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.

    I have a question about compound exercises. You said muscle definition is about the mind-muscle link. If you’re doing compound exercises like bicep curls with the olympic bar, clean and jerks, what muscle do i focus on?

  2. Slim Jim,

    My workout is similar. I believe this type of weight training will one day be as popular as HIIT is becoming for cardio. This type of training will increase human growth hormone more so than others. Its also more time efficient. I don’t really do circuits. Instead I do many exercises with one set each. I am always moving. I will hit all of my major muscles at least twice. I like this better than circuits because I don’t have to worry about people taking my equipment. Instead I always have alternative options. Ultimately my muscles are being worked out like circuits because I will alternate from one muscle group to another.

  3. Put me in the hybrid group, too. I shop for organic fruits and veggies, was thrilled to find a butcher who carries grass-fed beef and pasture raised poultry. Yet I have 2 protein drinks, vitamins, and additional supplements every day.

    When I hold to this regimen I am not sick. When things get thrown off -when I’m travelling for instance- I always come home sick.

    This mix also makes me clear headed, energetic and looking years younger than my true age.

  4. Just wanted to pop in and say thanks for your website, Rusty. There are a lot of websites out there promoting various plans that promise to help you lose weight and gain muscle, etc., but yours cuts through a lot of the bullshit, provides both scientific explanations (and data) and anecdotes, is willing to consider methods that other websites disparage without adequate testing, and–perhaps most importantly–presents ideas that actually work. I’ve lost about 25 pounds in two months and am pretty close to my ideal weight mostly thanks to the information on this site (and the Internet’s calorie calculators). So once again, thanks a ton, and hopefully your website will gain the recognition that it deserves.

  5. Hi Rusty, i have got an urelated question, but might be of interest to many readers. I have been combining strenght training with circuits, by doing my lifting in this manner: very heavy bench press 6 reps, then immediately very heavy inverted rows, 6 reps, then very heavy squats, very heavy military press, and a little rest, then do the sequence again, making sure to maintain good form and not to lift to failure. I noticed that i feel very worked out and good after this, breathing heavily and sweating for up to an hour. Is there anything i need to note with this type of workout? thanks for all yur help

  6. I believe that there are extremes in both directions. Myself and my staff at Studio Element try to push our clientele to obtain their nutrition through whole food choices, limit preservatives, and avoid supplements unless absolutely necessary.

  7. Rusty,
    you mentioned you got sick while eating “hippie” style. what kinda sick did you get. i seemed to get sick while taking soy protein powder shakes. i usually get the flu every 5 years and i got it 2 years in a row and had a lot of fatigue during that time. i too have trimmed down my supplements because it is better and cheaper to eat whole foods.

  8. Denmark-
    Some people cant eat or dont like fish. I like fish, but I find that I cant eat alot of any proteins, I just stop eating after a few bites. I think I may have been born with vegetarian tendencies! But also, some people may be afraid of the possible mercury and other toxins that may be in the fishes. Calorie wise, some people cant afford to eat all the calories theyd like, so having a supplement to get what they need is easier. And last is cost. Fish costs alot if you eat the good stuff!

  9. Rusty we don’t use the term jock where I’m from but I see what you’re talking about. I wanted to ask you about the picture if that guy up there. This guy is ripped and muscular so he had little body fat on him, but his pecks still look like they droop down a bit. It seems that his lower chest is bigger than his upper and even though he has a developed chest I wouldn’t like my pecks to droop down that way. It sort or give off a man boob look even though body fat seems to be low. What could be the reason for this? Too many decline presses?

    I would love to hear what you other guys have to say as well?

  10. Rusty,

    I believe that supplements are just that. They were developed originally to provide the vitamins and minerals that were missing from the diet depending on where you live and provide the nutrients that are missing from processed foods.

    For example, a carrot grown in Florida does not contain the same nutrients as a carrot grown in California and vice versa.

    Supplements and raw foods are not so much a school of thought as they they are complementary to one another.

    A clear example of this was the addition of iodine to table salt in 1924 to compensate for the lack of iodine in the soil discovered when the nation had a goiter epidemic.

    Just as all supplements are not absorbed by the digestive system, the nutrients locked in the fiber of fruits and vegetables are not all absorbed by the digestive system as well.

    So this means that given the genetic variation of each individual, supplementation of nutritional components and the quality of its source is invaluable in maintaining optimal health.

    As you are probably aware, I have written about this at length. Another clear example is we are facing a bone density crisis in this country. The source of calcium is important for supplementation. Most calcium supplements come from limestone, even that which is added to orange juice and milk. Yet the best source of calcium comes from coral or algae, which is recognized by the body as food and sold as a supplement.

    Now the problem is these quality source are in off the shores of parts of South American and Japan. People who live there don’t need this supplementation because it is part of their soils eco system, but most of America must get it in supplementation because of the way we process our food supply.

    So to answer your question Hippe v. Jock?

    Neither group is healthier then the other because their mindset if it comes from a school of thought limits their choices to feed the need of their body based on genetic variation and the locale from which they obtain sustenance.

  11. This is the first time I’m EVER going to comment without reading the post — JOCKS!!!

    ahh… alright time to read what I responded to. Gota keep things interesting right?

  12. Yes Denmark – there is evidence that fish oils may not really be all that good for you – read the works of Brian Peskin (search on the i-net) – he has done tons of research into the parent essential oils (PEO’s). Some of you (us) may consider getting rid of fish oils altogether.

  13. When I started out I bought into all the “Muscle&Fitness” hype – prolly tried every single new latest/greatest supplement – you name it (anyone remember Dibencozide?) And those horrible Weider protein powders that were basically cake mix in a can – you know 9000 calories/serving – lol! Ah yes, where are they now? However, I also shopped at health food stores and had “awareness” about eating healthy, etc – but the biggest mistake I made was to buy into the “eat, eat and eat some more if you want to get big” which was prevalent in every single “bodybuilding” article of the day – yep, I got big alright – all the way to 240# – sure I was big and got lots of attention/remarks but I was slow and physically lethargic and followed the advice of the “experts” to never expend any energy unless it was lifting heavy heavy weights at every workout – I kept this up for years and years, – even when job/life demands cut into my training frequency – as a consequence I have suffered many health issues which I attribute to overtraining and over-eating – I never really had a clue. These days I do IF and train much differently – more “coaxing” than “forcing” – cycling intensity, adding HIIT to my regimen etc. Lost 9 inches off my waist by buckling down and finally eating “right” – Its a whole new “training world” out there from when I started in the late 70’s and all so much for the better! I have gone long periods w/o any supplements at all and felt as good (or better) when on them – I have a theory that they can create imbalances that the body then has to expend energy to overcome – but I am no scientist. I also now know that force feeding the body is prolly the absolute worst thing one can do for long term health – will lead to diabetes and possibly other health issues and yet I still see this “advice” being given by so many of the training “experts”, i.e. eat 6 meals/day – it ought to be a crime to dispense this type of advice. Thank goodness we have people like Rusty and Brad to finally put to rest so many of the bogus “training truths” that have led so many of us astray from the original intent of developing a nice muscular, yet “healthy” body.

  14. Gday Rusty
    I have just found your sight and thanks for the insight, something I have always knows but beeen to stuborn to realise ( realize for all you yanks) anyway hooha for all the you got so rights because you did variety is the spice of life and the methodoligy you are using ( nice word that methodoligy spelt right or wrong) stricks a good chord in this fat old bastard. You have put new wind beneath these winds thankyou. To all you youngens or fit oldens remember theres still truth and bite in some of the old ways

  15. I started off my journey similarly, with morning fruit smoothie/protein shakes. I’ve also moderated to mainly “real food.” I feel much better about it and its definitely more sustainable over the remainder of my life.

  16. Hey Rusty,

    Was I lot like you many moons ago. Over that time grew wiser, started reading Mark Sisson of “Mark’s Daily Apple” and here with your awesome straight from the hip truth Rusty.

    During that journey became a yoga instructer, martial arts teacher,
    but the most enjoyable, learning to live simply while finding the right balance between being a hippie bodybuilder or is that a bodybuilder hippie. Anyway, feel balance is the key. Just like enjoy BOVA.

    So here’s to enjoying finding that balance, while Living it too!

    Been doing just that recently with some awesome bodyweight exercises that challenge your flexibility, strength, and how you look at exercise at http://www.bodyweightcoach.com/

    Always feel Live, Explore, and Grow from it is part of the fun of living Natural and Healthy!!!

    Keep Going ~ Keep Growing


  17. I am more of an indoor person and prefer the gym BUT I got for rappling, hiking trips occasionally. And just tomorrow I will be gone hiking and probably try to scale a peak nearby. I workout 5 days a week in the gym and I eat normal. I am pretty lean and I have been at 7% bfl for quite a while now and it feels great. You have been my inspiration to reach this level from 15% a few months back and I am totally reaping the fruits of the hard work which I had put in a while back. And to say more, some of my friends, seeing me so lean and stuff has taken up gymming and I actually assist, or would say pass on the info which I get from you, to them and they are doing great, I must say. And regarding the whole food vs supplements part, I have a protein shake for lunch and nothing else and I eat really normal stuff for dinner and so to say I just have one good meal at night. I fast 3 days a week and I enjoy junk every alternate day and I am still doing great. Apart from the protein shake, I have a multivitamin, spirulina and cod liver capsules. I have abs now and I am proud to say I eat everything, of course in moderate quantities and still maintain them.

    The simple concept of ‘a calorie is a calorie no matter what form it is’ is a wonder in fat loss and maintenance science.

  18. A quick follow up –

    One thing I never understood, lots of people I know take omega-3 / fish oil pills…

    Why not just make sure you eat fish a couple times a week???

  19. All natural foods is the only right way…
    With all respect, (I know I’m young and still new compared to lots of you guys), but I have never taken a protien shake and probably never will… (even though I could probably use it:)

    Fitness and health come hand in hand… It may take a bit longer to reach your goal, but at least it is being done the real and natural way!

    I can honestly say, I used to take vitamins, but since my diet has become so clean and natural, I see no need…
    If you eat the right foods, that your body needs, you will also be getting the right and correct amount of vitamins, protien and so on…

    Anyone agree or am I nuts???

    Awsome article Rusty, I really appreciate you bringing up this topic!

  20. The only “weight lifting” supplement that I consume is whey protein(Specifically a shake filled with frozen wild blueberries, hemp milk, and whey protein). I do take fish oil, cod liver oil, GPC, Alive multi-vitamin, lutein, calcium & magnesium, ginko bilboa, and a couple of B vitamins. I eat organic fruits, beans and vegetables. I consume non organic meats twice a week. All dairy is organic. While some of the supplements might prove to be a waist of time the clean eating is definitely important to feeling good. I am a health food junkie. But I keep it interesting by using Indian, Morroccan, South American, and Turkish cook books. I am trying to limit grains and high glycemic food during the day to sustain a balanced blood sugar level. Hippie Fitness?

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