Men's Health, a magazine for men who are healthy and dumb, will tell you that there are 10 supplements that you, the fitness-seeking man, "actually need." Oh really? You can't go to the gym without "Coenzyme Q10?" You can't work out unless you're shoveling glucosamine powder down your gullet? It takes selenium tablets to be hardcore?
I don't think so. The path to fitness is not paved with a bunch of mumbo-jumbo supplements that no one ever heard of, like "calcium." The path to fitness is paved only with the necessities.
Water: The "stuff of life," some guy once eloquently called it (Google quote). If you don't drink it for just a few days, you will die. So I guess you better include some in your gym bag! You think that would be useful? Yeah, I think so! Use your common sense, for god's sake. (Idiot).
Protein: The "stuff of life," you might say—when it comes to the life of muscles, that is. You need to eat lots of protein to help your body build those muscles that you tear up while exercising in your savage quest for glory. What kind of protein? Oh, whatever. You can eat meat, if you need to feel like a "big man." Or you can be a vegetarian and eat tofu and supplements and whatnot. The important thing is that you get lots of protein (in cheap bulk form, not that fancy designer protein that the advertisers of Men's Health would have you blow your money on, the bastards). The other important thing is that you keep a big huge five-pound tub of protein powder in a visible place in your apartment, like the top of the fridge. Then when you bring over a girl she'll look over at it and say, "Oh, you must work out," and you'll reply, "Yes, I do," and when she looks back at you, you're naked. How did that happen? Protein.
Resistance: What is resistance? One might call it "the stuff of life," if one were a fitness "guru" with a philosophical bent. Fitness is achieved by molding your body through work. Work requires resistance. Does "resistance" mean the setting on some padded Nautilus single joint-motion exercise scam machine for whores? Not at all. Resistance simply means That Which You Struggle Against. Your resistance can be a barbell, or a dumbbell, or a heavy rock, or Kurt (that asshole). Or, indeed, resistance can be your own bodyweight—or even your own soul (though the soul does not weigh enough to occasion a meaningful anabolic response).
A Will Like That of a Mother Musk Ox Protecting Her Young: Have you ever seen what happens when something threatens the young offspring of a mother musk ox? I haven't, but I imagine it's some serious shit, because those animals are pretty strong, and who wants to go to all the trouble of having a baby, only to have that baby be killed? Seems like a big waste of time. So that mother musk ox, you try to get her baby, she charges out with FURY and INSURMOUNTABLE INTENSITY, so intent is she on stopping you from messing with her baby, because she loathes the inefficiency that having another baby would require. That will—the will of the mother musk ox—is certainly a better fitness "supplement" than anything else you could have, except for many varieties of steroids.
The Hatred of Real or Imagined "Haters" Upon Which to Feast in Anticipation of Retribution: There—who's that? Glancing around the corners, spying around the gymnasium, throwing salt up in your game? Could it be—haters??? Yes. Haters that are out to get you. And you have to get them back—with hatred. That will show them. Imagine that hater out there—a bad parent, a romantic rival, a political foe, or an innocent victim of one of your own absurd personal prejudices—hating on you. Hating on you hard. You better hate them back twice as hard. Feel that? Feel that hatred, surging through your veins, prickling your skin, animating your existence, giving you energy? Good. Now pull that deadlift.
Dripping Sweat, or Is It Blood?: You have passed the point of fatigue. You have passed the point of simple pain. You have transcended the fiery obstacles of physicality and entered the realm of The Hardcore. Your skin, your muscles—your entire being—burns to its very core. The only thing cooling you is the trickle of liquid against your skin. It is all that you need: the slow drip of drops of sweat making their way down your body. Or are those drops of blood? All the same to you. They alone give you the strength to continue. (Also try a nice spritzer bottle full of iced cucumber water.)
How About Some Shorts: It always feels weird working out in long pants.
A Goal—It Matters Not What It Is—That Serves to Focus Your Pain Into a Single White Hot Point of Murderous Rage: You have the hatred that motivates you to push through the pain in order to get the best of your enemies. But how far should you push? How much should you push? How many should you kill? A goal can be anything, really: a certain distance to run, a certain weight to lift, a certain hater named Kurt who will be pretty surprised when you show up at his fancy birthday party and smack the hell out of his stupid face right in front of Pamela, who will look on in horror mingled with regret at the fact that she did not recognize your essential good character even before you looked good with your shirt off. Who is the inferior ultimate frisbee player now, Kurt? Yeah, tell it to your stupid face. Goals are important.
A Hidden Inferiority Complex That Manifests Itself as Brash Outward Self-Regard and Detestation of Your Peers: What do we mean when we speak of "supplements?" We mean not something extra, but some ingredient that is, indeed, the "stuff of life." Fitness is merely the end result of a long and twisted journey. A journey inspired by hate, consisting of pain, and fueled by rage. You wanted a nice body? A nice body? You had better pray that you get out of this alive. You had better pray that this fitness journey does not result in overexertion leading to massive organ shutdown followed by your physical death. A nice body is the last thing you need to be concerned about. The "supplements" that accompany you on this dangerous journey serve only to ensure that you are driven enough to complete. That will not come from any energy drink or any pre-workout booster—not even NO-XPLODE. No, it must come from a deep, repressed, lifelong feeling of inferiority, for which you compensate by projecting hatred and rage upon others while publicly holding yourself up as a shining example to be admired, all while secretly detesting yourself even more than you detest those that surround you. In this formulation, physical fitness is merely a tissue-thin outward signifier of success that will never be fulfilling enough to replace the hole of self-loathing in your soul. But you'll keep trying to make it work, so you'll always get those extra reps in. And those extra reps really pay off over time.
Gum: Sometimes it helps keep your mouth wet.
This is an occasional column about fitness, and how you're doing it wrong. Image by Jim Cooke, photo via Shutterstock