It’s EASY! It WORKS! (from the archives, 2013)

Every once in a while, I’ll admit, I click on one of those insanely buff dudes in the sidebar of my Facebook page. You know, the ones where the tag line reads something like ‘new secret reveals ancient wisdom’s super easy way to get absolutely shredded while sleeping!’ My latest click actually involved something called “muscle rev x” and took me to the fascinating land of Men’s Health advertorials where the sales pitch ensued: lots of awesome before and after pictures [check out this link for the secret behind these magic tricks], sweeping references to “clinically proven” and “scientific research” and an ocean of comments from the fascinating land of “Bro-Merica” (no seriously!  check it out… um, Bro?).  This particular link was selling supplements though many links are portals for training programs that make similar claims – ‘get ripped in 6 minutes a day while drinking beer!’ My morning’s visit to these distant shores got me wondering why i’m not seeing more insanely ripped people out there these days given the quantity of these opportunities that seem to exist and the fact that all of us spend at least 3 hours a day on Facebook (right Bro?).

And while the answer might be clearly apparent to most, here is my version.  These program/supplements aren’t creating an army of Gerard Butlers because of the difference between the theoretical truth and pragmatic truth.  You see, all of these opportunities are really selling theoretical truths.  It is possible to do regular six minute super high intensity workouts, integrate them with a shot glass full of beer, eat really healthy, and see awesome results.  It is possible to take virtually any supplement as part of a solid exercise program and diet and radically change the way you look.
Pragmatically though, things are much more difficult.  YOU (or whoever is wanting to get ripped, fit, or lose weight) don’t actually change in any significant way when you key in your credit card number to an online order form.  The habits, desires, time management, etc that got you where you are will not yield to gentle pressure.  There are no easy solutions.  If you are out of shape or unhealthy it has taken a long time to get you that way – a long time spent making decisions that negatively impacted you health and fitness.  Even when claims of supplements, for example, are true – they only (at best) accentuate any benefits (i.e cause slightly faster weight loss) provided by a meaningful switch to making healthier choices.

The bottom line is that if YOU don’t change – and stick with that change – then no amount of money will get you where you want to be.  This is true regardless of what the tagline next to the buff dude tells you.  The good news is that if you do really change, then you probably don’t need the supplements anyway, and it won’t really matter so much which particular training program you end up following.

The reason we’re not all super athletes with fit and healthy bodies is that significant change, the kind required for results – is very hard.  So next time you see those ads Bro, remember that you’re being sold the theoretical truth and it is the pragmatic one that matters –

It’s (never) EASY! It (all) WORKS!

PS – did i get all the “Bros” right?

All wet (AKA drowning rats)

IMG_20150129_164625221A facebook correspondent and UM fan has done some digging and sent me a blog post he dug up that provides a critical dispute of the ‘anti-fatigue’ factor mentioned in liver that I discuss in the nutrition chapter in the book.  Awesome–I mean any blogger that actually performs t-tests to include in his post is worth listening to, right?  Anyway, it’s super cool to be educated by readers!  I love it! [Here is the link]

So first of all, a big thanks to Wazz Up (whoever you are!)–hope you’re doing well over there in Denmark and having some good workouts on that elliptical of yours.

I am honestly not surprised to learn of the flaws in the Erkshoff study upon that the author of the blog post pointed out and am readily convinced that, as I at least allowed for in my discussion of liver in the book, any effect I’ve experienced was a placebo and not due to this mysterious factor.  The central idea (in case you don’t want to read the whole thing) that the rats that survived weren’t powered by liver, they just weren’t anemic like the control rats were–

“A number of investigations conclude that anemia is a central component of the inability of iron-deficient individuals to temperature regulate when they are cold stressed.”

Brigham and Beard, 1996

I was given pause to think about the new information that afternoon as I went for a swim in the lake.  You see, I’ve decided to enter a local 2K swim next weekend and figured I’d better do a few quick laps to the 200 M buoy and back before then.  The water which was normally quite tolerable on a nice day was downright frigid. Maybe it was the fact that the ambient temperature was 15 degrees colder than what it is on said ‘nice day’.  Maybe it was the fact that it was 3 4:30 P.M. and I’d had little more than a cup of coffee and a piece of toast.  Whatever the reason, half way out to the buoy my chest was tight, my shoulders heavy, and my breathing shallow.

I felt like one of those Norwegian lab rats mentioned by the blogger–a natural swimmer who can go for hours on end under normal circumstances, but severely affected by poor nutrition and cold water.  Although I don’t particularly feel anemic, I might just bulk up on my iron over the next few days to be sure…

 

Too much information

Too-much-informationThis is just my opinion (as if anything on this site is anything else?!), but I feel that, at least for the average Johnny or Sheila hoping to get fit and/or pursue athletic ambitions, the athletic/health science industry is doing more harm than good.  The fact that at our fingertips rests such an immense wealth of information isn’t always a good thing.  It makes us believe that there is a right answer.  And when we believe there is a right answer, we often feel compelled to find it and follow it.

The problem is though, that the right answers aren’t always clear, aren’t always easy to follow, and in the absence of our ability to follow this ‘correct’ course of action in it’s entirety, we often opt to do nothing.

Look, I’m a scientist by training and I recognize the tremendous benefit the field provides.  But science, at least to the non-scientist, can be misleading.  It produces claims about benefits of one course of action over another that while perhaps technically true, can (and maybe should) pretty much be ignored.

Supplement X performs better than Supplement Y, and both are shown to provide benefits as compared to a control group that didn’t take either.  Better go get supplement X, right?  Training regimen A produces a greater increase in VO2 max than regimen B, so looks like I need to go and change the way I’m training now too!  Well, not so fast.  In truth it is likely that while supplements X and Y do produce statistically significant differences in some measurable characteristic of health over the control group, it is very small difference. It might also be that you are not similar to the control group at all!  And if you don’t actually know what statistical significance is in the first place, then maybe you should research that before you google any more Brand X’s or Program B’s.

It comes down, again in my opinion, to a bit of a need for external validation.  Sure, it’s good to do research and learn about whatever you are interested in, but it is FAR more important to develop an intuition about your own body and mind–what works and what doesn’t.  A genuine internal confidence in whatever you decide to do will pay the kind of dividends that can’t be paid for, no matter how slick the sales marketing might be.

Eat good food and move regularly.  Spend time with people you care about and care about what you do with your time.  Now that’s not too much information, is it?