Chapter 1: Our Burgers, Ourselves
Are you a man who's interested in looking his best? Being his best? Staying physically and physiologically at the top of his game?
We feel for you. We really do.
That's because you've been overlooked. And you've been misled. For 20 years, the fitness and weight-loss industries have had little to offer you. For 20 years, you've been overfed but undernourished. Overworked but underexercised. Overanalyzed but still misunderstood.
Along the way, well-meaning people -- often with impressive credentials -- have tried to help you. They began by steering you away from the foods you enjoy. When you didn't take an immediate liking to the foods they wanted you to eat instead, other friendly folks in the packaged-food business stepped up with better-tasting versions. When the more palatable food made you fat, yet another group of sincere individuals chimed in to show you a type of exercise that helped you lose some of the fat -- but also caused your body to lose a lot of its muscle and your joints to cry out in protest.
At the end of it all, not only are you still out of shape but now you have weak, arthritic knees.
Why? Because all those wonderful diets and fitness programs you were given don't work.
Not for you. Not for most men.
You're going to be exposed to a lot of eyebrow-raising notions in this book. We'll tell you that the Food Guide Pyramid doesn't work for us men. A low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet doesn't work for us. (Except, maybe, for the marathoners among us. For the rest of the male population, a low-calorie diet consisting mostly of carbs is a metabolic and physiological disaster waiting to happen.) Most forms of aerobic exercise don't work for us. For that matter, even weight lifting, as you were traditionally taught it -- "Grab X number of pounds, lift 10 times, do three sets, repeat" -- doesn't work. Not the way it's supposed to.
On what do we base such bold assertions? For starters, decades after the American Heart Association and other leading voices began singing the praises of "low fat" and "exercise," the average guy is more out of shape than his 1960s predecessor. Between 1960 and 1994, the percentage of obese men leaped from 10.4 to 19.9 percent of the total U.S. male population, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
Sounds pretty bad? Some estimates are worse. Indeed, the latest government statistics tell us that more than half of all Americans are now overweight.
Frankly, we're angry about all this. We're angry with the nutrition establishment, which bullied us into eating less fat, less protein, and much, much more carbohydrate. This much-ballyhooed dietary template has made us fatter than ever before, slowing our metabolisms and screwing with our hormones -- specifically, our testosterone.
We're angry with the food industry, which has co-opted the low-fat paradigm and drained whatever virtue it may have contained, replacing fat with sugar and giving us foods we can't stop eating, despite the fact that they never fill us up.
And we're angry with the exercise movement, which decided early on that "fitness" meant "aerobic exercise" and pushed a gullible public into pursuing workout routines that were fine for keeping skinny people skinny but did surprisingly little for the emerging overweight majority.
None of this had to happen. There's a better way to eat and a better way to exercise.
We're going to present a new paradigm. We're going to present a diet that's based on the healthiest nutritional model in the world, a diet that will allow you to eat less but feel as if you've eaten more, a diet that will increase your metabolism and boost your testosterone. We're going to show you a workout program that will build muscle, further increase your metabolism, and introduce you to the lean, vital man you want to be.
We live a lifestyle that's almost designed to make us fat, in a world that's determined to help things along in any way possible. Increasing numbers of us sit in front of computers all day, then go home and sit in front of TVs till bedtime. The Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association tells us that just 20.5 percent of Americans exercised three or more times a week in 1999. Meanwhile, we go out for dinner and manage to pack away 1,000 or more calories before the main course arrives. (Ever share one of those deep-fried onion-wedge appetizers with a buddy or a girlfriend? With the dipping sauce, that's more than 1,000 calories right there. For each of you. There's a difference between "eating more fat" and "eating humongous quantities of crap." All this will become clearer as we move along.) We're drowning in "value meals," offers of two pepperoni pizzas for the price of one, and other incentives to stuff ourselves to the point of self-loathing.
But that alone isn't the problem -- or at least, it's not the sole problem. Because guess what? "Eating right" isn't the answer, either. Not the way you were taught to do it, growing up.
At this point we'd like to lay out for you four simple, straightforward truths that will occupy us for the rest of this book.
Fact One: Low-fat diets lower testosterone, making it harder to build muscle and easier to store fat.
Fact Two: Aerobic exercise programs make it still harder to build muscle. Not only is there no muscle-building stimulus, there are actually muscle-eroding physiological shifts associated with serious endurance exercise. And it's hard on the joints to boot.
Fact Three: Less muscle means a slower metabolism -- which means still more fat down the road.
Fact Four: Since weight training can enhance the structural integrity of joints and connective tissues -- rather than wear them down -- it stands to reason that it should be the first exercise choice for men.
So what happened here? How did we get so far removed from the kind of diet-and-exercise regimen that really works for men?
Let's go back to the Food Guide Pyramid for a moment. In 1980, the U.S. government formalized a series of Dietary Guidelines that were themselves an outgrowth of the "four food groups" model that began to take hold during the 1950s. The Food Guide Pyramid was created in 1992 and added to the Dietary Guidelines in 1995 as a teaching tool to illustrate the number of servings that you should eat from each food group. Today, the main USDA mantra is "Let the pyramid guide your food choices." Basically, it emphasizes large amounts of carbohydrate (the so-called healthy base of the pyramid), somewhat smaller amounts of fruits and vegetables, even smaller amounts of protein, and very, very small amounts of fat. It bears noting that the final shaping and composition of the pyramid was not exactly a scientifically pristine process, as many groups (including the meat and dairy industries) lobbied the USDA as well as the Department of Health and Human Services to protect their interests in the matter.r
Nonetheless, even if we take the Food Guide Pyramid at face value, there are so many errors and inconsistencies as to make it functionally worthless as a tool for governing our dietary choices.
For starters, while the pyramid sets forth a fairly straightforward account of the relative amounts we should be eating from the major food groups, it makes no distinctions among the legitimate subcategories that exist within each group. For instance, in the pyramid, grains are grains, whether you're talking about a hearty bowl of old-fashioned oatmeal or a nutritionally worthless slice of white bread -- and despite the huge differences in the nutritional and metabolic values of whole grain and refined flour (vitamin enrichment aside).
In the same way, though the Food Guide Pyramid does not specifically mention proteins by name, it lumps most types of protein-based foods in the same group, even though nutritionists say animal proteins (like the burgers we love) are a more complete form of protein than vegetable proteins in their ability to provide B vitamins and essential amino acids. Neither does the pyramid take into account the fact that there's a world of difference between a helping of salmon, which is rich in heart-healthy omega-3 oils, and a helping of bologna, which is rich in not very much. Just as bad -- maybe even worse, for our purposes -- all fats are imprisoned together in a tiny cell at the top (and remember, in the pyramid, the higher you go, the less desirable a food supposedly is). As a final insult, the sweets are also thrown right in there with the fats. Thus, in the maddeningly simplistic hierarchy of government-sponsored eating, healthy fats like olive and fish oils are equal partners with doughnuts and DingDongs.
Now and then, you'll hear the pyramid's defenders point to the declining death rate from heart disease as evidence that the pyramid is paying dividends. To this we reply: Nonsense. To credit the pyramid alone with the drop in cardiac mortality is to ignore the major advances in cardiac surgery and drug therapy over the past few decades. That's an omission bordering on fraud. And ask yourself this: If the Food Guide Pyramid were really making Americans healthier, wouldn't it also be making them thinner? In other words, if the pyramid is responsible for declining cardiac death rates, that must mean an awful lot of people are using it to plan their meals. But if that's the case -- and if the pyramid actually does what it says it does -- then why the hell is America so fat? No less a bastion of conventional thought than the Harvard School of Public Health itself conceded, in a study reported in the November 2000 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, that the pyramid was "only weakly associated" with a lessened risk of major diseases like heart attack and cancer.
Others claim that the real problem here is compliance, that when you come right down to it, not that many people follow the pyramid's recommendations after all. Fair enough -- but such a contention, if true, completely undercuts any claims about the pyramid's positive effects on American health. How could the pyramid be uplifting the face of heart health if nobody really pays attention to it?
So we don't buy the noncompliance alibi for a minute. And if you're married, you don't either. You know from experience that your wife is constantly trying to get you to eat "better," to attempt to follow the nutrition establishment's guidelines.
To us, this prompts the core issue in this entire debate: whether anybody -- particularly an active man -- should try to eat like that as a way of life.
We're not lone voices in the wilderness, by the way. The American Heart Association, the Harvard School of Public Health, and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, to name just three, have advocated rethinking the pyramid, to some degree, with a goal toward less simplicity and more realism.
We, on the other hand, would rather see the pyramid junked than refined. Since we know it doesn't work, rejiggering it will only leave people more confused than ever. In its place, we'd like to suggest the Men's Health T. Our T, as you may have guessed, stands for testosterone. That's because our diet increases your testosterone by increasing your intake of healthy fat. For the simple fact is: Today's ultra low fat diets are detrimental to us as men.
See, dietary fats don't spend all their time clogging your arteries. Fat cells are a major energy source for vital organs, your heart included. They're the principal carriers and bodily repositories of the all-important fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, which are stored in fatty tissues and the liver until needed.
But more to the point of this book, in men, they also play a key role in triggering testosterone production. For that reason, we think your diet should include at least 30 percent fat, and perhaps as much as 40 percent.
Of course, if you've been paying attention the past few dozen years, you've heard that 30 percent fat is the maximum a health-conscious person should eat and that we'd all be better off with less than 20 percent. We hope to convince you that such a diet is a nutritional and metabolic disaster for men. And we want you to at least give our higher-fat diet a try. Even without our muscle-building, testosterone-boosting workout plan, the diet should leave you looking lean but never feeling hungry -- a hell of a combination in these overinflated times.
You'll get the best results, however, when you combine the diet with the workout plan: Each works fine on its own, but the two create a beautiful synergy in tandem. We learned this from the 16 men who completed our 9-week pilot program. You'll meet some of them throughout the book, in the "Before & After" profiles.
First, however, we'd like you to join us in a little visualization exercise.
FIT OR MISFIT?
Picture two Olympic athletes. Both are extremely lean, with body-fat percentages in the low single digits. One guy's body is exactly what you'd visualize when you read the words Olympic and athlete in the same sentence: broad shoulders, narrow waist, thick arms, legs that look like they could kick a football 90 yards and catch up to it before it hit the ground. The other looks as if he were in the final stages of a tragic illness. You want to feed him, but you're not sure he could keep anything down.
As you've probably guessed, the first athlete is a sprinter, a man who never does traditional aerobic exercise and might not be able to run a mile without breaking it up into four quarter-mile dashes. The second is a marathoner, a guy who does nothing but aerobic exercise and might not be able to complete a single chinup or bench-press half his weight.
Of these two guys -- one who appears to be ready to keel over, the other who looks like he had sex five times before breakfast -- which one would you consider "fit"?
Easy question. Too easy. But we ask it for a reason. If you didn't have visual descriptions, if all you knew about these two guys were their aerobic-fitness levels, you would've said the gaunt marathoner was the most fit of the two.
And that's the crux of the problem we have with fitness as it's peddled in America. Given a choice, you'd rather look like the sprinter. And you're pretty sure the women you know would rather sleep with the sprinter. (What woman wants a guy who's skinnier than she is?) But the American fitness establishment wants you to train like the marathoner.
Oh, here's one more image to keep in mind, about the very origins of the word marathoner: According to legend, when the Greeks defeated the Persians in the battle of Marathon in 490 b.c., a runner named Pheidippides was dispatched to carry the good news back to Athens. At the end of his 22-mile journey, he reportedly shouted, "Rejoice! We conquer!"
And then he died of exhaustion.
THE BODY YOU WANT, IN THE TIME YOU HAVE
Traditional weight-control theory has given the chunky flunky three options: Eat fewer calories or burn more or some combination thereof.
Burning more calories is usually thought of as an active process, like jogging, lifting weights, or yanking your daughter out of some teenage Romeo's Mustang. But the majority of the calories you burn throughout the day are controlled by your basal metabolism. These are the calories your body burns whether you're active or not, whether you're sleeping or eating, whether you're thinking about sex or actually having some. Your body burns these calories to provide fuel for your brain, your heart, your other organs; to keep your muscles and other moving parts prepared for action.
Your body burns about 10 percent of its calories by digesting the food you eat, which is called the thermic effect of feeding. Thermic is a great word to remember, because it reminds you that your body is just one skin-wrapped furnace and that the food you eat is the fuel you feed your furnace.
The other -- and most variable -- way in which you burn calories is through voluntary activity. Exercising, playing with the kids, working in the yard, walking to the john -- every move you make expends more calories than you would burn by just sitting still. Physical activity accounts for anywhere from 10 to 30 percent of the energy your body uses each day.
So let's review: Your body has three mechanisms for burning calories. Two of them you don't think about, because basal metabolism and the thermic effect of feeding are invisible to you. And yet, those two account for 70 to 90 percent of the fuel you burn each day. So it makes sense that the best way to control body weight is to ramp up those two systems. Build muscle, and you increase your metabolism by up to 50 calories a day per pound of muscle. Eat more protein, and you crank up the thermic effect by as much as one-third. (We'll do the math in chapter 6.) In effect, you achieve truly metabolic weight control: Fat burning that hums along on its own even as you sit or sleep or just stew about pulling your daughter out of some teenage Romeo's Mustang.
So what does the current paradigm for exercise and nutrition offer you? Exercise routines that not only fail to build more metabolism-boosting muscle but also reduce the muscle you already have. And diet programs that not only fail to take advantage of the thermic effect of protein but also lower your muscle-building testosterone by reducing the fat that provides the building blocks for your manliest hormone. This is the equivalent of sending soldiers into battle without bullets in their guns.
The one effective weapon the established guidelines do give you is activity. We agree that activity is important, and all of the authors of this book have a lifelong passion for strenuous exercise. But we have to admit that increasing activity is the slowest, most frustrating way to lose weight.
THE SPEED BURNERS
What we're going to give you in this book is the fastest, most surefire way to lose fat, gain muscle, restore your body to its natural athletic shape, and reinforce your vital male essence. The key is to tap naturally into your body's supply of testosterone, the male hormone that, to varying degrees, governs musculature, height, bone density, sexual function, and a host of other elements that are of critical importance to men.
You also need to know as much as possible about regulating other key self-made chemicals, like growth hormone and cortisol.
Our premise is simple: We've taken everything we now know about naturally boosting hormone levels and organized that information into a comprehensive eating-and-workout plan that you can put into effect on an individualized basis. Testosterone helps you maximize your muscle mass and mobilize fat for energy -- in short, it helps you get the most out of your workouts. And if you follow our plan religiously -- doing the right exercises in the right combinations at the right times -- you'll spur your body's production of additional testosterone that will enable you to work out harder and longer and will aid your muscles in recovery and growth.
In a nutshell, the Testosterone Advantage Plan will allow you to adjust your body composition in order to meet your personal goals. You may want to drop 10 pounds of fat from around your waist. Or you may want to gain 10 pounds of muscle on your arms, legs, and chest. Whatever your specific goals are, we think that we can help you achieve them in a way that's impossible to do with any of those one-size-fits-all diets.
Are you going to miraculously transform yourself into one of those hulking figures you see on the cover of Muscle & Fitness magazine? No. Those guys have to commit their lives to looking that way. And many of them -- probably most of them -- are able to achieve their results only by injecting synthetic substances into their bodies. (Besides, research has shown that women don't necessarily lust after those types of bodies anyway. They prefer a lean, muscular look to a superhuman torso.)
But will the Testosterone Advantage Plan make you look better and feel better? Yes. Are you going to become the best you that you can be? We like to think so. And we're supported in this conviction by cutting-edge scientific research as well as the results of our own pilot program.
Although some of our concepts have been practiced in the world of bodybuilding for decades, the science underlying our plan is just starting to gain acceptance in the halls of academia. And when we say "academia," we're not talking about Hercules Tech. For example, the Harvard School of Public Health has conducted one of several major studies whose findings suggest that a high-fat, low-fiber diet raises testosterone levels.
We've organized these landmark insights into a simple 9-week plan, and we're confident that if you put it to work for you, you'll not only look and feel better but also become stronger than you've ever been and leaner than you've been since the days when you didn't even realize that it was a good shape to be in. Though your metamorphosis won't exactly be instant, you'll start getting measurably stronger after the first few workouts. Within 4 weeks, your body will start making important molecular adaptations that set the stage for gains in muscle size. After that, you could see muscle growth of 20 to 40 percent. Granted, those gains won't all happen in 9 weeks, but the foundation you build with this program will put you on the straightest, surest path to that destination.
And the best part of our program: You'll get to eat like a man and look like a god.
We believe we're ushering in an exciting new era in weight management for men. We're inviting you to join us on the frontier.
Copyright © 2002 by Rodale Inc.