Fantastic Voyage, by Ray Kurzweil and Terry Grossman, M.D.
Reviewer: Mark Lamendola (see photo and related info at www.supplecity.com/)
This book contains a wealth of good information. For example, it has a
good explanation of carbohydrates in Chapter 5 and a good explanation
of fats in Chapter 6. Most people are totally in the dark about which
carbs to eat and why. And few can tell you what makes a fat Omega 3 or
Omega 6. And, it gives us hope for new advances in medical technology.
Whether those things will come to pass is debatable, but they are nice
to think about.
However, the book does have some weaknesses and
it seems to go completely downhill after Chapter 6.
Those weaknesses emerge from a basic
philosophical position that you can extend your life by taking
nutritional supplements in massive quantities--and not do much else.
It's interesting to note that Kurzweil takes 250 pills a day plus
undergoes weekly intravenous injections, while Grossman takes 64 pills
a day. Plus, both have high body fat levels and neither understands
exercise. I'll explain those more in a bit. First, understand that
these weaknesses do not make the book a "bad book." You just
have to understand the perspective of the authors so you can make best
use of the information the book provides.
This book is 20% research and 80% opinion and
editorializing. Fortunately, the dividing line is clear to people with
the right background. This means that, despite its weaknesses, this
book can be a good addition to your bookshelf. Now, let's address
those weaknesses. I'll take these in the order in which they appear in
The protein recommendations on page 84 are based
on your percent of caloric intake. This is the wrong basis for which
to determine adequate protein intake. The amount of protein you need
varies, depending on many factors. The correct way to determine your
protein intake requirements is to start with 1 gram of protein per day
per pound of bodyweight and adjust up or down from there to feed the
muscles as needed. Why is this method correct vs. the calorie count
method? Because it's based on your actual needs. This is the method
athletes and bodybuilders have been using for decades. If you could
get the correct results with the calorie method, that's the approach
these people would take. But you can't, so it isn't.
The authors also don't understand the various
types of proteins or their sources as well as they should. For
example, they recommend tofu (in more than one place), but tofu is a
very poor protein source. It's basically the "waste product"
of processing soy protein, and its amino acid profile is horrendous.
This fact is widely documented, and I'm frankly surprised they didn't
I also take issue with the half dozen weekly
intravenous "therapies" (page 141) Kurzweil inflicts on his
body. The sheer number of puncture wounds over time isn't healthy.
Mechanical damage to the body is a cancer risk. Perhaps Kurzweil is
correct in taking this approach, but I remain skeptical.
Kurzweil says the "ideal" body fat
percentage for men is between 12% and 20%. This is simply not true. A
man with double-digit body fat is far too fat. The high numbers
Kurzweil refers to are just the opinions of fat people who developed
those charts from broadcloth and no real expertise. Isn't it bad
enough we have folks propagating the food pyramid? We don't need fat
myths propagated as well.
When my body fat rises to 7%, I get concerned (it's normally about 5.5%). Among climbers, 7% is very fat. And the same holds true for other groups, such as bodybuilders, gymnasts, and models. In the
upper single digits, the abs disappear, and love handles start to
form. I feel best when my body fat is at 5.5%. I look best at about 5%.
Kurzweil has "determined" that his
optimum body fat level is 14% (page 142). He gives no basis for this,
but I suspect the reason is that he simply can't go any lower because
of all the supplements (many of which have some kind of sugar coating
or other calorie source) combined with his poor exercise regimen so he
calls it "optimal."
Grossman does even worse, at 17.9%. First of
all, your body fat level varies through the day--stating yours to one
tenth of one percent is facetious. Second, he would still be way too
fat if he lost half the body fat he has now.
I hate to use the word delusion here regarding
how these men view body fat, but I can't think of a better word. It's
not something they've figured out, so they accept it. In doing so,
they undermine all the smart things they are doing by being dumb
in this regard.
Kurzweil says the mainstay of his exercise
program is walking. This is a major hole in his "live long enough
to live forever" plan. He says he also uses his weight machine
three or four days a week. Weight machines isolate muscles, and
therefore create muscular imbalances and ligament issues. They do not
train you for any real motions, and they retard your ability to
improve balance and coordination--two skills that reduce your
likelihood of a dangerous fall. Further, extended training with weight
machines results in underdevelopment of the stabilizer muscles. This
is exactly why you see gym rats with torn rotator cuffs.
But Kurzweil really tells us what we need to
know when he says, "I often watch movies and concerts while
exercising." This means he does not pay attention to his
exercising, does not focus while exercising, and does not push himself
to get enough intensity for the exercise to do much good. Exercise,
when done properly, changes the chemical and hormonal environment of
the body--producing many of the same changes Kurzweil seeks through
For example, blood tests show a significant rise
in testosterone levels after performance of any of the traditional
compound weight exercises. These include squats, deadlifts, and bench
presses. This testosterone increase lasts for 24 hours or more, before
tapering back off. Testosterone is the hormone that tells the body to
store calcium in the bones, burn fat, and store glycogen in the muscle
cells. These kinds of exercises help forestall osteoporosis. One of
the reasons for studying this is the space program. Astronauts lose
bone calcium while weightless. So, researchers looked into why. And if
you didn't know before, you do now.
The basic problem Kurzweil and Grossman have is
they want to do pills rather than real work. Beyond Chapters 5 and 6,
this book is strong on the pills side--thanks to the authors' bias in
that direction. So if you understand the other elements, this book can
But even there, we must take a grain of salt
along with the supplements. Earlier, I mentioned the disparity in 250
vs. 64. What's the logic, there?
And what about cQ10? In the bodybuilding world,
this supplement has been roundly debunked as doing nothing for you. I
don't know the story on cQ10, and Kurzweil fails to provide it. But,
he does recommend taking plenty of it. He should either delete cQ10
from the next revision, or provide some scientific evidence of its
efficacy. A progressive (vs. regressive) double-blind study would be
the minimum, here, because of the literature opposing his
Another area, and this is critical, is Kurzweil
recommends taking vitamin A (pages 324 and 334). Has he never heard of
vitamin A toxicity? Never take supplemental vitamin A, unless you are
doing so under the direction supervision of a physician who has
nutritional credentials. You can take carotene, a vitamin A precursor,
but never take vitamin A. If you have vitamin A in a multivitamin, it
should be near the 5,000 IU that comprise the 100% RDA--not the 2,660
IU that he recommends for women and certainly not the 3,330 IU he
recommends for men.
On page 339, Kurzweil says, "The mainstay
of your exercise program should be aerobic exercise." This is not
true. In fact, aerobic exercise does little to burn body fat, does
nothing to boost testosterone, and does nothing in a lot of areas.
This statement shows complete ignorance of exercise science. Read
"Body of Work" or "The Absolution" for more
information. Many other authoritative books abound to counter
Kurzweil's statement. The rest of what follows after that statement is
also mostly wrong. He completely ignores interval training, which is
the most effective way to build cardiovascular capacity and burn fat.
And he fails to discuss a huge downside of aerobic overtraining:
cortisol. Kurzweil does discuss cortisol elsewhere in the book, and
what he says should warn you off of becoming a treadmill junkie. Given
his high body fat and reliance on aerobics, he probably has excess
cortisol levels himself.
On page 343, he recommends stretching before
exercising. Wrong again. You should never stretch before exercising.
We have reams of data showing this increases the likelihood of injury.
Think about it. Stretching weakens a muscle around its limits of range
of motion. It's at these limits where you most risk injury.
We can see from page 342 that Kurzweil doesn't
understand plastics, either. There are beverage containers that don't
leach chemicals into water. These are hard plastic or acrylic. These
are the kinds of containers athletes use. Also, Kurzweil fails to
mention a very common plastics problem: the "burn-in" time
required for computer monitors. You can greatly limit your exposure to
toxins by running a monitor in a ventilated, unoccupied area for 48
hours before using it in your office. It takes about 6 months for the
fumes to be completely gone, but that 48 hour burn-in takes care of
most of them. You know that "new" smell? That's toxic. I'm
surprised he didn't mention this.
On page 366, Kurzweil again gets it wrong in
aerobic vs. weights. And he apparently is unaware of the much higher
endorphin levels obtained with weight training vs. aerobic training
because he's busy watching movies and concerts during
"exercise" rather than seriously exercising.
This book contains much good information. But,
it also contains many inaccuracies and some false statements. Where
the book primarily falls flat on its face is the same place the
authors primarily fall flat in their fitness programs--exercise. In
addition, it contains dangerous advice on vitamin A. Chapters 5 and 6
make this book a good purchase, but it is probably best to razor out
the rest of the chapters.