A Conversation about Rheo Blair, Part II -- Nathan's Experience

In Part I of our conversation about his experience with Rheo Blair, we met Nathan, a "distance" student of Rheo Blair's back in the 60's 70's and 80's.

We learned how he heard about Rheo and of his initial, modest Blair program.He had tried other lines, Weider, Hoffman, etc but eventually chose Blair's. We learn why.

And we learn of his second, more intense Blair program, including his views on some of Blair's products.

 Charles: Let's clarify what the issues were in your mind at that time regarding the choice between the Weider products and the Blair products. You say that Weider claimed superiority for his products?

Nathan: Yes. Certain non-Blair products were so highly touted in the magazines of protein manufacturers, not only in ads, but in text, that an impressionable kid had to believe they were the best. By them being touted in text, what I mean is that most articles about a successful bodybuilder of the time would often include that bodybuilder testifying that he owed much of his success to, for example, Weider products. Initially they tasted awful but as time went on, with more sugar added, they tasted better.  But at what cost to nutritional quality?
I recall a product named “Super Pro 101”, a canned, liquid product, which listed as its first ingredient: corn syrup. I liked the vanilla flavor, but the 30 grams of protein (later they claimed as much as 40) derived from it was at the expense of one having to also ingest a lot of empty and harmful sugar calories. Another one I remember well was “Crash Weight #7, “ I believe it was made of confectionery sugar, flavoring, and casein. Claims for it were up to a pound a day of weight gain, but even though I mixed it with things like ice cream, bananas, pineapple, raw eggs, and lots of milk, I still did not gain much weight on it. Probably just as well, because if I had gained weight, it would have probably been mostly fat.
Charles: So you're saying there was lots of sugar, empty calories, and not much in the way of results. Those are words no one would ever use about Rheo Blair! And didn't Weider also sell protein tablets?

Nathan: Yes. And here we go again: Weiders' protein tablets consisted of, I think, soy protein, probably some sugar, and flavoring, Those did have bromelain in them to assist with digestion, but I am not sure if there was actually enough to do much good, at least for me. On the other hand, Weider's BD/BU (Break Down/Build Up), was a fairly good product which included bioflavanoids and vitamin C. And everyone at that time sold the ascorbic acid form of Vitamin C since the more exotic versions like  ester C and some mineral bound forms of C were not yet available.  But with most other ingredients, Blair chose the best quality ingredients at the highest therapeutic level per serving regardless of cost; and no sugar, ever. Let me give you an example: if calcium carbonate was cheap, and calcium citrate expensive,  Blair would choose the calcium citrate at a high dose level while the others might chose the carbonate at a lower dose level while still charging a high price. So regardless of your out-of-pocket cost, Blairs was ALWAYS the better value and most important of all - you got results! Blair's commitment to results also extended to the form in which the supplement came: he chose, for example,  the more expensive and more bio-available capsule format whenever available/possible while others defaulted to the cheaper tablet format which did not always break down or at least did not do so consistently.  

And let's get back to the core ingredients. The protein powders Weider and others sold were soy-based which is bad enough BUT it was also grainy and hard to mix adding insult to injury. This was where Blair's milk and egg protein was so clearly superior -- far more nutritious and easier to assimilate of course, but also easier to mix, and better tasting, particularly with the esther based flavorings he sold. To clarify, Blair himself initially sold a soy powder product (and was quickly copied and out-marketed by others). But Blair always was looking for better nutritional options for

himself and his clients. Therefore, when he found out that soy had real problems with indigestibility and was an incomplete protein and therefore an unbalanced amino acid profile, he quickly dumped soy in favor of milk and egg.  Had he known soy was a goitrogen, he probably would have dumped it sooner as goitrogens can, in those with thyroid issues, disrupt the entire hormonal balance of the body, that very balance being at the core of Blair’s successful theories and results.

Charles: You are too polite about the taste of the non-Blair powders. I tried several of them in the mid-70s before I had heard of Rheo Blair. Those powders tasted vile. And they didn’t help me.  Although I held my nose and drank them religiously I didn't gain a pound. But when I tried Blairs, I couldn't believe how incredibly good it tasted. Blairs' Protein was literally so tasty that it was like something that should be bad for you –but it wasn’t.  And how they worked! Before and after magic.  Bottom line, you can’t build a healthy body with sugar and soy.  Raw organic milk and raw organic eggs DO build healthy bodies. Just ask Weston Price.
Nathan: Yes, my results were certainly not spectacular on the Weider products either, the taste was clearly inferior, and, bottom line, the bodybuilders, in many cases, were not even using them in spite of the fact they appeared in paid advertisements for those same products. Amazing! 

Incidentally, I once had a problem with  the Weider company when it took around 3-4 months to receive a weight training bench which was paid for in advance. It was a lot more difficult in those days to get any consumer protection, and the thing was paid for by check, so nothing like charging back a credit card. The “Weider Research Institute,” as near as anyone can tell, existed in name only, although I did not know that at the time. 

Charles: Rheo didn't always get his orders shipped out promptly, God knows, but it was never anything like 3-4 months and he did do his best with all that was going on around him. We used to joke about everyone at Blair house being on "Blair Time" where the world moved at a more relaxed pace and things just didn't happen in the most efficient manner possible to the casual observer. This was something of an illusion. Truth was, he and his staff were constantly very busy and accomplished more than the average person could ever imagine.

Nathan: Well, my switch from Weider to Blair products was somewhat gradual trying and comparing them to the locally available and less expensive lines. I do wish there had been a local Blair dealer as I could get the others' products nearby and quickly. Blair products were to be found on the West Coast in health food stores, but that was not the case in small towns here on the East Coast.  

And, as I started to get to know a few of the serious bodybuilders, I learned that many of them,  especially if they were drug free, preferred Blair's products to all others, and almost no one had much respect for most other products lines, other than those with some commercial interest in them, such as the store selling them. And then it is also true that some guys I knew by the 70s were steroid users and basically had found that they gained no matter what, so they were not all that particular about what supplements they used.

Charles: Rheo called these latter the "easy gainers' and said they could eat practically anything and get big. But Rheo made his mark turning hard gainers into successful bodybuilders, over time,  and taking easy gainers and doing the same practically overnight.  And of course the steroid question is of huge significance and covered thoroughly by Randy Roach.

Nathan: In my case, though, determined to remain drug free, I felt I should be using the best, and while the change was gradual, by 76-77, I had finally dumped Weider and was totally on Blair's. Also, when I started earning more money, around 1977, and Blair assured me his program would get results, that's the way I went. After many years on various other products with gradual, almost indifferent results,  I finally got the best, most dramatic and impressive results ever from Blair's big program.

Charles: OK so shifting away from non-Blair products let's focus on your big Blair program.  Tell us what happened. And this was how long after your first, modest Blair program in 1966?

 Nathan: Well, several years. Fast forward through a late 60's stage of being more interested in things like Bob Dylan music, subculture, and beautiful hippie girls with long straight hair even longer than my own shoulder length hair, to the early 70s, when I went back to the weights it was not because I needed to, but because it was something I missed. Once I was back in the workaday world, and had a full time adult type job, I decided that I could afford the Blair program, and once again contacted Rheo.

Charles: Was he happy to hear from you and happy that you were ready to "go big?" 
Nathan: Yes, Rheo was very happy that I wanted to get serious both about bodybuilding and about
doing his big program, and wanted me to come to Hollywood, California for a stay at "Blair House".  While that woud have been by far the best option, I had too many commitments to honor rather than go to California for a stay, and reasoned that  the money that would have gone for airfare, etc. could instead be used for more supplements. So, I never went. I wish I had, though, because I learned years later about some of the things he did there, such as hydrotherapy, massage therapy, etc.

Charles: Yes, there were huge advantages in the results column of living with him during one's program.

 Nathan: And yet, even at the higher level I was on, my participation was still limited by limited funds, and at $600-700 dollars per month, I was still not on some of the more elite products, and on limited doses of others. I WAS able to use good amounts of the Extra Special Protein, at what was THEN $26/lb., lots of his very unique Soybro, Liver Extract, Lecithin, HCL and B-Complex. Rheo would give me advice on both on how to use these products, and advice on training. He was always very cordial and helpful.

However, if Rheo did have had a fault,  it was that he either could not, or would not, recognize that I did not have unlimited financial resources.  And yet I was spending a fortune. At the time, what I was spending with him was literally as much as some people in North Carolina, my home at that time, were earning. My "Rheo bill" was more than my house payment and car payment combined! And still he wanted me to spend more.

Charles: That sounds like Rheo I knew all right! He was 100% dedicated to everyone getting the best results. But yes his program was very costly, and his special "private" products were both extremely costly to produce and virtually impossible to get anywhere else. But for those who had the resources to buy them and use them at the levels Rheo advised,  the results were practically unbelieveable. This is a big reason he went after the Hollywood celebrity crowd; lots of money to spend in pursuit of dramatic results, and, for Rheo, lots of priceless free publicity when they did. 

Nathan: All of that aside, and despite my limited resources, this big program was VERY effective for me.  I was already a somewhat advanced trainee, and I gained probably another 15 lbs. of muscle  in the first 2 months.  Not only did I look better but I also FELT better on the Blair program. Felt like there was no stress in my life, despite the fact that nothing in my life had changed to cause this other than my being on the Blair program. 

Charles: One reason for this is that his program helped support and strengthen the adrenal glands, those endocrines that deal with stress. Adrenal fatigue, a result of too much stress, is a big problem for many people. It sounds like his program helped you in that regard. But there's another point regarding stress and the Blair program. Rheo taught that a certain frame of mind was required  for the best good bodybuilding results: peace and tranquility. Why? Because that state of mind allowed for increased blood flow and thus more nutrients reached the tissues that needed feeding for growth.

Nathan: Not only did I look and feel better, but my skin tone improved, my energy was up, and there was no longer any shaking when I worked out, even on the final, tough reps of a set.  From that point on, I always ordered Blair's, at whatever level I could afford. Very expensive but worth every penny from my experience.

And so I can say that after many years on various other products with indifferent results, I got the best results ever from Blair's big program. Results, eventually tapered off; that kind of muscle gain cannot be maintained long term.  But cash was ultimately the limting factor, and I had to eventually give up the big program. I continued, however, to use Rheo's products until he died and even after that got them as long as they were available from his office manager, Frederick Lindblad. When Freddie no longer had access to any Blair products, I began trying to replicate the program with other products. Some could be replaced, some could not. Soybro was the one item I never found much of a replacement for. Others were on again, off again, some company would start making a product I thought was similar to Blair's, then often stop making it, probably due to lack of market interest or high cost.

Charles: Tell us about your dietary regime while on the big program. 

Nathan: First of all, Rheo's program, at least for people like me who were lean and interested in bodybuilding, was high protein, high fat, low carb. For those who needed to lose weight, my understanding is that it was still high protein, low carb, but perhaps not as much fat allowed. Rheo would probably have had bodybuilders like myself practically live off of his protein, mixed with half and half as a protein shake, or made into a pudding with heavy cream, taken maybe 6 times per day along with digestants and other supplements. But, for the moment, the question you asked is about food: Rheo was VERY much against sugar, or anything like sugar. He told me that things like dextrose, maltodextrose, maltodextrins, corn syrup, etc., were really just other forms of sugar and were to be avoided. He even felt that one should avoid honey and fruit juices, which tended to elevate blood sugar. He singled out ketchup, I remember, saying that most brands were over 50% sugar. He felt that salt need never be added to food, that enough sodium would occur naturally.

Charles: I wonder if unrefined sea salt, Celtic Sea Salt, Himalayan Pink Salt etc. were available at that time. These are superb trace mineral sources unlike refined white table salt which is toxic.

Nathan: Foods he specifically thought were good were cottage cheese (if you weren't overweight, you could have peaches or pineapple with it, but only in its natural fruit juice, never in any kind of syrup), beef- steaks, (but not too much meat, as it would throw your phosphorus to calcium ratio out of balance, which was bad for your nervous system). This phosphorus-calcium thing I have never quite understood, but he obviously did. Potatoes were also fine, if you weren't overweight. Carbs in general were to be limited but when you did have carbs they had to be complex carbs, not simple
carbs. At one time, when I was training heavy with the weights, he had me eating steak and potatoes for breakfast. Eggs were allowed almost any time, from raw to scrambled to soft cooked (not boiled, low temp soft cooked) in the shell. He was very big on eggs, and they were his choice as the food nearest to perfect. Hard cheeses were generally OK, too. He preferred to get everything in natural, unpasteurized, organic form, when possible. Raw milk, cream, and cheese, beef raised with no drugs or hormones, grass fed, etc. About the only thing I know of Rheo allowing that was artificial was the use of saccharin in his ice cream, which was made in an ice cream churn with milk, cream, Blair's Protein, and flavoring. Eggs were used in the French Vanilla version of that ice cream.

 I later learned from Freddie that Rheo was very much against commercially available ice cream. Seems that it not only had loads of sugar, but lots of chemicals too, some of which, through some loophole, the manufacturers were not required to put on the label. Low carb salads were allowed, but not near the time protein supplements were taken, as the salad would interfere with digestion of the protein.

 I don't know if any of Rheo's thoughts would be different now that we know more about glycemic indexes and insulin indexes. As an example, we now know that sweet potatoes have a lower glycemic index level than white potatoes, I do not know if he would therefore be recommending sweet potatoes; we can only speculate on that. One thing I do know is that the human body has not undergone a radical change in just a generation or two, so what Rheo was practicing in the 60s and 70s will still work now, at least for the same percentage of people it worked for then -- and that was most people. 

One critical key to understanding his philosophy was his attempt to achieve a steroid like effect by the extremely high doses of all of the B-Complex he used. He also stressed that the various parts of his program were designed to work synergistically, and therefore would be much less effective if someone tried to pick and choose from the products in his line.  In a broader sense,  Rheo taught me to study and think about nutrition from a scientific standpoint. He emphasized the orthomolecular aspects of nutrition, of working with the cell in mind. I learned to place value on having a diet adequate in complete protein sources. I know the importance of proper digestion and using digestants, and of the critical roles of the  the B and C vitamins. And of course the utility of small, frequent meals, in place of large less frequent ones. 

Charles: What advice did he have for you with regards to exercise?

Nathan: Well, one basic piece of advice he gave me -- and which I did not heed and wish that I had -- was to exercise less. Even when I explained to him that I was serious about bodybuilding, and not just general health, he said I should only train 45 minutes or so, 3-4 times a week. He did not recommend training to failure or limit, either, as he said that resulted in "training on nervous energy" - his term. He also told me not to do barbell squats. I understand that this may have had something to do with the endocrine system, but the surface reason he gave me was that "squats will develop squatter's thigh, which does not look very good" It wasn't until years later that I understood what he was talking about, that squats DO build legs, but legs that resemble tree stumps, and have little shape or aesthetic appeal. As far as the amount of training goes, I now know that I was grossly, absurdly overtraining, especially in volume, but sometimes in intensity as well.

Charles: As we approach the end of this conversation, Nathan, let's return to the Blair products and what you liked about them.

Nathan: What I liked about Blair products, aside from the fact that they were far more effective, is basically the opposite of what I did not like about Weider. All of the Blair products except for the regular vitamin C, were in capsule form, and easy to swallow. The germ oil product, Soybro, was a soft gel, so no bad taste or texture.  The capsule and soft gel forms were also more likely to be assimilated versus a hard compressed pill which might go through the system without the nutrients being released. The protein powder was easy to mix and stayed pretty well suspended in the shake, less settling. When I started dealing with Blair, he was already selling the milk and egg protein, no longer the soy which he had sold earlier, so that might account for the easier mixing. One other thing about Blair was that if you wanted to use a large number of capsules, of something such as Liver Extract or Soybro, he offered up to 1000 capsule sizes, at a discount when compared with buying many small bottles.

Charles: Would you like to single out and comment on one or more specific products that you found especially effective?

Nathan: Soybro was certainly a favorite which I have never been able to replace. A company called Enzymatic Therapy made something they called Sterolplex for a while, which was similar, but generally, there has been nothing like Soybro. It had the heavy lipids removed, thus allowing the uptake of the complex sterols in large amounts, without consuming huge amounts of difficult to digest fat which occurred in the raw oils. If you took 30 or more Soybro a day, especially if you were also taking large amounts of Liver Extract, you experienced a general feeling of well being. Blair's Extra Special Protein has never quite been duplicated. It was the most effective, even though I liked the regular Blair's protein, taste wise. One product that should be mentioned to anyone trying to duplicate Blair's program as seen here, was Softone. This was a high grade psyllium husk product. It was inexpensive, but actually fairly important to the program, or at least to the program I was on, as I got very little fiber when consuming just the dairy products and meat. Psyllium and similar products are readily available of course. But my favorite Blair products, in order, and with some consideration as to how difficult they were to duplicate elsewhere would be: Soybro, Protein (regular OR Special), Liver Extract, and Calcium P-F.

Charles: Nathan, it's been a real pleasure hearing of your experience with the Rheo H. Blair program. Thank you for sharing this with us. 

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