Every once in a while I’m reminded of the fact that I have spent more years in this industry and living the bodybuilding lifestyle than not, usually when I’m in a conversation with bodybuilders much younger than me. I first started bodybuilding in the late ’90s. (Side note: I recently heard a kid describe this time period as the late 1900s and that hit me pretty hard.) Needless to say, I’ve seen a lot of change take place not only in the bodybuilding and fitness industry but in society as a whole. Countless trends have risen and fallen, and a lot of shit has come and gone.
The other day, I was describing how, prior to internet supplement sales, I used to drive a half-hour each way to a supplement store to get the right products at the right prices. There was no other option. The younger generation will never know what it was like to live through the advent of Phosphagen. Not only was it criminally expensive, it was about as easy to come by as water in the desert. How many of you witnessed the spell-binding marketing attached to Cybergenics in the early ’90s? If I had any money at the time, I would have gladly forked it over in desperation of having a transformation featured in their marketing. Let’s not even talk about the prohormone craze that ensued after Mark McQuire credited “Andro” with his ability to literally smash baseballs into dust. When anyone interested in bodybuilding—including me at 14—saw the tree trunks this dude had for forearms, the demand for prohormones skyrocketed.
It’s funny. With all the trends I’ve seen and the products that retailers couldn’t keep in stock at one point or another, I can’t think of many that have captured and held the interest of supplement users for decades except for Animal Pak. Everyone has their own reasons for training with weights. While one person might start off as an athlete looking to improve performance, another might pick up the weights because they are tired of getting pushed around, and yet another might simply want to change the way they look. No matter who you are, you start somewhere. It doesn’t take long before each of us comes to the realization that we need to fulfill our nutritional requirements in order to reach our physical goals.
For me, it was the summer of ’97. I had spent the past year dropping 70+ pounds of body weight so that I would no longer be a fat boy. I used long distance running and calorie restriction to drop the excess body fat, and I had started lifting weights to get more of the ripped appearance I was after. Running 3-4 miles daily in addition to 2 hours of weight training 6 days per week on limited calories isn’t easy, even at 15 years old. Granted, I was overtraining and pushing the hell out of my body. Although I started eating a more balanced diet, I was still eating to lose body fat and exercising a ton, so I looked for a way to supplement my diet to improve energy and recovery and keep any deficiencies at bay.
I remember asking my dad to give me a ride to the mall so I could see what GNC had to offer. Keep in mind there was no internet to consult back then and I worked out at home. I couldn’t refer to Google, Reddit, social media, or even ask a big dude at the gym. I had a complete set of Encyclopedia Britannica, which wasn’t any help, so I did what any kid back then would do and asked the guy working at GNC for advice. This was a total crapshoot as the guy could have easily steered me in the direction of a product that he earned a commission on (I later worked at GNC and learned that you could earn commission on most of their store brand items), but he suggested Animal Pak. He told me that it was more than a multivitamin/mineral—that I would actually feel a difference from it—and that there was nothing in it that would be harmful to me. Now nearly 25 years later, it’s nice to able to look back and say to myself “Son of a bitch, he was right.”
What are the odds? First of all, what are the odds that I’d end up sharing my bodybuilding career with the makers of the very first supplement I ever plunked down my lawn cutting money for? It’s been 15 years since I first came on board with the best brand in the supplement industry. That aside, what are the odds that, of all the over-the-counter or prescription things I’ve taken, the one thing that has remained constant for almost 25 years has been Animal Pak? When you take a look at Pak and what it really is, maybe the odds aren’t so steep. In the most basic sense, Animal Pak serves as a multivitamin/mineral. Supplementing with Pak will cover your ass and help prevent micronutrient deficiencies that may arise.
Bodybuilders and other athletes eating in accordance with certain macronutrient requirements have a habit of falling victim to monotony and eating the same foods over and over. Just the same, when crunch time comes and exertion hits all-time highs, calorie intake can also hit new lows. In both instances, you run the risk of micronutrient deficiencies. Energy can take a dive, recovery can lag, and the immune, nervous and endocrine systems can all pay the price. My very first introduction to Animal Pak proved to me its ability to help you train harder, recover faster, and stay healthy even when you’re beating the hell out of yourself. I have taken multivitamins before and, although each of them is formulated to help you avoid micronutrient deficiencies, I can tell you that Pak is more than that. No multi ever gave me the increased energy or stamina or helped me improve my recovery the way Pak does. So when you see or hear Pak referred to as a “training pak” rather than a multivitamin, it’s for a reason. People who take Pak religiously know this first hand.
Those who have been around long enough know that the supplement industry is a subset of the bodybuilding and fitness industry with a history all its own. I don’t know if it’s my own bias having lived through it, but the ’90s and early 2000s were a really interesting time in the industry filled with a lot of anticipation, excitement and many “firsts.” And yet, despite all the hype, the anticipation, and the mania surrounding so many products that were brought to market, none of them lasted. Would I have ever thought that Animal Pak, the very first product I used as a teenager, would be the one product that I continued to use year-round throughout my amateur and professional career? No. But hey, what’s genuinely good and truly effective will always outlive the hype.