Exercise Science? part 2

Science is a rigorous, no-nonsense, discipline.  A few months ago, a research team of physicists at the CERN laboratory in Switzerland reported that they had measured and recorded subatomic particles that traveled faster than the speed of light.  This is the most revolutionary discovery in the history of modern physics.  It completely destroys Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity and undermines the whole scientific consensus of how the universe works.  The reaction of the scientific community was immediate and visceral: “hmm, that’s interesting.  Lets double-check that.”  “I wonder where they made their mistake?  Lets check it out”.  Even the CERN scientist who recorded this potentially revolutionary finding wondered: “I wondered what we did wrong?”  Every real scientist would love to be the one that upend Einstein, just like Einstein overturned Newton.  But no real scientist is going to base their reputation on 1 study that has not been independently verified multiple times.  Not even if its their own study.  That’s science.  That’s integrity.  That’s truth.

The world of exercise science is nothing but bogus hucksterism: verb [ with obj. ]promote or sell (something, typically a product of questionable value).  Popular experts are dangerous people, selling opinions and personal preferences as facts, when their not trying to sell you a product they don’t even believe in.  That’s the nature of the “fitness world”.

One of this blogs followers; Mia; asked me about another blog she read.  I will not link to it, because it is terrible.  The author, Kassem Hanson is a personal trainer, a disciple of Charles Poliquin (an expert I formerly admired until I read this garbage).  The article talks about getting “skinny fat” and how certain exercise activities, like Spinning, can cause you to develop “cottage cheese thighs”.

I’m so tired of this.  This Kassem Hanson, if his bio is to be believed, ought to be an expert that I could quote, not waste time refuting.  He claims to have a BS in Exercise Science, BA Biochemistry and Molecular Biology – Cornell
BA Biology – Cornell.  A google search seems to indicate he went to Cornell College, in Iowa, not the Ivy League University in NY.  The fact that he intentionally leaves this vague indicates he wants you to assume the Ivy League connection.  Not that there is anything wrong with the similarly named college.  I don’t even have a degree in an exercise related field, which is why I would expect more from him.  And I am disappointed.

Let me be clear.  Not a single, reputable, scientifically based research study has shown spot reduction to be anything but a myth.  The American Council of Exercise (ACE), The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), The International Sports Science Association (ISSA), the National Association of Sports Medicine (NASM), and every other accredited personal training certifying body, as well as the National Institute of Health (NIH), all link to thousands of articles, research papers, and position papers giving the evidence against spot reduction of fat.  The inverse is equally true.  No activity can cause fat to specifically form in one area of the body over another,  The simple fact is that body fat accumulation is mostly genetically determined.  Again, the scientific evidence is overwhelming!  Hanson, and apparently Poliquin, are basing their opinion on a lone Danish study from 2007 that was never peer-reviewed or duplicated independently.  That such a study was done at all, and got published somewhere, doesn’t surprise me and was discussed in part one.  That Hanson and Poliquin would tout this and base their entire training philosophy around a single dubious study goes more to show their personal exercise preferences and bias than their commitment to exercise truth.

They misinterpret what Spinning is, and even say that “indoor cycling” is a better choice because it incorporates anaerobic high intensity intervals.  Uhhh, excuse me…Spinning is the original “indoor cycling program” and includes as part of its standard protocol anaerobic high intensity intervals, though there’s no guarantee in any program that the instructor truly understands or incorporates these principles, or that every participant follows those instructions.

He goes on to make other comments on the subject of things that will make you “skinny fat” mixing myths and facts indiscriminately, showing a tremendous lack of judgement.  For instance, he says that eating a vegan diet will make you “skinny fat”.  I know of at least 4 professional body builders who are Vegan, and I have friends who are vegan.  The body builders look like body builders.  And my friends run the gamut of fit, fat, “skinny fat” and powerful.  No I don’t personally advocate the Vegan diet because it is it is way more complex to insure that the individual consumes adequate complete proteins, but properly done, it can be just as healthy as a meat inclusive diet, for most people.  Please remember, that no diet is universally good for everyone.

Hanson claims scented candles will cause a man’s androgen levels to significantly drop.  Where he gets this tidbit from I don’t know, but if it were true, then their must also be scents that would raise androgen levels.  Where are those?  Trust me when I say the FDA would have this as a controlled substance if it were true.

So watch the next tour d france, the track athletes running the mile, three-mile, or marathons in the next olympics, or the top 100 finishers of the next Iron Man Triathlon.  Find the cottage cheese thighs.  Find the “skinny fat” competitor.  But also remember, you are not them.  You don’t train as hard, you don’t eat as well, you don’t sleep as well, and you don’t dedicate your life to your training.  That means you can’t compare you’re results, either.

What people like Hanson are doing is attacking a mode of training many people favor in the hope of getting these people to switch to a mode favored by Hanson (and other personal trainers).  Since the activity is different, you may in fact start to see some positive change, but that has to do with the SAID principle, not to any inherent superiority of their training method.  Once you start training with them, inertia is likely to keep you as long as you can afford it.  Of course, with a trainer watching you, it’s much more likely that you will train more intensely.  And that could lead to some improvement. And now they are getting your money, too.

Don’t expect unrealistic results that are greater than your commitment.  and always ask for the research.  Then ask for the independent, corroborating research. Stop being a sucker.