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Have today’s bodybuilders gone to far?

by Dan McCarthy

Bodybuilding has certainly evolved since its inception well over 70 years ago. The images of former super heroes like Charles Atlas and Steve Reeves when compared to today’s behemoths almost make us pose the question, “did they even lift, brah?” Of course gyms, dietary knowledge, supplements, and yes, even steroids, have evolved significantly since those days. Professional bodybuilding should be considered a science as calculating macros, timing your protein, analyzing the best lifts with the right amount of sets and reps, is all part of the well planned out regime of a bodybuilder. However, like in any sport, performance enhancers, though illegal, are easily obtained and utilized for athletes to get the competitive edge and simply perform better. Now keep in mind, performance enhancers are just that, enhancers. Yes they can make you put on muscle easier, recover faster, and get bigger, but at the end of the day, you still have to eat right, train insanely hard and to be a professional bodybuilder, you have to have the right genetic makeup. So no, if you attribute a bodybuilder’s success to steroids, you are uneducated on bodybuilding and uninformed. Barry Bonds goes out and hits 70 plus home runs and everyone says it was due to the performance enhancing drugs he possibly took and the same for Lance Armstrong winning the Tour DE France. The fact is, if you trained exactly like Barry or Lance, took everything they took, you still would not beat them because they are just better. I cannot hit a baseball to save my life, if you gave me performance enhancers, I would not be able to hit it any better. My goal in writing is not solely about performance enhancers, it is about the overuse of them in professional bodybuilding and the freakishly big, un-aesthetic physiques of today.


Pumping Iron

If you are an avid gym rat, bodybuilder, power-lifter, strongman then you probably have seen Pumping Iron with Arnold Schwarzenegger and his band of lovable cohorts that meet up at gold’s gym in Venice daily to train and build the best bodies in the world to hopefully take home the Mr. Olympia trophy. Watching this movie back in 2002 I thought these physiques were unbelievable and so big, I was 19 and just really started lifting, so the thought of ever achieving a physique like that was a long way down the road.  Arnold was 6’2 235 lbs at his biggest for the Olympia; he was ripped and had huge arms. In my eye, and the eye of many others, this physique is probably the most perfect to ever walk the planet. Arnold had huge arms and chest with a tiny waist and perfect symmetry, and big defined legs. Being that he was probably 6% body fat or less at 235 lbs is by no means easy, and the fact that his genetics allowed him to develop the peaks on his biceps, the perfect chest, is also helpful. As you can see from the picture below, the physique should be considered a work of art. Arnold has admitted that they used the oral drug dianabol and possibly a testosterone form as well; however, like I said before, these physiques cannot be obtained by just taking these enhancers.  These physiques were born from genetic gifts, extremely hard work, and diet.


Generation Iron

Physiques in the 90’s and 2000 had drastically changed in the bodybuilding world compared to the days of Arnold, competitors grew bigger, leaner, and developed more cuts and striations in their muscles. In the days of Arnold, Lou Ferrigno competed around 275 lbs at a height a 6’5. Today competitors are 5’10 and competing near 290-300 lbs. Along with the growing weight has come growing waistlines, albeit the bodybuilders still have 6 packs, their stomachs have grown bigger too, eliminating the symmetry and true v-taper which is what bodybuilding used to be. Arnold mentioned in the movie Generation Iron, that today’s bodybuilders have 23 inch necks and have seemingly gone too far. Today’s pro’s claim that the people want to see a freak show, muscle on muscle ripped to the bone. Along with superbly calculated diets, top of the line trainers, god given genetics, and undeniable hard work, comes the performance enhancers, which undoubtedly have changed the physiques to become much larger through the use of insulin and growth hormones. I’ll say it again, give me all the enhancers they take and I still wouldn’t look like them, they just have a better genetic make-up for bodybuilding. (Ronnie wasn’t in Generation Iron, but competed at nearly 300 lbs before)



The aesthetic movement

While there is nothing more impressive than huge arms, a well-defined chest, and a mean set of wheels, some people are pushing for a return to a more aesthetic physique. A “founding father” of the “aesthetic movement” has to be the late youtube star Aziz “Zyzz” Sergeyevich Shavershian. Zyzz was a natural ectomorph who worked hard to put on every ounce of muscle, and with every ounce of muscle he looked ripped and shredded due to his genetic make-up. Regardless of possible performance enhancing use, the physique was very aesthetic and the women no doubt loved the ripped and not overly muscular look. Zyzz died tragically in 2011 at the age of 22 in a Bangkok Sauna.



How big is too big?

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder so as long as people attend the Olympia, purchase the magazines, I don’t see the physique changing anytime soon. Perhaps if one of the top bodybuilders tried to come in lighter, with a more aesthetic physique to make a statement and won, then, and probably only then, would there be a move back to a more aesthetic bodybuilding competition. I don’t purchase bodybuilding magazines anymore because I know that no matter how hard I train, how much I eat, I can never be a mass monster like those guys on the current covers. An aesthetic physique seem more attainable, so I am more likely to follow a routine of a more “natural” looking bodybuilder or wrestler with a muscular but not overly done physique. I am not concerned whether or not they take a performance enhancer as that is their choice and I know how much hard work and commitment went into their physiques. We may never see a return to a more aesthetic physique unless the judges determine the distended bellies with six packs on top are no longer pleasing to the eye. Until then, train hard, train smart, and lift!





Dietary musts for children

by Dan McCarthy

One cannot enter a grocery store without being bombarded with the onslaught of temptations for sweets, chips, and sugary drinks. The advantage of being an adult is the ability to be educated on the contents of the often vibrantly packaged and clever marketing tactics of these food companies. By being educated, we can make healthy choices for our children to help the fight against childhood obesity. However, through clever marketing these food companies entice our children with  toys, celebrity endorsements, or a cute cartoon characters,  and often leave us the “bad guys” when saying no.  Instead of being the bearer of bad news, we can educate our children on the benefits of healthy eating and the importance of the nutrients fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and water, has on their growth and development. Below you will find some helpful “Do’s” and “Do not’s” to help you plan your child’s daily food menu.


The Do’s

All children need the same food and nutrients as adults just in smaller amounts

When selecting food for your children you don’t have to do anything out of the ordinary or special as they require the same nutrients as you, just in smaller amounts. These nutrients are all the same vitamins and minerals that you get from eating healthy fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, grains, and dairy.

 A 2-3 year old will require about 1,000 – 1,400 calories a day, while boys that are 4-8 will require 1,200 to 2,000 based upon activity, and girls 4-8 will require 1,200 – 1,800 a day


Keep portions small

When you are preparing a meal for your children, you may want to consider using a smaller plate. This will help you regulate the serving size, prevent them from wasting as much food, and help you ensure they are getting the right amount to eat without overfilling their plate, and then encouraging them to “clean their plate”. Encouraging them to clean their plate can force them to eat too much. Instead, give them a smaller plate with smaller portions, they can always get more.


Healthy Snacks

Keep fruits and vegetables washed and ready to consume so they will be easy snacks for your children to grab. Explain to them the various vitamins and antioxidants each one contains to help encourage them to make healthy snacking decisions.  The occasional bag of chips or cookies is okay and its part of being a kid, but make sure you read the serving size on the back to help ensure you child doesn’t get too many bad calories.


The Do not’s

Avoid Breakfast Cereal

I’m sure we all remember the excitement of digging to the bottom of the cereal box in a mad frenzy to capture the toy that lay at the very bottom of the box. The thought of getting a “reward” for eating cereal was almost as thrilling as purchasing one you wanted from the toy aisle. Whether it’s John Cena encouraging your child to apart of “team fruity”, or a funny little leprechaun encouraging you to “follow the rainbow”, the cereal aisle is loaded with colorful boxes filled with sugar and toys. We are often hard pressed to believe that a box with cartoons on it could be unhealthy to our children, but the sugar content of ¾ of a cup of Kellogg’s Honey Smacks Cereal is 15 grams! To put that in perspective that’s 4 teaspoons of sugar!


Drink’s that say “No added sugar” are not as healthy as you think

Sugar, whether added or natural, is sugar! With all the drinks marketed to children, and all of these loaded with sugar, it’s no wonder why were in the middle of an obesity epidemic! An 8 Oz serving of Sunny Delight is 130 calories and has 30 grams of sugar, that’s almost 8 teaspoons of sugar! A 12 ounce can of coke contains 140 calories and 39 grams of sugar; it is drinks like these that are contributing to the rapid weight gain among our youth!


Bake instead of fry

In an age of fried Twinkies and pretty much fried anything; it’s easy to get something quick and fried. While chicken tenders are my favorite food, it’s hard to deny they are certainly less healthy and provide extra calories and fat versus the much healthier baked option. Many recipes offer baked alternatives to our fried favorites that do not sacrifice the taste, but they exclude the calories.


Just remember to keep it simple with fruits, vegetables, lean cuts of meat, fish, chicken, whole grains and dairy.  All of these items are found on the exterior of the grocery store while all the boxed items are located on the interior. Children can easily drink most of the caloric intake with sugary juices and soda pop so remember; “no added sugars” does not mean the drink is healthy; water is always the best form of hydration. If your kids think that water is too bland simply squeeze lemon or lime into the water or you can look how to infuse water with various fruits. Childhood obesity is an epidemic, and this is a simple way we can help the keep our children healthy, not a statistic.








Why you should be drinking green tea

Why you should be drinking green tea

by Dan McCarthy



Green tea is said to be the healthiest drink on the planet. It’s the healthiest thing I can think of to drink,” says Christopher Ochner, PhD. He’s a research scientist in nutrition at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital. “Green tea is beyond a super food.(1) Originating in China, it has spread all over the Asian continent and is now drank throughout the world by many people seeking to take advantage of its powerful anti-oxidative and anti-carcinogenic properties.



Anti-oxidative and Anti Carcinogenic properties

Green tea has very high amounts of polyphenols like flavonoids and catechins which all operate as anti-oxidants. The role of these anti-oxidants is to reduce the amount of free radicals in the body. Free radicals can cause cell damage and are often the catalyst in the aging process and many other diseases. Green tea was studied and was shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer by 22% in women! For men, the results were even better! Men who drank green tea regularly had a 48% less risk of getting prostate cancer, that’s almost reducing your risk by half! There was also a study done on 69,710 Chinese women and the green tea drinkers had a 57% lower risk of developing colorectal cancer. So to sum it up, drinking green tea may significantly reduce your risk of getting cancer and prevent cell damage related to aging.


Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Improved Dental Health, Type II Diabetes, Cholesterol and Bacterial Killer

As I mentioned before, the polyphenols found in green tea may be a preventative measure, as well as a treatment for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common neurodegenerative disease in humans and a leading cause of dementia The polyphenols work to protect dopaminergic neurons from malfunctioning.(2)

The catechins in Green Tea have been proven to kill bacteria and even inhibit the growth of the influenza virus lowering your risk of infection. Streptococcus mutans is the primary harmful bacteria in the mouth that causes plaque, tooth decay, and cavities.  Green tea can also reduce bad breath!

Green tea can also help with Type II diabetes which affects over 300 million people worldwide it reduces insulin sensitivity and reduces blood sugar levels. One study found that you have a 42% lower risk of developing type II diabetes.

Green tea has also been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol level and prevents the LDL from oxidization; green tea drinks have a 31% lower chance of cardiovascular disease.


Weight Loss

People have shown to have lost weight while taking green tea extract. Like with anything else, you have to maintain a decent diet and exercise routine. Also, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. In large doses of green tea extract liver damage can occur. It’s important to follow the recommendations on the bottle found at your local drug store.


The green tea verdict

Green tea is a must in your daily diet. It is loaded with all the health benefits and anti-oxidants you need to stay healthy and ward off diseases. It is the closest thing to a miracle herb there is! For dosing I recommend having two cups of caffeinated green tea and two cups of decaf green tea. The higher the quality of the tea, the more polyphenols it will contain, and the better the results. The local health food stores may sell green tea leaves which would be ideal for consumption. Also, keep the water of your tea about 160-180 degrees for maximum benefit and to not kill off all the polyphenols. You can also add lemon to your tea for added vitamin C!

See you at tea time!



Vitamins, Supplements, and Challenges are they smoke in mirrors? By Dan McCarthy

We have all opened magazines and have seen the sad, out of shape guy, holding a newspaper, and then next to that picture is the “after” picture of him smiling looking shredded as “fuarrk”(thank you zyzz for this word) with two girls on each arm hanging out  in a pool. Of course this would all be attributed to the supplement on the page that the guy is eluding you to believe that it’s what made him look like that. Of course it would not be the Photoshop, airbrushing, possible steroid use, actual hard work in the gym, and very strict diet. If you have seen the documentary “Bigger, Stronger, Faster” you know what I am talking about, and you know for a fact that’s what happens. They even showed us how it’s done!  For those of you who have not seen this fascinating documentary, I want to hopefully help you save money and refocus your attention to where those bodies, or just a healthy body is built, and that would be no other place than the gym, not the supplement store.


The supplement industry facts:

The supplement industry is a 23 billion dollar a year industry, and is currently shares many commonalities to the Wild West. Supplement manufacturers are running wild as the FDA does not oversee it as to ensure the safety and quality of the product like they do our pharmaceutical products. So that “fat burner” you are taking, could very well just be 80% rice powder, or just a ton of overpriced caffeine. In an age when more than half of American adults are taking vitamins and supplements, it is important to look at what we are possibly putting into our bodies and just how these “miracle pills and drinks” may cause you to fall short of your health and fitness goals. This next bit is taken directly from American Aljazeera and states “Most major health bodies – including the National institute of health, The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Deitetic Association, The Mayo Clinic, and Harvard Medical School – do not recommend supplements because their alleged benefits have failed to withstand scientific scrutiny. That last part is extremely important because it preludes to the next part from the same article that states “According to consumer reports, only a third of 54,000 supplements in the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database have any scientifically supported level of safety and effectiveness, and 12 percent are linked to safety concerns or quality issues. Mounting evidence suggests that most vitamin supplements, including the the popular daily multivitamin may be useless — and some could even increase the risk of disease.” One could very easily be playing Russian roulette with a supplement that is useless or one that could increase disease.


What is in these miracle bottles?

In the spirit of American capitalism, I am not bitter nor do I hate the supplement industry, I just simply want to call an ace and ace, and I want people to realize that supplementation is only 2-3 % of what it takes to build a healthy strong body, and chances are, you are not taking the right supplements. Most all supplement companies put a “proprietary blend” on their bottle, this is done to “allow supplement makers to include a number of different ingredients without disclosing the amounts used.” So in essence, your Echinacea supplement that you take to help you with various issues could be in fact 90% rice powder or some other filler  leaving you out the money you spent on it, and without the benefits of the supplement you sought out when you purchased the item. Two other fillers used in supplements are Magnesium Stearate and Carrageenan.  Quoted from Tom Nikkola, “Carrageenan is derived from seaweed; it’s used as a stabilizer in foods, as a fat replacement in protein powders, and in beverages to enhance mouth feel. There is also evidence suggesting that carrageenan can contribute to glucose intolerance and insulin resistance (Bhattacharyya et al., 2012). The use of magnesium stearate is a topic of great debate. Magnesium stearate is used as a flowing agent to make nutritional supplements. Including magnesium stearate in a formula allows the ingredients to flow through tableting equipment faster or allows the two ends of a capsule to be pushed together faster. However, research has shown that magnesium stearate can reduce the bioavailability of nutrients. Although it might not be allergenic, it might compromise the effectiveness of the supplement.”


“Weight loss Challenges” 

In my 12 years in fitness and bodybuilding I’ve seen and tried a lot of things, mainly all the magazine ads of the bottles with the guys shredded as “fuarrk”, (thanks zyzz,) who were standing next to two hot chicks. In the end, none of these bottles worked and I fell victim to overpriced rice powder in a gelatin tablet with some clever marketing. I am all for people looking for lifestyle change, something to spark their interest into finding a healthier self, but once again, marketing seems to be the big bad wolf promoting expensive “Challenges” to make people think they have to have this to lose weight. I am here to tell you, YOU DO NOT!  I am not saying they are bad, but you do not need these items to lose weight, once again, they get celebrities to endorse these things and it’s all a marketing ploy.

Would you like to take the Big Dan challenge? I won’t charge you a dime; all you have to do is replace two meals a day with a cup of Greek yogurt and a banana, and 4 oz of tuna and an apple. Do this for a week and cut out all sugary drinks and bread and tell me how much you have lost. I can mix it up for you with many other sources of protein but hopefully you see what I am saying. As much as we want to buy into a system, we can create a much cheaper, healthier one by ourselves! Fat supplements do not burn fat; they are supposed to increase your ability to burn fat, typically by increasing your heart rate. Not only are these dangerous, but you can get the same boost from a cup of green tea and it is loaded with anti-oxidants.

What should I take to help reach my goals for weight loss?

First, I would recommend a trip to your doctor to do a physical and blood test to check for any thyroid, diabetes, or deficiencies. Once these tests have been completed I recommend evaluating your diet. Do you have a weight loss goal?  If so, I recommend the app, my daily calorie counter. You can punch in your current weight and target weight to determine how many calories you need to achieve your goal weight. To simplify the weight loss process the formula is simple, Calories burned > Calories consumed. Track your calories, write down everything you eat. Try to consume lean protein sources, eat green vegetables and complex carbohydrates and increase physical activities. Avoid starchy foods, sugary drinks, alcohol, and be sure to regulate your carbohydrate intake.  I will get more in detail with this on my next blog.

What supplements do I take?

The only supplements I take as a bodybuilder are Whey Protein and Creatine Monohydrate. Protein is mandatory for muscle growth and to building a lean fat burning body. Creatine is found naturally in the food we eat and his been proven to increase strength, stamina, and aid in recovery. It is critical to drink a lot of water with this supplement. The Dymatize Whey Protein I take is loaded with Branch Chain Amino acids which are the key resources for building muscle.  I have pretty much tried everything else in the stores and can attest that these two products produce results. Looking for a pre-workout? Drink a cup of coffee, in essence, that’s all a pre-workout is. Don’t believe me? Look at the proprietary blend.

In conclusion:

Supplements have convoluted the weight loss process and have changed the chart to read “A healthy body is 80% supplements 10% workout, 10% diet” when in reality, a healthy body is 70% Diet, 29% workout and 1% supplements. If you can keep that mindset and realize the supplement industry is making 23 billion dollars a year on mostly false hopes and quick fixes, then in the words of Zyzz, “We are all gonna make it brah.”


Check out this video that demonstrates the supplement industry disparities:



Death by diet soda?

Diet soda was created in 1952 by Kirsch Bottling in Brooklyn, NY, in the form of a sugar free ginger ale called “No Cal”. Diet Soda was originally created for people who had health problems like diabetes and contained sugar substitutes. Diet Rite was developed by the RC cola company in 1958, followed by Dr. Pepper in 1962, and Coca Cola in 1963. These companies originally used sweeteners like cyclamates and saccharin; however, cyclamates were banned by the FDA in 1970 because they found evidence the chemical caused cancer in lab rats. In 1982 Aspartame became the primary sugar substitute used in diet sodas. Since its approval, many consumer advocates have tried to link its usage of aspartame to seizures, headaches, and even cancer. So with all of the ingredients that go into diet soda, is it a safe alternative to its sugary sibling?  I decided to do some research to separate known facts from fiction and try to come to a conclusion on a still unknown and speculative topic.

Does the artificial sweetener aspartame, cause cancer?

According to data, aspartame has been one of the most studied food additives ever tested by the FDA, with countless years of research; they have found no link to aspartame and health problems with the acceptable daily intake of 50 mgs per kilogram of bodyweight. Just to put into perspective what the daily recommended intake is for artificial sweeteners, you would have to drink 21, 12 oz sodas to surpass the FDA’s daily recommended limit. The FDA and 90 other countries, have approved that aspartame is safe for consumption with no proven link to cancer in any trials.


Diet Soda actually can trigger weight gain instead of weight loss!

Researches from the University of Texas did a study and found that people who consumed one diet soda drink a day had a 70% greater waist circumference than those who did not drink diet soda daily. For those people who drank two or more diet sodas, their waist circumference increased by 500%. From what studies and research have shown, the main reason for the weight gain is that the mind perceives that you are taking in sugar and is expecting the calories. In reality, your body is confused when it doesn’t receive the calories and continues to crave more and more. However, you can effectively avoid weight gain by planning out your diet in advance to substitute fruit to satisfy your sweet tooth.


Can the Dye that makes the soda caramel colored cause you to die?

Possibly, the dye, 4-methylimidazole, usually known as 4-MI and sometimes 4-MEI, has been shown to possibly cause cancer in studies done on unfortunate lab rats. However, the trace amounts in the soda is very, very minimal, and the FDA and the ABA (America Beverage Association, have thrashed the comments that this causes cancer. The ABA stated, “”leading public health organizations have reaffirmed that caramel coloring, including the trace amounts of 4-MEI found in it, is safe for use in colas and countless other foods.” According to an article a Vanderbilt biochemist told the Time’s that 4-MI would only increase a person’s risk for cancer if they drank 1000 cans a day. California has listed 4-MI as a carcinogen and soda companies that use it will have to produce a warning label. 

The verdict

As with anything in life, moderation is the key. Diet soda does contain chemicals and different substances that, in large amounts, can be harmful. After years of consumption, maybe it could possibly cause cancer or other health issues. Many of the other items we consume on a daily basis contain dyes, chemicals, preservatives, so singling out diet soda might not be fair. If you are concerned about the chemicals, stick to water, and research local farmers markets or organic food sources. Until then, I will drink a diet soda from time to time to avoid the 30+ grams of sugar in a regular soda