You’re being misled.
It’s not juiced-up bros and supplement hoes trying to pull the UnderArmor over your eyes.
It’s “evidence-based” fitness trainers and writers, the ones who’ve taken it upon themselves to interpret the research for us.
An interest in science is a good thing. The problem is trainers thinking that they have “reading research” all figured out when they clearly don’t.
Interpreting research takes work and practice. And experience. Reading some journals (or worse, abstracts) and thinking you’re now qualified to analyze research is like ordering Dim Sum off the menu and thinking you can speak Mandarin.
So most aren’t sufficiently trained to differentiate between what’s good (or at least applicable) science and what’s not.
And some shady types simply cherry-pick studies or statistics to advance poorly structured arguments.
Or just sell you shit.
Running From Stupidity
Recently a popular bodybuilding website ran yet another lame “cardio is the devil” article.
Anti-cardio articles are the epitome of preaching to the converted. Most lifters can’t stand doing cardio, so any information, factual or otherwise, that lends justification for strong, fat guys to avoid the treadmill is always well received.
The editors of this particular clunker took it a step further though, choosing to title it “Cardio Kills.”
If you think the notion that cardio will kill you is a bit of a stretch, you’re right. Suffice it to say, the article failed to convince me or any other fitness pro with two functioning brain cells that was unfortunate enough to read it.
Death By PubMed
The problem with the Killer Cardio article is that it attempted to cite studies to substantiate a head-up-the-ass argument.
At first glance, seeing citations to back up an even dubious claim can be persuasive. But if you look closer and use your noodle, it’s easy to spot the holes.
“Although it’s been suggested that sudden death during marathon training only occurs in 1 in 100,000 people, the majority of those fatalities are from a cardiovascular event.”
Wow, forget a night out in Kabul, these marathons are dangerous. They should charge the thugs organizing them with criminal negligence.
But in terms of actual population data — because a statistic without a frame of reference is worthless — the “1 in 100k” stat is magnitudes lower than the rate of sudden cardiac death in the general population, which is 13 in 1000.
Apply proper context and suddenly 1 in 100,000 is no cause for alarm.
Now consider that we don’t know if that one unlucky bastard out of 100K had a heart condition before opting to run his deadly marathon.
So that scary 1 in 100,000 stat can be summed up as “something that basically doesn’t happen statistically, but when it does happen could very well be due to a pre-existing issue that wasn’t screened for.”
This is how unscrupulous people lie — or how incompetent people fuck up — with statistics.
They start out with an agenda to sell and then try to find research, however inappropriate, to support that agenda. Which is the opposite of the scientific method.
So why aren’t those actually doing the research calling out this rampant dumbfuckery?
They’re waiting for Lex Luthor.
Lex Luthor and the Fortress of Solitude
When I was a kid Superman frustrated me. People were dying all over the world yet he spent his days wallowing about in his Fortress of Solitude, likely playing Krypton’s equivalent of Sudoku and watching Crossfit fails on YouTube.
The only time he ever even bothered to come out to kick ass was when a really big problem reared its ugly head, such as the latest scheme from Lex Luthor that would threaten all of mankind.
So was Superman lazy? Nope. Superman was focused on the big picture.
Professional researchers are the same way.
They can fly around the internet all day putting out mini-fires, calling out poor research and con artists til they’re exhausted. Or they can quietly focus on doing meaningful work that may one day actually benefit society.
The problem is, their absence has created a void – not only for unqualified writers to misinterpret research, but also for hucksters to seriously profit.
It’s even opened the door for dweebs like Dr. Oz to become bajillionaires by being “the doctor who knows more about health than your doctor.”
As you’ll see, opportunists like Dr. Oz are Lex Luthor’s best friend.
X marks the Spot
Dr. Oz puts on his scrubs and talks about the “incredible breast cancer fighting power of X” and there’s a mainstream uproar.
Demand for X explodes. Viewers ask their doctors about it. Cancer patients ask their oncologists for it. Some even go off their lifesaving medications entirely and switch to X, on the basis of what they heard in an overproduced one-hour TV show.
The drug companies soon take notice, especially if they conveniently own stock in X already. Or own stock in Dr. Oz.
And if the hoopla lasts longer than a few weeks, real breast cancer research takes a hit. Endless inquiries about the power of X eventually pressure the scientific community into investigating the claims. Meaning time and resources and money are spent.
So a scientist who has devoted his professional life to fighting the disease equivalent of Lex Luthor is forced drop his clipboard, squeeze into his costume and fly off somewhere to perform what amounts to rescuing a housecat from an apple tree.
A professional researcher I know calls this “scientific distraction” and an “upside-down prioritization of research goals.” It also represents a lot of potentially wasted time and money that could’ve been spent on, say, legitimate breast cancer research.
In 2-3 years, long after the X hype is a faded memory; a publication will quietly come out debunking the claims. But no one will notice cause , the Dr. Oz/Mercola Quack Machine is already on to the next one.
No big deal I guess. Unless you or someone you love is affected by breast cancer.
And Lex Luthor keeps getting stronger.
Do What You Do Best
Science is the backbone of what we do. I use science-based practices every day when designing programs or offering dietary recommendations.
And while I’m forever a card-carrying member of the Body By Bro club, I always side with science when my methods are called into question.
But I’m not a scientist or a research pro. You probably aren’t either. And certainly Dr. Oz isn’t.
So let’s all just do what we do best and leave the research interpretation to the experts.
That way the real scientists can stay holed up in their Fortresses of Solitude, fighting the bigger fight. A fight that affects all of us.
Because whether Lex Luthor is coming back isn’t the question.