Muscle & Witless

Brian Johnson endorses what he calls an extreme case of primal living. In other words, he embraces the Appeal to Antiquity fallacy. This is when some time in the past – the 1950s, the Old West, the Medieval era, or something less concrete – is touted as ideal and a period whose values we should emulate. This requires cherry picking at best and a complete mangling of history at worst.

Additionally for Johnson, his claim fell horribly flat when leaked e-mails revealed that his Muscle & Fitness-cover physique came from the relatively recent invention of anabolic steroids. He may have consumed raw animal organs and gobbled some undefined supplements as he claimed, but it was steroids that resulted in his brawn.

Johnson said he started weightlifting because classmates were bullying him. That’s possible, although when the central tenet of a person’s existence is proven fraudulent, it’s hard to believe anything else they say.

Eventually, he founded Ancestral Supplements, which borrowed heavily from the ideas of author Sally Fallon. Her philosophy eschews modern diets and lifestyles. Applied physiologist Dr. Nick Tiller wrote in Skeptical Inquirer, “With so much competition in a saturated space, Johnson needed to distinguish himself among fitness influencers…so in 2021, the Liver King was born.”

This body organ monarch said he followed a list of Tenets, which were eat, sleep, move, connect, cold, sun, fight, and bond. As one example of what this meant, move refers to being active, usually by walking, to, as Teller explained, “combat the mismatch between our genetics that evolved when humans were required to expend energy to obtain it, and our modern environment, characterized by an abundance of empty calories.”

The sleep portion highlights sleep quality, which the hypothesis holds is best managed by regular sleep cycles and blocking blue light at bedtime. Both these Tenets have some validity but when Johnson starts dispensing nutritional advice, things get dicey. His suggested intake is a supreme form of the mostly-debunked Paleo Diet. This lifestyle emphasizes consuming large amounts of organ meat.

Tiller notes organ meat contains copious amounts of iron, zinc, and riboflavin, so its consumption can be advantageous. But there is the flip side, which includes high saturated fat and cholesterol. Further, the diet embraces raw milk and raw egg yolks, both of which have potential dangers.

While ground organs have been used as food for many years, it does not go all the way back to early homo sapiens. According to Tiller, their diet leaned heavily on meat when it was dry and a more plant-based, high-fiber approach during the wet times. Despite this, Johnson insists that we modern humans are descended from “the baddest mammalian predators that ever lived,” and we owe it to their legacy and honor to eat like they did. Curiously, this mindset does not extend to eschewing electronics, sleeping in a mud hut, or wearing loincloths.

While he lauded raw eggs and organs, Johnson most enthusiastically ingested synthetic testosterone, several anabolic and androgenic steroids, plus various drugs which mediate the effects of growth hormone and stimulate appetite.

Johnson’s claim that his physique was owed to food choice and sleeping patterns was comical to anyone possessing the slightest common sense. Attaining his form is impossible without massive doses of steroids and similar concoctions. The assertion that his extreme muscle size and definition was the result of diet and lifestyle choice was absurd on its face. Additionally, if true, it would mean that everyone in the time that he is claiming to mimic would have looked the same as he does now.

Johnson tries to maintain an image of back to nature, the good old (this case really old) days and embracing extreme manhood. Yet he enjoys the luxury lifestyle that this image enables him to attain. Teller describes the comical nature of how Johnson presents himself: “He’s often pictured with spears and other weapons, holding handfuls of raw meat that look as though they’ve been cut straight from an animal’s carcass. He owns four Dobermans and a fleet of trucks including a Hummer and an American Tank from World War II…and uses a rifle to obliterate vegan food.”

Teller also points out the hypocritical irony of Johnson taping himself destroying a WiFi router because it is modern, while employing a technology unavailable 150 years ago to tape this destruction. And, of course, Johnson needs the Internet to hawk his products and image.

His one accurate claim of continuing tradition is his following in the line of anti-science charlatans that have plagued society for the last millennium.

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