There’s a war going on in the fitness industry. There are all types of experts, coaches, gurus, or whatever name you want to give them. As technology has evolved, so has our ability to access new information and research. There are two schools of thought—some people want to read articles and want every single thing to be cited and backed up by research and others just want to read articles that get to the point, aren’t too technical, and have some applicable information. So you end up with the researching PubMed warrior who can recite study after study and the guy who has been there, done that, and feels that his experience is more important. The two positions are too extreme. It can’t all be science and it can’t all be experience. There should be a mixture of both.

Having knowledge of the human body, exercise physiology, biomechanics, and nutrition shows that you at least understand some aspects of training and have devoted time to furthering your knowledge. Applying these concepts to yourself (and others) will allow you to derive your own conclusions from the knowledge that you have accrued. N = 1 isn’t always the most reliable data, but when it comes to yourself, it’s all that matters! If you get results from something that a PubMed study contradicts, are you really going to change it? I hope not. I can’t preach trial and error enough. You don’t need an expert, diet, or study to tell you what works.

Science is great. I won't understate its importance. However, science is simply after answers and conclusions. We are after results. Nothing else matters. Sometimes they don't always match up and that’s OK. We would never make advancements if we accepted everything that we had been told and didn’t push the envelope. So who do you trust? Honestly, nobody is an expert. We all pull from the same base of knowledge. We just interpret it in our own way. Some may have a greater base of knowledge and some may have more experience, but our knowledge of the human body will continue to change and evolve.

When researchers first discovered the hormone leptin, they thought they had found the king of all fat burning hormones. Mice without the leptin gene were morbidly obese and, when injected with leptin, they lost weight and developed a normal appetite. Sadly, it didn’t work like this in humans (sorry, lazy fat people—the miracle drug hasn’t been developed yet). Some people get too caught up in the research. As Coach X always says, “Don’t make it so complicated that you can’t see the forest through the trees.”

The majority of studies aren’t done to find the best ways for lifters to build lean mass, get single digit body fat levels, or get a 1,000-pound bench. They're often done on untrained subjects where people do three sets of unilateral leg curls and call it a day. We aren't those people—at least I hope not. That doesn’t mean that we can’t pull some information from the studies, but it’s best to just use it as a reference or a way to make you think. My articles rarely give a specific plan to follow because honestly I think that’s bullshit. There isn’t a one size-fits-all diet or training program. I try to present new research and new ideas that will allow people to think, come to their own conclusions, and develop their own plan.

There is another variable that will be controversial but needs to be addressed—and that is drug use. Massive drug use can make a shitty training program look good or a poor diet produce results. Nobody wants to hear this, but it has to be said. Take a guy with great genetics to begin with and load him up with a gram of testosterone a week, 10 units of HGH, and some insulin. Results will follow. Hell, he could take body pump classes every day and see results. A natural guy can’t follow the same protocol as an extremely enhanced guy. The volume has to be lower because recovery won’t be the same between the two and nutrient repartitioning will be different. The average person will look at a huge, ripped guy and assume that he knows a lot. This can be dangerous for two reasons—the huge guy starts to think that because he can produce results for himself and because people ask him for help that he knows enough to give advice, and the untrained person looks at the guy and thinks, “If I listen to him, I’ll look like him.”

Recently, a new client came to me. He's an older guy just looking to get in shape and had been training at a gym with mainly bodybuilders. They had given him a diet plan that was just awful. They had him eating 400 grams of protein per day and using these massive sugar-filled refeeds, which work quite well for the bodybuilding guys because they get to use insulin. My new client was under the assumption that they were all on level playing fields until he started to put on fat and feel like crap. Drugs aren’t magic. You still have to put in a ton of hard work, but they certainly give you more leeway in programming and dieting.

I like reading and learning from those who know way more than I do. Of course, I’d like for them to walk the walk, but at the same time, I just want to learn. Lyle McDonald doesn’t look like a bodybuilder, but his knowledge of nutrition is incredible and I really enjoy reading his work. At the end of the day, I just want to learn from and be surrounded by those who really love this sport and are passionate about getting better.