Hippies VS Jocks – Which Group is Healthier?

Have you ever noticed that there are two entirely different health movements with very little crossover?

There is the group of organic whole foods consumers and the group of people who buy health and fitness supplements. I used to be much more familiar with the typical GNC type of supplements, but didn’t know squat about things like Kombucha, Cod Liver Oil, Spirulina, etc. I think both groups have some positive things to offer and I would like to explore that in this post.

Note: I was going to name this article “Whole Food Stores vs Supplement Stores”, but how boring is that? Plus, then I couldn’t put up this sweet pic! (said in the voice of Napoleon Dynamite).


[“Hey Man, check out this mean batch of Homemade Hummus!” … “Bro, how many more sets you got left on the bench?”]

I Was GNC’s Best Customer at the Age of 17

When I first started training over 22 years ago, I used to buy protein powders and amino acids from GNC. I would go to GNC so often that I knew where just about every brand and every supplement was. I bought all the popular products of 1987…Smilax, Hot Stuff, Mega Mass 2000, Met-RX, you name it and I could tell you what aisle it was on.

I was 17 working as a prep cook in a sit down Mexican Restaurant…and a lot of my earnings went towards supplements.

Is That Patchouli Oil I Smell?

…Fast forward 5 years. I am 22 years old it is the summer of 1992 and I am listening to a tape mixed with techno and alternative rock (living in Seattle in the early 90’s, was a great time for alternative rock/grunge).

I am done working out at Gold’s Gym and I stop to get some groceries at Safeway. In the strip mall is a small store called “Karen’s Natural Health Remedies” (something along those lines).

I walk in and a bell rings and a young guy with a seriously bushy beard greets me…sitting at his feet is a large German Shepherd.

I Was Lost In a Sea of Strange Bottles and Odd Smells

This place didn’t smell too bad or anything, I was just used to that typical vitamin and protein powder smell. I walked down aisle after aisle and had no idea what I was looking at.

How could a 5 year supplement store veteran get stumped in a supplement store? It was a classic case of “You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know”. Make no mistake about it…the typical “fitness health food store” and “organic whole foods” health stores are two entirely different worlds.

Speaking of Bushy Beards & Alternative Rock…

[I need to break up this lengthy post….the main singer of Band of Horses has one of the best voices in alternative rock in my opinion…amazing album by the way!]

Even the Workout Venues Differ Between These Groups

These are going to be complete generalizations, but just bear with me. The whole foods group is inclined to do things such as mountain climbing, hiking, cross country skiing, and kayaking.

The fitness group is more likely to do activities like working out in a gym, running stairs, doing sprint intervals around a track, crossfit, etc. There is some overlap obviously and this is NOT even close to 100% true, but I certainly see some trends in this direction.

Transitioning from Powders and Pills to “Real” Food

Shortly before I started this blog (about 3 years ago), I began replacing my breakfast protein drink with a real breakfast of eggs and yogurt. I continued drinking protein shakes for lunch, but phased them out a year later. I guess I like the idea of getting all my nutrition from natural organic food.

It just mentally feels right to eat a meal full of vegetables and organic protein sources than it does drinking a shake.

Note: I always ate real food at dinner, but a lot of the times it was two shakes during the day.

I Basically Went From One Extreme to the Other

while eating nothing but whole foods has felt good, I began getting sick every so often. When I was drinking Myoplex protein shakes each day, I never ever got sick. In fact, I went 10+ years without getting sick at one point and the only constant was drinking 1-2 vitamin fortified protein shakes each day. Perhaps I was too harsh on taking Supplements?

Heck, I wrote a free report called “The Supplement Conspiracy”. A lot of the message included was good, but maybe a bit too extreme. I now believe that in some cases, supplementation is great. Perhaps a multivitamin, occasional protein shake, etc.

Healthy Whole Foods Mixed With Some Supplements

The best way of training and nutrition is a hybrid of these two schools of health and fitness. I like intense focus exercise mixed with outdoor activities. I enjoy organic green vegetables, but also like the convenience of a protein shake to serve as the occasional meal replacement.

A Couple of Hybrid Fitness Enthusiasts Who I Respect

Mark Sisson of “Mark’s Daily Apple” is a guy who trains like a typical gym fitness expert, but who eats organic healthy foods. Bova of Spartan Health Regimen is also a guy who implements intense fat burning workouts, but stays lean with natural whole foods.

I actually just started taking cod liver oil mixed with molasses like Bova recommends. It is an potent natural immune system booster.

Anyway, much respect to these guys and there are many others who take a balanced approach to heath and fitness.

53 thoughts on “Hippies VS Jocks – Which Group is Healthier?”

  1. I agree also, that a mix is the best. Eating whole organic foods is great, but most people (myself included) don’t usually eat perfectly all the time and need some help with vitamin, etc. supplements to fill the gaps in the diet. With workouts, variety is the spice of life and the more options you have and the more you switch it up…the more you stick with it. It’s also helpful to do more outdoorsy type activities that are weather dependent and then on rainy or snowy days (except skiing and winter sports!) to stay inside and do more gym type workouts.

  2. Autumn, you might be exactly who I need to talk to. What kind of strength exercises would you recommend to supplement a 3x per week yoga routine?

  3. Hi Rusty! I’ve been subscribing to your blog for a month or two now, and in the past week I have been obsessively reading it since I have committed myself to getting very trim and toned by memorial day (my ten year reunion). This post really spoke to me because I’m have a lot of “hippie” roots (vegetarian at one point, liberal, love hiking) and yet I have spent some time at the gym doing weight training or intervals. My problem, of course, is sticking to these routines–3 months is the longest I’ve ever managed.

    My question is this: My body type is shorter, pear-shaped, and I build muscle easily. I have been enjoying yoga as a form of exercise, and I’m thinking of using an aggressive yoga routine as my main muscle-building exercise so I can combat some of my natural “stockiness”. I will also be doing HIIT cardio followed by steady state to burn fat. (I have about 10-15 pounds to lose). I am also planning on doing ESE with general calorie cutting. I have a weakness for fast food and beer though! Do you think this will be an effective routine to lose about 10-15 pounds and look my best within 3 months?

    Thank you for site! I have learned so much here and I finally feel like I have the tools and determination to finally hit my goal size.

  4. Chalk up another one for the “hybrids”. My diet could definitely be improved, but I go between shakes and organic produce. I also go back and forth between the normal gym and the rock climbing gym, so I have some of both worlds working for me. Hoping to improve my diet more by reading this site, as of now it’s all kind of guess work, and I just make a shake when I want one for breakfast on random days.

  5. Hello,
    I was wondering if anyone has ever heard of EODD (Every Other Day Diet) and know whether this is a healthy approach to staying healthy.

  6. Really good article. I am a hybrid also. Like you, I spent loads of money and a lot of time in GNC years ago. One girl knew me by name. I was like Norm from cheers….lol. Now I get most of my nurtients from my paleo diet but I supplement also. I used to spend hours in the gym bulking up years ago, now I primarily do bodweight exercises, run and bike. At 35 I can honestly say I am in better shape now than when I was 20. I would say for the most part it’s the diet. I never knew eating good foods would make you feel so alive and full of energy! Any ways…another awesome post!

  7. Combination of fresh real food and the right supplements I believe is the way to go. There are good protein powders available such as rice protein, which are pretty effective.

  8. I enjoyed this post. I come from an exercise physiology background, so I’ve often thought of this division; it’s interesting. I definitely think both schools of training are valid, however, the more I think about how I was raised (in the summers, fresh foods from our garden; in the winters, home-canned, preservative-free and frozen foods; my parents would buy a cow from a local ranch and pay to have it butchered and stored frozen so we had preservative-free, free-range meat as well…long before this was en vogue or anyone would even think there was any other way) versus all of the boxed food that requires “fortification,” I think the way to go is the way my parents did things. If you are eating properly for your body and amount/type of exercise, you don’t need all of those supplements…from any type of store.
    I highly recommend reading “In Defense of Food” by Michael Pollan. It talks about how we have broken our food down to the minutiae and yet aren’t any healthier for it…hence, he makes a case for eating ‘food’ instead…aka whole foods.
    Another example of this division is yoga versus conventional gym workouts for strength. I love yoga, I take 2-3 classes per week. It can be a wonderful calorie-burner, stress reliever, and muscle strengthener all at the same time. However, I’ve found that for me, I need to supplement it with gym time. I was a personal trainer for 8 years so I also enjoy sweating it out at the gym. For all of the battle cries for “balance,” I’ve found that even yoga lacks balance if that’s all you’re doing. There is no way to concentrically work your lats and other back muscles, so I make sure I do assisted pull-ups at the gym. Calves and hamstrings get a bit neglected as well. Also, if you are super flexible like I am, it doesn’t mean the opposing muscles are necessarily strong enough to support certain poses. Great yoga instructors can tell you this and how to get the strength you need for balance, but most classes are way too big for most instructors to tell their students…a lot of people get injured from yoga and don’t even realize how.
    I definitely think you need to strike a balance between being a hippy and a jock. 🙂

  9. Hi Rusty – can I get your thoughts on creatine? I’ve used it in cycles for the last several years and wonder how you feel it either benefits or detracts from getting/maintaining that toned look we all work towards.
    The people here that respond to your blog are great.

  10. Hot Stuff…wow, that really takes me back.

    I remember way back to when I was 16-17 and I bough a tub of Hot Stuff – I grew like a weed. After a couple of tubs, it stopped working..and I stopped buying.

    And then a few years later, I start hearing that the reason it worked so well was that it was laced with steroids. The roids were cheaper to buy than all of the stuff that was supposed to be in Hot Stuff

    And now they’re selling it again – http://www.hotstuffnutritionals.com/magento/read_more_hotstuff

    Personally, I am halfway between a hippie and a jock. I eat mostly real food, with some peri-workout supplements

  11. hey rusty,

    I agree with you about the best path probably lying between these two extremes. I take a fish oil supplement regularly, and sometimes something else depending on my goals/lifestyle. I’ll drink a protein shake if I’m trying to lose weight, creatine if I’m trying to build muscle, and antioxidants to give my poor liver a break if I’m drinking heavily 🙂 The rest of my nutrition I get from whole foods (organic when i can afford it)

    It’s off topic, but I was reading your vacation body blueprint, and was wondering what speed of weight loss you thought it was safe to aim for. I’m 24 now, 5 foot ten, about 165 pounds 13-14% bodyfat, and I want to slim down for new year – just found out the party I’m going to is gonna have a hottub 🙂

    I know (from past experience) that I can easily lose 1-2 pounds per week by eating around 2000 calories and working out 5-6 times a week (weights twice every 4 days and hiit once every 4 days) while preserving pretty much all of my muscle.

    Given my tight deadline, do you think I should try to accelerate my weight loss by some combination of reducing my calories further, using eat stop eat, fasted workouts and your stubborn fat loss protocol? Or is it unhealthy for me to lose more than 2 pounds a week when I’m nearish to my ideal weight, and will it make me lose muscle (I’ve worked hard to build this muscle. I don’t wanna throw it away)?



  12. I notice you and a lot of others have commented about eating “organic” foods. Please show me scientific research that proves that eating organically grown fruits and vegetables is healthier, more rich in nutrients or any of the other claims that most people make. It’s not bad for you so if you want to pay more to eat “organic” then go right ahead. But just a like a lot of the supplement misinformation garbage that floats around on the Net, the same goes for the whole organic foods market.

  13. yep.i’m a recovering vegetarian myself.i lost like 35 pounds while not eating meat.but i had that skinny fat look.then i went back to the whole gym rat lifting 425 stage.looked bloated and my joints hurt.now i’m back on meat,which to be honest i love:).theres nothing more natural l l then a great steak on the grill.i do try to eat paleo when i can.to be honest organic meat is to expensive for me right now.so i go with natural which i know is not nearly as good for you,but its a heck of alot better then tofu.i learned that while being a vegie eating all the soy made my testosterone drop way low.

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