The fitness industry is extremely tough to navigate as a beginner because of the sheer amount of “gurus” proclaiming they have the “secrets” to getting ripped.
If you hit the popular fitness sites, you’ll find contradictory advice at every turn.
How can you know who’s right and who’s wrong? How can you know who to listen to?
Well, I used to wrestle with all these issues and have not only escaped the maze but, ironically, have become something of a fitness guru myself. In this article, I want to share with you 5 criteria you can use to judge if someone is worth listening to or not.
Let’s get started.
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Table of Contents
Anyone that claims to have found special “shortcuts” to getting muscular, lean, and strong, is probably lying. And the more special they claim their methods, the more likely they’re lying. If they say their “discovery” is going to revolutionize the industry–or is–they’re definitely lying.
You see, contrarian marketing works really well. When someone speaks out against things “everyone knows,” it grabs people’s attention and makes them suggestible to influence. It’s just how we humans are wired.
The more contrarian the pitch (the more it goes against what we all know about getting fit–you have to control food intake and exercise regularly), the more likely it’s bullshit.
Fortunately, these types of fraudsters are usually pretty easy to spot.
The truth is while many people do train and eat incorrectly and thus make poor progress, there are no magic bullets or “inside secrets” beyond steroids, which we’ll talk about in a minute.
When it comes to diet, it all boils down to energy balance and macronutrient balancing. Manipulating carbohydrate intake, meal timing and sizes, and food choices are all relatively unimportant in the bigger scheme of things.
When it comes to weightlifting, it all boils down to intensity and frequency, exercise selection, and progressive overload. Proper training is much simpler than most fitness gurus want you to believe: lift heavy weights, train every muscle group once every 5 to 7 days, focus on compound exercises, and make sure you’re adding weight to the bar over time.
The fitness space is riddled with gymlore and broscience, and all kinds of myths and fallacies are kept alive by word of mouth. For example, do any of these claims sound familiar?
Chances are you’ve heard these things repeated ad nauseam by magazines, bloggers, gym buddies, trainers, and just about anyone else that cares enough about fitness to discuss it.
Well, they’re all false. How do I know that? Because I’ve got the inside scoop on revolutionary fat-burning and muscle-building secrets? Hardly.
First and foremost, I know they’re false because I’ve reviewed the scientific research that categorically disproves them–research that I cite for others to review as well. Furthermore, I’ve found my own experiences–both with my body and with the thousands of people I’ve helped–in line with the research.
I used to believe those myths though (and many others). And I learned my lesson. When I want to know more about some aspect of health or fitness, I always turn to the scientific literature first, and in my opinion, you should only listen to people that do the same.
Yes, it’s time consuming and sometimes frustrating to find what I need, but it’s the only way to be truly objective about this game and know what we do and don’t understand, and what we can and can’t be certain about.
Just because someone is in shape themselves doesn’t necessarily mean they can get you into shape too.
I don’t know how many times people have come to me ready to give up after some online fitness coach prescribed them a ridiculous regimen of a very low-calorie diet consisting of a handful of bland “approved” foods; long, grueling weight sessions; and hours of weekly cardio. If that’s what it takes to get fit, people say, it’s just not for them…and I totally understand!
Well, fortunately it doesn’t have to be like that. A good coach can get you into great shape eating foods you like, never feeling starved, and exercising no more than 4 to 6 hours per week.
There are plenty of good coaches out there, and they will all have good client success stories. The people will have made clear progress and usually there will be a write-up from them explaining how the experience was (there won’t just be a couple of images). The last point is important because before and after shots get ripped off left and right. You can’t always accept them at face value.
A good habit is to do a reverse image search on the images and see if they come up elsewhere. If the pictures are just ripped off, you’ll often find them on sales pages, message boards, and social media profiles.
There are exceptions to this rule of thumb, but it’s pretty workable. If the guy or gal you’re considering isn’t in great shape, you should probably ignore them.
If they themselves aren’t strong, lean, and muscular, there’s a good chance they won’t be able to help you do it either.
It’s possible that they actually know what’s what and are just too lazy to do it themselves or don’t care enough, but there’s probably only a handful of people in this space that fit that description.
In most cases, the skinny-fat guys and gals billing themselves as fitness gurus have no place advising you or anyone else on how to get fit.
This includes the scientifically oriented guys and gals that can cite studies for days but couldn’t deadlift their body weight to save their lives. These are the people that will argue that 30-rep sets work great for building muscle, the only way to build muscle is to train every muscle group 2 to 3 times per week, you never need more protein than .8 grams per pound of body weight, and many other claims that can be supported by cherry-picked studies, but that don’t pan out in long-term real-world application.
Everyone knows that the freakish bodybuilders featured in magazines and such are on ridiculous amounts of drugs, but many people don’t know just how prevalent steroids are in this world.
This might sound cynical but a large percentage of people making a living off their physiques are on steroids. That includes fitness models and competitors, YouTube and social media stars, and yes, bloggers and authors too.
They all claim natural, of course, and this leads many people to believe that the only ones using steroids are the hulking monsters. That’s far from the truth though.
The massive, shredded professional bodybuilders have gotten there through years of intense and myriad drug use (abuse, really) specifically engineered to build freakish amount of muscle. The average person would be shocked how many grams of drugs some of these guys shoot and swallow every week.
On the other hand, the smaller guys with incredibly impressive physiques claiming natural are also often on quite a bit of drugs as well, but just different combinations and amounts. When done right, this gives them the look most guys would kill for:
Let me put a visual to this:
While I really wish this look could be achieved without drugs, it just can’t be. End of story.
Here’s a simple checklist for spotting drug use:
Now, you might be wondering why all this matters. Who cares what people do with their bodies? I’m 100% with you on that–I don’t personally care who uses steroids and who doesn’t.
BUT…there’s a problem when these guys and gals start advising you, who isn’t on drugs. What they do probably won’t work for you.
If they’re using their drugs properly, they will be training and eating a lot more than you can. If you follow their routines, you’ll simply wind up fat and overtrained.
This isn’t to say that all drug users give bad advice–far from it. There are many that know exactly what naturals should be doing and advise accordingly. But you should be careful when taking training or dietary advice from someone clearly on drugs as it may or may not actually work for you.
Being certified as a personal trainer means essentially nothing. If you can memorize some basic facts to pass a test, you can get your trainer’s license. Thus, the foolish stuff we see trainers having clients do every day.
A formal education in a field related to health or fitness is definitely a good sign, but don’t let a degree take precedence over all else discussed in this article. There are plenty of fitness gurus with impressive academic resumes that aren’t in great shape themselves, that don’t have good client successes, and that are all about hawking their “revolutionary” diet and exercise methodologies.