Do you believe everything you hear about fitness?
Do you follow nutrition advice from the talking heads on network television?
Are you making sure that you “confuse” your muscles when you’re strength training?
Have you ever been told to drink only liquids for days to “detox” your insides?
After you spend enough time around the fitness industry, you realize a number of common-sense “facts” that have been pounded into your skull are actually bold-faced lies with little to no evidence for support.
This might prompt you to ask the question…
“Why would the fitness industry lie to me?”
Well, what most people forget is that the fitness industry… is an industry.
It’s a group of businesses trying to stay competitive and sometimes, the easiest way to make a fast nickel is to bend the truth a little.
It becomes a lot easier to move supplement jugs, diet books, and magic pills when you have the right models and the right stories on your side, even if their origins aren’t completely truthful.
So, in the spirit of passive-aggressive whistle-blowing, I thought I would ask the opinion of a variety of well-informed, fitness experts on this topic.
(Thank you to everyone who participated because I truly believe this turned into a great compilation!)
I simply asked each of them the following question:
“What is the biggest lie made popular by the fitness industry?”
…and what I received, were some awesome answers.
You can read their answers below and listen to my latest podcast episode to hear my personal responses to each statement.
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Table of Contents
Andrea Metcalf is an accredited author, speaker, personal trainer, entrepreneur and has appeared in various media outlets including NBC, Good Morning America, and The Huffington Post.
The biggest lie is that you have to exercise in order to lose weight. Actually, a change in diet can accomplish the same. It just accelerates the process and improves your overall health from the heart standpoint.
Another lie is that you have to do weight training to increase lean muscle mass. It all comes down to calories so whether it’s diet or movement that changes the balance, that’s the only way to lose weight.
Amy Clover is a powerful force in the fitness spectrum having successfully fought clinical depression and emerged as an expert fitness coach and instructor.
Douglas Robb is a father, personal trainer, fitness blogger, and a master of social media.
That there is a “one size fits all” solution to great health, fitness, body composition, etc.
In the 20+ years I have been helping people transform their lives, I have never found two people who responded the same way to the same training and/or nutrition program.
Each person’s unique combination of genetics, physical health, mental health, beliefs, bad habits, good habits, income, personal life, support system, etc have a huge impact upon the relative success of my training/nutrition programs.
When any fitness “expert” claims that their program is guaranteed to work, they are either:
- have no idea what they are talking about,
- or they are hiding behind a disclaimer that says if you don’t follow their plan to the letter…then then the failure is all your fault.
Personal trainers succeed when they focus on the personal aspect of their business, remembering that each client is a unique little snowflake.
And while a small percentage of those snowflakes will respond well to a “one size fits all” training or nutrition program, most will require a series of minor tweaks to make that program successful. Without those tweaks, failure is all but guaranteed.
Kris Gunnars has a bachelor’s degree in medicine and is an evidence-based nutrition blogger.
In my opinion, the biggest lie is that supplements can give you impressive results on their own. The truth is that they may help in certain instances, but you still have to put in the work.
Dr. Darian Parker
Dr. Darian Parker is a certified personal trainer through the National Strength and Conditioning Association, the General Manager of a Las Vegas fitness facility, and has a Ph.D in Sports Education Leadership with an emphasis in Athletic Administration/Behavior Modification.
Austin Barbisch is a natural bodybuilding competitor and boasts a number of certifications including National Gym Association (NGM), National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), and the National Academy of Health, Fitness, and Rehab Professionals (AAHFRP).
Travis Forde is an online personal trainer and the personality behind Forde Fitness, a YouTube fitness channel with over 9,000 subscribers.
Robert Cheeke is an author and speaker on vegan fitness, a regular contributor to Vegan Health and Fitness Magazine, and a two-time natural bodybuilding champion.
Jenny Grothe is a certified nutritionist, author, fitness coach, and contributor to such magazines as M&F Hers, Oxygen, GORGO, Haute Health, and Iron Man.
Jason Blaha is the owner of the popular YouTube fitness channel, JuggernautFitnessTV, that provides training and nutritional information for active athletes and weightlifters.
Andy Morgan is an online trainer, fitness coach, and expert on intermittent fasting and reverse pyramid training protocols.
That there are shortcuts to success.
They come in many forms, but they are nearly always being sold. Initially, it will be pills. Then training programs or a diet plan, sold on the idea that they are “the best” single way of doing things, that will work for all people, at all times.
When you see something that lacks accompanying advice on how to adjust things to keep you progressing, it’s a red flag right there.
I’ll finish with these wonderful words by my friend and colleague Eric Helms:
“I wish I could make a guide that would give you the perfect macronutrient ratio along with a unicorn to ride across the magic dietary rainbow, but the reality is that nutrition is just more individual than that, and you’ll have to bear with me on that limitation.”
Dylan Klein is a PhD candidate at Rutgers University and is studying the molecular adaptations of skeletal muscle to exercise.
While there are many misconceptions perpetuated by the fitness industry, perhaps the biggest one is that you ‘need’ 1g of protein for each pound of body weight you have. While this recommendation (borderline dogmatic claim) may not be harmful or counterproductive, it doesn’t mean that it’s 100% correct or a necessary requisite for muscle gain.
Most research actually points towards intakes around 1.3-1.8g/kg of body weight (~0.6-0.8g/lb) for muscle gain in resistance-trained populations, which is slightly lower than the 1g/lb recommendation typically heard. Conversely, protein needs may actually be slightly increased in those who are dieting down and already lean, with purported intakes being as high as 2.0g/kg (~0.9g/lb). Nevertheless, this is still lower than the highly touted 1g/lb. In the end, the question still remains, is there a downside to consuming 1g/lb of protein per day? The short answer is no, there is not. With regards to overall health, there is no evidence to suggest any detrimental effects (e.g. kidney health, bone health, CVD) of consuming a higher protein diet (intakes as high as 4.4g/kg in trained individuals), as long as your protein intake doesn’t displace calories that would normally come from quality fats and carbohydrates and fibrous fruits and vegetables.
In the end, 1g of protein per pound of body weight is by no means required for optimal muscle gain, however, consuming intakes as high as and even higher than 1g/lb have not been shown to be detrimental to overall health or muscle gain. So as always, let personal preference dictate overall amount with a conservative floor being set at around 1.5g/kg of body weight.
Jordan Syatt is a 5x World Record Powerlifter, certified Westside Barbell coach, and has a Bachelors of Science in Health and Behavior Science with a focus in Strength and Conditioning.
The biggest lie in the fitness industry is that there’s a single “best” way for everyone. The “best” workout. The “best” diet. The “best” exercise. Yada yada yada.
It doesn’t exist. There is no “best” anything. Whatever is “best” completely depends on the individual and their specific needs, goals, and preferences.
More importantly, before you worry about finding the “best,” focus on being consistent. Because even the “best” program — if there were one — followed inconsistently would produce sub-par results.
Samantha Shorkey is an ACE-certified personal trainer and became the first vegan bikini competitor to go professional in 2014.
Jennipher Walters and Erin Whitehead
Jennipher Walters and Erin Whitehead both have degrees in Journalism and provide workouts, recipes, and advice as fitness bloggers.
Jerry Ward is prominent men’s physique competitor, online bodybuilding coach, and host of the popular YouTube channel, BioS3 Raw TV.
Non Evans has competed at the international level in rugby, union, judo, Olympic freestyle wrestling, weightlifting, and powerlifting, has been an Olympic games commentator, and has a degree in Sports Science.
Jill Coleman is a speaker, entrepreneur, ACSM-certified personal trainer, and has a Master’s degree in Human Nutrition.
Scott Shetler has a degree in Health and Physical Education, is certified by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCM), and is the owner of Extreme Performance Training Systems.
One of the biggest lies in the fitness industry is that in order to gain significant amounts of muscle mass and strength you need to eat a lot of protein (I’ve seen recommendations of up to 2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight or more) and that the best source of protein is animal-based.
How much protein do we really need?
The RDA for the “average” person is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. For strength training athletes the American College of Sports Medicine, in conjunction with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends a range of 1.2 – 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight.
These ranges can easily be met through eating a whole food, plant-based diet. That’s right, contrary to popular fitness industry myth (i.e. Broscience) it is not necessary to eat animal-based protein to build strength and muscle mass. The biggest argument presented is that most animal-based sources of protein are “complete” (containing all of the essential amino acids the body requires through food) and most plant-based sources are “incomplete”. This notion is completely ridiculous as it assumes we are only eating one specific source of protein on a daily basis. The fact is no one eats this way. Most people eat a wide variety of foods, most of which contain protein. This is also the reason many people claim that vegetarians and vegans must combine foods, such as beans and rice, to make a complete protein. The fact is the body pools amino acids from the foods we eat and uses them as needed, regardless of the perceived completeness of the source. So mix your beans and rice, or eat them separately, it doesn’t matter!
If facts such as these don’t convince you, take a look at the people proving these statements on a daily basis. Vegan athletes are coming out of the woodwork from many different sports. Elite endurance athletes like Scott Jurek and Brendan Brazier, strongman competitor and world record holder in the yoke lift and carry Patrik Baboumian, former UFC fighter Mac Danzig, professional natural bodybuilder Torre Washington, NFL defensive lineman David Carter, the 40+ bodybuilders, powerlifters, CrossFit athletes, and kettlebell sport athletes from Team Plantbuilt and many more are proving that not only can you compete as a plant-based athlete you can dominate!
Laura London is a speaker, weight loss coach, and a Board Certified Health Counselor (AADP).
JC Deen is an expert fitness blogger and online coach who provides consultations on muscle-building and weight-loss.
The biggest lie is hard to pin down, but here’s what I’d say.
It’s mostly in the “you’re not getting results because of [insert a strong appeal to emotions] and then explaining why with one or more of the following:
- pseudoscience about the endocrine system, or nutritional ideas.
- a new training ‘system’ that is unlike anything ever seen.
- a revolutionary new way to approach health and fitness.
This is not one particular lie, but more so a way of getting people to question themselves and abandon whatever they might have been doing that could give them great results if they’d only stick with it.