Bob Harper Talks Apple Watch and Health and Fitness


No matter what your health and fitness goals, there’s an app, tracker, or other tech tool out there that can help you reach them faster. It just so happens that some of them can take phone calls.

“I think that especially if we have a goal—I’m very goal oriented—having a tool is the best thing,” says Bob Harper, celeb trainer and star of NBC’s The Biggest Loser. “A long time ago on our show we used this thing—it was called a Body Bug—and people really responded to it,” Harper recalls noting it was “clunky” and very early on in the fitness tech game. “Now, all of a sudden, the Apple Watch is just like that on steroids. It’s just giving us so much! Now everything is just on your wrist.”

Harper has kept an Apple Watch on his wrist since it debuted. “I’m a watch guy. I love my watches—and since I got my Apple watch, I  haven’t worn any of my other ones. I’m obsessed with it,” says Harper. 

Harper will be in New York City next Tuesday, August 4th at 6 p.m. to talk about the fitness/tech intersection—and more—at the Soho Apple store. But before he sits down with Apple’s Director of Health & Fitness Technologies, Jay Blahnik, he talked to Men’s Fitness about exactly what’s so great about the Apple Watch, the upcoming season of The Biggest Loser, and his top exercise and diet tips. 

Men’s Fitness: What’s more important: Diet or exercise?

Bob Harper: Diet!

MF: Do you think they emphasize diet enough on the show?

BH: No, I don’t, and that’s what I’m going to hope to change this season. Diet is 80% of having the body that you’re looking for. You can go to the gym for an hour a day, but it’s what you do in those other 23 hours that really counts. When I go into a coffee shop or something and I see somebody in their workout clothes, and they’re like eating a muffin and drinking a 500 calorie drink, I’m like, you have just wasted that hour in the gym!

MF: One of the buzziest topics out there now is this idea of healthy fat, and there’s all this new research saying that it’s gotten a bad rap over the years. Where do you stand?

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BH: People are so concerned about fat, [but] processed, non-fat foods are what’s really making them fat. Our bodies need [good healthy fat]—our brains need that! It’s great for your workouts. Don’t worry so much about your fat, worry about those carbs that you’re eating, those starchy, sugary carbs that aren’t doing anything but storing as fat in your body. I’m a Paleo guy, so I start my day off every day with one of those Bulletproof coffees with the ghee and the MCT oil, and that’s what I have every single morning.

MF: So speaking of Paleo, I know you’re a big proponent of CrossFit. What are the key things that you think CrossFit gets right?

BH: It’s all about functional training, it’s all about constantly varied movement. You’re not specializing in one thing, you’re doing many things. When I started doing CrossFit, I was a runner. I was a slow twitch fiber guy—I could go for a long time. I would take the spinning classes and all that. And CrossFit kicked my a** all over the place! I thought I was in shape, and I wasn’t, because I put myself in one lane.

So now, doing CrossFit for the years that I’ve been doing it, what I really like about it is that it’s about really overloading the body, doing high anaerobic movements, and for a shorter amount of time. So it’s actually put less stress on my body than when I was taking a boot camp class and running on the treadmill for all this time. I got so injured from doing that, and it’s like this has just really worked for my body. And I’m about to turn 50 and I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life.

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MF: Do you apply the CrossFit principles to the workouts in The Biggest Loser?

BH: Without a doubt. What I’ve found with incorporating CrossFit with these guys is that the success rate for the people that I work with has increased because they’re not so attached to [the idea that they have to constantly be on the treadmill]. Everyone just gets bored with that. These people are being challenged in such a way and everything in Crossfit can be scaled. That’s what I tell people: CrossFit gets a bad rap with people who aren’t informed. [CrossFit] is not dangerous. It’s just people bite off more than they can chew and that’s what’s dangerous.

MF: What is your number one tip for guys who want to jumpstart their weight loss goals? What’s the first thing someone should do?

BH: Take sugar out of your diet. I get people to try to go for a day without having any sugar or artificial sweeteners. See if you can do that; it’s a huge challenge.

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MF: What about alcohol?

BH: The cold hard facts are, if you like to drink, which I do, it has to be in moderation. When you’re going to dinner and you know that you’re going to have that wine, then you have to make sure you look at all the rest of your food that you’re eating and make sure there are no carbs whatsoever on that plate.

MF: So then, moving on to the Apple Watch. What are your initial thoughts?

BH: I’m obsessed with it. I like numbers, I like being told I hit the goals. When my goal activity thing pops up I’m like “ahhh, yes!” One thing I found really interesting about this is when it tells me to stand up; I never realized how much I sit. Because I work out so much, I’m like ‘Oh, I stand up plenty’. But I guess I don’t. I love how the approximations on the Apple watch are really accurate. Nothing is 100%, but let me tell you—with the heart rate and everything, they really did their due diligence for putting this watch together.

MF: How can the Apple Watch help you reach your fitness and health goals?

BH: I think it brings awareness. Again, when you start reading the nutrition facts on the food that you’re eating, you become more mindful and you become more aware of what you’re eating. I say the same thing when it comes to the Apple Watch. All of a sudden it’s giving me this information, this little vibration on my arm, it’s giving me something to look at and go “Oh! Ok. I really gotta be aware of what I’m doing.”

MF: The Apple Watch differentiates between active calories and “rest” calories. Do you think that’s important? Is it better than just looking at steps?

BH: Well, yeah. Especially when you’re incorporating exercise into your day, you get to see the deficit that will hopefully happen if you’re trying to lose weight.

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MF: What do you think are the best fitness uses for the watch at this point?

BH: I remember I used to always tell people, try to get your steps in. Right? Try to be aware, get a pedometer. Something that simple, which the Apple Watch gives you, is awesome. It’s awesome that the person who’s on her lunch break from work, she’s looking at her watch and she says, I can take 20 minutes out of my hour and walk a little bit and try to hit my goal of however many steps I’ve incorporated. And all these apps that are coming out, too, like MyFitnessPal and things like that are just getting people to be very aware of their macronutrients; their protein, fat and their carbs. All this just really comes together nicely on this watch.

MF: What are your favorite diet and exercise apps for the watch and the phone?

BH: I am a guy that doesn’t like a lot of bells and whistles. I stick with one and I want to master that one. I love that simple activity app that comes on the Apple watch. It’s simple, it’s straightforward, it gives me the 3-2-1 go. With my workouts doing CrossFit, I always program the other on it and just go, and at the end I say my hr was up for this long and I burned this many calories.

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