The Drug Of Choice

Be proactive and take charge of your existence with healthy living!
By John Paul Catanzaro 

Today we have more technology than ever. Moore's Law states that technology doubles every 18 months. That means we know twice as much today as we did a year and a half ago. Well, that's no longer true. In fact, today technology doubles every 18 minutes! With all this technology, how is it then that we have more disease today than ever? In my opinion, technology actually contributes to disease. I'll explain. 

Let's take cancer for example. Do you know that cancer has just surpassed heart disease as the top killer among Americans under the age of 85? It's true. What's scary is that 156 people are diagnosed with cancer every hour! The sad part is that 80-90% of these cases are caused by the environment and can be avoided. 

Lung cancer is by far the top cancer killer and tobacco is the number one cause of death period claiming close to 20% of all U.S. deaths. And it may come to no surprise that second-hand or "passive" smoking can be just as detrimental to your health. By some estimates, an eight-hour shift spent working in a smoky environment has the same effect on the cardiovascular system as smoking an entire pack of cigarettes! 

Now, I don't really need to go through this since most of you know that cigarettes are laced with toxic chemicals, many of which are carcinogens, as well as addictive substances including sugar, but what you may not realize is that carbon monoxide (CO) produced from tobacco smoke has a high affinity for hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is part of the red blood cell that transports oxygen (O2). Well guess what? If all these CO molecules fill up the hemoglobin bus, there's not as much room for O2, and therefore, you can not effectively oxygenate your tissue. Last time I checked, oxygen was somewhat important for life! 

What about air pollution? I am not a fan of excessive aerobic work. There are many drawbacks to aerobic training, but here's one that will definitely catch the attention of you runners out there. A study performed in 1980 revealed that 15 minutes of running in downtown Ottawa was the equivalent of smoking a pack of cigarettes. The oxidative stress of this outdoor activity will inevitably cause cells to age prematurely. Now, could you imagine what type of stress would occur running in downtown Toronto on a hot summer day for 30 minutes in the year 2008? Think about that. 

Next on the list comes breast cancer for females and prostate cancer for males. Both tend to be a problem with estrogen. Yes, even prostate cancer is related to estrogen not testosterone contrary to popular belief. Dihydrotestosterone (or DHT for short) is an androgen (i.e. a male sex hormone) that is 10 times more potent than testosterone. It is responsible for male pattern baldness and benign prostatic hyperplasia, and it can be a problem for the prostate but only because estrogen does not allow it to be released! 

For females, the cumulative lifetime exposure to estrogen determines the risk of breast cancer. So what do we do? We give females a known carcinogen called the birth control pill to help control their menstrual cycles. And then, when we suspect breast cancer, how do we diagnose it? With a mammogram, of course. There is a 1 in 79,000 risk of getting breast cancer from a mammogram. As Dr. Robert Rakowski puts it, perhaps the thinking is let's keep radiating the breast until we find the cancer that we caused! 

And for guys, it's no better. A prostate biopsy may contribute to the tumor spreading throughout the body! Actually, most males with prostate cancer will die from something other than the cancer itself.

Colon cancer is the third leading cause of (cancer) death in both sexes. My father passed away of colon cancer at the age of 41. Now, my dad was in pretty good shape - he was not overweight, ate fairly clean, and played the occasional squash or tennis match. He was a hard-working guy, probably a little over-worked actually. At the time, he was employed for a company named Petroquip where he installed and repaired the digital displays you see on gas pumps. Well I remember every night when he would come home, you knew he was home because you would smell gasoline. I mean it was always on him. And I am convinced to this day that it was the ultimate cause of his demise. Just about any literature you read on cancer will list petroleum as a primary carcinogen.

Do you have to be of the age to pump gas to be susceptible to this stuff? Not at all. Let me give a perfect example, it's called Sunny Delight. You see this stuff advertised every 10 minutes after school or on a Saturday morning. It's a healthy drink for your kids loaded with vitamins and minerals and will provide them with plenty of energy. One thing that they neglect to mention, though, is that Sunny D is loaded with petroleum byproducts. According to the Environmental Working Group (, it contains ingredients that the FDA and the beverage industry have said can mix together to form benzene, a known human carcinogen. In fact, there have been many reports of kids turning yellow and orange from drinking too much of this stuff!

Sports drinks are also popular. Bet you didn't know that the main ingredient in many of these drinks is nothing more than varsol! Also, the price of sports drink has gone up recently. Do you know why? Because the price of petroleum has increased. Petroleum is used in the resin that lines each bottle.

I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture.

You know the detrimental effects of technology does not only apply to humans; the same fate occurs when we domesticate animals - they get fat and they incur disease.

Terrestrial wild animals rarely have more than 5% body fat (except for bears that sleep it off in the winter.) Animals that have to escape danger or fight to survive (whether they are predators or prey) are generally very lean - usually around 3% body fat. In fact, one of the leanest animals in the wild are warthogs at 1.3% body fat. Domestic pigs, on the other hand, contain 35-60% body fat! By the way, the pig is the animal closest to humans.

Much like a domestic animal, we no longer hunt for prey. We drive to the store to get it. We don’t even use stairs anymore; we use escalators or elevators. And we are either on the computer or watching television - the average person watches as much as 5 hours a day. Heck, we don’t even get up to change the channel - we have remotes! Most Americans lead a sedentary lifestyle – only 30% exercise on a regular basis.

Then we have all this garbage food - if you can even consider it as food. Supermarkets are filled with processed, packaged, refined foods that are doing nothing more than robbing nutrition (not providing it) and promoting obesity and disease!

Most of you should recognize the acronym S.A.D. as "Seasonal Affective Disorder", which causes many people particularly in the North to become lethargic and depressed in the winter due to a lack of sun. Well, the acronym S.A.D. has another meaning. It also stands for “Standard American Diet”, and in today’s state of affairs, the standard American diet is quite sad indeed!

There is no argument that today's technology has its benefits. We enjoy a standard of living that could hardly be imagined just a few decades ago, but at what expense?

50% of the Canadian population is overweight and 25% are considered obese. It’s even worse in the States with close to two-thirds of adults overweight and nearly one-third obese. Here’s the scary part: Over the past 2 decades, rates of overweight and obesity have more than doubled for adults, and nearly tripled among children.  In fact, childhood obesity is 4 times greater today than in the 70's!

It is known that obesity brings many health hazards with it, including heart attacks, strokes and diabetes with all of its complications. Obesity is a very serious concern. We have to stop kidding ourselves that the problem is overstated and will go away in time. It won’t, but the good news is that obesity, like any other disease, is reversible. If you want to make a difference, you must be proactive and take charge of your existence, and the first place to start is with proper nutrition.

There are 45 or so nutrients that the human body is incapable of manufacturing. These nutritional elements are called essential because it is essential for humans to incorporate them into their diets.

Essential nutrients include proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, and water.

Guess what? There is no such thing as an essential carbohydrate! You heard that right. There is no nutritional requirement for carbohydrates since the body is capable of converting other nutrients into the glucose for energy through a process known as gluconeogenesis.

Am I saying that we need to eliminate all carbs from the diet? Absolutely not! There are many nutritional factors found primarily in carbohydrates including fiber and various phytochemicals that are beneficial, but the standard American diet is loaded with carbohydrates that are lacking many of these important nutrients.

If you want carbs, you’ve got to earn them

So where do we start? Well, let’s take a look at the Canada’s Food Guide.

I think the Canada’s Food Guide is great … for about 25% of the population.

Generally, you can divide people into 3 categories: apple-shaped individuals, pear-shaped individuals, and banana-shaped individuals or the lean, skinny guys and gals that can eat just about anything they want and never gain weight. For these individuals, a high carbohydrate diet like the Canada’s Food Guide works well, but for the remaining 75% of the population who are either apple or pear-shaped and experience some degree of insulin resistance and carbohydrate intolerance, a low carb approach is indicated.

What about exercise?

Well, aerobic activity is crucial for weight loss, right?

Sure, you’ll lose weight but at what expense? If you do excessive aerobic work, rest assured that you will catabolize muscle tissue, and remember, the more muscle you have, the greater the metabolic rate.

Will frequent, slow, rhythmic aerobic work decrease body fat?

Yes, it will … for a period of time … then your body starts to accumulate body fat. You heard me right. Your body will store fat as a result of the aerobic activity.

The human body is a highly adaptable organism. It prefers fat for fuel at lower intensities. This is true. So when you constantly perform low intensity aerobic work (aka cardio), your body is smart. It says: “Okay, if you want to burn more fat for fuel constantly performing this activity, then I will store more fat to make you more efficient at the activity you are trying to perform!”

During weight training, for example, you are breaking down muscle tissue. So your body adapts by building muscle to make you more efficient at that activity.

The aerobic movement was founded by Dr. Kenneth Cooper 40 years ago, and it’s still going strong today. Practically 90% or more of the curriculum in school is based on aerobics. “Aerobics are imperative for cardiac health”, we’re taught. Tell that to Jim Fixx, Brian Maxwell, and Ed Burke – these endurance athletes had extremely high max VO2 scores – yet all 3 died from heart attacks.

Here’s something you may find quite surprising: resistance training has a profound effect on the cardiovascular system. In fact, resistance training may be a safer approach than aerobics for cardiac rehab patients according to Dr. Doug McGuff.

Can you believe that?

We know that exercise is important for health. Most people can afford 3 hours a week for exercise. It’s a small price to pay for their health – only 1.8% of the week – that’s it! But people do not want to waste their time. They want the most for their training buck, and that’s why I’m a big fan of weight training.

Yoga and stretching improve flexibility. Aerobics improve cardiovascular endurance. Pilates improve core strength. Well, weight training will do all of the above and much more… It’s called: “Killing many birds with one stone!” and that’s the type of activity you should encourage your clients to perform regardless of age or gender. I believe that weight training is even more important for females quite frankly. The famous Framingham Heart Study found that by the age of 65, the average woman couldn't lift a 10-lb. weight.

And recent studies have shown that strength is more important than endurance to improve functional capacity in aging adults. One problem that plagues many elders (particularly females) is osteoporosis. You hear of many seniors falling and breaking bones - they can't even get up to call for help. Well, the sad reality is that their bones break first and then they fall! Weight-bearing exercise is crucial … not walking!

Let’s finish our discussion with the prevalent use of drugs today.

“A drug without a side-effect is not a drug!” I’m sure you realize that.

Smoke a joint today and by Monday your testosterone levels will return back to normal. Smoke a joint everyday for 6 weeks and it will take 8 weeks for your testosterone levels to return to baseline.

Testosterone levels have dropped by 30% over the past 2 decades and infertility rates have increased significantly. Do you know that the average user of Viagra is a 26-year old male – it’s sad!

The new party drug is Ritalin. One reason for this is because Ritalin increases libido. And who do we give this drug to? Our kids.  While little Johnny should be concentrating on the chalk board; his focus is on the teacher’s ass! Meanwhile, one of the most prescribed drugs in the world are antidepressants. Antidepressants decrease libido and Growth Hormone production for that matter. Not quite what adults are looking for!

If you look at long-time comedians, such as George Burns and Bob Hope, they had longevity on their side. New age comedians like John Belushi, John Candy, and Chris Farley had altered brain chemistry linked to drug use.

Many drugs are so readily accessible and encouraged. You go to the drug store and purchase them over the counter. One of the top selling over the counter drugs is Tylenol. Tylenol is also the #1 cause of acute liver failure in the U.S.! What’s better – 100,000 deaths or so a year from non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs ) such as aspirin or ibuprofen or 6-7 deaths from herbal supplements? Do the math. The problem many times is that drugs work much quicker than herbs.

Really, the drug of choice should be exercise. It’s been said that for a man to live to be 100 years old, he must sweat a little everyday. That’s the drug that I prescribe and hope you will too.

About The Author

John Paul Catanzaro is a CSEP Certified Exercise Physiologist with a Specialized Honours Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology and Health Science. He owns and operates a private facility in Richmond Hill, Ontario providing training and nutritional consulting services. John Paul has authored two books, The Elite Trainer (2011) and Mass Explosion (2013), and has released two DVDs, Stretching for Strengthening (2003) and Warm-Up to Strength Training (2005), which have sold copies worldwide, been featured in several magazines, and have been endorsed by many leading experts. In 2013, John Paul released two new webinars, Strength Training Parameters and Program Design and Body Composition Strategies, providing the latest cutting-edge information to fitness professionals. For additional information, visit his website at or call 905-780-9908.

[This is an excerpt from John Paul’s popular lecture, Healthy Living – An in-depth discussion on nutrition, exercise and lifestyle factors. For more information, visit]