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How to tell if your Fitness Expert is talking shit

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I don’t know what it is about facebook, but whilst it is responsible for the greatest sharing of knowledge ever, it is also responsible for the rise and rise of Charlatans and Gurus who are either oblivious to their failings or just don’t give a shit. So I’ve compiled a list of ten signs that the fitness expert in your facebook feed is talking bollocks.

Sign #1. They call themselves a Nutritional Consultant but have no qualifications

Giving out nutritional advice does not require a qualification, so long as that advice is evidence-based and is a repeat of what respected experts are saying. This is an important distinction, otherwise personal trainers wouldn’t be able to say anything. They wouldn’t be able to express the opinion that a high-protein diet can be beneficial, and that is a ridiculous situation. However, there is a big difference between giving sound diet tips and walking around calling yourself a nutritionist or nutritional consultant when you aren’t one. Sadly it’s always the stupidest people selling the shittiest products who do this, particularly those who sell detox products or cleanses. Which reminds me

Sign #2. They sell bullshit supplements

If your ‘expert’ is only there to sell you a single product, such as a meal replacement shake or detox tea then they are guaranteed to be talking shit. Herbalife sales-people have absolutely NO training in nutrition (if they did they wouldn’t be selling Herbalife) yet they are now selling you a supplement  and copy and pasting ‘facts’ from other sales people. But Herbalife is at least safe, this cannot be said for Detox teas, or some fat-burners.

Sign #3. They don’t show their Sources

Earlier I said that high protein diets were beneficial, and I can back this up with study after study [1][2][3][4]. This is important because it shows that I am using an evidence-based approach, now there are limitations to this (confirmation bias being the major one) but at least you can search for these references and make up your own mind. If I said that Gluten causes cancer (which people say all the fucking time on facebook) and then didn’t give you any evidence then there is a good chance I am talking out of my arse.

Sign #4. They call themselves a “Master” personal trainer

This one irritates me more than ever, I’ll give you an example. In a gym that I was working in a new trainer came in, he had qualified from his 6 week course and started training people. I don’t have much of a problem with that although 6 weeks to become a trainer is a joke! But after a year he took a second course and that made him a “Master Trainer”. So after one year this guy is supposed to have become a master of his craft? Is there any other profession out there where people can call themselves masters in less than 12 months? Do master craftsmen take a 6 week course and then change their job title? Sheer fucking arrogance.

Sign #5. They don’t produce their own content

Okay technically it is possible to be very knowledgeable but also lazy, but it is unlikely that the guy who sends out 2-3 evidence-based articles per week and the guy who shares 4 bodybuilding.com articles and calls it a day are going to be equally competent. If writing has taught me one thing it is that before I wrote I knew fuck all! I was a good trainer but I couldn’t explain the science behind my decisions, also a lot of the advice I was giving was dated. Nothing helps you learn better than teaching others, and if a trainer or expert isn’t actively learning then there is a good chance that they are spouting rubbish – I know I was

Sign #6. They send you copy & pasted messages

The reason that LinkedIn is the worst social media platform is that it allows absolute bellends to send you emails, add you to their email list, or just spam your wall with the same messages “Hi Matt I am an entrepreneur and the CEO of my company” It begins, and I stop reading. If you’re the CEO of a successful company then why are you messaging me? Steve Jobs didn’t send 1-1 emails to clients did he?

Sign #7. It’s a part time job for them

How can you label yourself an expert when less than half of your time is dedicated to improving your own business? This one irritates me the so much, I’ll get my 99th insincere email on LinkedIn from a Starbucks “Barista” who drank the kool-aid and is now a Herbalife nutritional consultant. If you want to be an expert in your job (and if you’re planning on selling drugs to people then you better fucking be an expert) then it needs to be your passion, you need to live it. Being an expert in fitness means that you didn’t just decide to be a personal trainer because you got bored at work one day and thought it was easy money.

Sign #8. They call themselves a Wellness consultant

You know what can’t be measured? Wellness. Fitness can be assessed, nutrition can also be assessed (though indirectly) but wellness? It’s an opinion. Until companies like Herbalife and Juice + and other related companies came around there was no such thing as a wellness consultant. The only reason people call themselves this is that they don’t need a qualification to do so. If you want to be a wellness consultant all you have to do is start telling people that you are a wellness consultant. And pay Herbalife £200 for the privilege of course ….

Sign #9. They tell you that [insert magic bullet] can solve all of your problems

Did you know Coconut Oil can cure herpes? And is a great replacement for sun-block? Well according to a bullshit infogram that wellness consultants share on facebook this is true. Let’s just go over that last bit again. There are people telling you to cover yourself in COOKING OIL instead of sun-block, and to cure your STIs with it too! This point is similar to the one I made earlier about a lack of evidence, but my problem here isn’t that they are talking bollocks but that they are attributing many benefits to one product. There is no product that can solve all of your problems on its own. No superfood (which incidentally is a made-up term) that will help you lose fat, build muscle, and throw out that useless cancer medication you were taking.

Sign #10. They are rigid in their views

There are a lot of trainers, coaches, and writers who are intelligent people, but will never be experts. This is because they are too proud to alter their belief or admit when they are wrong. I struggle with this myself, in fact every time somebody has questioned my belief I have reacted with scorn. Difference is, I then go away and if they were right I adapt to the situation sometimes I even stop myself from fire-bombing their house too!

So Am I an Expert?

No, not yet. I’ve got a degree in Sports Science and 7 years in the fitness industry behind me. I have written about 100-150 articles for fitness websites and have another 50 to write before the end of the month. I would estimate that this makes me about 10-20% of the way towards being an expert. Real experts are people like Bret Contreras, Brad Schoenfeld, Layne Norton, and Alan Aragon, and I bet that they would say they weren’t experts themselves yet. Maybe that’s the biggest sign that your “Fitness expert” is talking shit, that they tell you they are one!

References

[1] Tarnopolsky, M., Atkinson, S., MacDougall, J., Chesley, A., Phillips, S., Schwarcz, H. 1992. Evaluation of protein requirements for trained strength athletes. Journal of Applied Physiology 73(5): 1986-95

[2] Pasiakos, S., Cao, J., Margolis, L., Sauter, E., Whigham, L., McClung, J., Rood, J., Carbone, J., Combs Jr., G., Young, A. 2013. Effects of high-protein diets on fat-free mass and muscle protein synthesis following weight loss: A randomised controlled trial. The FASEB Journal 27(9): 3837-3847

[3] Layman, D., Boileau, R, Erickson, D., Painter, J., Shiue, H., Sather, C., Christou, D. 2003. A reduced ratio of carbohydrate to protein improves body composition and blood lipid profiles during weight loss in adult women. Journal of Nutrition 133(2): 411-7

[4] Halton, T., Hu, F. 2004. The effects of high protein diets on thermogenesis, satiety and weight loss: a critical review. Journal of the American College of Nutrition 23(5): 373-85

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