Fitness “broscience” permeates the internet, and much of it is a massive endeavor in attempting to separate fly shit from pepper. People with way too much time on their hands endlessly debate the minutia of fat loss and muscle gain on message boards o’er the land.
In a column I wrote for the LA Times I showed how only 5% of Americans get a decent amount of exercise, only 23% do just enough exercise to achieve minimal health benefits, and about 14% eat the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
That broscience focuses on about 10% of what is important about getting in shape, being strong, living healthy, losing fat, building muscle, getting faster etc.
Is there any worthwhile information in the broscience, or even the legitimate scientific research that examines the micro-issues surrounding fat loss, muscle gain and physical performance? Sure, but is any of it actually relevant to YOU?
Do you get all waxed, tanned, oiled and Speedo-ed and pose on stage? Do you have a rippling six-pack and are questing for the shredded eight-pack? Do you have the job of protecting your quarterback’s spleen from being ripped out by some behemoth defensive lineman? Do you regularly step into a ring and need to hit people so hard their grandchildren are born dizzy?
If you do, if you’ve already got the other 90% down and want to achieve peak performance / physique, then go ahead and work on separating that fly shit and pepper. However, if you’re like the vast majority of the population, then you should instead be focusing on what’s really important. You need to focus on the other 90%.
Because if you don’t have that 90% down, then putting all your attention into that micro 10% is bullshit. It’s maybe not as bad as doing Tracy Anderson Method kind of bullshit, but it’s still going about it all wrong.
I don’t do MMA, pose on stage, race competitively or try to hit opposing football players so hard they fudge their jockstraps. I have four-pack abs, not a six-pack. I drink six packs. I run for fun and lift because I love it. I cycle far and fast and get lost on purpose. I get email alerts about powder days at the ski hill. My ideal vacation involves lots of time in a sea kayak.
I live the 90%. I believe in the advice of my friend and renowned nutrition expert Alan Aragon, who said, “The fitness & nutrition world is a breeding ground for obsessive-compulsive behavior. The irony is that many things people worry about simply have no impact on results either way, and therefore aren’t worth an ounce of concern.”
Don’t focus on the stuff that isn’t “worth an ounce of concern,” because that’s the bullshit approach to fitness. Instead, live the 90%. How do you know if you’re living the 90%? Ask yourself these questions: Did I kick ass today? Did I eat healthy today? And if weight loss is your goal: Did I control calories today?
These are big questions that require big effort. They make up 90% of what you need to do to build muscle, lose fat, be strong, healthy, fast, flexible, agile, determined, mentally sharp, and generally kick ass at life.
Sure, you could waste hours debating techniques and nutritional tips with some genetically-gifted and juiced-to-the-gills freakazoid on the message board of some website. Or you could, I don’t know, SPEND THAT TIME EXERCISING INSTEAD!
I’ll tell you what I don’t do. I don’t worry about maximizing my post workout recovery food. I don’t worry too much about balancing carb and protein ratios. I don’t worry if my aerobic training interferes with my weightlifting. I don’t care if the number of sets I did was perfectly optimal, I pay attention to the essentials, and that boils down to just doing the damn work.
I care if I worked hard. I care if I worked out frequently and for a long period of time. I care about how many miles I ran and how fast. I care about my fruit and vegetable intake and number of calories. I don’t look for “secrets” and I give precisely zero shits about taking alleged muscle-building or fat-burning supplements. (Yes, creatine works for short-burst activity, and maybe I’ll try it one day, but thus far I’m happy without it. And I’ve never seen the need for a protein supplement.)
Most importantly, I care about having a good time.
Tomorrow I’m turning 48, and I’m in way better shape than the vast majority of men ten (or perhaps 20) years younger than I. I’ve been successful at sustaining a healthy lifestyle for over two decades (after being fat for the first half of my 20s) because I really love doing it. I don’t have time for the broscience. I don’t care about the minutia.
A while back the car needed servicing and I had some time to kill. I planned how to spend that time in advance. I ran the five miles from the shop to my gym, lifted weights for an hour, then ran back. I did feel guilty about stinking out the pretty woman at the service desk.
I also felt something else. I felt like I kicked ass. This is being helped by the fact that I’m not stuffing potato chips in my face as I write this.
Did you kick ass today? If you did, then good on ya. That’s where your focus should be.
Here are some takeaways strategies for you:
- Quit worrying about the minutia and focus instead on the big picture of a fit lifestyle.
- If fat loss is your goal, consuming fewer calories than you burn is what matters. Find a healthy way to do this that doesn’t leave you starving or decreases physical performance.
- Lift heavy. Lift hard. Lift often. Not too often.
- Focus more on multi-joint weightlifting moves.
- Do a good portion of your aerobic training at a high intensity that you can sustain for a significant period of time. Ever hear of the sing-talk test? If you can sing, it’s not hard enough, so push it so you can only talk. Even better is to go hard enough that you can talk, but really don’t want to.
- Most importantly, love what you do. Get good at it; then get better. Keep pushing until the day you dirt nap.
James S. Fell is an internationally syndicated fitness columnist for the Chicago Tribune and author of Lose it Right: A Brutally Honest 3-Stage Program to Help You Get Fit and Lose Weight Without Losing Your Mind, published by Random House Canada. He also interviews celebrities about their fitness stories for the Los Angeles Times, and is head fitness columnist for AskMen.com and a regular contributor to Men’s Health.