The Rheo Blair Interview Part 5: Conclusion

The entire interview may be viewed here.

Why did Rheo Blair have people take so many pills as opposed to eating whole foods? What were his pills trying to simulate? Were there any changes to Blair’s pills over the course of his career?

Well first he was certainly in favor of whole foods and opposed to the processed, nutrient depleted fare of the standard American diet. His clients ate whole foods daily; some more, some less. Part of my daily routine included whole eggs, raw milk, raw butter, whole grain toast, etc. And those of his clients on a non-building program, i.e. weight loss or something else certainly did eat an abundance of whole foods. They typically did consume some of his protein supplement because it was such a good source of healthy non-denatured protein; but their dietary regimes emphasized more whole foods. But in addition to the whole foods and/or protein supplements his clients all took large quantities – megadoses they are called – of supplements. It really was not a question of pills instead of whole foods.
But yes the pills played a huge role, especially for those of us who were wanting to gain. And in that regard Rheo had a unique concern in his work with those wanting to put on solid muscle; the ability to get an abundance of protein in the clients’ diet – upwards of several hundred grams per day -- without overloading the stomach. That is no easy trick. If the stomach becomes overloaded one encounters several issues; not wanting to eat for hours and so you end up ultimately getting less protein in; lethargy which means the body is using too much energy simply trying to digest food rather than using that energy for assimilation and thus growth. If you are not digesting your food efficiently, you are not getting everything out of it you should – and Rheo wanted you to assimilate ALL the nutrients in your food. So he came up with a system that made the hi-level protein intake relatively easy and even pleasant.
He had a system of concentrated and tasty protein puddings and shakes which one took throughout the day; many small meals so the stomach never got overloaded. He wrote an entire booklet about it called “Rheo Blair’s Protein Way of Life” explaining the process in detail so it was easy to accomplish.

Hand in hand with the quantities of protein went quantities of pills. The supplements served various needs related to digestion and assimilation. One of his favorite sayings was “it’s not what you eat, it’s what you assimilate!” For those wanting to gain muscle they were important in ramping up the ability of the body to turn ingested protein into muscle. For those wanting to lose weight they assisted in fat reduction. Obviously, many people found it difficult to take hundreds of pills every day. Stuffing the stomach could be a real issue. So, like with the protein he had his students either divide them up into 4 or 5 feedings per day. Or, if that didn’t work, he then suggested they “nibble” on them all day perhaps taking on or two every few minutes.

Now to take your question one step further. Bodybuilding was one thing but many of his clients were sickly, skinny, frail and, as such, were found to have unique needs above and beyond what I just described for bodybuilding in general. I was an example of this – a sickly, frail, teen -- and I and others like me were anything but bodybuilders. We just wanted normal, healthy bodies. What Rheo found out in his work with us is that we were been born with extreme needs of certain nutrients and that we required these nutrients in very substantial quantities just to be able to function normally on a daily basis. To obtain such quantities it is necessary to use supplements. Not instead of whole foods but as supplements to whole foods. The needed levels of certain nutrients cannot be achieved by diet alone no matter how whole, unprocessed and nutritious the diet. That said, the diet is critical and goes hand in hand with the supplement regime; they are complementary. There is a great deal of work being done today on this subject in the field of orthomolecular medicine.

The part of your question concerning any changes to Blair’s pills over the course of his career could be the subject for a lengthy article all by itself. Suffice it to say that he had a line of supplements during his Chicago years in the 1950’s and when he moved to California he completely revamped and expanded his supplement line. He also tinkered with specific formulations for his products as new information dictated, always striving for the very best; after all, he was consuming hundreds of his own pills every day himself. He was formulating them for himself, first. The same can be said of his protein supplements. When he got to California, he began discarding his Chicago line and came out with several new formulas based on the concept of the growth factors in human breast milk. He consumed them himself and was always his own client first. He understood the frailty of his own health given his background and wanted nothing but the finest for himself. He was constantly tinkering with and upgrading his formulations. He also personally experimented with substances that were not part of his product line; he would do this and, if he felt they had merit, would add them to his line. But first he would try them extensively on himself and then possibly on friends, close clients, etc. to judge their efficacy. One thing he was very interested in during his latter years was royal jelly, the food of the queen bee. This is a substance that, when eaten by an ordinary worker bee, transforms that bee into a queen bee. This is interesting to ponder because one can sense a certain similarity with the royal jelly to the growth ideas and growth factors of his “mothers milk” protein formulations. He consumed this stuff in enormous quantities every day. We are talking tablespoons full of pure royal jelly. And this was at a time when it was not nearly as available as it is today. He spent a small fortune on it. But that was Rheo; always experimenting and no price was too high.

Ben: What are some ways in which pills could speed change and induce change?

Charles: Going back to biochemical individuality, as mentioned previously we are all as different on the inside of our bodies as we look on the outside. Significantly, our organs are not of uniform size and shape. Oh sure, they are all basically the same organs from one person to the next but there, in terms of practical reality, is where the similarities end. In his book, Biochemical Individuality, Roger Williams has two large diagrams of specimens of stomachs and livers showing their variation in form from one person to the next. You look at those diagrams and they really get you to thinking about what we are talking about here. Take the liver for example. We all have the same basic size and shape livers but the specific specifications can vary considerably. Indeed, the dimensions of my liver may be as different from your liver as are the dimensions of my arm from from your arm. And what is critical here is that this difference in size and shape affects function and efficiency – and of course I mean far more for an organ than for an arm. An arm has a few basic functions; the liver, thousands. You, for example, may have a strong efficient liver superbly managing blood sugar, conjugating hormones and a thousand other vital activities whereas I may have one that struggles simply to keep up with day to day requirements resulting in a considerably lower level of health. Rheo’s whole idea was that the difference between a skinny, sickly, weak person and a thriving energetic person – for example an Arnold Schwarzenegger – was in their body chemistry, and by this he meant the functioning of their organs and glands; their efficiency and ability to manage hormone balance, blood sugar, turning food into muscle and tissue and just overall the entire realm of blood chemistry issues the liver and other organs are responsible for. If you can optimize organ/gland function, you can almost create a whole new person. Hormone balance alone has a huge influence on the health and strength of the body. What Rheo was doing with his megadosing of supplements was to support and, where needed, improve the functioning of the organs and glands. When the glands function well, you literally get more nutrition assimilated out of your food; you have more energy; your immune system functions better, etc. All of these are critical to good health. And if you want to be a bodybuilder, well, all of these things need to be running at peek efficiency as well. But to effect the changes in blood chemistry that he sought took truly huge quantities of certain nutrients. And again this varied from client to client. Rheo’s supplement regimes were, though enormous, targeted and specific for ones individual needs.

One other thought here, you mentioned whole foods. Rheo would never suggest you eat anything but whole foods (his protein powders were an exception to this perhaps; but there were reasons in his programs for using a concentrated protein source and the powders themselves were undenatured and very close in many biochemical respects to the milk and eggs they came from). But getting back to using pills and powders instead of completely relying on whole foods. Two reasons; one already mentioned – the nutritional needs of some people are such that it is impossible to get what they need from food alone. Secondly, Rheo’s methods allowed dramatic results to happen over a fairly short period of time; weeks or months whereas this wouldn’t be possible in quite the same way relying on foods alone. His methods not only made dramatic transformations possible, they dramatically condensed the time needed to accomplish them. And remember, too, that a rapid transformation measured in mere months had been his own personal experience when he started out so, naturally, it is what he was excited about and what he espoused.

Ben: Rheo Blair was an unconventional thinker. What were some ways that he challenged conventional and acted out of the ordinary?

Charles: He challenged his clients in many regards. Everything about him was unconventional from his research methodology to his spiritual thinking. The more you got to know him the more he shared his ideas with you and challenged you. There is much more to his thinking than most people realize– even those with some familiarity with him.

Nutritionally speaking, he was the original high-protein lo-carb guru. He was also the original nutrition-focused bodybuilding coach. Today it would be unheard of to try bodybuilding without eating a diet and taking supplements conducive to growth. Pick up a bodybuilding magazine today and you find page after page of protein and supplement ads as well as nutritional advice. But until Rheo came on the scene, bodybuilding thinking was almost entirely centered around exercise alone with very little attention paid to what goes in one’s mouth. Through his work and writings he convinced people that if they wanted to get their bodies correct they had to first get their nutrition correct. Exercise could be complementary to this fact but not a substitute for it. Indeed, he felt that exercise was not always good; too much could have a detrimental effect on one. This is quite contrary to the conventional wisdom that exercise is always good and that more is better. One exercise in particular he had problems with was the squat; a very, very popular exercise even today. He felt them to be detrimental for more than one reason but particularly because, in his thinking, they negatively affect endocrine function and balance which was exactly the opposite of what you want to be doing as a bodybuilder. In the Blair philosophy, good endocrine function and balance is the very foundation of a strong, beautiful body.

Ben: Would you like to share any final thoughts?

Charles: He was one of history’s truly unique “originals.” He died an untimely death in the early 1980’s during the ascendancy of hi-carb diets as his ideas seemed to be fading away. Sad, really, to see one’s ideas trashed in one’s final years. So he would be thrilled today with much of what is happening out there; the increasing popularity of low carb dieting, the deservedly bad rap that sugar increasingly gets, the acceptance and widespread use of supplements and just in general the active interest more and more people are taking in their own health. I think, too he would appreciate the growing skepticism with which the medical profession is viewed in terms of it’s ability – or lack thereof – to heal the causes of disease and create real health. As a person, he was a kind, prince of a fellow, thoughtful, giving and generous and those who were privileged to be counted among his friends were truly blessed by his friendship.

Copyright © 2009 Charles Welling
All rights reserved.

Information found on Rheo H. Blair: The Book is meant for educational and informational purposes only, and to motivate you to make your own health care and dietary decisions based upon your own research and in partnership with your health care provider. It should not be relied upon to determine dietary changes, a medical diagnosis or courses of treatment.