Did you know that many marathon runners actually gain weight??
Celeb trainer and bestselling author Vinnie Tortorich, will give us a behind-the-scenes look at what really goes on in Hollywood.
Vinnie is a celebrity trainer, podcaster, speaker, cancer survivor, and author of Fitness Confidential. His “no sugar, no grains” program has rocked the internet and beyond. Vinnie and Anna Vocino, his co-host and fellow comedian, invited me on their podcast to spill the beans about ayahuasca and plant medicine (don’t miss that one).
Vinnie is a OG trainer and coach for+ 30 years, training Hollywood comedians and celebrities like Howie Mandel, playmates, captains of industry, ultra-athletes, Ironman triathletes, and even pregnant moms.
On the show, you’ll learn:
- Why Vinnie doesn’t want to be like “The Artist Formerly Known As Prince”
- How to sell your books and make a movie
- What to eat on the road (even when you forget your cooler)
- The difference between “bro-science” and real science
- And the truth behind the Twinkie defense…
Vinnie Tortorich: The Grandpa of the Health Industry
Abel: I’ve got to say, Vinnie, over the years, I have met so many hundreds, probably thousands of great people in the world in general—not just the health industry—and you are one of the highlights. Just the few times that we’ve gotten dinner with you and hung out. And I’m not kissing butt, I mean it because you’re real, and we’re going to go deep on this show here today.
But anyway, I want to ask you, why are you not as big as Jillian Michaels?
It’s funny, I get that question sometimes. People will say, “Well, you should be on television like Jillian Michaels.” That’s an interesting question, because I know you spent some time on a network show. Are you still on it? Where is that show now? Are you guys still doing it?
Abel: No, I’m not doing another run of that show.
Okay. That could probably answer your question for you.
Abel: That could be another book, too, yeah.
Yeah. Way back in the day… And it’s funny, I just said this on stage the other night.
People say, “Well, why don’t you do television like Jillian Michaels, or like some of these other people?”
And I say, “Well, because I’m not willing to lie.”
And they’re like, “What do you mean?”
And back in the day—and Abel, you’re too young to remember this, and thank you for saying I’ve been in this industry for 30 years, but it’s closer to 37 years. It’s been a long time.
Abel: Like I said, you’re my oldest friend.
Yeah. I’m like the grandfather of this industry. And back in the ’90s, there was no internet, there was no what we do here, there was none of this, and in order to get a gig, you would have to come up with a product, and then one of the infomercial companies would then sign you to a lifetime contract, and I’m not just saying “lifetime” to be cute. They would literally try to hook you into a lifetime…
And I would come up with these great products. Sometimes they were videotapes, back when you would put a cassette into a recorder, or there were products that actually worked. And I still have some of those gadgets hanging around my office today. I may put them out on vinnietortorich.com at some point.
And they would do a thing where they would say, “Okay, we have you now under contract.”
They would hand me a contract. Let’s say I brought one of my gadgets to them. Then they would say, “Okay, sign this contract,” and I would go, “Okay, let me take it home overnight.”
And I had an attorney, as I always do. I would pay that guy gobs of money, and a couple of days later, he would get back to me and he would say, “Under no circumstances can I allow you to sign this contract.”
And I would say, “Why?”
And he would tell me, he would say, “Well, they would own you for life.”
And I would say, “Well, what does that mean?” He would say, “Well, not only can they say whatever they want about your product”—and by the way, when you’re a young guy in this town (I was in my late twenties), I would go, “But I can really use a couple of million dollars. Hell, I could use any amount of money, but man, they’re telling me I can make a couple of million dollars, and now you are putting a wet towel on this whole idea for me. How could you?”
And he would go, “Well, I’ll try to come back to them with something that’s livable for you.”
And he would explain to me, “Look, they’re going to say that your product can help someone lose 20 pounds in 20 minutes. Are you okay with lying?”
And I was like, “No, not really. Maybe I can squint and get them to…”
He goes, “No, no. When they decide what you’re going to say, that’s what you’re going to say. You don’t get a choice. Even though you’re the image on the screen and all your friends back home are going to see this, they don’t care.
All they care about is you saying what they tell you to say, and once you sign that contract, you’re under contract. That’s it.”
Abel: You’re a puppet now.
You’re a puppet. But there was one step worse.
He would say, “They would also own your name in perpetuity.”
And I would go, “Well, what does that exactly mean? It sounds harsh.”
He would say, “Okay, 20 years from now, if you come up with another product, you can’t use ‘Vinnie Tortorich.’”
And I went, “That’s ridiculous. That’s my name.”
He goes, “No, no, no, no, no, no. They would own it. Guthy-Renker…” I’ll just name one of the companies. Guthy-Renker would own your name. You can’t use it.
Abel: The Artist Formerly Known As Prince. That’s the whole reason that happened, yeah.
That’s how that ends up happening. Yeah, that’s why Prince had to give up his name. The band Boston lost a whole career over stuff like that.
I’ll tell you a story, Abel. I didn’t mean to hijack your podcast with this, but I’ll tell you the story.
Abel: We don’t get to talk about this much, and I’m not willing to say too much publicly at this point, but I definitely have a few rants stored up, too. You are the master of rants. Let’s go, man.
I’m old and ugly and I don’t care about the industry, so I can say whatever the hell I want. You’re still young. You can still make money in this industry. And I don’t care about television. They’ve already lost me. So I can say what I want.
What happened was, I was getting ready to sign a really bad contract. I was tired of watching all these other so-called experts make a bazillion dollars overnight… people that I knew!
They were trainers at the same gyms in Beverly Hills with me, and I knew these people. They were nothing, and then the next day they would show up in a new Jaguar or something. I was like, “I’m the idiot here. I’m the idiot. I need to do this.”
And I was in a dentist’s office and I saw there was a woman named Susan Powter. The year before or two years before, she was everywhere, on every channel, every cable network. And she was like, “You’ve got to breathe, you’ve got to eat, you’ve got to move.” That was her thing, and she was this crazy evangelical woman who was yelling about how to get in shape. “Just buy my tape!” No one had sold as many products as Susan Powter, except for maybe Suzanne Somers with the ThighMaster.
But let’s get back to Susan Powter. She’s on the cover of People magazine talking about how after all the bazillions of dollars she made for the same company that was getting ready to put me under contract, she didn’t have enough money to pay her mortgage.
She made bazillions for that company, yet she didn’t own her name, she didn’t own her likeness, she didn’t own anything. And she was living in Texas and she was broke. That’s what the article said.
And folks, you can go back and find the back issues of People magazine—I think that’s where I read it—and right there, my heart sunk and I went, “This is what my attorney is talking about.” Because no one was bigger than her at that moment.
Abel: That happens in the music industry all the time, too. Most artists make nothing from their CD or record sales. Even people who’ve been touring for 25, 30, 40 years. They make money off the live shows and a lot of them don’t… You might notice that you don’t see them speaking out very often or doing appearances, and in a lot of cases, that’s for a pretty dark reason.
Oh, yeah. It’s crazy what goes on.
There are a few people in this industry who own their name.
Before I mentioned Suzanne Somers—very few people get to own their name. Suzanne Somers did.
Another guy who knows nothing about fitness but he’s helped gazillions of people is Richard Simmons—he owns Richard Simmons. He made bazillions of dollars because some attorney was able to help him keep his name.
Abel: Your name, everything you ever say, your entire legacy. That’s the thing that most people who want to appear in front of a camera… especially these days. I want to say this because I feel like we’ve both been on, well, both sides of it. But, man, is it scary? Those big deals.
As a musician, I’ve been playing gigs since I was 8 years old, thousands of shows all over the world. And there’s this illusion that sold that you need to get that deal, get that break, be a star. But if you want to see how that plays out, follow Wayne’s World. It’s like, Rob Lowe shows up with his fancy car and his slick hair, and he’s got this slimy deal, and then they ruin everything.
It really is that kind of nutty, and I don’t think people realize what really goes on behind the scenes. I have been very protective of my name over the years. As a matter of fact, my book was a surprise hit.
Abel: Yeah, I remember. It still is—it’s fantastic.
It still sells a lot of books and… The book is Fitness Confidential if your audience doesn’t know what it is. And because it’s not a straight fitness book that sells a prescription, it’s just my life in the industry, Sony pictures bought it up. Sony television gave me… What do they call that? Not an advance—they bought the option. They own the option.
Abel: So you’re going to be played by Justin Timberlake now.
If there was a God, yes.
But the bottom line is, I got that first year of option money. And I kept asking Dean. I said, “Are they going to do anything with this?” And he goes, “No. They usually just shelve those things for years.” And then the second year came around and they optioned it again. And then they wanted to option it for a third year.
And he goes, “Obviously you want the option money, right?”
And I said, “No. No, I want my idea back. I want my book back.”
And I took the option, and my attorney says, “You know, no one ever does this. They just live on option money for the rest of their life.” And I said, “You know what? I’m not that money hungry. I want my book.”
In today’s world, where you have Hulu and Netflix and Amazon and everyone else, I can literally take that and go sell it somewhere else.
Why be lazy and keep collecting mailbox money from Sony once a year, when I could take it back and I have a chance of actually putting it out there?
Now, nothing’s happened yet, but you know…
Abel: And that’s the other weird part is it’s all tied up in distribution as well, whether you’re talking about books or television.
So, for example, I learned that these big networks, these big companies, even publishers, they’re intellectual property companies. They’re not what they appear to be. They have assets that they turn into products. So for example, they make a fitness star. Then that star goes on other shows under the same contract, the same deal, because now you’re a product. And then they shop you around to all of their assets that they own as intellectual property. The magazines, the late-night talk shows, the daytime talk shows, mass media.
What I didn’t realize before this is that those are products and assets owned by the very networks they’re on—that they’re shopping around and putting in front of people—if it’s going through the mainstream channels. But if it’s not, then you have people like us who are basically indie creators. Right?
Abel: And we don’t have an organized distribution system that gets us in front of people every week or every day or something like that. So we’re all left with Justin Bieber, Paris Hilton, and all this bubblegum shlop, and our culture is a mess. So how can we make that any better?
The only way we could do it is by what guys like you and me are doing. People are always saying to me, “You do the podcasts and you’re just on the internet.”
And I go, “Just on the internet? Think about that. I’m making a comfortable living just being on the internet. I’m clearly not getting billions of dollars, but I can live.”
I’ll give you an example without throwing any numbers around. Nina Teicholz, who wrote a great book, The Big Fat Surprise, one of my favorite books. She’s been on my show twice, and off the air I was talking to Nina… because her book was done by a big company, and I know your books were done by a big company.
Abel: Just one of my books.
One of them, yeah.
Abel: But I have a very good lawyer with a great moustache, and he loves it when I say that.
Right, and your book, you got a nice advance up front. We talked about it at a restaurant awhile back, and you did very well on that, and bravo. For my second book, that same company offered me exactly half of what they were offering you.
But as I was telling Nina, “Guess what? By doing my book myself and never having it at an airport or in a Barnes & Noble or anywhere else other than Amazon and on audible.com, I was able to make more money.”
You take more of a chance, but you make 70% or 80% depending on which outlet it is. And if you have a good book, you have a chance to make more money.
But you’ll never see my book in an airport. So what?
My friend Howie Mandel made the New York Times bestseller list by selling 6,000 books within a week or so. The book ended up selling more than that.
Abel: And how many have you sold at this point, just for a comparison?
Way north of 100,000 books. It’s climbing, it’s getting up there. And you know, in today’s world, it’s like, “Well, he didn’t sell a million books.” Nobody sells a million books anymore. You know what I mean?
Abel: True. But there are millions of podcast downloads.
I added up all my music downloads over the years, because I’ve been doing digital distribution and stuff like that for a long time. If you count the ABC stuff and all that promotion that came along with it, and some of the international viewership and all that, it’s north of 50 million downloads, streams, touches. 50 million! And it could keep going up exponentially for infinity at this point.
Now contrast that with a major network primetime. They’re getting what? Two million viewers a night, if they’re lucky. A podcast, having your own free speech on the internet, owning your name, saying whatever you want—that has its benefits.
I was trying to explain to my parents the number of people that listen to each podcast. And I said, “Think of it this way. Every time I put a podcast out, now think about this, Mom. You guys go to LSU to watch football games, right?” She goes, “Yes.”
“Okay. There’s 110,000 people in that audience, when you look at everyone in that audience, right?” And she will go, “Yeah.”
And I’ll say, “Okay. Multiply that by eight and think of your son standing on a 50-yard line talking to those people. That’s what happens.”
Abel: Yeah. That is way too much responsibility for you.
Yeah, and then they go, “My God, really?” And I go, “Yeah, really.” And they have trouble comprehending that.
Abel: Well, so do I.
Yeah. And look, morning drive-time radio, when you think about it. How many people are listening to that, right?
Abel: It’s hard to know.
Right, not that many. When you go on to a morning drive-time radio, you could bring more audience to them than they can bring to you.
Abel: Right. That’s the wacky part.
That’s the crazy part. And they get paid millions, some of those guys. Back in the day, they were getting millions of dollars a year, and they were rich. Now, they can’t get anyone to listen.
Abel: Let me ask you this. If people are listening to this right now, totally confused, how can we help them find someone who you can tell is speaking from their own voice—they’re not a puppet, let’s say, of the mainstream media machine. Are there telltale signs either way?
Abel, you and I were here at the beginning of when podcasting first started.
Abel: Beginning of another wave, yeah.
Yeah. Podcasting had started. It was like some kind of MP3 file floating around on the internet, and then… I’ve been around for five years, you’ve been around for how many years?
Abel: About seven now, yeah.
Yeah. We’ve all been around for around that amount of time, but it wasn’t like you and I got into a war. You found me, I found you, and, “Hey man. You got a podcast? Me too, dig it. You come on my show, I’ll go on your show.”
Abel: Right. We jam.
That’s how you know people aren’t BS-ing you, right?
We first met at a convention. We went to this convention and…
Abel: We were both nominated for those Podcast awards.
Yeah, we were nominated for some podcast award, right?
And I remember sitting there that night, going to Anna, “Oh my God, if we win over Abel James, this is going to be super embarrassing, because the guy is way better than us.” And we did not want to win. I’m not kidding about that, because I said, “They better not call…” It was weird that night, because, as you know, Adam Carolla has the biggest podcast in the world. And of course, he wasn’t at the show that night, but he’s in a category of comedy against these other people, and they’d pick the other people and not Adam Carolla.
And it’s like, “Okay. He’s got millions of downloads per day.” Per day! And this guy might have 200,000 downloads per month or something. And these nerds are picking that guy over Adam Carolla. And then you go, “Okay, okay. Now, if they pick me over Abel James, who has a much bigger show than me, they’re going to boo me walking up to that stage.”
Abel: Oh, come on.
And thank God they picked you, man, because you deserved it. And it’s just one of those things, it’s like… I know we got away from the question you asked, but that’s how you know if someone is BS-ing you or not. When you could go on other guys’ shows, and you tell people, “Go listen to his show. If you’re not listening to me, listen to him.”
That’s what it is. We’re not overtly selling stuff. Does that make sense?
How to Make It Without Faking It
Abel: That’s a good point. If you listen to the subtext of what someone is saying, if you listen to the words behind the words, you can tell if someone is just marketing to you all of the time, right?
Abel: You can tell. You might listen to them on autopilot without realizing it, but if I notice that’s happening, I’m like, “Turn that off. I’m being sold to. I can’t stand it.”
Now, you and I both know how hard it is—it’s tough to describe to people who are listening on the other end, how hard it is to make a living doing this on your own terms, when you don’t sign those deals.
I would turn down 10 times my income every year. And it’s hard to get by doing that.
You have to find creative ways to make money.
You decided to make pure multivitamin supplements that don’t have fillers and paint and all that junk in them. Some might say, “Oh, that’s Vinnie selling out.” Or when I sell something, they might say, “That’s Abel selling out.” But you have to come up with creative ways to do it…
And I think the promise—this is one of the things that we’re excited about doing—is basically building your own business that can be your sponsor so you can be an independent machine, essentially… where you don’t need to sign those deals and get rid of your free speech and all that.
And then you can create your content for free, as much as you’d like, whatever form you want it to be in. And if people watch it, then ultimately, it’ll support you in one way or another, and I think that’s hopefully going to be the future.
Because this whole advertising thing and this whole everyone being bought out and owned as a puppet has got to stop.
Yeah. Just like you, we get approached all the time. A big aggregate company approached me and offered me an incredible deal, but they would own this show. They can start telling me when I can use the F-word and not use the F-word and all that kind of stuff, and I was like, “No, no, no, no, no.”
To your point about my company, Pure Vitamin Club. Every now and then, I will hire an expert. I’ll give them a couple of thousand bucks and ask “Hey, how can I make this better?” And the first thing they’ll say is, “Well, you need to do some clickbait, you need to do some funneling, you need do all that stuff.”
I hate when I go and try to buy something, if something pops up too quickly for me or something like that—no, no, no, I’m done. I’ll go find it somewhere else, even if it’s more expensive. I don’t like that, so I won’t do that to people.
Another company came in and they said, “Man, you are leaving so much money on the table with Pure Vitamin Club.”
And I said, “Well, how?”
He says, “Well, you don’t advertise your vitamin company on your podcast very often.”
I said, “Yeah, I do an ad at the very end, and if someone’s still sticking around, they’ll hear it.”
And he goes, “No, if you said during your show…” He goes, “Can you basically squint and say that your magnesium helps people lose weight?”
I said, “That would be a lie.”
He goes, “But if you can just tell people that your magnesium could help people lose weight, then you can raise—with the number of people listening to your show, and the number of people who believe in you—you can make helicopter money,” as he called it.
And I said, “Well, but then I would be lying, so how would I sell my next product?
Abel: Or sleep at night? You need a lot of extra magnesium to sleep at night with that clogging up your karma.
I would have to be crapping my pants with magnesium just to fall asleep, and I’m not willing to lie to people.
Abel: That’s a magnesium joke, everybody.
Yeah, yeah. If you take too much magnesium folks, you will crap. But you understand what I’m saying… I always feel like I’m talking to my parents, and I would never lie to my parents about what to take and what to do, so why would I lie to everyone else’s parents? That’s how I look at it.
Why Vinnie’s Live Show is Selling-Out Comedy Clubs
Abel: Right. And boy, we’re in the middle of it right now. It’s nuts. But meanwhile, you’re doing live shows as well, and that’s going super well too, so tell us about that.
I wouldn’t have ever guessed that would have happened. I’ll tell you exactly how it did happen. People were calling me to come talk, as I’m sure you get speaking engagements all the time. And it would be to go to Ivy League schools on the East Coast. Or other colleges, hospitals and so on.
And then I got a gig. This guy who was the head of an insurance company or something for all these insurance companies in Europe paid me a crazy amount of money to go to Amsterdam to a convention and be the keynote speaker.
And then from that, this other guy with deep pockets in India, brought me to India for 14 or 15 days. He paid for me, Serena, and Andy Schreiber (my partner at Pure Vitamin Club).
And they sometimes had me speaking two and three times a day, doing the same one hour to 90-minute speech that I do.
By the end of India, I couldn’t even talk anymore. I was at a party and I was talking to Adam Carolla’s guy, Mike August. And Mike goes, “Hey, I see why you do speeches.” Because I put a few of them up on my YouTube. My YouTube is horrible, but I just do the speech. I don’t even know how to do YouTube, Abel. We’re not all good-looking like you. We can’t just put naked pictures of ourselves up and just get women to go, “Oh my God, he’s so cute. Oh my God.”
Abel: Shake it if you got it, Vinnie. Come on, man.
Yeah. How does Alyson hold on to you, man? It’s like, all these women clawing at you like a rockstar.
Abel: Have you seen Alyson?
Yeah I have, I have. She’s cute. That’s one little basket of cute right there.
So, I’m talking to Adam’s guy and he goes, “Who’s booking you?”
And I said, “No one.” I said, “As a matter of fact, we went to one of these speaking bureaus and told him that I was making tens of thousands of dollars per year just speaking, I would negotiate my own fee.”
And he said, “Really?”
I said, “The speaking bureaus didn’t even get back to me.”
I’m at Ivy League schools, I’m in India, I’m in Europe, I’m in Oslo, I’m everywhere talking, and they’re not even getting back to me. I don’t know who they’re getting back to, but a guy making tens and tens of thousands per year talking, they’re not getting back to.
He books me and goes, “Hey, I have you booked.”
And I said, “Yeah, where?”
And he goes, “The Ice House Pasadena.”
And I went, “That’s a comedy club.” And he goes, “Yeah.” I said, “I’m not a comic.”
He goes, “That’s okay, just put…” You know how these guys are. He’s like, “Put asses in seats. Just put asses in seats.”
Okay. My deal was if I could sell it out then I don’t have to worry about anyone walking off the street looking for a comedian. I just worked my butt off to sell that house out, and I did. I went up there and did 90 minutes and they loved it.
And then I got a call from the Irvine Improv. We went down there and kicked butt and that did really well. I did a few more, and then Mike said, “You should bring someone on stage with you that can bring in even more audience.” This girl, Gina Grad, who is a morning drive-time DJ here in LA, she’s pretty big here in LA.
I remember the first time Gina and I went on stage together, because we know each other from the Adam Carolla Show. And I liked Gina and I helped her lose some weight. And she’s sitting in the green room with me five minutes before we go on and I’m looking at her going, “Oh jeez.” I’ve been doing my own show for two years. I know how to walk and talk and chew gum by myself, but I don’t know how this is supposed to work. It didn’t occur to me before that moment. But now this woman is going to be on stage, and I have to somehow integrate her into my show. And it just didn’t occur to me before then. And luckily enough, she brought all these new stories with her and all these really bad fad diets and the whole thing. The show was better than it ever was.
And we’ve done it three times now—it gets stronger every time like that. And we’re going to just keep doing it, because we keep selling out audiences in comedy clubs.
Abel: This has mostly been in LA so far, or you’re touring around?
LA and Southern California. I’ve gone as deep as San Diego. People want us and they’re like, “Hey, come up to Seattle. Come out to Chicago!” The problem is, Gina has a job on Monday. She has to be in the studio at 6 o’clock on Monday morning.
Abel: Oh yeah, that’s tough.
I can go to those clubs. I may start going out to Chicago and Seattle and everywhere on my own. Because I love doing the live show. Do you do live shows besides singing and all that?
Abel: Before Fat-Burning Man, I was playing 200+ live shows a year. When I started my podcast, that’s about when I stopped playing live shows. But I was playing as many as 250 shows a year, and it was a bit much. I was happy to not tour for a while and just focus on learning digital distribution.
But people like us, we get bored so quickly, and you need to keep yourself entertained. I do miss doing live shows. All this talking about it makes me want to do it again. And yeah, I usually have a guitar or a saxophone that I’m playing or something like that, but I don’t need to. And it could easily be a comedy show, especially if I played clarinet, which I actually play quite well, you’d be happy to know.
How to Survive on the Road (without Getting Fat)
Abel: Let’s talk about your road trips. This might err more toward the entertainers, artists, and outsiders who are listening. But everyone goes on road trips and everyone needs to eat well. And we all know that the road is not the healthiest place to eat. It’s almost impossible to do it well, unless you know very specific tricks, unless you are… I would say a road warrior, like Vinnie is. What are your top things that you do every single time you hop in that car?
Well, the thing I do is I always pack a little ice chest, and it doesn’t have to be a big giant ice chest. It’s one of those little soft material coolers. And you just put the element in there that you keep in your freezer that keeps it cold, just a little plastic pack. And that’s good enough—it will keep hard-boiled eggs fresh, it will keep olives fresh. It will keep cheese and cold cuts and avocados all feeling fine in there. It doesn’t have to be ice packed, it just needs to be cool.
When I recently took a road trip, I came across your great state of Texas. I went from here to Louisiana and back within a week—it was 4,000 miles. And when I left I packed my bag and I packed my little cooler and the whole thing, and I was petting the dogs goodbye and I was giving Serena a kiss, and, “I’ll see you in a week, honey.” And all that kind of stuff. And I took off and when I got to Arizona, I was filling up, and I opened the back of my car and my little cooler wasn’t there.
Okay, now as you know—because you guys, you and Alyson, you travel a lot. I know you guys take off, you take your diesel truck, and it’s a lot easier because you’re carrying a house behind you. But I was in a sports car, and there’s no way to hook a house to a Corvette, so I was kind of stuck.
Abel: You drive a Corvette? It makes so much sense.
Yeah, I’m that guy. I’m sorry. I’m that guy.
Abel: You’re totally that guy. That’s okay.
Yeah, I’m an old guy, so…
Abel: I’m a different kind of guy, too. I drove a Porsche for a while.
Yeah, I just love Vettes. And anyone who doesn’t love Vettes, you’re just not “Amarican”.
Abel: Amurican, that’s right.
As we say in Texas.
I’m looking, and I’m like, “Oh my God, I forgot my ice chest.”
And I said, “Okay. I can make do by getting to a healthier fast food restaurant.” But as you know, by the time you get to New Mexico, it’s just nothing. You’re looking at lizards, snakes, and rocks.
And so now I said, “Okay, I’m just not going to eat.” I’m even looking for a Starbucks, because I know Starbucks carries heavy whipping cream, and that can sustain life forever, right?
Abel: It can, sure. Especially on a road trip.
There’s no Starbucks out there in the desert. I kept passing them by accident. I literally went all the way to El Paso, which was like 12 hours later, without eating anything. I just fasted, but because I’m so fat-adapted, I found that I was more clear and more coherent as I went, because I wasn’t eating anything.
And when I stopped at gas stations, I was looking for anything close to raw nuts. You know, it’s like, “If I could just find raw nuts, something that hasn’t been bastardized, I will eat that.” Couldn’t find them. And then I told myself, if worse came to worst, I would just buy some pork rinds, some pig skins, just to get by.
But it never got to that. I was able to find a Chipotle at about 9 o’clock. And I just told them, I said, “Put some beef in there and just throw some guacamole on top.” And the girl goes, “Sugar, I don’t even know how to charge you for this.”
And I said, “Well, I hate to tell you how to do your job, but I have the two most expensive things. Just charge me whatever regular price is.” But that’s all I needed to get by, because I am fat-adapted.
As carnivores, we don’t have to eat all the time if we’re not on that carb train. The next morning I woke up at the hotel. It came with the breakfast. And as I tell everyone—this is a road trick—if you go to an IHOP, or if you’re in a hotel where they give you a free breakfast, the way they extend the shelf life of eggs is by putting flour in them.
So I tell everyone, “Don’t eat the flour, just get them to make you fresh eggs. They’ll do it. They have eggs in the back and they’ll do it.”
So I had three fresh eggs and a piece of their really bad bacon that was out with the free meal, and that took me through the whole next day. I fasted again the next day, until that evening, when I got to my brother’s house in Gonzales, Louisiana, and had a piece of cheese and went to bed.
But I would normally take that pack with me and then find a grocery store and replenish the olives and the eggs and the whole thing. But that’s the way I got home.
Abel: I’d like to comment on that for a second, because I don’t want people to run away with it and say that we’re fetishizing this, where you’re fasting for long periods of time, all the time or what have you. But I would say that, especially if you are in the position where you don’t have good food around you, being fat-adapted is a fantastic thing.
You hear Doctor Perlmutter talk about doing those three-day fasts, where you get your body back in balance. We’re not talking about anorexia every time you leave the house.
We’re talking about the ability to kind of shift into, “Alright, I’m driving all day. I’m not really moving that much. My body doesn’t feel like it needs to gorge on a huge triple hamburger and fries right now that keeps calling to me from the billboards.”
It’s something where you can actually live this way, and fat-adaptation has a lot of benefits.
The Truth About The Keto Diet and Ketosis
Abel: I would also love to hear you talk, Vinnie, about keto and ketosis. It’s all the rage these days. And even more cool are keto supplements, which allow you to eat a bunch of carbs and sugars, but “still be in ketosis.” Can you just add a little bit of sanity to this whole conversation, where you’re still eating your veggies, but you are fat-adapted and you’re not taking a whole bunch of junk?
Being in dietary ketosis does not automatically mean you will lose weight, folks.
More to your point before that, I don’t believe in using trickery like fasting or intermittent fasting, or any of that for weight loss. I live in dietary ketosis, for one reason and one reason only. I’m a cancer survivor, and there are enough studies out there that caused me to have my own belief that by not eating sugars will keep me from getting cancer again.
I was supposed to have a recurrence within five years of being cleared, and I’m coming up on 10 years. There’s a strong possibility that it works.
Abel: By the way, listen to the past episode with Vinnie for that whole story. We’ve talked about this before.
Oh yeah. We’ve done it. Go back and listen to Abel’s old shows, because we’ve covered this ad nauseam.
Bro-Science vs. Real Science
I’m buddies with Dominic D’Agostino, the guy who actually created the first exogenous ketones. And I talked to him on my show, Fitness Confidential, if you guys have a hankering to go listen to something else.
Abel: It’s a great show.
I asked Dom the last time he was on, I said, “Why did you create these? I mean, they’re not really needed for the average person.”
Dom gets a lot of money from the government to create supplements basically for SEAL Team Six and those kinds of people.
And he said, “These Navy SEALs don’t live in ketosis. But we figured out that if they have to go into the field really quickly, if they know where Osama Bin Laden is and we have to throw them into theater”—as they call it—”really quickly, we need to not have to worry about them having to keep eating in order to not lose their energy. So we created this product to throw them into instant ketosis, so they can now go do their job of getting the bad guy and be in theater for 30, 40 hours without having to worry about having to carb up, if you will.”
Dominic never meant for this to be where people would take it and create ketone bars and ketone supplements and ketone—look, if anybody wants to be in dietary ketosis, you don’t need a supplement to do it.
You could just not eat anything other than fat for a couple of days, and voila, there you are. You’re in dietary ketosis.
Abel: That is so free.
You’ve saved a ton of money.
Abel: It’s amazing how free that is.
Exactly, it’s the freest thing you could do. And by the way, the esters you have to take to exogenously throw yourself into ketosis are apparently—I’ve never tasted them—but apparently, they’re pretty nasty.
Abel: I’ve tried a few. Yeah.
Are they bad? They’re bad, right?
Abel: They’re bad. This is what I think. I think, unless it’s in capsule form and you just swallow it, supplements need to taste good. Otherwise, you might take them for a little while, but you won’t keep taking them. That’s what I noticed with me. It has to taste good. Especially if you don’t need it, it’s super expensive, and it tastes bad. I can’t believe how many products there are like that.
It makes no sense. As a matter of fact, I don’t even believe in taking protein powder. It’s like, “You can eat an egg, or you can eat a piece of meat, or you can eat chicken, or you can eat tons of things. Why go get a bastardized version of it?”
Abel: I laughed so hard when Alyson said something about meatheads the other day. She said when she sees other guys, she compares bodies, she comments to me about them, and she said, “Those guys look like they have a lot of protein powder every day.” I knew exactly what she meant, and that’s not the body I’m going for. Not to say that’s 100% scientifically accurate, but anyway, I’d know what you’re talking about.
But look, it’s accurate enough. I was with two of my nephews when I was on my road trip, and one of them is basically a bro-science guy. If it comes in some kind of packet or if it’s been written about on Google, he will do it.
He is a strong guy, and he’s one of these muscled-up guys, but he’s also got the gut on him and you can see the water in his cheeks. And my other nephew, his younger brother, who looks up to him, he says to me… we’re eating crawfish one night and he goes, “Uncle Vinnie, should I be taking creatine?” And I said, “No, absolutely not. There’s no reason to take creatine.” And he said, “Why?” I said, “Well, your body naturally makes all the creatine you need, and if not, we get it from red meat and other sources, and by taking it, you will stop your body from making it. And there’s no reason to take that exogenously.”
And he looked at his brother and they started smirking, and I said, “Don’t listen to anything that idiot has to say.” And my nephew says to me, the one that’s all pumped up, he goes, “Hey, bro. You have your opinion, I have my opinion.” And I said, “Yeah, but mine is steeped in scientific fact. Yours is what you heard at the gym last week. There’s no correlation between the two.”
Abel: Right. And you have such a mature view of all of this, because I think what’s missed, especially in the diet and fitness industry, is that to truly succeed, you need to do this forever, and you need to find a way. You need to do a handful of things every day, and then it’s pretty much figured out. And maybe you can have some fun with it. You can do your triathlons, you can run your marathons, you can do all that stuff. But you don’t have to become a cardio bunny. You don’t have to join a club or a cult for this to work. You can just do a small amount of pretty straightforward things and get your life back.
For the people who are looking for lifelong health, what are those things? Just to simplify it right down for people.
You cannot get fitness in a bottle. You can’t get sleep in a bottle.
- Getting sleep is one of the most important things you can do.
- There is no window to eat after a workout; forget about that.
- And there no supplement you’re going to take before a workout that will help you, short of taking steroids, which will kill you.
That’s the message.
Look, 37 years of doing this, and before I was doing this as a job… I walked into a gym when I was eight years old. It was 1970, the day I walked into a gym, and I’ve seen it all come and go a million times.
I’ve never seen anything good come of it by taking any sort of supplements, and this, that, and the whole thing.
Diet Fads Are Not a New Fad
Abel: What are some things, Vinnie, that you’ve seen before that the next generations coming up might think are new and cool? Like a raw vegan diet, for example—more than 100 years old. People have been arguing about that for a long time.
That one comes and goes. Creatine has been coming and going, the amount of protein comes and goes. Starving yourself, that comes and goes.
Abel: Sometimes with tapeworms, right?
The Tapeworm Diet was big in the ’70s.
Now these girls, I don’t know if they’re doing it in Texas, but they have butt implants put in. So it’s real hip out here to have the big Kardashian ass with skinny legs.
And Serena looks at it and goes, “Oh my God! Look at that.” And we’re looking at it going, “I know.”
And I tell her, “Back in the ’70s, women would smoke to lose weight. And they would have tapeworms put in to lose weight.” Now you look at it and you go, “Wow, you had a tapeworm put in to lose weight?” Yes, people have been doing crazy stuff for a long time.
There was a time back in the ’70s where people were putting an anticoagulant into cow’s blood and drinking the cow’s blood.
Abel: What? I haven’t heard about that one. Wesley Snipes would love that.
Dude, there were things over the years that people were doing, and you would just look at that and go… The reason they had to put an anticoagulant in is because they didn’t want to choke on it by it coagulating in their esophagus and killing them.
The things people have done to be healthy make absolutely no sense.
Abel: So what’s coming next?
I don’t know. I just don’t know.
Abel: What are you going to do about it? You can’t lose your mind.
I just go crazy looking at it.
I was saying on stage the other night, I go to my gym every day to do the rehab on my shoulder. I had my shoulder replaced, and I go to the gym every day. I’m in the same spot, doing the same rehab exercises at the same time.
For the past two years, I’ve been looking at the same people, on the same machines, humping the same StairMaster, humping the same elliptical, humping the same treadmill, and so on and so forth.
And I look at them and I call it the “wax museum,” because you walk into a wax museum, nothing ever changes. Same outfits, same people, same machines every day. It’s a wax museum.
I notice that most of these people never gain weight, and they never lose weight. A lot of them have weight to lose, yet they’re humping these machines for hours on end.
And if they ever did the math and saw the crazy that was going on, they would realize that in fact, it’s the statement I make every time I walk on stage: “Exercise is a poor way to lose weight.”
They would realize that was the truth.
Every now and then, people call me. I do these consults, and they’ll say, “Well, I did lose 10 pounds and I gained it all back.” But then, “That’s because I stopped jogging.”
No, it has nothing to do with jogging.
The fact that people sign up for marathons because their good intention is, “I’m going to sign up for a marathon and by the time I get to the starting line, I will be lean and sinewy like Meb, right?”
No, you’re not going to look like Meb. He’s a Kenyan and he’s built that way and he’s predisposed to be that way. You’re going to look like you, except you might be heavier, because the day you sign up for a marathon, you start exercising more, you start burning more sugar, and the sugar industry is right there to help you along.
Gatorade, Goo, PowerBar, Clif Bars, you name it.
They’re all there, Jelly Belly, getting ready to give you jelly beans…
Abel: I think I’ve tried them all, they gave them away at races. I’ve trained that way, yeah.
And it’s like, “Okay, I signed up for a marathon. Now I’m like a kid at a birthday party. I’m just eating sugar around the clock.”
Abel: Right, with all this free candy.
It’s the most amazing thing in the world. It really is. And it drives me crazy.
Abel: I ran a few marathons here in Austin. I remember one that I ran when I was lining up with some of the other people who were running one of the marathons… it was huge. This was before Lance Armstrong, a local hero, kind of came tumbling down.
I was looking around at all these people who are going to try and run almost 30 miles. And I was astounded by how many of them had at least 20, 30 pounds, which if you’re carrying extra weight for that distance…
Just to put it into perspective, right now, just to be in the shape I’m in that feels good, I’m like 170–175, and pretty low body fat. When I was running marathons, I was 148. And I cannot imagine running being this heavy now, because it’s more muscle, but that’s not good for running, that doesn’t help, unless you’re doing short sprints.
But I was just amazed by how many people had these bellies and were just kind of doughy all the way around, despite the fact that they’re probably running 20, 30, 50 miles a week.
At least, every week. And when you think about how much time that takes to run, just any aerobic class or just going to the gym for one hour will never cap what those people are doing.
Let me put a finer point on it. Back in the early ’90s, when I was doing all the 24-hour and 48-hour ultra-races, before ultra was a thing… It’s like a sub-community of cyclists who would do these 200-mile cycle things.
And in order not to get bored training on the weekends, I would sign up and sometimes drive 200 and 300 miles to get to an event, just to go cycle with other people for 200 miles.
Abel: That’s great Vinnie.
And since it’s such a subculture, you would meet the same people all the time. And they were lovely people. And I would see these women with fat on their bodies, big dimply saddlebag legs and the whole thing, yet these people were superb athletes. They could ride 200 miles, right? Which means they had to train all week long, every week, all year round to be able to go 200 miles. Right? Yet they were still fat. And a year later, I’d see them at events, still fat. Two years later, still fat. Never losing an ounce. And these are people who are putting more miles on a bike than the average American puts on a car per year.
That’s crazy talk, and they wouldn’t lose weight. But you know what, every 30 miles on these trips, what’d they have? You could get a banana, you could get an orange, you could get a Pop-Tart, you could get a Hostess Twinkie, you could get a brownie. The one thing you couldn’t get was an avocado, an olive, a piece of cheese, a cold cut, none of that existed. Oh, by the way, all of these things would have, as I call it, the SARS bowl. It was a bowl of M&M’s where you could just reach in with your snotty hands and just grab a handful of M&M’s, and SARS, as I would always say. Which, by the way, I never touched any of that stuff. I was like, “Oh my God! They’re serving junk food that I never grew up on. What’s going on here?”
The Twinkie Defense
Abel: Well, as you say in your book—and this is such a great way to think about it—junk food like that, you know what it is when you see it, and it’s smoking cigarettes. It’s like imagine that’s a box of 20 cigarettes that you have right there. I think if people can start to think, “I don’t get this allotment of candy every day, that’s just poison for me.”
Because that’s the mentality you have. You faced death 10 years ago. It’s like the M&M’s don’t appeal to you. This is a whole different game that you’re playing. And what people don’t understand is that they’re playing that game, too, whether they realize it or not.
I think most will never realize it because it’s too innocent. The M&M is too innocent. We can look at a bottle of Scotch and go, “Ehhh, if I have too much of that…” We all know an alcoholic. I lost a friend to alcoholism, this past week, close childhood buddy. And we can look at alcohol, we all know someone. Or we can look at a celebrity who lost a battle to alcohol or drugs. That looks like a rattlesnake to me, when you think of drugs. But come on, a Twinkie? Come on, a Twinkie never killed anyone, right? Except for in the Twinkie defense when the guy killed… Do you even know that? You’re too young to know that.
Abel: I don’t even know. I don’t think I do.
Really? There was a politician in San Francisco named Harvey Milk, spelled just like the product. And they did a movie on him and they used a Twinkie defense. The guy said he was off his rocker because he ate too much sugar, and he was out of his mind from sugar. And literally got off on a… Not really got off, but didn’t get the death penalty based on a Twinkie defense, or something like that. Someone can look it up.
Abel: It’s hard to believe that came from the same story, and it goes with milk.
Yeah, milk and Twinkies. I never thought of that.
Abel: That’s fantastic. But anyway, we’re just about out of time. Is there anything else you want to say before we tell folks where they can find you?
Yes, I do. Because I figure if I ask you on the air, you can’t say no. Would you please come back on my show?
Abel: I would be more than happy to. I would be honored. Let’s do it, man.
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