Comparatively, I have been around the fitness industry for only mere seconds. Fitness in the United States has a long and–it can be said without hesitation–sober history. The inclinations of men to improve their own health from the beginning of the 1900’s with men like Bernarr Macfadden and Charles Atlas has always been limited by a lack of scientific data. Efforts–paired with genetics–were often the prerequisites that governed one’s ability to be among the top tier of early bodybuilders.
The development of the industry into a lucrative moneymaking machine is not a foreign concept. In fact, it is the epitome of the American blueprint. Professional sports athletes have long hinged their success on the backbone of their exact and prolific physical prowess, existing as the top 1% of the 1% who made the cut. The shredded athletes of the fitness industry possess one glaring and disgusting difference: they tell you that if you their products, you too can look like them. This is only one of the multitude of chapters in the book of fitness industry lies. And you have to quit believing them.
Dr. Layne Norton, a reputable pro-bodybuilder, business owner and author eludes to some of the problems in his article “The Fitness Industry is Failing,” a link at which has been attached to the bottom. He underlines some of the more glaring issues with the industry, the rot from the inside, if you prefer. Among these are the fabricated elitism of the self-proclaimed Olympic Instagram gods, the poor direction of the fitness industry and general lack of accountability by the average gym goer at large. These are all apt points, but my argument goes in a different direction, and for good reason.
There are certain perversions that have grown from the bullshit of the fitness industry. They are not easily explained nor warded away. They are prevalent, persistent and always present. Succinctly, they fall into a single category. Bro science.
Urban dictionary defines bro science as the following: “Broscience is the predominant brand of reasoning in bodybuilding circles where the anecdotal reports of jacked dudes are considered more credible than scientific research. ” This definition is functionally, but not all inclusive. Bro science can be interpreted as anecdotal perspectives not backed by reasonable scientific hypotheses or data. You need not be an NPC physique competitor or willfully injecting performance enhancing drugs to spew bro science.
You’ve weathered bro science before, as many of us have. The most common bro science starts thus: “Well what worked for me was. .” followed almost assuredly by something bizarre or even the most basic chemistry student can prove wrong. Among these are some of the examples I have encountered:
“Girls will get too bulky with free weights, they should only use machines.”
“I made some serious gains by bulking up with ice cream.”
“Your body only has a 30 minute anabolic window.”
Bro science is held aloft by a single premise. The premise is the sinister perpetuation that someone’s credibility in the fitness industry is based on their physique. This is simply insanity. It’s the equivocation of taking your car to someone who owns a Ferrari versus the mechanic who owns the Honda. There are those of you are there that will argue the easily dismissed counterpoint: “Why would I entrust the word regarding health and nutritional science to someone who doesn’t take care of their own body?” This is a very subtle ad hominem, the equivalence of dismissing someone’s argument based on whether they smell bad or not.
Simply put, the adherence to the ideology that because someone looks better (and in most cases, especially with the male anatomy; bigger) than you, in no way qualifies them more as an expert than you are. For those of you unfamiliar, this is the current Olympia champion, Phil Heath.
In comparison, Layne Norton.
Well, that’s not fair, you might say! What an unflattering picture of Layne! This picture is more stylized, actually. Layne Norton’s more common appearance in the gym is this:
Far less flattering than Heath. Let no blame be placed on Phil Heath, here. He’s doing exactly what he should be doing. Phil Heath, I might argue, has become just as much of the product as the salesman. That’s not the argument here. This is the question I pose: Assuming that Layne Norton and Phil Heath were both present and available, who might the regular gym goer look to for information on bodybuilding?
The more rational of you might give pause. The logical premise here is to discern qualification. Is the health of a doctor a relevant criteria in determining whether or not he would be suitable to rend care unto you? Would you refuse care from a doctor because his own blood pressure was high, or he had arthritis? Then why must we insist–in the world of fitness-that only those who look qualified, are in fact qualified.
The insistence upon this irrational ideology has long been a personal battle of mine, though this article attempts to reach beyond that. I would not stand alone in the following statement: Given advice on a particular subject of nutrition or exercise science from a professional athlete in the sport–such as Phil Heath–and a certified expert in the field–such as Layne Norton–I would almost assuredly trust the latter over the former. And yet I stand in a suspiciously significant minority.
To dispel the idea above would be to go against a very real trend in the United States. Every year, the percentage of people overweight increases and yet the United States stand as the most fitness obsessed nation in the world. Something isn’t working. This brings me to my second point. The Bullshit of Supplements
The Bullshit of Supplements
There are two statistics of which are distinctly correlated. The prevalence of obesity in the United States and the growth of the supplement market. People are buying more fat burners than ever, and yet the human condition is deteriorating at an even faster rate. While most well mannered people realize that you cannot “buy the fat away,” supplement companies aren’t targeting those people. The ShredZ ads aren’t for people who understand that a single fat burner with a proprietary blend won’t burn the donuts, the beers and the twinkies away.
Instead, the supplement companies have paired with the third, and most ludicrous aspect of the fitness industry. What Layne Norton refers to the fitness industry elitists. As a four year employee at a franchise owned GNC, I witnessed first hand the diabolical sales practices utilized to ensure that people believed they were exchanging their dollars for results.
The exaggeration of these products here cannot be understated. These products are only marginally effective in the realm of “bodybuilding gains” and “fatburning.” Vitamins and minerals have characteristics that have very real and lasting effect. The preworkout you’re taking, does not.
Followed by thousands on Instagram, the mental masturbators are the fitness elite. They’re “sponsored” (whatever the hell that means), “professional trainers” (but no certifications, man?!) and always, always, always with their booking information. They are a well entangled web of ego boosters, who flaunt what they have and what you don’t. Their like and favorite-induced narcissism is not necessarily a self-inflicted poison. Rock hard abs and well developed glutes help sales, after all.
While understanding it’s whats in the white label that should matter, most people love the promise of results. “I got shredded in six weeks with this!” It is a self-inducing cycle, maintained purely by the ignorance of their potential customers.
These “sponsored” athletes are part of a club, and you’re in it. There is a very real divide between superstar and customer. The idea here is that they have been placed on a pedestal, and it is in their best interest never to come down. In fact, it is in their best interest for you not to get results. If you took their products and they genuinely worked, you wouldn’t be a customer. It is a self-serving cycle that can end in only one way. Self-education. The availability of information is covered in Layne Norton’s post, linked below, that I need not repeat here.
These elements of the fitness industry are not new, nor are they near the end of their life cycle. This article was written as an impromptu thank you to those who have helped educate me on the facet that self-awareness is the path best taken to a strong body. This article is a testament to the idea I hold close that many putting in hours in the gym, lifting with improper form because Bodybuilder Joe told them or buying the latest fat burner are doing so with genuine and good intentions. I wrote this article as a reminder that I once believed Kre-Alkaline was the “more effective” Creative, overlooking it’s 150% price point, or that the fat burner I was burning could give me the abs of the Instagram model trying to sell them. It’s not that.
It’s hard fucking work, and it’s knowledge. Everyone has a little bit of the first one. The second one is a bit more rare.
Layne Norton’s “The Fitness Industry is Failing” https://www.biolayne.com/articles/training/biolayne-guest-blog-by-jonathon-goodman-the-fitness-industry-is-failing/