20 Epic Changes in Fitness in the 20 Years Since Body of Work Premiered (Part 2)

Here’s Part-2 of this fun 20 year reflection on fitness and nutrition life. Here’s PART 1 to read and enjoy first.

11. HIIT Hot -n- Heavy

Cardio… I don’t need no stinking cardio. At least that’s what we all liked to believe two decades ago. Hell, we even swore it off publicly from time to time. Yet, there we all were, grinding away when it came time to get the photo shoot lean.

This was all about to change when just over 20 years ago I wrote one of the first articles ever on this break-through form of cardio that was faster, shorter, harder, more intense and more effective: HIIT. High Intensity Interval Training was a true breakthrough if only because it shortened the time we had to spend on them damn machines.

Today, from Tabata to Crossfit to bootcamp style group training, HIIT is everywhere. HIIT, HIIT, HIIT is no doubt a hit. And the science extolling its virtues keeps pouring in. Yes, it’s good for fat loss, good for your mitochondria, great for your VO2 max, for your mind and for all that keeps you younger and stronger.

Does it really make low-intensity, steady state cardio obsolete? Well, no. But who cares — because HIIT stands on it’s own as a gold star practice for life.

12. Protein Goes Primetime

The decade of the 90’s brought a revolution to protein with the growing science and access to better and better forms of whey protein. No protein has made a greater impact on the use and knowledge of protein and its central role in the human condition.

Twenty years ago Myoplex was the #1 MRP and EAS sold several stand alone proteins, for those who chose to go that way. Somewhere around the turn of the century mainstream food companies, like Gatorade, discovered protein. Yeah and oh shit! For all the sudden the lovely grass-fed whey manufacturers once begged us to buy from them was all gone!

Rather than sitting down to enjoy your delicious 40 grams of protein in a Myoplex the mega-corporations were buying up all the inventory and sprinkling the protein in and on everything so they could say, “Now with protein!”

Well, that’s all about the business side of things. The stuff that most consumers never see or think about. Yes, protein became important, cache and that popularity that we’d fought to create became lable dressing for mainstream America. Oh well. In many ways it was a step towards better awareness and nutrition.

There is no question that the awareness and even obsession with protein has continued to grow and grow. Hell, check out Tokyo Joes or even Chipotle, and you’ll see options that revolve all around getting that protein up. There are all sorts of proteins in every store. Hell, I even say Larry David talking his daily “protein shake” with Jerry Seinfeld on an episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.

Protein, like many of our words, comes from the Greeks and literally means, “of prime importance.” Maybe we all are finally embracing that centuries old wisdom.

13. Fasting for Fit

Twenty years ago, Body of Work was being released and Body for Life had not yet been written. Yet, we’d all pretty much adopted the bodybuilding approach of frequent feeding — with small meals. Be that 6 meals a day or 5, is a preference but it was all about food, protein, nutrients.

Honestly, back then, if you’d have suggested to stop eating I might have freaked. Yeah, I was probably suffering from that muscle deflation fear that was thought to happen every time you stopped fueling them with food.

I first discovered this idea of not eating — fasting for fitness — about eight years ago. Looked wonderfully counter-intuitive and as is my usual style, I dismissed it. Yet, I was willing to go deeper.

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My first deep dive interview was with Brad Pilon, researcher and author of one of the first books on fasting, Eat Stop Eat. Because Brad really did some deep, and formative work on fasting, he really helped me break through my resistance and understand the many values of fasting. (I highly recommend it)

Today, there are more models for fasting than I can keep track of. Some are really more intra-day, partial fasts which seem less than optimal but may be easier to start with. Clearly fasting is becoming a much more widely accepted and research endorsed practice for slashing some fat and improving many health markers.

Yet, I still think much of the power is simply in the mental, emotional break from food. Simply walking away from eating for 24 hours can teach you a lot about the truth of your relationship with eating, how and where it is driven from (it will surprise you) and give you a new found freedom that dieting never could.

14. Internet Enables Evil

Twenty years ago there was an internet but really, were you there? I’d already put up EAS.com — shockingly but the idea of transacting (aka selling anything) was far from a present threat.

Yet, I do recall speaking to a threat that I felt this new technology would bring. As I would say, “Where once you had to be somebody and really do something to get published — be it a magazine or book — this internet is going to make it such that an unemployed janitor sitting in his mom’s basement can write something with as much credibility as any author.”

Now, the point I was making is that we, the people of earth, have come to automatically give credence to any published word. For thousands of years, only people who could be published were published. Thus, we have no filter for what it means when anyone can write and “publish” anything.

Food Babe is the Alex Jones of Wellness

Doubt that take a gander of the truly fake news that fills a good 50% of your social news feeds. Not the New York Times story on the White House but the “Amaze Daily” with the story on the talking dog or 7 foot spider. So much idle wasting nonsense.

Well, not far from my fears being realized, the power of the wonderful internet has been a perfect platform for empowering a new and quite potent breed of conspiracy theorists and fearmongers.

Be it the constant driving beat cancer causing ingredients, the belief that every food company is set to kill you… there is so much excess noise and easily dismissed crap out there it’s ever day frustrating to know anything better.

Two of my “favorite” fear monger conspiracy opportunist Mercola and Food Babe. These days, you can add to the maddening, magical, money driven opportunist, Paltrow with her Goop mess. I urge you to steer clear of these traps which prey on your emotions and keep your facts twisted and tied. Oh, let me know forget the scamster mystic “David Avocado Wolf.”

Look, fact is that there are a lot of people and companies that care more about money then your success or well being. We can all get that — and usually you can figure out these. And there are those whom will sell too hard or try to hard. But the modern day snake oil salesmen are a breed apart.

Question everything. Lead with doubt. Follow people who are honest and you can trust. Be free.

15. Ebooks Rule Books

Two decades ago getting a book deal was a big damn deal. It didn’t happen unless you did the work—unless you earned your stripes. And then, if you were so lucky, one in a million went on to become any sort of bestseller.

I never imagined a day when the e-book would rule over the book. Yet, today, especially in fitness it is the ebook. The digital, you print it, model. And with that, nearly every “author” is a “best-selling” author. Where and by what measure, it certainly is fair to ask.

Now, not every “real” NY published book is a great book. And not every ebook is a steaming heap of black and white but… I know what it takes to do a big-time book. The layers, the people, the editing, the checks, the legal, etc… And I have seen people pump ebooks out in a couple days.

Let me just say: I’m not at all certain that a lower barrier to “book entry” has been good for books or for consumers who want something real and tangible out of them. Call me old-school… I’ll accept that.

16. Obesity Persists

This is a tough one to take in. And one I will be brief on as it needs no drum pounding. Twenty years ago obesity was a “thing” but it had really only very recently come into our awareness. Sure, there had been this steady weight gain but suddenly heavy had become sick and dieing obese.

I’m not sure what sort of confidence we were packing but I can honestly while I knew it to be formidable and complex, I would be lying to say I thought we’d be here—where we are as a nation now—two decades later. No better, really. No thinner or fitter for sure.

If you think about all the diets, all the fitness plans, all the movements, all the weight loss programs and systems — hell, all the books one has to admit that MORE has not been BETTER.

More Is Not Better

That’s to say more tangents, solutions, hope, interventions… have not brought about systemic change. Sure, we’ve changed some lives and empowered individuals but there is something deeper going on here.

Perhaps it is a good time to simplify and stabilize the array of systems and move the focus from what’s out there to save me to what’s inside here that I have the power to change.

Yes, perhaps true transformation is an inside out job—not outside in.

17. Fats Get Healthy

I know what I’m about to say may sound almost like satire — a tad too unbelievable to accept but trust me, it’s true. Here goes… 20 years ago I was, hell most of us were not, a fan of fat. Yep. There you go.

When it came to getting lean we did know that carb cycling and even depletion (early Keto like) was hellishly helpful but fats were simply calories. We didn’t even take Omega’s. (Okay, that’s not entirely true. We did have Udo’s — really the first to popularize and call attention to the importance of certain fatty acids.

Yet, when it came to eating it was by in large low-fat. Hell, I even recall talking salmon and avocado down because of the calories. And you know, “calories are calories,” as we liked to say. And crazy is as crazy does.

Truth is we do the best with what we know at the time. Perhaps the most telling aspect of this low-fat life is that it was the standard and as I can attest — and you can see, it did not prevent me — nor anyone else I know — from getting super lean, from losing fat, from gaining muscle… and what have you. Might we have been a little more well “oiled?” Sure. I can see were very low fat did come with a few side effects but it sure didn’t kill anyone.

Knowing what I know now it’s not my choice to go from relaxing the fats to living off them — but I’d never again live that low fat life. It’s good to see us getting over the archaic medical driven obsession that cholesterol from your food drives your cholesterol levels. Hell, I got this 20 years ago. It’s so obvious.

And I can see where a higher fat, keto like, intake may serve some people. Even if it’s a short term practice for altering one’s diet and lifestyle. Myself, I prefer to just embrace the high-protein, high-fat, high-carb diet. Aka, mostly protein and split the fat and carbs. Mostly, I’m just glad we know that essential fats are, well, essential and that fat can be food too.

18. Kettle Meet Dumbbell

Come on… twenty years ago what did you know about a kettlebell? Ever do a turkish get up? Haa… Seriously. Think about. That’s crazy. Right.

I mean who’d have thunk that not only would we come to know about these old, odd objects but that they’d become standard equipment in every gym.

It was about 20 years ago that Muscle Media published one of the first popular fitness magazine articles on kettlebells and the russian trained KB Master, Pavel. Of course, we were always cutting edge this way.

Today, Pavel is still the king of kettlebells with his massively successful organization of KB Mastery and certification, StrongFirst. If you are interested in becoming proficient in the use of kettlebells or even want to become certified yourself, look up StrongFirst. They are the best.

Note: Just thinking about how accepted it is that one would need expert training to use a kettlebell well. Yet, most people simply accept that we all must have been born with the built in knowledge of how to use dumbbells or barbells properly. Hummm… interesting one to ponder on.

19. Death Of The MRP

In 1990 we helped launched what was without question the greatest modern day breakthrough in proteins, Met-Rx. This was the first “integrated nutrition shake” or “Engineered food” as we called it. It was protein and so much more.

Note: Interesting to me that Met-Rx was, “engineered food” and yet over the next 10 years the idea of “food” would give way to protein. Well, until…

Then came the biggest, baddest-bestest MRP evah, MYOPLEX. Yep, the EAS days and while we had a full range of leading edge products Myoplex was the hub of the wheel. It was the daily bread for millions of athletes and transformers.

MRP stands for “Meal Replacement Powder.” An industry term that unfortunately become widely used. A term I never less than loathed for it carries such a lifeless energy and vague meaning.

Myoplex, as you would expect, spawned a massive category of the MRP’s that would dominate the nutrition centers for years. And then…

Then… what?

What really happened?

Let’s be clear, it’s not that the MRP went away. It’s that the focus became protein. Why? Because building an MRP — or Integrated Nutrition Shake — is a degree short of brain surgery. While putting protein in a container is more like packing flour.

What happened was company’s lost the passion and courage to go beyond the lowest bar they could set. It was infinitely easier, faster and more profitable to toss a label on protein and let you handle the rest.

And you know, protein is all well and good. There’s nothing wrong with the right kind of protein. But…

The MRP had something special. It wasn’t simply a protein it was a fully nutrient dense, performance packed super-food meal. Built on the “Performance Balance” technology of nutrient partitioning, Full Strength functions like a super food while nourishing like a performance shake.

At least that was the vision. A vision that drove me in the creation of what would be the MRP 2.0, Full Strength.

I wasn’t trying to create the next protein. What I wanted was to bring the MRP to the next level and make a true Fast Performance Food. A meal that was at the intersection of fast, delicious, convenient and a true super meal.

More than a protein delivery mechanism, Full Strength breathed fire into the dormant category of MRP’s but being so much more it’s had no place in the retail shelves of a GNC. Its cost, its message, its performance was Ferarri in a world that had moved Kia.

The MRP isn’t dead it’s just grown up to be what Myoplex could have grown into had we held it — the world’s only true Fast Performance Food, Full Strength.

And that’s the story. The truth and nothing but…


I wanted to leave one last place for you… what is your shocking change, major discovery… what has been the change that captured your head and heart in these last two decades?

Please share for the fun of it….

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  1. Al September 1, 2017 at 10:12 pm #

    Hi Shawn, awesome list and I was wondering the same things myself. Where did the times go, when in the Gym someone more experienced could just walk up to you and give you a “hint” how to execute better on an exercise? Headphone the size of houses everywhere these days and no way to interact with each other while in the gym. I kind of miss those days back in Golds Gym mid 90´s “hey, young stud, how about knees out and give me two inches deeper on those squats. That will make all the difference, you dig?” It really did make all the difference, lol.

    Shawn, what ever happened to the participants of Body for Work? It was so inspirational and I keep o wondering?

    Keep up the great Work

    • shawn_phillips September 11, 2017 at 3:46 pm #

      Hey Al..

      Great points on the changing culture and those fucking headphones. Come on man… really. Hard to help a guy out, for sure.

      Most of the BOW people are easy to find, around. I hear from or cross paths with most of them, sans Ralph — the cop. He’s the only one I haven’t seen. But a “where are they now” would be fun.

      To Your Strength,

  2. Russ Churchill August 31, 2017 at 1:02 pm #

    Man do I miss Myoplex and Muscle Media. I’m always on the search of something that is as good and tastes as good as Myoplex. If I look I probably still have most months of Muscle Media in my basement. I’ve gone through all the phases in the last 20 years, triathlon, ultra running and cycling but every time I need a reset I go back to Body For Life workouts and nutrition.

    • shawn_phillips September 11, 2017 at 3:43 pm #

      As for Muscle Media, I don’t know of anything close. I think Muscle Insider has done some good things but I’ve not been writing for them lately… not so sure. Ha…

      As for Myoplex, I did it one (or several) better with Full Strength. Alas, It’s been off production for awhile — again and hope to revive it again, soon.

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