3 Fitness and Nutrition Tips “They” Don’t Want Me to Tell
written by Sean Hyson
There are certain ways of training and eating that they just don’t want you to follow.
Call them “The Establishment”. The old guard of trainers, nutritionists, government employees, and gurus who tell us we need to jog for hours and eat 11 servings of grains a day (as the old Food Pyramid suggested) if we want to be lean and healthy. They have their reasons for these recommendations, and most of them aren’t based on your well-being. Ignoring all the politics and the biased research, here’s what I believe you should do to get bigger, stronger, leaner, and healthier.
EAT RED MEAT
Organic meat, that is. Here’s why.
Your average steak at the butcher’s counter is a poor representative of what beef is supposed to be. It’s akin to any other offensive stereotype, like thinking that all Irishmen are drunks (and for the record, I haven’t had a beer since this morning).
To my knowledge, all the studies that link red meat with cancer and heart disease looked at people who consumed conventional beef—the kind that’s raised on feedlots in “factory farms”, where the cows are treated like inmates of a Nazi death camp.
These are cows that are fed mainly grains instead of grass. Those grains were exposed to pesticides, and are often genetically engineered and irradiated—two practices that haven’t been clearly established as safe. They also tend to be fertilized with sewage sludge.
This heinous diet, not surprisingly, causes the cows to get sick, so they’re injected with antibiotics. Then the cows are given hormones to speed their growth, a process that the European Union believes is dangerous to human health. As a matter of fact, it won’t allow the sale of American beef in Europe for this reason.
Now NONE of these problems are an issue when you buy Certified Organic beef, preferably 100% grass fed. (I buy mine from Grateful Harvest and it tastes fantastic.) Not only is organic meat much safer, but its fat is healthier. It’s got more Omega-3 fatty acids than conventional meat, which are anti-inflammatory, heart-healthy fats, and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), which may fight cancer.
And what about the saturated fat? It’s a major factor in producing testosterone, which your body needs for building muscle, burning fat, and maintaining your sex drive. It also builds the membranes in your body’s cells, protects your liver from the effects of alcohol, and boosts your immune system.
As much research as there is to indicate that saturated fats damage the heart, there’s just as much that suggests otherwise. According to the Weston A. Price Foundation, a non-profit charity that disseminates nutrition information, the rise in heart disease cases in America parallels a DECLINE of animal fats in the diet. If you want to protect your heart, you’d do better to avoid trans fats and refined carbohydrates—which most Americans gorge on in place of fatty meats, thinking they’ve done themselves a favor.
STOP BENCH PRESSING
For some guys, this is like asking them to stop breathing. But more and more experts are giving up on the bench press, saying that the results aren’t worth the risk of injury.
CJ Murphy, a strongman and owner of Total Performance Sports in Boston, says he doesn’t use the flat barbell bench press in his clients’ workouts unless they’re football players or powerlifters—athletes who are tested on it. Jason Ferruggia, my training adviser at Men’s Fitness, doesn’t recommend benching anymore, and blames it for some of the shoulder problems he’s had. John Alvino, another coach in New Jersey who writes for me, goes so far as to say he thinks that the bench press will slowly decline in popularity over the next decade.
In addition to being an awkward exercise that isn’t particularly functional (where else in life do you push hard on something while lying flat on your back, unless your girlfriend is fat?), it puts a lot of strain on the AC joint in the shoulder. The subscapularis, a rotator cuff muscle, gets overworked, while the infraspinatus, another part of the cuff on the back of the shoulder, gets weaker. This throws off the biomechanics of the press, and puts more wear on the joint.
To be fair, there are plenty of corrective “prehab” exercises you can do to prevent injuries from benching, and many coaches will program those in their workouts. You can also get regular active release (ART) to help keep the joint free of scar tissue, but I think it’s still just a matter of time. There’s no long-time bench presser I know of, especially one who can put up some serious weight, who hasn’t/doesn’t have some shoulder pain to show for it.
For most of us, the overhead press, pushups, and dumbbell presses done at different angles provide plenty of work.
The Establishment is really cracking down on salt these days. But the salt that people are overeating in processed foods isn’t the same as what washes up on the beach. Sea salt has a different mineral content than the sodium chloride you grew up sprinkling (or pouring) on your eggs. The trace minerals in sea salt balance blood sugar levels, help with the absorption of food, and even act as a natural anti-histamine. Furthermore, sea salt doesn’t have nearly the same effect on blood pressure that table salt does.
Pollution in the oceans makes safe, quality sea salt a little harder to come by, but look for Celtic, New Zealand, or French sources. If it’s a hot day and you’re being active outdoors, you could even add sea salt to a glass of water to help restore your electrolyte balance.