Posts Tagged ‘Experts’

One of the most difficult things to navigate in the search for a healthy lifestyle is the quagmire of conflicting research in health science. Dr X says you don’t need extra protein in your diet to maintaining a healthy lifestyle whereas Joe trainer says you can’t expect good gains without it. Dr X says that eating thirty minutes before your workout will give you more energy to training by Joe trainer says working out on an empty stomach makes you leaner quicker. Dr X says that it’s alright to go on a tan bed whereas Joe trainer says don’t go near them unless you want a melanoma.


It is really easy to get totally stumped and bogged down by this but there is one sure fire way to figure out fact from fiction.

1)      Look at the sources of your information. TV, internet and media are great for latching on to sensationalised headlines, and articles claiming fantastical results can often be shown to be full of false promise. “This amazing study which found that 98% of its participants who took this magic diet pill lost all their unwanted fat”, this is particularly true of cosmetics (by definition a cosmetic is not legally allowed to turn you from crypt keeper to Kelly brook, they are only allowed to make a percentage of difference or they would be required to be administered by a professional, hence why you have to go to your doctor for Botox and you can go down to Boots for your anti wrinkle crèmes). Look at the original copies of the studies the media is talking about through Google Scholar, specifically how many people they tested and the kind of measures they used to do that testing you are more likely to get a better understanding of how much BS you are reading and how much is actually good science. One of the main problems when talking about sports performance specifically is how do you even measure performance and improvements? Sure with a sprinter it’s a matter of seconds and milliseconds but with something more team based like rugby, hockey or football how do you really know its improving their performance? How can you definitively measure performance like that?

2)      We tend to believe experts. Particularly those who have impressive sounding qualifications like MD or PhD’s. I’ll let you in on a little secret, even doctors can make mistakes and just because they say something doesn’t mean they are right. Have the confidence to challenge something that an expert says. If it sounds too good to be true its more than likely some sneaky endorsement deal or some personal opinion which may be based on sound academic experience but could also be  an out of date view based on biased research with some important variables not being considered etc etc.

3)      Jargon can be intimidating. Trainers talking about glucose, insulin levels and breaking down muscular microfibers can often be used as a tool to dazzle you into thinking “here is an expert, so I’m going to believe whatever he says”, and here comes the sales pitch where he tells you about how good this supplement powder is bla bla bla. There is most definitely a science to health and exercise but for the average person it isn’t crucial to know all the ins and outs, that is for the real professional athletes and the Olympic types. These people will employ professionals in sports medicine and dietetics to get their bodies working to tip top condition and as I have mentioned before this will be a tailored plan based on the specific athlete. The main scientific fact you need to remember when you’re talking about health is you need to figure out what suits you and you alone.

4)      I can not stress enough how much sales comes into fitness and health. All these “magic” active yoghurt drinks which, when taken with a balanced diet have been shown to reduce cholesterol, well genius if you eat a balanced diet that will happen anyway! Unless you are taking prescribed medications that have been through a rigorous clinical trial and are administered by your doctor as far as I am concerned all the yoghurts and active drinks are made up science.

5)      This brings me on to supplements. We love a quick fix. Taking a shake which has a macho torso on the packet and screams protein from every thick plasticed, foil packed inch will go a long way to giving you that ego machismo boost “ I’m being SO healthy right now” feeling.  Supplements originated with the elite athletes but are quickly becoming food for the masses with every health food store and supermarket now stocking a shelf or two. There is definitely a place for supplements in a healthy lifestyle but they are so called for a reason. As a supplement they are meant to be an addition to your diet not a meal replacement and if mis taken they can increase your daily calories and not go very far to helping you lose weight. The best way to take supplements, unless specifically advocated by a healthcare professional is straight after a tough weights work out and that’s all. Eat a complex carb, high fruit veg and lean protein diet and you won’t need to go mad on your supplements. Oh and one word for Creatine, be careful and above all with anything you are putting into your body read about it, not the back of the packet, reviews online, health boards, ask your health food store clerks and fitness bloggers. If they don’t know they should be able to direct you to someone who does.

Take home points:

  • Look at your sources
  • Don’t take “experts” opinions as gold
  • Don’t be intimidated by scary sounding science words and jargon
  • Don’t get hauled into a sales scam
  • Go easy on supplements