Surviving GNC

I’m not a big supplement guy. That may surprise some of you. I was, at one time, a huge supplement guy. Actual bills took a backseat to my goals to find the exact supplement cocktail that would make look like Ronnie Coleman. The only difference between me and him were the supplements. Real food? Please dude. I need more longjack to up the test levels. Electricity is overrated when you need bufferized, twice enhanced, soon to be illegal creatine.

I even worked at a GNC. Not for the money, but for the discount. Really. This was in college and I had a few other jobs, so working 10 hours a week to save an additional 30% made perfect sense. Based on how much money I was blowing at the time, it made sense.

But marriage and kids came along and I had to prioritize. At first I thought my supplement fueled gains would suffer, but I found researching things make prioritizing much easier. Reading actual research instead of magazine ads led me to the conclusion that I was an idiot and that I had wasted a lot of money. Not just in the products, but also in the prices that I was paying. Online shopping became my vehicle for the few supplements that I did purchase. Prices were better and it was delivered to my front door.

However, there are times when circumstances have dictated that I fill the gaps with a trip to GNC. I was in this position just last week.


I entered the store for one reason: a multivitamin. But I was amazed at the enormous amounts of new brands, labels, and products available. My curiosity was piqued. Despite needing just one thing, I began looking around. I thought I should. The most common genre of questions I am asked is about supplements, so why not see the new products that are out there.

What I found was old products in new containers at double the price.

One company in particular with shiny, metallic, industrial looking containers, was especially egregious. Amino acids for 50 bucks. Creatine for 60. I only was made aware of this brand because the sales rep tried to steer me towards it. Why wouldn’t she? She’s gotta make some flow, but I’m not obligated to assist.

Again, I’m not bashing GNC. They provide a service that can be very useful, provided their customers enter the store with information that isn’t from a magazine ad.

Here are some guidelines for choosing a supplement.

1) Is my diet bulletproof? If you think you can out-supplement a poor diet, save your money.

2) Does the use of this supplement support my goals? An endurance athlete taking creatine doesn’t make any sense, and someone taking a weight gainer doesn’t make sense for someone trying to slim down.

3) What does the research say? This doesn’t include customer reviews. Several companies will plant positive reviews on websites to enhance sales. A good resource is the supplement geek.

4) Does it contain a “proprietary blend” or some other type of blend? If the answer is yes, do not use that product. Why? This is a method supplement companies use to disguise ingredients. An example:


5) Is the cost worth it? Ultimately, this is the most important question. I can tell you that most supplements do not meet this threshold. It’s your money. Spend it responsibly.



Runners, as a group, are elitists. You have to go to a special store to have someone evaluate your running style, so you can get “proper” shoes. And by “proper” shoes, I mean 120 dollar shoes, with 30 dollar inserts. Then, as you strike out on your first run, a douchebag in ridiculously short purple shorts, visor, and arms so skinny, he had to shrink his extra small tank top so it didn’t look like he was playing in daddy’s clothes, scoffs at your “foot coffins” and tells you minimalist shoes are where it’s at. So back to the store to make your wallet another hundred bucks lighter. Down 250 bucks, you again make your way down the street. The iPod is rocking the Rocky IV soundtrack. A week later, your shorts are barely covering your giblets and you’re espousing a vegan lifestyle. How did this happen?

As you can tell, I don’t care for runners. Unlike my Crossfit post, I can’t say I like traditional cardio. I hate traditional cardio. It’s boring. It takes too long. But most importantly, it doesn’t yield good results. Read that again. It doesn’t yield good results. Results in sports or for weight loss, it is the most ineffective form of exercise.

How could this be? I go for a run or walk and I sweat a bunch, so I must be getting thinner, right? That’s a big fat “NO”.

I’ll give you a few examples. Americans have gotten fatter over the last 30 years, but we are exercising more. Read that again. Fatter, yet exercising more. In 2013 a large scale survey was conducted and found that more people were exercising, but using an aerobic model and not losing weight. Another study in 2012 compared aerobic activity of those who exercised 30 vs 60 minutes. Guess what? The 30 minute group lost more weight. And it wasn’t much for both groups. About 9 pounds over 13 weeks. Less than a pound a week. That sucks!

If traditional cardio sucks so bad, why do people do it? To tell you the truth, I don’t know. My guess is people like being in pain and sweaty. Maybe it’s in our history. We laud people who run marathons, half marathons, and triathlons as being in great shape. You won’t ask them to help you move the couch upstairs, but they’re in great shape!

So what’s the answer to losing weight? First of all, forget about weight. Shed fat. The best way to do that is to gain muscle through resistance training. Next, clean up your diet. Next, train like this guy:


Not this guy:


By adding sprint training into your regimen, you get the benefits of an elevated heart rate, without all the repetitive stress of jogging. Additionally, you ignite the larger fast twitch muscle fibers that make you powerful. Most importantly, it takes less time. Run a 400 meter sprint, then a 300 meter sprint, then 200, then 100. Recover in between each one, and you’re at the track for 15 minutes and have probably expended 400-500 calories. Go for a jog and see how long it takes to get that burn.

Hey look, if you enjoy running, I’m definitely not telling you to abandon it. I will question your sanity, but whatever. What I am saying is that if the goal is weight loss, there is a better method.

A Bad Week

This has been a bad week. Not personally, but physically. Routines were knocked off course. Schedules were put in disarray. Convenience trumped doing the right things. Compromises were justified. Again, it was a bad week.

Some of you may know, but I’d adhere to a relatively strict eating window. 8 hours from the first bite of food. It’s called intermittent fasting, and I’m a big believer in its effectiveness. This week, I ate outside that window several times. Late night cravings, early morning cravings, and cravings in between.

I hear you saying,”What’s the big deal? So you ate outside an arbitrary eating window.” And I would agree had I not eaten 6 Oreos, 3 m&m cookies, a grilled cheese, a chocolate muffin, a handful of Doritos, a Dr Pepper, a choco-cherry blizzard, and a HUUUUUUUUGE bowl of Cookie Crisp cereal. Additionally, I didn’t meet my macronutrient goals 4 out of the last 7 days.


Why did I do this? Why was this week the week I binged? The holiday weekend threw the schedule into a blender and hit “frappe”. More time at home was great (even with the 100 dirty diapers I changed), but it also made me more likely to fudge my diet.

I think most of us are like this. We have a routine that is stringent and provided the planets and moon align with sun just perfectly, it all goes to plan. However, the first wrench thrown in our works causes the whole operation to go into the toilet. This was me last week. It was easy to grab a cookie or a muffin. I was late for a meeting. I had an appointment. The kids had to get to school.

All of that was crap and just an excuse to be lazy.

Working Out
This week was a planned deloading week, with a focus on stability work. We were still scheduled to workout 4 days this week, but with focus being on bodyweight and core work. While necessary, this protocol caused me to lower my intensity. I didn’t have the same drive. I didn’t bring the same vigor as I would had we been jacking steel.

And sprint day? That was also not smart. Due to schedules, we had to do it at noon, in Yuma, Arizona, in September. Not smart. I went through motions and was genuinely smoked, but not from the workout. 107 degrees on a turf field got into my head and I didn’t attack it the way I normally do.

The Good News
This week doesn’t undo the other 51. If I wanted to, I could throw in the towel, and accept that it’s just too difficult to be fit. I could allow my circumstances to dictate my existence. But that would be the easy way out. That’s what most people do. They become victims instead of conquerors.

I refuse to allow 7 days to dictate the other 358.

That’s the great thing about fitness. It’s a struggle from sun up to sun down. In those moments of struggle, you find your strength or weakness. You choose which one it will be.