On the Spirituality of Strength

So here’s the thing. I’m getting older – I’m in my mid-30s. I’m a father. I want to be around long enough to see my babies grow up, with Allah’s permission. My overall health is becoming more of a concern.

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I don’t recover from strength training as well as I used to.

It’s much harder to keep the weight off – I can’t eat as much I used to without gaining weight.

I sometimes get indigestion, which never used to happen because I have a great digestive system, alhamdulillah.

I’ve started looking at my health and well-being holistically.

How my physical well-being ties into my mental and spiritual well-being, and vice versa.

My guest today has a refreshing take on training and nutrition.

He’s also very practical, which is usually the case with personal trainers who routinely work with the general population.

That works very well for us – we can rest assured that everything we hear is relevant and actionable.

alexander juan antonio cortes relentless performance vero beach

Alexander Juan Antonio Cortes – Bodybuilder, Personal Trainer, Author

Part bodybuilder, part philosopher.

Part alpha male, part mystic.

Alexander Juan Antonio Cortes is a bodybuilder and personal trainer with decades of experience under the bar and as a teacher.

Aside from his personal website he is a regular contributor at the World-famous Elite FTS, and has written for Mountain Dog Diet and TRT Revolution.

Alex currently trains and teaches at Relentless Performance, Vero Beach, Florida.

He is also working on a book, The Art of Health, which will be out in the Spring of 2017.

If it’s anywhere near as insightful as his blog, it will be a must-read.

You can follow Alex on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Learn how to think like a Muslim with the Alpha Muslim Mindset, my FREE 5-day email course. Get the 5 most important lessons I’ve learned over a decade of studying and implementing Islam. Click here to subscribe.

Time-Stamped Show Notes

01:53 – What is health? I read an excerpt from one of Alex’s recent blog posts.

04:50 – Alex has been a personal trainer for about 8 years but he never originally intended to be in the field. He’s a trained ballet dancer with a degree in dance choreography! A severe injury forced him out of the performance arts.

06:53 – Alex is somewhat of an authority among strength coaches and personal trainers. The first I was exposed to his work was through Mike Cernovich, author of the newly released MAGA Mindset: Making YOU and America Great Again. As someone who frequents Elite FTS and who is aware of many e-famous fitness content creators, how come I had never heard of him until recently?

09:23 – Alex’s writings lean philosophical – he focuses more on the mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of strength training. I ask him to tell us how training arms can be a spiritual experience.

12:20 – As your why gets bigger, the incentive and motivation to act to achieve that why becomes greater.

13:55 – Mindset. Mentality equals physicality and physicality equals mentality.

15:18 – How does a man’s mental and physical state relate to his masculinity?

17:00 – A man that is not well, cannot pray.

18:00 – Strength, physicality, and good health are about removing yourself as an obstacle so you can realize your potential as a man.

18:45 – You have to be a man before you can be a gentleman. I mention an insightful article that Victor Pride of Bold and Determined wrote about Mike Cernovich.

When you look like somebody that shouldn’t be fucked with, it’s because you want to be peaceful. It’s because you don’t want people to fuck with you.

So you look like that, so they don’t. And the the message is clear… if you fuck with me, I will hurt you. So, don’t fuck with me. And that’s how peaceful men live.

You have to live in strength to live in peace.

21:58 – Prophet Mohammed’s ﷺ mercy is such a virtue because he had the ability to waste to his enemies if he wanted. It was a conscious choice by him to be merciful from a position of strength.

25:06 – What are the most important health markers that 30+ men should focus on?

  • Body composition
  • Testosterone levels
  • Vitamin D
  • Iron

30:30 – What’s the 80-20 strategy to achieve these health markers?

  • Eat a high-protein diet iso-caloric diet
  • Resistance training 3-5 days a week
  • Supplementation with Vitamin D3 and Circumin (turmeric)

33:24 – What to do if you are 30+ years old, over 20% body fat, and have never trained or haven’t trained in a long time.

33:45 – Managing your energy through diet. Do diets like iso-caloric, paleo, ketogenic etc. work differently on different people? I lament on how badly I respond to carbohydrates and Alex talks about ethnic differences in insulin sensitivity and food sensitivity.

39:30 – But Sri-Lankans (me) eat rice and curry for breakfast lunch and dinner! Did an extended ketogenic diet (almost a year) in my 20s permanently affect my ability to process carbs?

41:49 – Ramadan fasting – autophagy, nutrient partitioning, and insulin sensitivity.

44:19 – If fasting is so awesome, how come people generally eat 3-times a day instead of once a day?

46:55 – Human health exists on a continuum – you need periods of high nutrient intake and periods where you give your body a break.

48:23 – Why is Alex such a big proponent of bodybuilding-style training?

52:10- Alex’s training philosophy is to keep you coming back to the gym for decades rather than getting injured or burnt out after a few years. The longer he can keep you in the gym, the stronger you are going to get anyway.

54:30 – Why are the Olympic lifts difficult to teach/learn? I taught myself how to do them, so why can’t others?

57:00 – Risk vs. reward when choosing exercises.

58:15 – I mention how terrible I am at bodyweight exercises.

59:35 – The key to aging well – keep your hips flexible and keep your back strong. Keep your posterior chain healthy.

01:01:30 – It doesn’t take a lot for someone new to strength training to make significant improvements.

01:02:30 – Boosting testosterone naturally? Legit or broscience? How do we do it?

01:07:10 – What’s the difference between testosterone increase within normal limits (naturally or via Testosterone Replacement Therapy – TRT) and steroid-level testosterone increase that boosts muscle growth?

01:09:35 – Does TRT affect your body’s ability to naturally produce testosterone?

01:11:52 – Testosterone is the hormone that makes men useful. If optimal testosterone so positively affects a man’s quality of life, why does it have a negative connotation in popular culture and media?

01:16:00 – It’s “toxic masculiniity” until s*** hits the fan. Then it’s “where have all the good men gone?”

01:18:00 – Masculine energy as the main driver of human knowledge and understanding.

01:19:23 – I read an excerpt from one of Alex’s podcasts – Mission, Purpose, and Masculinity

The lamentation of modern men is that they have no purpose. You have an entire generation of boys and men…who have been raised in a largely emasculated society in which the idea of positive aggression and masculine purpose have been stripped from them.

01:22:04- If you want to hire Alex for online or in-person coaching this is his email address – cortes.ajax.training [at] gmail [dot] com. He also sells training programs on his website.

01:23:56 – Alex also offers live-in training services (for superhero transformations.) If you want to re-invent yourself physically there’s no better way than going into “Monk Mode.” As someone who has spent ~8 years trying to figure out training and nutrition, if I could afford to invest a large sum of money into fixing that aspect of my life once and for all, I would. It’s an excellent investment.

01:25:30 – Alex tells us about his upcoming book, The Art of Health, which will be coming out in the Spring of 2017.

01:27:10 – Finally, Alex gives us a few of his top picks for health and life advice for men – Rogue Health and Fitness, Danger and Play, Elite FTS.

10 comments… add one
  • Lloyd Oct 24, 2016 @ 10:02

    I had the same question about Alexander – How have I not heard of this man until the past few months? He’s a wealth of practical, applicable information and perspective.

    Self protection as a spiritual obligation was the take-away I didn’t expect when I pressed play.

    Excellent podcast!

  • Mohammad Apr 24, 2017 @ 6:33

    Alexander’s talk about being fit leading to a greater spiritual life reminds me of the story of Omar ibn al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) when he came across an overweight man and advised him that his obesity was not a “blessing from Allah” because the primary loss would be his ability to worship Allah.

    Great podcast, brother Nabeel. I love the work that you do.

    Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah.

    • Nabeel Azeez Apr 24, 2017 @ 8:52

      Wa alaikum assalam warahmatullahi wabarakatuh.

      Yeah, I think a lot of Muslims, even the religious ones, don’t understand how much their health affects their ability to worship.

      You have two extremes. The fatties who over-indulge and the ascetics who don’t indulge enough.

      One problem I see with the ascetics, who eat little, is they live a sedentary lifestyle and end up getting fat. Then, their low caloric intake makes it impossible to lose the fat they gain because their body is essentially in starvation mode and will hold on to as much body fat as possible.

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