The Wellness Trap

It's easy to make something look impressive. But so many health plans fail because they lack effectiveness. Here's how to see through...

Welcome to the positive corner of the internet. Every weekday, we make sense of the confusing world of wellness by analyzing the headlines, simplifying the latest research, and offering quick tips designed to make you healthier in less than 5 minutes. If you were forwarded this message, you can get the free daily email here.

Today’s Health Upgrade

  • Number you won’t forget

  • Weekly wisdom

  • Weekly win

  • Podcast we’re enjoying

  • Perspective: is it impressive or effective?

Arnold’s Podcast

Want more stories from Arnold? Every day, Arnold’s Pump Club Podcast opens with a story, perspective, and wisdom from Arnold that you won’t find in the newsletter. And, you’ll hear a recap of the day’s items. You can subscribe on Apple, Spotify, Google, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Number You Won’t Forget: 6 Calories

Fact: muscle burns more calories than fat. 

Fiction: it’s not as much as many people claim. 

Research suggests that each pound of muscle burns about six calories per day at rest. 

Prior estimates suggested that a pound of muscle burned approximately 50 calories per day — which would be amazing — but is unfortunately inaccurate. 

That said, don’t let the six calories deter you from having a better muscle-to-fat ratio. That six calories applies to each pound of muscle. Not to mention, the benefits of muscle go far beyond burning calories.

The more muscle you have, the better you can fight against disease, process and metabolize calories (and carbs), manage blood sugar and insulin, support healthier bones, and protect against age-related decline. 

Weekly Wisdom

“What we face may look insurmountable. But I learned something from all those years of training and competing. I learned something from all those sets and reps when I didn't think I could lift another ounce of weight. What I learned is that we are always stronger than we know.”

Weekly Win: Anything Is Possible

Each week, we ask members of The Pump app to share their victories and struggles. Because both deserve attention and support. This week, we celebrate Matt for his incredible life transformation. You might not be where you want to be today — but you likely underestimate where you can take yourself tomorrow.

Podcast We’re Enjoying

We don’t overcome our struggles by running from them. We win by accepting and discussing without shame or guilt.

That’s why we’ve enjoyed What Could Be Bad, a new podcast from Benj Gershman. That O.A.R. bassist is on a mission to destigmatize mental health struggles by getting others to share stories of their mental health battles and how they’ve taken a journey to a better place. It’s equal parts honest, challenging, and uplifting — and it’s worth a listen.

Perspective: Is It Impressive Or Effective?

I’ve made a lot of unimpressive decisions in my life. 

More than ten years ago, I turned down an opportunity to have equity in a company now valued at more than a billion dollars.

But in many ways, my financial loss will hopefully result in your health gain. 

Both when I worked in magazines and the first few years after I left Men’s Health and Livestrong, I was pursued by many different supplement companies. At the time, I was in a weird intersection between editorial gatekeeper and “influencer.” This was early in the days of social media, and because of that, people in media controlled access to the largest audiences and powerful, business-shifting recommendations (your influencer now can have more sway than a big brand). Back then, your favorite editor of your favorite publication could’ve been receiving perks and benefits, and the offers were hard to resist. But I passed up on all of them, including the equity deal.

I always thought my value as a trusted source of wellness would earn me more than any type of partnership. 

From a business sense, I was wrong. (As I write this, I’m on a flight, sitting in coach, and still saving up for the belt squat and pendulum squat I dream of owning).

From a health standpoint, it allowed me to help more people. 

It’s not that I’m against supplements or promoting products that work. You even see us recommend brands in this newsletter, and we stand behind their ability to make you healthier and happier. But you’d be shocked to know how many we have turned down and how much money we’ve passed on. 

Because there’s something bigger at stake. 

If I took the deals, I would’ve found more money in my bank account. But I’m pretty sure I would’ve also lost my way. 

That approach has allowed me to help thousands of people, and why more than 800,000 people have signed up for this newsletter. 

Because you trust us to be honest, cut through the noise, and tell you what works. And it’s a responsibility we take seriously because there is a lot of misdirection in health.

By being patient and passing on blindly supporting supplement companies, I learned a valuable lesson that has made me rich in health: what looks impressive is often not the most effective.

When I considered all of the offers, I thoroughly assessed the products, the research, the process, and the finer details about what goes into making supplements. Because I was patient, I saw more than most.

Once I could look under the hood, I saw that what appeared amazing on the label was not as incredible in real life.

  • Protein products were spiked.

  • Pre-workouts were filled with a ton of caffeine and not much else….but cost much more than a cup of coffee. 

  • Greens powders loaded with active ingredients so diluted or non-existent that they wouldn’t move the needle for improved nutrition.

  • And worst of all, supplements with ingredient labels that lied and took your money without giving you anything in return. 

That’s not to say that all products were bad. There are good ones out there who are doing the right thing and making a positive change. 

But this post isn’t about supplements. It’s about perception and reality.

Your health is arguably the greatest investment you can make. That’s probably why you subscribed to this email. 

Buying things that are good for your health or support healthy habits is a good use of your hard-earned money. But most of what you’re sold won’t make a difference. 

And that’s because it’s much easier to sell you what you want rather than have an honest conversation about what you need. 

The newest workout with the newest exercise is seen as better — even if it doesn’t have the proven track record of the exercise performed millions of times with proven results. 

Biohacking is sold as an “upgrade” because of its complication and nuance — even though the simplicity and sustainability of basic habits are the foundation of positive change. 

And it’s all a trap that preys upon our brain’s reaction to novelty. 

We live in a society where newer is better — and more is more. More exercises must mean faster changes. More ingredients must mean more nutrition. More extremes mean better results. We want to be impressed and convinced that something works.

But more often than not, what works is not all that impressive. And that’s why it’s overlooked and underestimated. 

People want to train like Arnold…until they realize that about 90 percent of his training consisted of about a dozen exercises. 

They want his secrets. But his secret was he didn’t think. He knew when he had to train and when to rest. He had a vision and a plan. He showed up. He built habits. He repeated those habits. And he surrounded himself with a positive community that made it easier for him to keep showing up. 

He did the work, and it showed. As Arnold says, it’s about reps, reps, reps.

If you want to break free from what holds you back, it’s time to spend more time focused on effectiveness instead of impressiveness.

Making this change isn’t easy, but it starts with the awareness. You must be aware that what grabs your attention usually isn’t what’s best for you. 

If you want a workout that works, consider your needs. You need a program that matches your body, strengths, and weaknesses and that you can do repeatedly.

If you’re buying a supplement, look into what delivers the desired result — rather than taking a label at face value. And if you’re investing in a change, make sure it’s something you feel you could do for a year (or longer) — not something you can only maintain for a short period.

The effective route usually isn’t flashy.
Little decisions, done repeatedly, grow into consistent behaviors over time. 

It won’t make headlines. It won’t get much attention. 

But it will deliver results that last and make you feel better and in control of your life. Take it from me: that’s the most impressive thing you can do for your health. -Adam B.

Thanks again for joining us for another week. If you enjoy the pump, forward this email to one person, and let’s grow the positive corner of the internet. Together, we have the strength to lift up the world.

-Arnold, Adam, and Daniel

Publisher: Arnold Schwarzenegger

Editors-in-chief: Adam Bornstein and Daniel Ketchell