Carl Lanore of Super Human Radio conducted an extensive, insightful and revealing interview with John Drake, founder and CEO of MASS Body Building Supplements at BodyBuildingSupplements.com
Here is Part 1 of their engaging conversation-
Carl: Hey, hey, welcome to another episode of Super Human Radio. We have a great show planned for you today. If you take supplements, or have ever thought of getting into the supplement business, this show is really going to interest you a lot. Today my guest is none other than John Drake from MASS Body Building Supplements. How you doin’, John?
John: Good to be with you this afternoon.
I don’t think a lot of people have heard your voice, do you think that’s true?
(laughs) I spent 18 years, in my former life as a top 40 radio announcer back in the day, so -
Few hours behind a hot microphone as we would say back then, although it's been 25 years in the nutritional supplement business now. Time flies!
And that’s what we’re really here to talk about today. The 25 years in the supplement business, because there’s a lot to be said for longevity in an industry where most companies and their products really could only be categorized as flash in the pan type products. You know, I have an archive of old bodybuilding magazines, and Rob Regish and I talk about this sometimes on his show, and I can thumb trough there – 90% of the world beating game changing, absolute best supplement in the world that you need to be taking products are gone. And you have to believe that they would not be gone if people would continue to buy them -
Those products would continue to thrive, those companies would continue to grow, but instead the products are gone, the companies are gone – it’s just an amazing phenomenon, and here you are 25 years into this... and I have to believe that longevity is evidence, if nothing else, of sound products. Do you think that is an accurate assessment?
I think so. So much of the industry is founded on flavor of the month, attracting new customers. And that’s why you see such high turnover of products within the marketplace. We never had that mindset going into it, our mindset was always to win over long term, lifetime customers. We're athletes ourselves here – health, fitness professionals, literally, in the sense that it's the lifestyle we lead. So, even if I was not in this industry, I’m still up in the morning having a health promoting, fitness promoting breakfast, and my supplements. And then the training. It’s my life and what I do. You see a lot of people – and I won’t name names – a lot of people in this industry – they don’t even work out. They never hit the gym, their lifestyle is anything but health and fitness promoting. So it’s easy to separate... with just a little bit of looking around, you know. Hype, more often than not, does not lead to substance.
Okay, so wait a minute. I actually posted something on Facebook the other day, and I’m gonna paraphrase, but basically what it said was “if you’re a health, fitness, paleo guru, and you don’t look healthy or fit, you really shouldn’t be giving advice.” And I had a lot of people out there who said, you know, there’s a lot of people out there who – remember the old adage, ‘people who can’t, or those who don’t, teach?’ You can’t be successful at business, but you can teach business.’ I’ve never believed that adage. I’ve always thought to myself, would I want a mechanic whose own car is always broken down, because that’s the quality of his ability.
Isn’t it fair to say that if I’m going to take advice from you, or anyone, not just you – if I’m going to take advice from somebody on how to supplement, how to diet, how to train, and they don’t look the part, why would I take advice from them if they can’t even get it done for themselves?
Well, and one flip side to that Carl is, that the youth, they’re bamboozled, in that they’ll see a company and they’ve got steroid-induced spokespersons, and they’re paid top dollar, and you’ve got the guy standing there and he’s showing off his pro muscle, and he’s standing in front of a Porsche perhaps, with a pretty girl in a bikini. To a seventeen year old, that’s an attractive picture, and he’s like- ‘I want to be that guy!’. That’s very appealing. So, they’re selling sizzle and not steak. We sell steak. You see a lot of that. You can look at our website, BodyBuildingSupplements.com. You don’t see professional bodybuilders there. We don’t hire them to hawk our wares. However, having said that, there’s a good number of pros who do use our products. And a number of them are paid to promote other competing products, which is, you know, a funny irony, but a fact.
Okay, so let’s talk about that. Does that frustrate you? You see professional bodybuilders who are clearly using lots of advanced performance enhancing drugs, attributing all their gains to a particular supplement, when even if it is a good supplement – let’s say its creatine – I mean, those of us who have been around for a long time know that this is not how this person became 275 pounds at 2% body-fat. But the newbie, the kid whose most vulnerable to this, is looking at that and thinking that’s true. Doesn’t that frustrate you?
Well, yes and no. You remember being young, as I do, and I’ll mention a product here. When I was a very, very young man, and just getting into lifting in a serious way, I think I bought the anabolic mega-pack from Weider four times. It never did work, but I bought it four times. The ads were that impressive, and there was a sale one time where I got a free bonus to buy the mega-pack, and I think I doubled up on the dosage, and so forth. I mean, I’ve been there. I remember Smilax and Boron and all those things. And boron can have a benefit to the body if it’s lacking, but it’s not exactly a supercharged anabolic steroid replacing compound in and of itself. That’s the hype that was sold, and obviously it was not delivered upon. But then, as in now, those companies, they want the one time sale. They are buying the big ads, the shiny, glossy labels, all the razzmatazz, and they’re going to attract a large number of gullible youthful guys that want it. In time, they’ll find their way, they’ll realize they were lied to and hyped up and so forth, and they’ll realize that nutrition comes first, training second, recovery, sleep, hydration, just all these little pieces you put together... you can have a fantastic physique, and get the pretty girl... I don’t know about the Porsche, but...(laughs)
But don’t you think that some of these people want to be lied to? Do you think they want to believe, I mean – Rob and I, we reminisce about the early days of pro hormones, and some of these drugs that these – these things were actually drugs, they were unresolved anabolic steroids, they were very harsh and very -
1-AD is one we were just discussing the other day, and – it had some really serious side effects.
Methyl 1-Test is the one that I think of. I knew guys that were literally putting on a pound a day, the muscle pumps... It was so toxic, you felt like you had the flu constantly, and you lost all the gains once you came off of it. You just urinated out your gains.
We sold a ton of sublingual androstene, way back when. Androstene Supreme. And our focus on that was not a super high mega dosage. Most other companies were selling the capsule form at the time, and wanted you to take it three, four, five times a day. We said take it pre-workout, it’s a – I think it was 100 mg per tab, maybe 50, I would have to go back and look (confirmed to have been 50 mg, Editor). We recommended pre-workout only, and in the sublingual form only, so you got the good out of it with more aggression, more strength within that specific workout window - and don’t take it otherwise. That’s what we recommended, and that's how we see things, for specific applications. Each product has a reason and logic behind the formula, in that it’s a pre-workout, or a intra-workout, or post-workout. Or it may be more for a specific type athlete, for an endurance athlete, or if somebody is looking for size and strength. But the pro hormone situation was an interesting time. We were the first company in America, in sports nutrition to sell DHEA, and I’m not here to brag about the past or anything, but that’s a fact. And within a year everybody had it, and it was all over the place. So, we do have a history – that was the beginning, obviously, with the pro hormone situation in sports nutrition. And by the end, it had gotten so out of control, and so many companies were completely irresponsible, and even promoting and selling injectables. And I remember Coach Rob, speaking with Rob at the time, I said these guys are insane, they are completely killing off this category and mark my words, within a year they were all gone.
I was going to ask you about – I was going to talk about DHEA. I had talked to you and I remember you told me that you were the first company to offer DHEA – to the sports enthusiast, I want to say that Life Extension Foundation was the first to promote DHEA use-
DHEA is still available today. So -
We’re still selling it. We sell a lot of DHEA, in that we have such a long, over twenty year customer base and have been known for it for so long. DHEA 100.
Is it effective? Look, I happen to take 200 mg of DHEA a day, and I have for a very long time. I don’t know that it’s converting to testosterone, but I don’t care because I’ve been on HRT since 2007 at this point in time. But what are your thoughts on DHEA? Should people- you know how it is – the flavor du jour, you forget about things that worked. Do you think people need to revisit DHEA?
Well, I mean it’s in Adaptogen N, and always has been, and that product is not so much specifically a test booster, but you do get a big test elevation, and there are independent third party studies that you can see on our website that show it. Coach Rob was one of the first guys to do so, and he can speak to that, and I don’t know if he has said so on the show previously, but there is an element of DHEA, about 25 mg per capsule in that formula. But it’s not so much there to boost test directly or artificially as it is for Luteinizing hormone. And that product (Adaptogen N) is focused around that, the Cyclofenil and Clomid mechanism is how I came about the formulation, trying to replicate that in the body. Natural means, the Clomid pathway. And it was very successful. Talk about longevity. Adaptogen N was one of our early ones, and is still our top seller to this day. So there is DHEA in there, but it’s more as a piece and one of the building blocks of the formula. DHEA as a standalone by itself, I think has merit, but – and certainly anyone can have their levels tested fairly easily, inexpensively, and see where they’re at. Adjust accordingly, and they should do so in tandem with their physician. Some people use very high amounts, lifters, day in, day out. I’m more of the belief that a little goes a long way. I’m using Adaptogen N every night before I go to bed. Most recently with Tranquilogen, which is a formula we just upgraded by adding Ashwagandha to it, and I think that really has put the product in a whole new category. The recovery benefits are phenomenal. And there’s no doubt you get additional test elevation, but far more than that, like with Adaptogen N and Luteinizing hormone right before sleep... when that is highest is what we’re looking for to help recovery ability and so on down the line... this is what you get in total... If you elevate Luteinizing hormone, in turn you will have a higher testosterone level.
Does Adaptogen N work for women?
It does. We haven’t really promoted it that way; it does have something of an, obviously, androgenic component to it. There is a good number of world class female athletes, more strength, power-lifter types, and bodybuilders, who use it. Generally at lower does than a guy would use... But, sure. The most common product that we have which women use – for strength and size, is Kre-Anabolyn. Leuzea Rhaponticum Carthamoides is a focal point, and Kre-Alkalyn. There’s some other components in there, too, other things, so. That’s the number one product we’ve had for the longest time that female athletes really get a...and it helps male athletes too. It’s across the board, it’s not only for women. Anyone can use that and have absolutely no worries about any kind of androgenic effect happening!
I want to take a break, and when we come back I want you to tell the audience the story about how Synthagen came about, and some of these other supplements that you and Rob worked on together.
The night out with all the pro-wrestlers.
Okay. Very good. (laughs...)
We’re going to take a quick commercial break, we’re talking with John Drake, the website is bodybuildingsupplements.com. Stay tuned, We’ll be right back.
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Carl: Welcome back. We’re talking with John Drake, the man behind MASS Body Building Supplements over the past twenty five years, many of the products, if not all of them, have been staples for that twenty five year period. If that doesn’t say something to to you, then you’re missing the boat. There’s a lot of flash in the pan companies out there that will promise you everything. And I guarantee you that a year from now they won’t even be available. And that tells you something. You stop buying them, so did everybody else. There’s a lot to be said for product longevity and companies that have been in business for twenty five years. They didn’t build a company so they could flip it and sell it or something like that. They’re in it because they love the industry, and they love delivering great products. And that’s what John Drake does, and has done for the past 25 years. Tell the story about how the wrestlers, when you went out to dinner with them one night, and you realized that these guys were crying for a supplement to help fill in the gaps for their crappy diets, because they’re on the road all the time. Right?
John: Right. Living out of a suitcase. And, we’re speaking about Rob Van Dam - and he’s been a long time Adaptogen N endorser, which we were just speaking about, he is a customer of Adaptogen N – he’s NOT a paid endorser, he’s never been paid money to endorse Adaptogen N. He uses several of our products. A great guy. He loves the fitness lifestyle, grew up in it. Rob’s fond of saying that his mom educated him early on about vitamins and supplements and so forth. It’s served him well! He’ll have to excuse me, because he’s not exactly a spring chicken anymore, but he’s competing with guys half his age at times, and competing well! The life of a pro wrestler is like being a stuntman on a nightly basis, and living out of a suitcase doing that. It’s difficult. On this particular night, it was in Macon, Georgia, and RVD had called me up, he said ‘I’m gonna be down in Macon in a few weeks, we have an IMPACT taping. IMPACT Wrestling. Come on down, we’ll have dinner and catch up and stuff'. I’m like, ‘Cool.’ Went down and spent the afternoon there and chatted, hung out with the crew and went to the show of course, they put on a good performance, a great show. And afterwards, they had – somebody had arranged for one of the Mexican restaurants in town to stay open late and ease us in the back door after they had closed. That was a lucky night, for the crew. In that, you could have a real, hot sit down meal and be waited on. 'Cause normally, those guys and gals are stuck – they’re lucky if there is a Waffle House. But too often, it’s McDonalds. Which obviously, for an athlete, you know... You just bring a bunch of protein bars with you and suffer through as best you can. Hopefully the next town has better fare. And they’re trying to get up the next morning and train at the gym, for the physique. You know, it’s very difficult. So anyway, we’re at this restaurant and slamming down tacos and burritos and the like. Rob looks at me, Van Dam, and he says, ‘Can’t you guys come up with something to help us out here?’ And I’m like, ‘what do you mean?’ And he continues, ‘this food! and this is a good night, here... but still, not exactly great recovery food for the beating I Just took’, he said, and I replied, ‘Okay, okay! There’s actually something a buddy of mine is working on, something that might benefit you guys here.’ I was speaking of what was to become MASS PRO SYNTHAGEN, and Coach Rob was working on it... I knew he’d been running some trials and things. So I called up Regish the next day and said ‘I think we might be onto something here with that formula. If we could have it really suit optimization of meals, for people that– the kid that is living off of pizza in the dorm and trying to make gains in the gym. The pro athlete like Rob Van Dam who lives out of a suitcase but is trying to maintain physique, and recover, and taking all these bumps in the ring.’ That was really the nucleus which spurred this on. Coach Rob was working up a formula and had it in his mind, but it really wasn’t on paper or anything, and from that point it really started to take shape, organically, and I do think the best products come from – there’s a genuine need there. It’s like glucosamine. When we first picked up glucosamine. The company, it was Cosamin, it’s still out there, but at the time they were only distributing that through physicians. And I found out about it, saw the French research and was very impressed, and thought – all these power lifters we're advertising to in Power Lifting USA back then, and anyway – I said, ‘power lifters could benefit especially from this'. So I contacted the distributor and tried to set up a distributorship and they said ‘Oh, no. We don’t want to sell it – we’re not going to sell it in stores, we’re not going to sell it in mail order or any of that stuff'. This was before the internet even existed, obviously. So they turned me down cold. Some southern sales manager or whatever. I sat on that for a couple of weeks, and I thought ‘I'm not going to accept that’. I found out who the President of the company was, and I wrote him a letter, sent him a letter explaining that these athletes would benefit tremendously, and they seriously needed this product. This was a market that they had not even thought about. They were looking at elderly people and stuff like that, not athletes. So, I won the guy over, and we got a distributorship. And we were off and running selling Cosamin, selling it for a number of years, then selling a generic version of it that was more affordable. It’s actually the very same thing, but...yeah. The need, the athletes need is what we really focus on more than anything. If you do that, you will win customers over long-term, and that’s the longevity. And I think it’s like your program here, your twelfth year, is that correct, Carl?
Yeah. we’re going into our – in November, our 12th year on the air.
That’s true longevity right there. Any business that makes it past three or four years has really accomplished something, but twelve years, you’re obviously serving the needs of your audience. Kudos, that’s fantastic. Fantastic.
Thank you sir.
And that’s what we try to do – serve the need, the genuine need – and the rest takes care of itself.
I want to make sure that people understand something. You kind of just went over the history of glucosamine, and – kind of, very quickly – I wonder if everyone understands what you just said. That you are the company that introduced Glucosamine Chondroitin to the segment, while these doctors may have been doing something – which, now they’ve abandoned it, they say, ‘Oh, glucosamine doesn’t work, take your...-
Well, there’s no big money in it for them. We can get into the prescription, patent medicine and Rockefeller... we could talk a couple of days about all of that, but -
Right. But I wonder if the audience, besides from understanding that you introduced DHEA to the sports industry – and you introduced Glucosamine to the sports industry as well. Nobody was selling it to the athletes before you did. That’s something to cheer about. Because of the foresight, you know what I mean?
Maybe so. I know we’ve been told we don’t wave our flag high enough, and that may be true, but I think it’s better to undersell and then over deliver. I think there’s been so much hype – and as I mentioned before, as a young man myself, I was prey to that over and over again in that I fell for the hype. I mean, God bless these kids, you know. They just don’t have the experience and the wisdom to see through it. Imagine being college aged guy, and you’re working a part time job and keeping your grades up, and money is limited... Dad may be sending you some cash, and you get a little bit from the job and all. If he goes out and spends even twenty or thirty dollars on a supplement, that’s substantial. That’s significant, out of their pocket. Well, take Mass Pro Whey for an example. I remember years ago, on a forum that I was involved with, this kid was beating me over the head about the cost of Mass Pro Whey protein. And he was like, ‘It’s so high, I could buy XYZ whey for $14.95 for two pounds, or whatever. And you can, to this day, you can go down to Walmart and buy a crap whey protein powder for for $14.95. It’s heat processed, chemical processed, very questionable origin to begin with. It’s virtually worthless, really. It’ll do next to nothing for anybody; in fact it might even do harm to your body. You know, our protein is like a BMW compared to that pinto. But, they’re both cars.
I want to jump in here for a second, and I don’t know if you know this, but I introduced a protein powder – a joint venture with All American Pharmaceutical, that’s a very, very high end quality protein powder, and as such, it’s very expensive.
I thought that people would flock to it. And I want to be honest, and speak to this for a second. What I’ve learned from this experiment, and I don’t know, quite frankly, how long this is going to be around. We’re literally making dollars on it, and it’s a lot of work-
And I gotta handle the back end work, because that was the deal. But at this point in time. I’m starting to become disillusioned, and here’s why -
Couple of things, Carl. Just to go back quickly, to the college age kid, if they buy our whey powder, I tell them specifically, ‘only use this post workout'. Because it’s an expensive powder, you do not want to waste it otherwise. Save it for when it will give you the most impact, post workout, recovery. Save it for when it’ll have the most impact. And they’ll get a benefit, and a jug will last them two or three months as opposed to two or three weeks. And the thing at Walmart will benefit them in no way, it’s just a total waste of money. To get that out of the way.
Addressing the commodity of whey companies out there. They will say that they are selling the same thing that everybody else is, that they’re just doing a better job at it, because they’re more -
It’s not different than a pizza company selling pizza. It’s no different than that, it could be french fries or anything else, it’s a consumable, and they’re just filling those slots. We’re trying to deliver results. When I first got into this business – I called up – my youthful history with protein powders was Joe Weider at the mall fitness store. They did 'Big', and all those, they did next to nothing for me, just like the Weider mega-packs. And I’m not here to beat up Joe Weider, but the products were crap. They were absolute junk. I don’t know what they’re like today at all, I don’t even care. But at that point they were just junk. One sports equipment company in town, Bulldog Sporting Goods, they had a product called Mus-L-On from MLO. I had never heard of this company before, and they have since been sold and it’s corporate owned now. Anyway, I bought a jug of that back when. It tasted better, it mixed easier, I didn’t get the gas and bloating and diarrhea that I did with the Weider stuff. I thought, ‘this is a much better powder’. So, I bought that for while, then got into some other stuff. Long story short, when I first was thinking about getting into the industry, I called several people that I knew of and trusted, just as a consumer, and the guy from MLO was one of them. And I asked, ‘I’m thinking of starting a supplement company; what advice would you give a young man like me?’ And he said, ‘don’t sell protein powder.’
And I said, ‘Why, you don’t want the competition?’ and he just laughed... ‘No, I’m not talking about that.’ He said, ‘It weighs too much, it costs too much to ship. Sell something light that doesn’t cost a lot to ship.’
You know who told me that? My buddy Aaron – who now owns RedCon One. He used to be with Black Stone Labs. He told me that, he goes, ‘I hate protein powder. It’s too expensive to ship, it’s bulky to store, and you make pennies on the dollar.’ He says, ‘your clients expect you to carry it’, but it’s not something that he’s fond of carrying.
It’s something that early on – Mass Pro Whey and Adaptogen N, those were our flagships for a long time. Still are, really. We sell an amazing amount of MASS PRO Whey to this day, but – having said that, the sales volume is a lot lower than it used to be. For the longest time, a case of Mass Pro... $98 delivered, free shipping, four jugs. For that quality, that level of protein, it was an exceptional price. Delivered! I mean, if you’re shipping twelve pounds to Portland, Oregon from Athens, Georgia, the shipping is very pricey, especially these days. But whey, as we know, quality whey, the pricing of it escalated tremendously, starting about ten years ago. But it really started jumping up and we absorbed price increase over price increase and never raised customer costs for the longest time. But we finally had to. So today it’s almost double the price of the old days – we have so many customers who used to buy a case, but now they buy two. Twin pack. Then you look at shipping increases. When you’ve got pallets shipped in on freight lines, it’s just a major expense, per jug. It’s an item that I wish, on the manufacturing side, as far as raw materials and production could come down and become more accessible, more affordable for a greater number of people. But that day may never return.
Yeah. I learned my lesson on this, the protein powder. The truth of the matter is – I know that what I’m about to say, you’re going to disagree with me – but that’s because I’m still in that cynical phase. The kind of aftermath of the divorce kind of feeling.
Well, I’ve been there, too.
And you know how people say they want a high quality product, but when they find out what it costs, they change their mind quickly.
And they use the crappy product, and convince themselves that it’s kinda as good as everything else.
We have true testimonials from guys that have been using Mass Pro Whey for a long time, and then they tried something else, and – one comes to mind, and that’s Muscle Milk, which is probably not the worst of those kind of mainstream, type products. You know, he had switched to that because he could get it very cheap! But he switched back to MASS PRO rather quickly, because the gains weren’t there without it.
We have friends, Alicia and I have close friends who bought Thrive one time, and – last time we were at their house, they were like, ‘it’s too expensive’. And they’d bought a big thing of Muscle Milk.
I hear you. It’s the same way with me. I mean, I can’t tell you how many people come to me on a personal level, and they want fitness advice, nutrition advice, but then they don’t take the advice. It’s not what they want to hear. They don’t want to spend the money, or put the work in. There’s a friend just the other day, he called me up. He calls me about three times a year. ‘John, what can I do to lose this weight?’ And I said, ‘Let me explain this to 'ya. Take in less calories, exercise more.’
Yeah, it’s simple. It’s very simple.
But he sits around every weekend, and watches the auto races, and eats potato chips, and drinks beer. And has pizza and wings. Sits on his duff. The rest of us are out, you know, exercising!
I want to talk about that, but we have to take a break. We’re going long, because I’m actually enjoying this conversation here. This conversation is very therapeutic for me, probably more than the audience. But I want to take a break, and when we come back I want to talk about your love of physical culture. You shared with me something you’re getting ready to do this weekend, which qualifies you as a true superhuman -
Oh no, no, no, I don’t know about that.
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Part 2 of the engaging conversation with John Drake and Carl Lanore is HERE