There's two periods per year that I avoid social media like the plague - All of January and summertime. Every year it's the same. My news feed is FLOODED with copy, video, and pictures that all revolve around 1 thing: broscience.
Look at these lil' prairie dogs.
Now, replace each of these prairie dogs with poop like this:
It's no coincidence that these adds pop up all over the place during the summer and New Year's, which of course are times when the physical insecurities of women - who happen to be the fitness industry's target audience - begin to boil over. Bogus weigh-ins, unrealistic promises...for only 99.99/month, fat burning workouts. We are absorbing ads like this all year long from an industry that profits (to the tune of billions) off of vulnerabilities and fears. So, what's behind all of this? Broscience.
B R O S C I E N C E : Anecdotal statements that are presented as fact by unqualified, yet very confident people in the fitness community that I like to call broscientists. Claims made by broscientists are usually based on hearsay and are devoid of any repeatedly validated, scientific studies to back them up.
Broscience runs rampant on T.V. shows, social media outlets, gyms, and workplaces. It also makes a ton of money for the fitness industry machine. While I'm glad that health has become such a big topic of conversation, the amount of misinformation in an industry that I care so deeply about makes me sad. As an educated woman, the acceptance of completely erroneous fitness statements as gospel cheapens my degree and makes it really hard for good, experienced trainers, clinicians, and dietitians to serve their fellow humans. Since transitioning full time into this industry, I've found that most of my time has been spent trying to undo the misinformation that's being presented to the general public versus actually sharing the scientific knowledge that I have been taught.
All scientists have a responsibility to conduct and present data ethically. There are checks and balances in place to look for gaps, mistakes, and to make sure we are all holding each other accountable in how we carry out our research. Never over concluding, never generalizing, without ego (which self admittedly was hard at times, but I learned). I applied this school of thought to my role as a trainer during this time, which served me well and taught me some important lessons.
As someone who legit clawed her way through a doctoral degree, I take science very seriously - as I do the responsibility of being a leader in the fitness industry. In the lab, everything is questioned. Not in an "I'm out to get you" sort of way, but rather in a way that gets to the heart of what science is all about - discovering the truth of how things work. The same concepts apply to trainers and coaches, but unfortunately in this industry we're lacking the oversight to police the amount of misinformation that exists here. No wonder people are so stressed out about where to start when wanting to get fit.
Sure, it's frustrating at times to now be in an industry that profits off of haphazard research (and often no research at all) regarding workouts and weight loss. Grad school installed broscience radar into my brain, so while I can get pretty spicy when I see/hear about this doo doo, it's manageable. But what's more important than my personal frustrations is the fact that I can see the negative impact it's having on our audience.
You learn from experience. Here's what I've learned over the last 15 years doing the fitness thing and how misinformation impacts you personally: Consumers are stressed to the point that they're desperate to try whatever it takes to achieve an aesthetic that has been made to be the most desirable (and often completely unrealistic). That makes consumers the most vulnerable when it comes to marketing tactics that are designed to reel you in without actually teaching you ANYTHING about the skills needed to feel better on the inside and outside. Seeing as how I've learned these things, I'd like to help you learn how to spot a broscientist from 5 miles away and then present a helpful protocol that I've designed to help you deal.
HOW TO SNIFF OUT A BROSCIENTIST
Important: Broscientists are akin to the prairie dog. Sometimes they're really cute, like that fitness influencer you follow. Sometimes, they're famous prairie dogs, like the Kardashians and their diarrhea detox tea. And sometimes, unfortunately they're trainers, too. They are everywhere and they can pop up unsuspectingly at any time of day. Be on your guard.
1. Broscientists fail to present both sides of the coin, and often speak in extremes.
Broscientist: "Heavy lifting is will make you look bulky as a woman."
Client: "Oh, it makes you bulky? What do you mean, bulky? What is bulk? What does it look like? And what research talks about the bulky bulk bulk? Is that in the dictionary?"
Broscientist: "You know, bigger. It just adds bulk all over."
Client: "In what ways? So bulk must be a bad thing, then? Okay so I shouldn't lift weights then because it's going to make me look bad?"
Broscientist: "Well, I just know that heavy lifting is not what you want if you are seeking a leaner, longer physique."
Rookie brosceintists will often say stuff like that. But what about the veterans?
Seasoned broscientists will often cite scientific articles to try and back their arguments, however that doesn't cut it. Science is based upon the principle of trying to prove a hypothesis wrong. For every paper he/she cites stating that "X workout is more effective", you'll find another paper saying it isn't. Broscientists fail to present both sides of the coin. Also never in the history of science ever was a law, fact, or theory backed by only a SINGLE scientific article. Sorry, Charlie.
Protocol to deal with this: Say, "BYE, FELECIA". Go find a mirror. Give yourself a wink and a hug.
2. Broscientists are polarizing when it comes to workouts.
Broscientist trainers often discourage other types of workouts by causing you to fear what said workouts will make you look like/do to you. Usually this points you towards their own workout philosophy.
The following is a recent quote from a very popular fitness trainer that shall remain anonymous:
"If you want to be longer and leaner you’ve got to stay away from 10-pound, 15-pound [weights] and calling to action the bicep, the quad, the glute—the very direct large muscles that know exactly how to work in very specific ways."
This is 100% inaccurate. You cannot make yourself longer. You can make yourself leaner. All you have to do is decrease your fat mass. There are tons of ways that you can do that, including weight lifting! Sky's the limit.
Sidenote: does this broscientist happen to have a fitness empire that's based on using 2 pound weights and telling women that muscles are "unbecoming"? Why yes, she does. What a coinky - dink.
Besides being the POLAR OPPOSITE of what is true, this is also an example of a trainer pushing his/her own philosophy onto consumers as a means of getting more business. This also applies to anyone pushing a diet/nutritional regime onto you. Uh uh not cool.
What to do if a broscientist makes you scared of a workout and that happens to steer you to their own: remind yourself that you can do any workout that you want and that the most important thing is that it brings you joy and makes your life better.
3. Broscientists will use phrasing that is non-inclusive and command oriented.
"If you want to drop fat, eat fat. But don't eat too much of it."
"Make sure you don't chew gum or it'll throw you out of Ketosis."
"This workout burns the most calories."
Ladies, this most certainly means you will hear the words long, bulky, tighten, tone, lift, burn calories, burn fat, and basically anything that has to do with your appearance and making you terrified of weights.
"This workout burns the most fat off of your body."
"Be strong not skinny. But don't add bulk." But still love yourself. You are enough."
My broscience radar is going bezerk.
The irony of the "be strong not skinny" catchphrase is that while this is meant to be judgement free and inclusive, insinuating that strong and skinny are mutually exclusive is in fact, not inclusive. How about this instead: "Let's get stronger together!"
Also, do trainers realize that "bulk" is extremely subjective and that women may have a definition of "bulk" in their mind that is beautiful and wonderful and something that she wants to strive for? It's ludicrous to tell a woman how she should look, especially in the era of "you are enough" and body acceptance. Stop that. How a person responds to a workout regimen is determined by someone’s genetics, body frame, and a host of other factors, not whether she's holding 2 pounds or 200.
What to do if broscientist makes you feel like you have LESS options in life : Say, "BYE, FELECIA". Go find a mirror. Give yourself a wink and a hug.
And for the love, DUMBBELLS DO NOT MAKE WOMEN HUGE.
Every single personal trainer on the face of the earth who trained under an accredited organization that's worth a D.
4. Broscientists will not have the educational background nor evidence to back the claims that they make
Before I delve into this, I want to make sure our audience understands something - I am in NO WAY suggesting that in order to be a great trainer, one must have all the schooling. I worked hard for my education, but I was also REALLY fortunate to get into grad school in the first place. In addition, there is still MUCH I have to learn regarding training methods, as research is always evolving. Education enlightens you, but that doesn't equate to being a phenomenal trainer. However a willingness to learn, open mindedness, and the ability to look at things from multiple vantage points is what makes great trainers G R E A T. Oh and also really loving people. A lot.
Usually the above attributes will correlate with certifications. If someone has a willingness to learn, he/she usually continues absorbing information - not from the internet, but from accredited resources. Even then, there can be gaps, as one cannot learn and absorb everything there is to know regarding exercise physiology in a weekend certification. That's why it's important to always ASK YOUR TRAINER QUESTIONS.
When a broscientist is asked "why", he/she will often dance around an answer without providing any evidence to support claims that are made. And let's get specific - evidence does not mean: "I used my training on 50 people and they all got results. You should buy my training."
Where's your control? Did you also compare this to another method of training that was completed with a comparable set of subjects at the same time? Oh no? Then how do you know your training method is novel and one of a kind and like no other and the answer to all our calorie burning fat loss prayers? Answer: IT'S NOT. Why? Because EVERYTHING WORKS for decreasing fat mass as long as you create a calorie deficit. Walk. Run. Eat less. Bike. Pilates. Spin. Barre. Lift. HIIT. Elliptical. Zumba. Cross fit. Swim. Yoga.
If you want to present real evidence, go to pubmed.org. Show me multiple peer reviewed articles that aren't published in crap journals without street addresses, and we'll talk.
He/she may also urge you to take on their training regime because it worked for them personally.
"Weights did not work, but this did for me."
Big red flag. Genetics are diverse. That's an understatement. We try to box body types in to three categories when in reality, we are all varying degrees of each. That means we need a massive amount of research and discovery before we go prescribing a specific exercise program to clients based on their genetics and/or what we perceive to be their body type.
What to do if broscientist pushed his/her method onto you: Say, "BYE, FELECIA". Go find a mirror. Give yourself a hug.
A promise from me to you:
What we should be focusing on as trainers is what we can do to help people feel better physically and emotionally. There's a LOT of wonderful trainers out there. Unfortunately, some of the loudest ones give crappy advice. My goal as a trainer and educator is to walk side by side with someone who just wants to feel better in their own skin - without adding more fear to the process. There's enough of that already, yeah? Let's stop yo-yo-ing and start yo-lo-ing.