On Drugs and Supplements

I almost died.

I was in the bathroom of the football field house as a freshman in college. The offensive coordinator, a 6’5 290+ former offensive lineman, occupied one of the toilets in the cramped bathroom. The man lived on cheap coffee and cigarettes. And greasy food. And ash trays, garbage, and misery. I knew he lived on these things because I could distinguish all of them in the pungent, putrid odor from the horrible deuce he was dropping when I walked in to take a piss. I barely escaped without vomiting, much less my life.

Now that I think about that day ten years ago, I realize how horribly unhealthy that coach was. It makes me think about people who poison their bodies in the hopes of comforting themselves, feeling better, or even performing better. Let’s get a handle on what we’re doing to our bodies before we turn into a biohazard spill in a public bathroom.

Let’s break a healthy life down into practical components. There’s physical health, or the physiologic function of the body. There’s mental health, which more so concerns things like self-esteem, productivity, and education. Lastly, there’s emotional health which can encompass social health, spiritual stuff, and stress. I’m generalizing, but these are basic aspects of health. This website usually tries to maximize these areas in order to increase performance. For example, managing life stress effects sleep quality which plays a major role in training recovery. Time management will determine how much time we get to spend training in a week. These various aspects of health not only constantly interact with one another, but they are affected by things we consume.

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I really like how The Zone Diet’s Barry Sears put an emphasis on saying, “Food is a drug,” in his original book. He was explaining the hormonal response of food choices and its effect on health. But we need to remember that everything else you consume is a drug too, and drugs have intended results as well as secondary unintended results called side effects. Learning what substances do to our body is important for health. let’s look at what other substances we consume.

Other than food, there are:
Supplements – Things we consume in order to augment health or performance
Performance enhancement drugs – Things that have a more overt role in increasing performance and are usually illegal in the U.S.
Illegal Drugs – Things like marijuana or hard drugs that have a desired effect (and are usually illegal).
Vice Drugs – Legal things like caffeine, alcohol, cigarettes, dipping tobacco that we indulge in for their effect. Some are worse than others.
Prescription Drugs – Things that are prescribed by a doctor to improve physical, mental, or emotional health, but always have undesirable side effects.

I don’t intend to insult your intelligence by naming these things, but it’s a growing list of things we put in our bodies that are going to dictate an aspect of health. For example, some of the above items are abused and have a significant negative impact on people’s lives, ranging from simple behavioral issues to suicide.

I’m not trying to jump into “worst case scenario scare tactics” to convince you to be healthy, but there’s a broad range of responses from drugs. There are different ways to improve physical, mental, and emotional health, but misusing or abusing any of the above substances will likely have a negative effect.

Let’s bring the Serious Factor down a little bit with a real world example. The Law Dragon was drinking lots of coffee and progressed up to 8 to 10 cups of cheap coffee a day. His energy level would fluctuate so he’d drink more coffee or give into sugar cravings. He would only sleep 4-6 hours a night and feel groggy upon waking. He’d start shutting down around 3pm, and when he left work at 6 to 8pm, he’d feel and look terrible; dark circles under the eyes, dehydrated despite drinking water, and his skin was pale and literally painful. His bowel movements were loose. Not to mention an overall trouble concentrating that led to more coffee…

A few weeks ago he decided to do the “grassfed butter in a higher quality coffee” once a day. The results were drastic. Energy levels stay up, no sweet cravings, getting 7-8 hours of quality sleep, refreshed in the morning, not shutting down, and skin and complexion have significantly improved. Bowels are normal, but overall there’s heightened concentration and temperament throughout the day.

Some of his results are directly from reducing the bad caffeine while others are probably results of results, but the fact is he got sucked into a common downward spiral with a beverage most of us drink every day.

And this brings me to my philosophy on drugs of all kind: start with none. Allow me to elaborate.

How many of you played sports? What did you always do in the first 15 minutes of each practice? Without fail, you probably worked on a fundamental aspect of your sport. It’s because you can never work on the fundamentals too much; they are the foundation upon which everything is built. Forgetting the fundamentals often leads to break down and defeat.

Focusing on the fundamentals leads to total health.

Focusing on the fundamentals leads to total health.

Physical health is predicated on the fundamentals: good food quality, hydration, and sleep. Until these basic health skills are covered, it isn’t even worth looking at adding anything else. That goes for building a supplement stack or just energy boosters like coffee.

Things like good communication, positive thinking, and a high self esteem may be fundamentals for mental and emotional health, but some times we consume food or drugs to make us feel a certain way. Substances and drugs should never be consumed to change our mood or behavior; they should only be consumed to augment them. In other words, you shouldn’t smoke weed to relax, drink alcohol to feel better, or take a prescription amphetamine to focus. If you indulge in these substances — and I don’t really care if you do — it should be for an effect on your already positive health while still being aware of the side effects. Responsible, healthy adults are capable of indulging in things like marijuana or alcohol without a negative impact, but I’m suggesting they should only indulge when their physical, mental, and emotional health is sound.

Personally I’ve never used any substances other than caffeine and alcohol — no illegal or performance enhancement drugs — but I’ve seen the negative consequences of all of the drugs I listed above. By ensuring your health fundamentals are sound, you can avoid all of the worst case scenarios as well as the side effects that otherwise negate physical, mental, or emotional health. If you can smoke weed without being a lazy piece of shit, or do steroids without throwing off your hormone profile, then that’s your prerogative. But if your health fundamentals are sound, you won’t really need those things.

Partake in the various drugs because you want to augment how you feel or function, not because you need to. You don’t need to supplement testosterone to build muscle or lose body fat. You don’t need amphetamines to study for your exam. What you need is to focus on the fundamentals. I’m not asking you to do a silly douche juice cleanse, but stop and look at what you’re putting into your body every day. Moderate that shit, eat more protein, clean your carbs up, drink more water, go to bed earlier, and do a relaxation drill five minutes each day. That’s all the cleansing you’ll need because the fundamentals trump drugs every time.

10 thoughts on “On Drugs and Supplements

  1. That gif… Wtf…?

    Good article as usual. Laying some truth on thick today. I’m inspired to start bringing my own (far less shitty coffee) to work from now on.

  2. Fuckin’ A, right!
    Almost 60, just rode my ass off at Balinger Canyon OHV and I’ll get a good nights sleep and see what I’ve got in the morning.

    95% of diet is clean – early enough to bed that Mother Nature makes the call in the morning instead of the alarm. I know where I am emotionally, and use most of the vice-drugs and a pre-work-out supplement that I’m supposed to be too old for – – – but I do it all in moderation, and always keep an objective over-view.

    Great post, Justin !

    Lotta’ folks are so fucked up that they don’t have an idea of what square 1 is supposed to feel like. Get back to natural and feeling good and THEN start the fuck-around.

    T

  3. This summer, I suffered a shoulder injury and soon after, a low back injury. Ever since, I’ve been on a downward fuck spiral of eating shit and watching too much tv. This post is serving me as an intervention to get back to the basics of a year ago when I was 13 lbs lighter and squatting over 500lbs. I’ll be rereading paleo for lifters and getting back on the grind!

    Many thanks from the couch

    Saul

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