My first fitness post: Suck it up, there are no quick fixes

Recently, I was reading ‘r/fitness’ on Reddit when I came upon a thread on GOMAD, a get-big-quick scheme where you drink a gallon of milk a day to gain weight. The gallon of organic whole milk in my refrigerator has 16 servings at 147 calories per serving. There are 45 calories from fat per serving. That gallon of milk is 2352 calories, 720 of them are from fat. If you Google ‘gomad’ you’ll be greeted with results promising quick results:

gomad screen capture of results” GOMAD: How to Gain 25lbs in 25 Days with Squats & Milk …”

If you were to gain 25lbs this way, 20 of them would be fat. Yay. Who believes this crap?

How to Spot Bullshit

So today I’ve been compelled to write the following (actually, its a repost of something I previously put elsewhere) to help people understand that there are no quick fixes to fitness.

They Have Something To Sell

It seems relatively obvious, I suppose (and unfortunate), that if they have something to sell, that’s when you might want to start wondering whether they’re full of shit or not. One thing I always take into consideration is the “stuff for sale” vs. “information” ratio. I’ll give you an example: Elite FTS: absolutely not full of shit. The amount of good, free information available on their site is huge. Yeah, they have a webstore and a bunch of stuff for sale, but they also have great information. You can get a ton a value on their site without ever spending a dime. On the other end of the spectrum are people whose website exist for one reason: sell some stupid “e-book” or hokey piece of equipment. This should be your #1 sign they are full of shit. Even moreso if they have a picture of a “book” in the upper right corner of their page. This is the universally accepted icon for “bullshit”.

They Have A “Secret”

Let’s face it, there’s nothing incredibly secret when it comes to fitness, strength training, or weight loss. Want to lose weight? Expend more energy than you take in. Want to get strong? Lift heavy things. Want to get fit? Find an exercise activity you like and do it. Want to gain muscle mass? Eat more protein and lift weights. I realize I’m sort of simplifying things a bit. If you’re an elite-level athlete or a competitive bodybuilder, things can get pretty complicated. For everyone else – those of us who just want to get fit and strong – this is all painfully simple. The simplicity of this stuff makes it all the more laughable whenever someone pretends to hold some special secret that nobody else has. There are no secrets. Nobody has proprietary knowledge that is unknown to the rest of the world. All of the best and most practical information on fitness & strength is widely disseminated in scientific literature and the experiences of the leaders in the field. The moment someone starts talking about “secrets” my mind says “bullshit”, and so should yours.

Their Claim Runs Counter To Established Data By Recognized Experts

A few months ago I came across a story on the ABC News website which covers a guy who claims he has a way to “hack” yourself into a schedule that lets you perform well on just two hours of sleep a day. Such claims are demonstrably false, run counter to established data and, in this case is also potentially dangerous. “Study after study has revealed that people who sleep poorly are at greater risk for a number of diseases and health problems.” says the Harvard Medical School.

As the saying goes, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If someone is claiming something which seems to fly in the face of all other information you’ve seen on the subject, then it is probably not true. I don’t mean to imply that you shouldn’t believe some innovative thinkers, but rather that you should use caution and make your own informed judgments. As a general rule, the further away a claim is from conventional wisdom, the more likely that it is bullshit.

They Claim Results Will Come Quickly

This website proclaims in huge, bold text: “How To Pack On 2 Inches Of Rock Hard Dense Muscle Onto Your Arms In 45 Days Or Less! Guaranteed”. 2 INCHES in circumference? In a month and a half? Does anyone really believe that? Here’s the reality of the situation: Arnold Schwarzenegger began lifting weights at age 15. He entered his first bodybuilding contest 5 years later. It took him 10 years to become Mr. Olympia. In other words, it took an obsessed teeenager with obvious genetic gifts 5 years to reach a point of success. Why, then, would any rational person believe such idiotic claims like gaining 2 inches on your biceps in 45 days? While exercise science has certainly improved in the last 50 years, the basic fact still remains: This takes time – no matter what your goal is. Any claim to the contrary is bullshit.

Asserting Miraculous Results Come Solely From Their Product

The #1 thing you need for strength & fitness results is hard work. Real, lasting results only come from patience and effort. The more someone tries to claim otherwise, the more full of it they are. My favorite examples for this are products like Ab Circle Pro. The notion that all you need for a great stomach like the model on their home page is to use some cheap, easy piece of equipment is crazy. Getting a six-pack is primarily the result of a reduction of body fat, not hypertrophy of the ab muscles. To get a great six pack, you must both exercise the abs and lower your body fat. Such is the case with most things when it comes to exercise science. You don’t gain muscle mass without lifting weights and proper diet. You don’t get higher Olympic lifts without improvement in both strength and technique. The list goes on, and claiming miraculous results just from their product is bullshit.

Super Long Web Pages

For the life of me I can’t figure out why, but most of the worst bullshit artists always have ridiculously long pages. Once again, this website is a prototypical example. It seems that the amount of bullshit on a website is directly proportional to the length of the web page and amount of bold text. I have a feeling that the bullshit ratio can be judged on a logarithmic scale – the bullshit quotient gets higher and higher as the text gets longer. Once you get to about 4000 words per page, the author could be classified as criminally insane.

Accept it: There’s no such thing as a quick fix

Fitness is a $17.6 BILLION dollar industry and it seems like everyone out there is out to make a buck. I applaud people with the entrepreneurial spirit and drive to turn a passion into an income, but that doesn’t mean it is acceptable for people to try to exploit the ignorance of the general population. Anytime you see something for sale on some website (or even in the store), do some research. Learn to recognize the warning signs of bullshit. Figure out what you’re buying and how it supposedly benefits you before getting pulled in by a bullshit artist.

If you’re overweight

I don’t want to sound unsympathetic but face it: You weren’t born fat. Sure, some people are born predisposed to being overweight, but most people are not. If I look through the list of people on Facebook that I went to High School with and look at those who are now fat, most of them were not fat in high school. I can use myself as an example here.

me in high school. skinny
This is me in high school. Look at those spindly little arms.

me in central park. with gut. eww.
This is me in Central Park last year. Notice the gut?

My gut didn’t appear overnight. It took years of sedentary existence to get there. My point is: If it didn’t appear overnight it certainly won’t go away overnight, either. In fact, the picture above is after I’ve already shed more than 20lbs of fat! I’m still working on it and try to eat right and exercise every day, but the process is slow. It will be slow for you, too. The only way to speed up the process is work harder. If I ran for an hour a day and ate salad all day, that gut would be gone by now. To paraphrase another cliche: “You can have it quick, you you can have it easy, but there’s no such thing as losing fat that is quick and easy”

If you’re skinny

As before, nobody was born muscular. Like I said above, it took Arnold (genetic gifts, steroids, working out full-time) 10 years to become Mr. Olympia.

Karl singing at New England Metal Festival No, I am not about to sneeze

This is me in my 20s basically at the height of my fitness. No gut. 20-inch neck (which sucks to buy shirts for, unless you’re built like Peter Griffin).  That body was the result of years of lifting heavy weights.  If you’re skinny and want to gain muscle you must become serious about lifting heavy and eating right. Again, there is no quick fix. Lifting near-maximal weight every day isn’t a walk in the park. It sucks sometimes and walking around with DOMS in some part of your body 24-7-365 is a nuisance, as is eating enough good quality food.  But it pays off, just not quickly.

The One Universal Truth in Fitness

In physical therapy and sports coaching, the SAID principle asserts that the human body adapts specifically to imposed demands [1]. In other words, given stressors on the human system, whether biomechanical or neurological, there will be a Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands (SAID). [2]

The SAID principle is often cited today by strength coaches to remind athletes and trainers that all training is specific to a particular task. In other words, specific skills or training may not easily generalize or transfer to distinct activities, either in terms of physical or intellectual training activities.

Wikipedia

At a high level we must understand that our body adapts (within reason) to the demands we place upon it. If you repeatedly challenge it by running long distances or lifting heavy weights, your body will adapt to these demands by being more efficient at running or lifting. If you repeatedly do depth jumps then you’ll get better at jumping. If you repeatedly sit on your ass all day (like I did for several years), then your body adjusts to that, too. Your challenge, therefore, is to find a way to get your body to adapt in a way that will allow it to become more fit. Doing so is actually simple. No matter what your goal is: eat right and exercise. No magic tricks or quick fixes needed.

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