me except Sucralose. It tastes remarkably like sugar. IF you use the right amount, you really can't detect there's an artificial sweetener in there.
TC: Why aren't there a lot of vitamins in Metabolic Drive?
TP: Do we not get enough vitamins? Why do we need to put vitamins in? We're over-vitaminized as it is. Come on. I just told someone today, that if it were up to me as Health Czar of the country, I'd put most everyone on Biotest's Flameout and REZ-V rather than Vitamin pills.
It's crazy. Do you need any more? If anything, the research is indicating that higher doses of vitamins are not helpful; they're hurtful. They taste bad, too. There are no good reasons to put vitamins in a protein powder.
TC: Obviously, there are cheaper products on the market. There are some that I can't figure out how they're doing it. What's going on?
TP: They're lying — for real. [laughing]
TC: You mean they're lying about the contents of their product?
TP: Oh yeah. It's not possible. Some of these people are selling product so cheap that the retail price is less than what it costs us to make ours.
TC: Do you think this stuff may be coming from China?
TP: I think they're getting it from Arkansas road kill!
TC: Ground up woodchuck? Woodchuck protein?
TP: Nobody can figure it out, unless they bought a hundred trillion pounds of it back when it was cheap. Nobody in the legitimate business can figure out how it's possible that some companies are doing this. Most insiders say they're diluting their product with maltodextrin.
TC: Why wouldn't I just have one of those protein factory companies formulate my proteins for me? I betcha' I can save 50 cents, you know.
TP: Sheesh! It's like a guy who takes a week off from work to build a $300 squat rack. Are you out of your mind? Why don't you go raise a hog in your backyard so you can have some "cheap" bacon?
TC: There was this Simpson's episode where Homer bought a baby lobster for a few bucks and then spent about 4,000 bucks a week trying to fatten it up!
TP: Who in their right mind . . . maybe there are some people who want to go and make a complete mess out of their kitchens and get this stuff all over the place, and waste personal time, to save a little bit of money for something that doesn't mix well and tastes bad.
Most of us, however, want a convenient, great tasting, high quality product at a reasonable price.
Listen, what we've done on T-Nation is eliminate all the middle guys. You're not going to find Metabolic Drive in retail channels because consumers aren't going to pay 60 to 80 bucks a bottle for protein, no matter how good it is.
In fact, that's a whole theme with Biotest, taking the best we can do, getting rid of all the middlemen, and passing on those savings to the consumer. We have exotic products for exceptional prices.
TC: What is the theme of Biotest? What makes you decide what products or what categories to enter?
TP: Why, you tell me what to do, of course.
TC: Sure, but you've never listened!
TP: You have the basic needs. You look at function. We are trying to produce bigger, stronger, more-effective bodies.
We want our bodies to perform better, longer. We want to sustain this performance output throughout our entire lives, and that's largely controlled through the metabolism and endocrine systems.
Our array of products meets all those primary needs and secondary needs in those areas that fit our niche, which is building bigger muscles, leaner bodies, and increasing performance.
TC: How come there's no guava-flavored MD. I really like guava. Nah, I'm just asking that because these mopes always ask for these exotic flavors . . .
TP: And they swear they'd buy it. Everybody wanted orange; everybody wanted banana. We are a chocolate vanilla society. And if we get a little wild hair, we'll go have strawberry on occasion. But when it comes down to what people like, it boils down to chocolate and vanilla. I'd love to have 9 flavors!
TC: Well, are there any other plans for other flavors?
TP: Sure. Guava.
TC: How much Metabolic Drive you go through a week?
TP: [Thinking] I guess a bottle or two week.
TC: You mean you use it? You're not only the owner, but you're a member of the hair club, too?
TP: I don't know what I would do without our products.
Listen, Men's Health has talked about us, the group of people we are, and they respect who we are, and part of what we are is Metabolic Drive. MD is as much of T-Nation as you and I are, and that's part of our Testosterone culture.
I think that's kind of an interesting thing that Men's Health recognizes this underground society called T-Nation and really respects us.
TC: You know, our readership, has, at times, used Men's Health as an example of the pencil necks and wanna-bes . . .
TP: Men's Health is the best in the business at what they do. Not everyone wants to put forth the commitment we have, and seriously, if we don't support the continuum of physique development, fully, we're going to be in trouble.
Today the bodybuilding community is about half the size it was in 1999. If we don't straighten up — If we aren't supportive of things like Men's Health — we're going to lose so bad, TC. There won't be anything left of us as an industry.
We don't have to become Men's Health to support Men's Health.
TC: I gotta' admit, if I had a brother, friend, or father who didn't work out, I'd be happy if he started to read Men's Health.
TP: Sure, it's the beginning of the continuum to learn more. The bottom line is, a lot of people have migrated over from Men's Health to T-Nation because they want to up the stakes.
Men's Health is the only magazine that's thriving and driving this body market we're in.
So, if we, as a group, want to see bodybuilding healthy, we really need to support newbies. I know they tend to frustrate and irritate the seasoned vets, but they are our future. Besides, we all were newbies at one time, too. Think about it. Who helped you learn the ins and outs of weightlifting? Probably, quite a few great people had influence. Now, it's your turn to help out the new lifter.
TC: Anything else I should ask or that you want to say?
TP: Buy more product. Now. [laughing] I'm kidding. Sort of.