What Metallica can teach us about performance nutrition

What Metallica can teach us about performance nutrition

Whether you love Metallica or would rather stick your head in a blender than listen to them, they are a font of performance nutrition inspiration. Seriously...

Despite packing booze, coke and heroin addictions into their rock and roll histories they totally nailed the core of awesome nutrition in their post-rehab 2003 track Frantic, with the chorus:

"My lifestyle determines my deathstyle"

That right there ladies and gentlemen is a nugget of stone cold gold nutritional wisdom from some of rock’s hardest living, fastest playing wild men.

Because sure as night follows day, the quality of your lifestyle, and particularly what - and when - you eat, fuel and build your body with, is absolutely going to determine how well you live, perform and ultimately, how well you die.

Junk food - surprisingly honest

We all know junk foods, processed foods and other nutritionally bankrupt crap are a fast track to a shorter life so we’re not here to bang on about that.

At least junk food’s honest. 

Enjoy that occasional burger, Mars bar or whatever, because no one other than the most clueless fool ever scoffed a McTripleDoubleWhopper thinking, ‘this is the font of pure human performance’.

When it comes to junk food, the clue’s in the name.

Ordinary sports nutrition - rather less so

But sports nutrition sells a much higher standard, to a far more discerning and educated audience. It sells health, vitality, power, performance, grace and beauty.

Yet most ordinary sports nutrition is made with the same sweeteners, additives and cheap-assed ingredient used in the same junk foods at the heart of many major health epidemics in the developed world. Every problem junk food causes is - in a painfully ironic twist - also being helped along by almost every ordinary sports nutrition product.

Whoops.

Metallica, nutritional experts

Just as a boy racer’s ageing Vauxhall Corsa is not magically turned into an F1 car with the addition of a knock-off McLaren sticker and low profile tyres that reduce the ride quality to something akin to a busted shopping trolley, so junk ingredients are not magically transformed into nutritional gold just because someone wrote 'sports nutrition' on the packet.

A word from legendary coach Phil Maffetone

As endurance coach and researcher Dr Phil Maffetone, a man Inside Triathlon ranked as one of the top 20 most influential people in endurance sports puts it:

"Junk food kills, unless you are profiting from it. Simply not eating junk food is a logical alternative to the unaffordable state of poor health, but ongoing multimillion dollar marketing campaigns by junk food companies directed at adults and children on all socioeconomic levels keep our society on the road to ill health. This is not unlike Big Tobacco’s campaigns of the 1950s and 60s, when even doctors were paid to promote the so-called benefits of smoking."

Hence there is a raft of expert opinion backing up ordinary sports nutrition as we know it, just as there was once a raft of expert opinion backing up smoking, and we all know how that one turned out.

But there is also a growing raft of expert opinion now backing the opposite of everything the major sports nutrition companies are hiding their junk foods behind.

Technically, this means debate. And debates are confusing. You have to read the evidence, weigh both sides, and make a decision.

Gah. As if life wasn’t complicated enough.

There’s the lawn to mow, your mum’s coming to visit and your turbo trainer’s in the spare room, you have 103 apps to update on your phone, and that old achilles niggle is playing up again. Oh, and you have to go to work, get the kids to judo, life goes on.

Unpick the ongoing debate on sports nutrition? You've got more chance of flying to the moon.

Remember Metallica.

My lifestyle determines my deathstyle

Ordinary sports nutrition and the tobacco playbook

Because this tactic of creating debate is one the tobacco industry worked out decades ago and their playbook has since become the standard for any beleaguered industry fighting to maintain its dominant position in the face of a rising tide of evidence exposing its case as shakier than Bernie Madoff's accounts.

Hence the aim of established sports nutrition companies is not to prove they are right beyond any doubt, but to create that doubt in the first place. As the tobacco industry so neatly put it all those years ago, 'doubt is our product'.

After all, doubt now means you need to make a decision you do not have time to make. And that’s the play right there, because no decision means indecision, and indecision means no change.

My lifestyle determines my deathstyle

So athletes everywhere keep gunning down processed and powdered glop masquerading as a performance aid, while marketing budgets stay fat to keep churning out the science behind it. Nothing changes.

Except for the athletes themselves.

Who fail to see the proclaimed benefits of so many of these products, and suffer every short term performance loss in the book from outright bonking and stomach trouble, to reduced immune function, decreased energy and increased injury risk.

They then find these short term side effects multiply with time, just like compound interest (although without the fun benefits of making money while you sleep) and develop into more serious longterm health issues. Bugger.

Cut through the confusion, no hassle required

If you want maximum power and maximum performance for the maximum lifespan, there is no debate.

Because if 50% of the evidence says something might be bad for you, like really, unpleasantly, peeing-in-a-bag-and-popping-prescription-drugs-like-candy bad for you, that’s actually quite enough.

  • 50% chance giant killer pandas are going attack you on your next run? Boom, debate gone. Change the route.
  • 50% chance your car will explode on the way to the shops? Goodbye debate. The bus is looking good.
  • 50% chance that new house you want to buy will fall into a giant sinkhole and be devoured by aliens next week? No debate, time to switch up neighbourhoods.

Your lifestyle determines your deathstyle

It also determines the quality of your life today, and is the biggest single factor in reaching your true sporting potential, or remaining mired somewhere around ‘okay’ on your way to ‘not great’ before being forced into an early retirement from performance sport you never chose.

The basics for max performance in sport right now and life for the short and longterm are easy. 

Sticking with the musical theme of today’s post we’re going to let the Clash play this one out with their final album. The album itself was far from their finest hour, but the title was a peach:

Cut the crap.

It really is as simple as that.

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