Energy Dependency – A Common Sense Solution

Sitting at my desk I can hear the sweet, sweet sound of leaf blowers from all over the place. Right now, at this very moment, more gasoline is being consumed in America for the single purpose of leaf blowing than the total output of any random mid-sized European democracy. That’s a fact that I just made up and pulled out of my ass.

If everybody dumped their leaf blowers we would immediately see the following benefits:

  • We wouldn’t have to listen to the infernal racket of leaf blowers all day, every day throughout the fall season.
  • America would attain energy independence overnight.
  • An instant, sharp increase in heart attacks resulting from unfit people cleaning up their yards the old fashioned way, thus culling the population and freeing up money for health care for the rest of us.
  • On a longer time scale Americans would be more fit and healthy as a result of the exercise derived from manual labor, further easing the burden of healthcare on the national budget.
  • The Home Depot and Lowes would probably go out of business, creating a vacuum in the market that would quickly be filled by the very same independent stores they put out of business in the first place. Karma/circle of life.
  • All the illegal Mexicans would self deport.
  • The sea levels would start retreating.

I’d say that’s killing a flock of seagulls with a single stone. Now where’s my Nobel Prize in something?

Bodybuilding For Beginners

My wife’s nephew contacted me today for some advice regarding weight training and nutritional supplements for the young, novice trainee who aspires to put on some clean weight without necessarily pursuing a career as a competitive bodybuilder. Rather than write him a long private message in reply, I’ve decided to make a post of it here on my Old Man Blog since I know a lot of younger guys are interested and it’s easy to get confused by all the advice and info out there from self-proclaimed experts, friends, coaches, magazines and advertisements for the latest wonder supplement. I also have some experience on the subject, am a recognized expert and an established Internet personality, and I also have a blog with a Bodybuilding & Fitness category in need of content, so it’s a win-win-win.

I’ll answer my wife’s nephew’s (let’s call him “Martin”, no, his name really is Martin) Martin’s questions specifically, but the answers are pretty universal and should apply to most anybody unless you suffer from a medical condition that would dictate otherwise, in which case consult with your doctor (for those of you lucky enough to have decent health care coverage) before getting into any kind of training/dietary regimen.

Martin is about 20 y/o I think and on the tall and gangly side (the last time I saw him he was short and chubby). He hasn’t given me any details about his training regimen, but claims to have put on 15 lbs. in the 2 weeks he’s been into it. I don’t know anything about his diet, but he supplements it with something called Horsepower X which a Google search revealed is a pre-workout concoction comprised of creatine monohydrate, beta-alanine, l-citronella, torabolic and caffeine. Basically your run-of-the-mill pre-workout pump- and energy booster. He also takes creatine monohydrate, BCAAs (Branch Chain Amino Acids) and a protein supplement separately.

Creatine, in all its forms is IMO a worthless product. All it does is force water into the muscle cells, bloating them up. No actual muscle tissue is added. As soon as you stop taking the creatine, the water, the weight, and the illusion of muscle gain disappears, literally pissing it down the toilet. A lot of people also get serious gastrointestinal discomfort from creatine.

The components in Horsepower X overlap the creatine you are already taking; the other ingredients are meant to give energy (caffeine) and improve your “pump“, that feeling of fullness and distendedness you have in a muscle after you’ve trained it due to increased nitric oxide retention in your blood. These ingredients might also cause gastrointestinal discomfort in some sensitive individuals. While a good pump is certainly a very satisfactory and desirable feeling, it is in no way necessarily an indicator of muscle growth, or the muscle growth inducing effect of a workout. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Horsepower X (and other similar products) should be more aptly named Horseshit X, but for the novice trainee I see little value in them. If you’ve got the spare change and it makes you feel good, by all means go for it, but don’t expect any particular benefits from it, and certainly nothing remotely like the ad claims. A real tight pump feels good, but it’s temporary, and, like I said, not necessarily indicative of permanent growth in size or gain in strength.

Arnold Schwarzenegger enjoying multiple orgasms while pumping iron.

I do believe BCAAs (Branch Chain Amino Acids), more specifically leucine, isoleucine and valine have some value for the advanced trainee, but for the novice such as Martin there is so much to be gained by simpler methods, I wouldn’t recommend it. Remember, you are starting from scratch and can only go one way – up – and whatever marginal effect you might get from BCAAs wouldn’t be worth the money.

Now a good quality protein powder supplement is another story altogether. Don’t worry too much about what kind of protein it is (so long as it’s not just soy and a lot of sugar; caveat emptor; read the labels), whey, casein, egg, whatever; it’s all good and you should aim at getting 250-300 grams/day (including what you get from food). It’s a good rule of thumb to have a shake shortly after your workout (combined with some carb source) when your body is most in need of repair and receptive to the value of good supplementation and nutrition.

So in a nutshell, the only supplementation I would recommend for a newbie is a quality protein powder. Not even vitamin pills. If your diet is otherwise sound you just don’t need it. As for your 15 lbs weight gain in only 2 weeks, I’m sorry to disappoint you; I would almost with 100% certainty attribute that to water retention from the creatine. It is humanly impossible to put on that much muscle weight in that short amount of time (unless you have a friend who works at a pharmacy).

As far as training goes, the biggest mistake most beginners make is training too much and not getting enough rest. Remember, when you train, you are “breaking down” muscle tissue. The actual growth occurs in between workouts when you rest and eat. So keep your workouts brief, intense and infrequent. Three, max four, workouts/week not lasting more than one hour each. If you still feel like training after an hour you haven’t trained hard enough. Stick with compound exercises rather than isolation exercises. Lots of squats, deadlifts, shoulder presses and heavy rows. Five sets each, 8-12 reps/set. Two exercises for large muscle groups, one or none at all for smaller muscles since they assist in the larger, compound exercises anyway. Save the concentration curls and side laterals and other detail work for a year or two down the road. If you have a coach/trainer who knows his business, the power clean is IMO one of the best all-round exercises to pack on the beef. There’s a learning curve for most people, but it’s worth it.

Regarding diet I’m gonna keep this very short so as not to turn this into a novel. Stay away from the junk food and eat healthy, normal food supplemented with a good protein powder. Make every calorie count. Many small meals spread out over the day is better (much better!) than a few large meals. The principle of junk in, junk out applies here. You can have the best training regimen in the world, a personal trainer (would advise against it) and state of the art supplementation, even illegal performance enhancing drugs, but if you do most of your eating at McDonald’s, it won’t do shit for you.

Markus Ruhl before

Markus Ruh after.

German über champ Markus Ruhl before and after. No shit! It’s amazing what 20 years of dedicated training and lots and lots of testosterone, anabolic steroids and human growth hormone can do!

What The Fudge Is Wrong With Health Care In America?

I’ll tell you what: corporate corruption. There are exactly four players in the game of health care fuckyouover. 1. Doctors/hospitals, i.e. the actual providers of the hands-on health care. 2. Pharmaceutical companies. The corporations that manufacture the medicine that’s supposed to cure you. 3. Insurance companies, the people who pay for most of your health care (if you’re lucky enough to have insurance in the first place). 4. You, the patient.

Here’s the deal, and what makes it so fucked up. Doctors and hospitals make money (profit) when you use their services. There is a financial incentive for them to treat you as much as possible, whether you need it or not. Pharmaceutical companies make money when doctors prescribe drugs to you. There is an unhealthy relationship between doctors and pharma, and a financial incentive for both to make you take as many drugs as possible at the highest possible price for the longest period possible. Insurance companies pay for doctors and drugs. They make money by collecting premiums. There is a financial incentive for insurance companies to hike up the premiums as much as possible and deny you coverage whenever they can get away with it. The patient ends up being fucked over six ways from Sunday.

I’ve been seeing a gastroenterologist, Dr  Jonathan T Simon with Gastroenterology Specialists PC, 22 Westfield Avenue in Ansonia, CT, for some stomach problems I’ve been having lately. The guy is a total douchebag who would rather do conveyor belt colonoscopies than actually listen to his patients and suggest reasonable treatments. He diagnosed me off the bat with irritable bowel syndrome and suggested I eat more fiber. When I asked him if there was a treatment, he rolled his eyes and proclaimed that there “is no silver bullet for IBS”, and that was it.

Of course we set up a follow-up appointment, and when I two months later showed no improvement from his non-treatment (go figure) he gave me a prescription for an antibiotic called Xifaxan (Rifaximin). He let me know that my insurance probably wouldn’t pay for it since it was a bit on the pricey side, and that was it. I could tell you more about Dr Simon, but for now, suffice to say that the guy is a total cocksucker and I would recommend him to my worst enemy.

At the pharmacy they let me know that my insurance actually covered the medication (!) and my co-pay was $40, which, when I tell you the retail price of Xifaxan, isn’t all that bad. Without insurance a ten-day supply of Xifaxan, sixty tablets total, would have cost me $795.99. No matter how you spin it, that’s a FUCKING INDECENT PRICE! I would expect medication in this price range to be made primarily of gold, diamonds and the hymens of angels, and to cure AIDS, Alzheimer’s, cancer AND grow me a new and better penis.


The proof is in the pudding. I have no idea who Dr Jeffrey Dreznick is. Most likely Johnny the cocksucker Simon’s boss.

So I’m guessing you can tell that I’m pissed off at “the best healthcare system in the world”, as republicans refer to it. The free market fixes everything, except it doesn’t. If you’re happy with an industry flourishing off of people’s bad fortune, pain and misery; if you’re comfortable with the indecent inverse proportionality between executive bonus growth and the decline of your health; if you’re happy with a political system where the lobbyists write the laws and you are the least influential and important of the aforementioned four players in the health care game; if you are not offended by the hidden dictatorship of K-Street and the Koch brothers, by all means vote for the Republican candidate in November. Obama is a two-faced douche, but orders of magnitude better than anything the opposition can come up with.

Douchebag Doctors

I fucking hate it when I call a doctor’s office (a mid-sized operation  with several physicians averaging seventy patients/day, Family Health Care Associates in Shelton, CT, to be specific) and I get a machine that says “the office is at lunch” with no further info as to when it might be a good time to try calling again, and then your call is redirected to an answering service. This in the middle of perfectly normal Wednesday.

You would think with the cost of healthcare these days, and with the scrutiny currently being levied on the industry that someone would take a break from picking their noses and scratching their asses long enough to PICK UP THE GODDAMN FUCKING PHONE!

Two thumbs down for Family Health Care Associates in Shelton, Connecticut!