Broscience: Deciphering Fact and Fiction in Your Fitness Quest

It’s not uncommon to hear guys complaining about their wives or girlfriends gossiping, or sharing uncorroborated information about this person or that person. Some people get consumed with these rumors and hearsay, and most people identify women as the most common culprits. But over the years I’ve come to recognize a unique variety of male-focused gossip that’s become pervasive in our nation’s gyms and fitness clubs.

It’s commonly called “Broscience,” which is widely recognized as the informal exchange of unsubstantiated claims about topics ranging from bodybuilding to nutrition, usually posited by self-proclaimed fitness gurus. It’s not strictly “gossip,” and to be fair, there’s often no ill intent behind displays of Broscience.

However, just as the spread of rumors and gossip can cause hurt feelings and damaged reputations, the rampant exchange of fitness tips by guys who have no formal training or scientific knowledge can have harmful effects. That’s why rejecting Broscience and insisting on verification of health related information by respected experts is imperative if you want to get fit in a healthy manner.

Broscience in Action

Working in the fitness industry, I hear crazy claims about health and bodybuilding masquerading as scientific fact all the time. Spend an afternoon in a gym and you’ll likely overhear at least a few guys offering anecdotes and imparting their own creative advice about how to get ripped. Unfortunately, those claims are often unsupported by any reputable evidence. Instead, it’s just your average “bro” explaining what worked for him and how he got in shape.

The lure of Broscience is that it’s often supported by compelling anecdotal “data.” It usually goes something like this: a buff guy in gym explains to a fitness newbie how he got his impressive muscles. If he’s desperate for results, it may be tempting for the newbie to accept the bulging muscles in front of him as all the evidence he needs to convince him that this guy knows what he’s talking about. From there, the newbie might assume that if he follows the fitness regimen that the buff guy did, he’ll have similar results.

Why the Logic behind Broscience is Fundamentally Flawed

In the scenario above, the newbie’s unflinching acceptance of the advice is problematic on many levels. First and foremost, his steadfast acceptance of the advice ignores the fact that the human body is exceptionally complex. While a certain strategy might work for one guy, genetics and specific environmental factors could make it less successful (and even harmful or unhealthy) for someone else.

Furthermore, chances are the newbie didn’t get a detailed description of exactly what the buff guy did to get fit. Although he may have identified the weights he used, he may not have explained what sort of diet he followed. And he may not have described the frequency of his workouts or how long it took him to get results. Sometimes details like those make a huge difference, so adopting a general workout routine because someone else had success with it can be dangerous.

Tips for Identifying Broscience and Avoiding It

If you’re committed to getting fit, one important step is to resist the urge to rely on the advice and experience of your bros. Instead, rely on trained experts who are better equipped to help you reach your fitness goals. To that end, consider the following tips:

  1. If Something Sounds Too Good to be True, It Probably Is. I once heard a really muscular guy claim that he got in shape by lifting weights 3 times each week for one hour, without ever incorporating cardio, without ever monitoring his eating habits, and while eating 2 large slices of cheesecake every single night. Every. Single. Night. Perhaps that guy had incredible genes, but your average person probably wouldn’t see very good results with a routine like that. For most of us, getting fit requires lots of work and discipline. If you hear about a “miracle diet” or a “miracle workout,” chances are it’s poorly disguised Broscience and should be ignored.
  2. Consider the Source. Just because a guy has a great body, that’s not necessarily an indication that he knows what he’s talking about. I’ve met some real morons who somehow achieved bodybuilding success, but I would never rely on the advice of someone just because of their appearance. Instead, I encourage you to consult with individuals who have valid, reputable credentials.
  3. Read between the Lines. The marketing practices implemented by some companies in the fitness industry have taken advantage of the lure of Broscience. For example, I’ve seen companies publish official-looking reports describing studies of various fitness products only to find that, on close inspection, the reports contained misleading information neatly packaged to fool consumers. When faced with material like that, carefully analyze the data before accepting it as true. And, if the information is over your head, get an expert to help you interpret the findings.

[Brett Warren is a biochemical engineer from Boston, Massachusetts who develops sports supplements for Force Factor. He has done extensive research on nutrition and is an expert on nutraceutical science. He also has a passion for fitness and health. Brett’s work at Force Factor is supplemented by an active family life with plenty of gym time and outdoor recreation.]

Derek Markham

Things I dig include: simple living, natural fatherhood, attachment parenting, natural building, unassisted childbirth (homebirth), bicycles, permaculture, organic and biodynamic gardening, vegan peanut butter cookies with chocolate chips, bouldering, and the blues. Find me elsewhere at @NaturalPapa, @DerekMarkham, Google+, or RebelMouse.

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