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. Hey Rusty, Loved the pic and its caption…But what I really want to know is when are you going to walk the walk ie: grow some carpet cleaning brush sort of shrubbery on ur chin to reflect your new enlightened status?? 🙂 ……..

  2. My activity level has always been high, but I didnt start to lose any fat until I got my diet right. For me, I go organic, if I have the money, or go for things that are not processed, or minimally processed. Whenever I go to a fast food joint anymore, I usually get sick for at least the rest of the day, I get really moody and sleepy from all the unnatural ingredients, so I dont go anymore, I havent been to one since the summmer. I see the benefits of real foods.
    I go sprint intervals outside on a track or on my mountain I live on, but everything else is in a gym environment, but I am doing more body weight exercises, which a short time ago, I didnt think should be considered “exercise”(thanks Turbulence training) I think everyone has gone through the stage of believing everything the GNC guy says, and spending soooo much money on all that stuff. As I grow older,(early 30’s now) I come to realize that my body aches a bit more and harder workouts can keep me down for some time, so just eating right helps and those other supplements from the hippies work well too, (fish oil, flaxseed, multi, vit c, d, a, kelp, bee pollen, and the such) But I also like to take N.O. and L glutamine, and protein shakes every so often.
    I think the older I get tho, I question things more and challenge what conventional wisdom says, and why they believe certain things? Thats when I found out about all the hippie supplements and alternative things that work just as well if not better. The funny thing is, is that when I come to valid answers, and apply them, and they work, I tell people about it, and they look at me like I’m a freak (like lets say fasting for a day). Its like the movie Matrix, the blue pill vs. red pill. I think most people want to not think about it and stay in their happy little world, believing what they are told.

  3. Rusty,
    great minds think alike! Over the last two years I too have been mixing traditional supplements (whey, multi V’s etc.) and typical Whole Foods fair-sprouted grain bread, greek yogurt, raw honey, almond butter etc. Is it me or is the current science RE nutrition far more complicated than exercise? Great post on a controversial subject.


  4. Solid post Rusty…
    I’ve cut down on my protein shakes in the name of whole foods but you raise some very valid points. I’ll be eagerly following the comments on this one since I’m on both sides of the fence depending on situation and time of day… if that makes sense;)


  5. i’m a big proponent of sports performance. i’ve never actually tried protein shakes and i’m mainly eating whole natural foods with some biscuits and refined grains. if i were to switch to brown rice and protein shakes instead of biscuits, what would it do with respect to my performance in sports and training? Rusty, please write a bit about athlete-style diets!

  6. I forgot to ask Rusty – how do you mix the cod liver oil and molasses together and what amount do you take?


  7. Great post Rusty. I love both yours and Mark Sisson’s sites. I find however, as a vegetarian (not for health reasons, but just the way I was brought up), that it is extremely difficult to follow all of Mark’s principles. The most important thing is to get your information from many different sources and pick and choose what works for you. Overall however, whole natural foods with lots of veggies is definately the way to go. Its a life-long learning experience and when people find themselves frustrated with the conflicting sources, think like a student and appreciate the fact that the frustration will result in you finding what you actually need to know.

  8. Like most I think moderation is way to go. I have read several reports from Britain and Canada recently that debunk the myth of organic food as being anything special so regular whole foods are the way to go without draining your wallet. I do like a protein shake every other day or so as well.


  9. I used to be on the extreme fitness side of this. I took all the new and cool supplements, and ate the way flex or muscle and fitness prescribed, worked out in the gym like crazy and did tons of slow cardio. My muscles got pretty big, but I got fat too (didn’t ever focus on quality food). Now I eat paleo style for the most part and aim for over all health and fitness, rather than being buff. The only supplements I take are vitamins, but I probably don’t need them that much because I eat mostly fruit and vegetables and lean meat. I work out about half as much at the gym and do a few quick workouts at home (body weight circuits or sprints). I feel way better now, have lost 30 pounds, and look a whole lot better too. A lot of my success is owed to you Rusty for your blog and the others you have turned me on to like Ballantyne, Pilon, Steer, Bova, etc.

  10. I am 69 and since I started drinking whey isolate protein shakes (with phytos and enzymes) and a few pills and swinging that kettlebell 100 times a day I feel great. Usual health readings very good to great. Don’t care about beach body slimness – I like eating bread, olive oil, other healthy fatteners plus some bad ones. But my waist is shrinking anyway. Next: recumbent bike for lower body 3-4 times a week. Can’t rely on walking. Don’t get sick. Pay $3300 a year for Medicare (yes, it’s hardly free) but don’t use it.

  11. Interesting observation – I never thought about it this way before! I am definitely a mix of both. I started out being a loyal GNC customer too a long time ago LOL. Nowadays, I eat mostly organic whole foods, and I also love my daily protein shake. I take a bunch of supplements as well, vitamins , esp. C and D, minerals, esp. magnesium, antioxidants, like green tea extract or grape seed extract, as well as fish oil and chlorella powder (great to absorb and eliminate heavy metals). I prefer gym workouts – I like outdoors more for walking and relaxing. Works for me – I’m always healthy 🙂

  12. Hi Rusty,
    NYC is not always the perfect place to just go out and do something when the feeling strikes, so I have an indoor bike and outdoor bike. I have a treadmill as well. So I get to do walking and biking as part of my exercise routine, and for fun outdoors, when I have the time and the weather is good.

    I have within a short car ride, a REALLY nice walking or biking trail, called the Greenways. These are paved trails that go on for miles and miles weaving in and out of publc parks and onto city streets and goes all throughout the city. NYC maintain these for the avid or leisure walker or biker. You get the trees and nature within the urban setting. Really cool concept! The Greenways is my favorite and if I had the time, I can walk it for hours, just to enjoy the semi quiet and calm.

    I also have my home gym time, which I just got back into. I had gone back to my gym, but really found that it wasnt for me. So i think I have a good balance or at least choices of activities.

    As for supplements, I never got big into the GNC stuff, but do have whey protein powder, mostly bc I just cant seem to eat enough protein in a day. I also take a good vitamin/mineral pill, Omega 3, and calcium daily.

    One of my biggest goals is to live to a healthy and happy 100 years! Oh and besides all the physical work we do, I also like to get as stress free as possible. Not like doing yoga, necessarily, but more of freeing the mind of stress. That means of course, taking care of business and tying up loose ends, so they dont become a source of stress. I think that stress is a bigger killer than someone eating unhealthily or not exercising.

    This is what I am living by for now!

  13. Rusty

    Great post. You’re so right. You need to strike the right balance between athlete and health advocate. And to be able to sort out which part of which groups philosophies and ideas work for you.

    But . . . I’ll be keeping an eye on you.

    If you start growing dreadlocks and eating soy-lentil burgers I’m sending over a Spartan Special Ops Squad to kidnap and start hippie de-brainwashing!


  14. It’s great that you posted this, people need to see the difference here.. your articles are amazing thank you

  15. I’ve moved to eating mostly all natural foods and I love Mark Sisson’s site as well. I think everyone (myself included) has been fed a freakin load about what “good” nutrition is supposed to be. Especially in regards to nutrition for health/fitness. To me it makes so much more sense to follow a natural diet with tons of fruits, vegetables, and meat. I’ve eaten more vegetables in the past 2 months than I have my entire life. I feel better than ever, by body fat is continuing to drop, and I have more energy.

    What I’m saying is that I’m from the “fitness” background, but I’ve learned that I can partake in a whole, natural diet and still get the same (if not better) results.

    Oh, and a BIG thanks to you Rusty for this great blog. I look forward to every update.


  16. I’ve taken a multi-vitamin, high-dose EPA fish oil, Vitamin D3 and some Vitamin C for years now. They’re all really cheap supplements, so even if they’re not well-absorbed, I figure they just “top me off.” When my wife got Swine Flu, I upped my Vitamin D3 and C dose considerably, and despite being around her for at least 15 hours per day, I didn’t get sick. Maybe it’s luck. You’ll have a hard time convincing me otherwise. I haven’t gotten sick in a long time. Every time I feel like I may be getting sick, I up the Vitamin D3 dose by quite a bit and no sickness ever manifests.

    I’ve begun to move away from a reliance on protein powder, but I still use some every day. I find that a protein shake with some dextrose mixed in makes a good pre-workout energy drink for soccer games.

    As for mixing gym training with outdoors, I play outdoor soccer (rain or shine, snow or unbearable heat) 4 times per week in addition to actual gym workout. Between going to the gym and playing soccer so much, I don’t find that I have time for things like kayaking or mountain climbing (both of which are difficult to do in Kansas). But I find the outdoor soccer much more effective and enjoyable forms of cardio than just running, whether it’s on a trail or a treadmill.

  17. I totally agree that a mix of the two mindsets are best. It really comes down to moving and eating the way we are meant to– using our bodies in ways that keep them challenged yet with adequate rest and recovery and then nourishing them with the right foods that create optimum health.

    Finding the right types of movement and foods that work for the individual both physically and mentally, what works and is at the same time enjoyable, is the key for success.

  18. I think moderation is key. Workout with weights, hike outside, eat healthy food and take vitamins but don’t go so crazy that it becomes an obsession, and enjoy life. Do that, and the really important things are that much easier to accomplish. 🙂

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