Placebo Power Part 2 - Nutritional Supplements
“Don’t tell me it doesn’t work!” The Mind is a powerful thing. Nutritional Supplements
As an avid reader of the muscle mags in the mid-1960s, I innocently believed all the exaggerated hype and over-blown promises made for the nutritional supplements of the era. I needed these nutritional supplements and their miraculous results. But for years they were beyond my reach, financially.
Now, in 2019, I know that every single nutritional supplement offered by anyone back in those primal days was intentionally or unintentionally bogus, uniformly anemic, worthless, if not downright harmful. Still, there are counterintuitive examples of great gains made using lame methods and bogus products. I have my own tale of substantial improvement using a bogus product. Back then, I attributed my sensational results (erroneously) to this miracle product. That turned out to be an impossibility.
When my friends and I got our driver’s licenses, our whole world opened up. My training partners and I drove downtown to visit a “health food” store. They carried York Barbell products, barbells, weight plates, weight benches, squat racks and assorted fitness tools, wrist rollers, iron boots and crusher type devices. The health food store also carried York protein products and other "nutritional" supplements. Bob Hoffman had noted that Joe Weider was selling the hell out of Crash Weight Gaining Formula #7 and counterattacked by offering a “superior” product at half the price.
Hoffman’s Quick Gain Weight powder was priced at $6.95 for a four-pound canister, this was the right price for the right product at the right time, I was ecstatic. It was all falling together. I raised the cash by walking 72 holes of golf (as a caddy,) 36 on Saturday and 36 on Sunday. Flush with cash, I went on a mission to obtain Hoffman’s Quick Gain Weight Powder.
I saw my current 170-pound-self swelling and growing exponentially. Here was the recommended strategy, “Two quarts of whole milk mixed with eight servings of Hoffman’s Quick Gain Weight powder will provide 2,500 calories and 150 grams of protein.” Drink this every day until it runs out. 2,500 calories would be broken up, drank over the course of the day, a pint at a time. I made mine up in the morning, mixing it in a big Kool Aid pour jug.
I launched my 14-day blitzkrieg effort on a Monday morning. I did exactly as recommend. I dedicated my life to this. I ripped through my 4-pound cannister, gaining 14 pounds of bodyweight in 14 days. Not only did I blow the minds of friends and family, I blew my own mind. I took my whole game to the next level in one incredible 14-day spurt.
It was only in 2018 that I found out that this incredible nutritional supplement gain-weight product was bogus, absolute nutritional garbage, undeniably detrimental; anemic ingredients loaded with unconscionable levels of pure, unadulterated refined sugar. Yet, I obtained incredible gains in size and strength, leaping from a bodyweight of 171 to 185, an 8% increase in lean muscle mass, this in fourteen days and using a completely bogus product.
Hoffman claimed, “Our protein is the highest biologic value.” Turns out Hoffman’s protein products were made from the worst possible protein: he bought low-grade soy that grew in abundance around York, Pennsylvania. He would buy surplus soy at cut-rate prices and have it chemically converted into powder form. The disgusting taste of powdered soy was disguised by cutting the powder with various flavored filler and sugar, lots and lots of sugar.
As a protein, soy is anemic, incomplete and impotent. The worst form of nutritional supplement. Period. I won’t even discuss soy merits as a supplemental protein source. This terrible protein has a putrid taste that Hoffman counteracted by adding ungodly amounts of highly refined sugar. Any actual nutritional benefits I derived during my incredible 14-day growth spurt was completely attributable to – first and foremost to my savage weight training: I trained fourteen straight days and busted ass every single session.
I backed up the murderous training with face-stuffing gluttony - supplemented with two quarts of whole milk, each and every day. The sugar-laden chocolate powder, when mixed with whole milk, was delicious; this because it contained as much sugar as a cup of Hershey’s chocolate syrup or half a bottle of Bosco. The powder made the milk go down easy, but it was a chemical cesspool.
So, what accounted for my spurt? It was the perfect storm: I was the right age. My young body was flooded with testosterone. I was training hard and right and often. I was able to stuff my face on a consistent and ongoing basis. I was lean and highly conditioned. Because of my blazing athlete’s metabolism, any surplus calories were instantly converted into muscle, not fat.
I took on a different mindset when I commenced my 14-day Quick Gain Weight blitzkrieg: first off, I wasn’t a skeptic, I was a believer. I had seen the mental movie so many times that I knew exactly how the process should unfold. It seemed to me that this was predestination unfolding. Once I launched, every day without fail, I gained that pound, every day I got bigger and stronger. Whatever it took for that day, I did it, I made it happen.
I upped my regular food intake – dramatically – we used food and milk, calories, thousands and thousands of calories, to (unwittingly) make ourselves anabolic. I trained for fourteen straight days and subjected myself to the hardest and heaviest workouts of my life (to that point.) And it was easy. Every day I awoke believing that I was better than yesterday: tangibly, mathematically better, bigger, stronger, irrefutably mathematically better than yesterday. Every day I awoke on fire to achieve the day’s lifting and bodyweight goals. Momentum took hold in around day three.
People marveled in real time at my transformation. The effect was enhanced by having my moderate length student haircut shaved down into a Marine DI cut. This was a boy-to-man tipping point. I never again replicated the rapidity of those results. It was a perfect storm for drug-free muscle gains: tons of calories, a raging metabolism, a testosterone-drenched boy body, incredibly intense lifting sessions, lots of rest and stress-free care-free living. Oh, and a berserker mindset.
The incorrect conclusion my 15-year old self reached was that the Quick Gain Weight nutritional supplement actually worked. As in “Don’t tell me it doesn’t work! I gained 14-pounds in 14 days!” The real lesson is that a recalibrated Mindset can be a powerful ally in the transformative quest. An occasional burst of fanaticism, as in my 14-day blitzkrieg, will liberate a man, blast him out of whatever velvet rut of sameness and stagnation he finds himself in. The psychological placebo effect can generate a strong and unshakable belief in method and self. It all springs from a recalibrated mindset.
Another quick and related tale…
Back in the 1990s, I worked as a feature article writer for Muscle & Fitness magazine. The Weider's had, by this time, long since won the “muscle war” with Bob Hoffman. The Weider’s and bodybuilding won in a landslide, particularly after Olympic lifting ditched the overhead press in 1972. Bodybuilding popularity, male and female, exploded, largely because of the efforts of Joe Weider.
Dr. Jim Wright was the longtime science editor at Flex magazine and my friend. He related to me that Flex had lab tested a bunch of commercially available samples of creatine monohydrate. This was back when creatine was first coming onto the scene. Weider was thinking about marketing their own creatine powder and decided to see what the competition was doing. When the lab analysis came back, 8 out of 11 products tested flunked: terrible potency, weak, anemic products; the modern versions of Quick Gain Weight. Many big name super-popular brands of creatine were impotent rip-offs.
In about this same time I got a phone call from my friend, superheavyweight world champion powerlifter Brad Gillingham. Brad had won the national championships and was deep in preparation for the upcoming world championships. He was relating to me the incredible benefits he was obtaining from this new product: creatine monohydrate.
He had never tried this new supplement and it was taking Brad’s muscle size and strength to new levels. Brad related in his Minnesota plain-speak that, while he had never been on steroids, the results he was obtaining from creatine seemed “steroid-like” to him.
His squat had shot up 40 pounds and his bench press 25. He felt creatine made all the difference. It was this nutritional supplement that enabled him to add 15-pounds of much needed muscle. I made the mistake of asking what miracle brand of creatine he used; he named one of the worst, an anemic brand that had ranked near the bottom of creatines Flex had tested.
I almost blurted out the truth that his selected brand was as impotent and bogus as a nutritional supplement gets. I held my tongue and in a flash of inspiration said, “Oh, indeed. You have brilliantly selected the right brand. Dr. Wright at Flex tested different type for potency and your brand came in first place by a country mile. Jim Wright told me the stuff was so off-the-charts potent that he was shocked it wasn’t banned.”
“I knew it!” Brad said. He gained ten more pounds of muscle and won the IPF world powerlifting championships that year with a 600-pound bench press and 880-pound deadlift, all 100% drug free, just jacked out of his mind on creatine. I have never told him that story to this day. This despite seeing him regularly. He’ll be surprised. The Mind is a powerful thing.
Read Placebo Power Part 1 Here
About the Author
As an athlete Marty Gallagher is a national and world champion in Olympic lifting and powerlifting. He was a world champion team coach in 1991 and coached Black's Gym to five national team titles. He's also coached some of the strongest men on the planet including Kirk Karwoski when he completed his world record 1,003 lb. squat. Today he teaches the US Secret Service and Tier 1 Spec Ops on how to maximize their strength in minimal time. As a writer since 1978 he’s written for Powerlifting USA, Milo, Flex Magazine, Muscle & Fitness, Prime Fitness, Washington Post, Dragon Door and now IRON COMPANY. He’s also the author of numerous books including Purposeful Primitive, Strong Medicine, Ed Coan’s book “Coan, The Man, the Myth, the Method" and numerous others. Read the Marty Gallagher biography here.