Social Media: How’s it Affecting Our Performance in the Gym?

Let’s face it, you’re probably one of the 99% of my readers who are using social media on a consistent basis. More specifically, a daily basis.

In the world of fitness, bodybuilding, CrossFit, you name it, Instagram is the place to be for it.

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You’ve got your “fit-chicks” and dudes juiced up to the gills, all the way to your average Joe just looking to document his journey into the big, scary world of fitness. There’s so much variety out there, that there’s bound to be something for everyone.

But is it too much variety? Are we being bombarded with too much information? Too much “fitspiration?”

The Psychological Aspect

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How can this so-called “information overload” be affecting our mental health? It can’t be good for us, can it? Well, just like with everything in life, it’s not so black-and-white?

In all honesty, it’s very difficult to tell, because there are so many different variables at play:

And I could go on and on about this. Many casual female users of Instagram (those who seem to scroll through rather than post content) seem to have an issue with the content released by other female “influencers”, as it often includes similar themes; sexually suggestive images/poses, emphasizing appearance-related ideals, all in an effort to promote a product a large majority of the time. And I’m not alientating here either, men are just as guilty of this.

Now, don’t get me wrong, promoting oneself and their products via social media is not a problem in its own right. The problem occurs when people are giving excessive credit to a product that helped them build and produce the body that they possess. Even though this sort of dishonest marketing has always existed in the fitness industry, social media gives it a whole new depth on which to thrive.

A Money-Making Machine

If you’ve been an avid reader of my content, you know how I feel about most sports supplements: Garbage

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There are exceptions. Feel free to take your multivitamins, fish oils, protein, creatine, and several other scientifically-backed ingredients in order to boost your performance, along with some other supplements to relieve any deficiencies in nutrients that you may have.

But you know what I’m talking about here as it pertains to social media. The constant bombardment of detox teas, testosterone boosters, weight-loss aids, and other supplements that have zero evidence that they work!

The problem here is that the body is a great selling tool. A great physique is powerful. It illustrates hard work and intelligence. It tells their audience that they are an individual who is experienced and knows what they are talking about. And a lot of the time, that’s very true.

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It does take intelligence, patience, hard work, and a whole slew of other positive qualities in a person to build and form an appreciable physique. But what’s also true is that one can turn this intelligence and use it for the sake of pure monetary gain.

“Money talks”, as they say. Usually, most of those who start out on Instagram or any other social media platform have the best of intentions. They aim to document their progress; share with you how they got to where they are. And given, there are people out there just like that, selling products and services they truly believe in and that have worked for hundreds of thousands of people.

But most of the time, they sign contracts and deals with companies who look to prey on the desperation and innocence of others. The point here?

ALWAYS BE SKEPTICAL!

Always do your research before investing into a product or service that somebody on social media is promoting. Whether it be a scientific study on a particular supplement, or reviews of a person’s training programs, always arm yourself with the knowledge before you invest your hard-earned money.

So Are There Any Benefits to Social Media?

Alright, enough of being a negative Nancy (for now). Of course, not all of social media is bad. There are plus sides of having access to a vast array of people and information at your fingertips.

The Information

You have access to so much information out there, it’s unfathomable. A valuable skill that you need to develop here is how to cycle through what’s good, and what’s crap.

This can be tough to do since there are so many different kinds of people out there that exist on social media. So the only real practical piece of advice that I can give you is to follow certain accounts from different parts of the fitness community for a little while; maybe a bodybuilder, then a bikini competitor, a science nerd, a dietician, you get the idea.

Follow people from a variety of different subcategories in the fitness community and over time you’ll see who’s providing valuable information to you, and who’s just trying to shove their BS product or service down your throat.

The Motivation

Can many people on Instagram be fake as shit? Sure.

But, what Instagram is a great place for is motivation. As I’ve discussed previously, it takes pure discipline to achieve the majority of your success.

But motivation is still a piece of the “success” equation. We can’t rule it out entirely. None of us out there are “self-made”. We all receive influences from others in one way or another, whether it be from family members, friends, celebreties, and yes, even Instagram “influencers.”

There are some days where you really don’t want to train. You’re too tired. You’re too hungry. There are some days you really don’t want to stick to your diet. You’re miserable. You feel like you’re being deprived.

But sometimes all it takes is looking at the hardships and struggles that somebody else has gone through, even if you don’t know them. Instagram provides us with such a powerful tool to see this all unfold; visual images and videos.

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For many, this is so much more meaningful then just the written word.

Keeping Up with New Products and Services

Yeah, yeah, I know I just completely bashed this earlier, but there are actually some good products and services out there in this field!

DISCLAIMER!!!

Anything I’m about to mention here I am not paid to advertise or endorse, these are my true opinions of what I believe to be good examples of paid services in the fitness niche.

Coaching Services

Let’s take Mike Matthews, owner of Legion Athletics, for example.

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This man created a very honest and down-to-earth supplement company, even stating that supplementation is a very small piece of the equation when it comes down to your muscle-building and fat-loss goals. He also makes blogs and offers coaching services based around the science that his company uses to formulate its supplements, as well as his own anecdotal experiences in the realms of training himself and others.

Go check him out at @muscleforlifefitness

Nutritional Information

Although very controversial, a name that pops into my mind is Layne Norton for this category.

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He has a PhD in Nutritional Sciences, and is also a champion bodybuilder and powerlifter. Many feel that his approach is too bashful (which I can agree it can be at times), but it provides a unique twist and insight into the info that exists on sports nutrition.

Go check him out at @biolayne

The Bottom Line

So as you can see, there’s no simple one-size-fits-all answer to this very broad question. Social media is going to affect everybody differently. Some people even prefer not to use it at all. And that’s okay!

What I want you to take out of this is that as long as social media provides value to you and you use it in moderation just like anything and everything else in life, then you’ll be okay.

Agree or disagree with any of my points? Let me know in the comments!

Why Motivation is Often Bullshit

Motivation: much of the reason as to why many of us fail to reach our fitness goals.

The most cliche image about motivation that I could find
  • I’m motivated to start, but can never keep it up
  • I have too much to do to stay motivated
  • This particular person has more money than me, so they can buy better food and supplements then I can. It’s easier for them to stay motivated.

And the list goes on and on and on…

I’ve heard it all. And let me tell you right now, IT’S ALL B.S!

Discipline: The True Answer

This is where the true answer lies. According to Webster Dictionary, the definition of discipline is:


training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character

Discipline (n.d.) In Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/discipline

To me, this definition is very powerful. This is one of the core reasons as to why we’ve gotten into fitness and training in the first place; to mold the ideal version of ourselves.

What people often don’t realize is that training shapes our character. Yes, you need the motivation to start, but it’s the discipline that you develop over the years and years of training that truly gets you going.

I’m sure you’ve noticed these effects that have come from training and living a fitness-based lifestyle:

  • Learning that failing is actually a good thing, as long as you continue to try again
  • Established more patience for obtaining the fruits of your labor
  • It’s more about the quality of worked performed than the quantity of work performed
  • You’re honestly capable of a lot more than you give yourself credit for

Again, this list can go on and on, but I think you get my point.

But Wait, You Actually DO Need Motivation?

But I understand, you do in fact NEED motivation to get started, before you can ever develop the discipline that’ll help you to keep going. In this article, I will tell you all about what I, and the literature, have to say about gaining the momentum from motivation so that you can reach that blissful discipline stage that keeps you in the game for the long run.

Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic

There are two types of motivation out there. As you can tell by my heading, there are two of them.

Intrinsic

This is the kind of motivation that lies within somebody. Some examples of this are the personal enjoyment that you get while doing something (such as playing video games) or the feeling of accomplishment you get after completing a particular challenge (such as exercising). This is the kind of motivation that will keep you in the game for the long run, as opposed to…

Extrinsic

This kind of motivation is the opposite of intrinsic; coming from the outside. Examples of this include trying to impress your peers and monetary (financial) gain. This kind of motivation isn’t necessarily “wrong”, but the problem lies in using this as your primary source of motivation. You’ll quickly run out of gas by using this as your main fuel source.

So How Do I Use These Kinds of Motivation To Help Me?

There have actually been a multitude of studies where these kinds of motivation have been put to the test in order to determine what the best method for exercise motivation is.

One study in particular examined college-aged students (both male and female) and found out that the students were more likely to report their intrinsic motives such as the enjoyment of engaging in a sport rather than their extrinsic motives, such as their weight. What we can gather from this is that it may prove to be more beneficial to always have a tangible goal for your fitness pursuits.

For example, say you’re a bodybuilder who’s plateaued in the gym. You’re not motivated to train anymore, so you haven’t gone to the gym nearly as often as you used to. What should you do in a scenario like this?

Set a goal. Yep, that simple. Aim for a photo-shoot. Do a bodybuilding contest. Try to improve on one of the “big 3” lifts. There are limitless possibilities. If you don’t have a clear goal, then you’ll just be spinning your wheels in the dirt.

Let Both Types of Motivation Work Together

In one of the most extensive analysis of data that I’ve ever seen, researchers looked at over 4 decades of research and 9 meta-analysis (yep, they looked at over 9 summaries of data and made their own summary about it) on intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. What the researchers discovered was that in terms of performance in multiple settings (school, work, physical activity), intrinsic motivation was what they call a “medium-strong” predictor of performance.

However, the surprising discovery here is that when incentives were added (extrinsic motivation), researchers were better able to predict the participants quantity of performance. In other words, although the quality of work was similar, they were more often than not able to perform more of that quality work when some sort of extrinsic motivation was applied.

So don’t think of these two types of motivation as inherently “good” or “bad”. Instead, think of them as tools; being able to use them together to more effectively and efficiently reach your goals.

Bottom Line

So, do you need motivation. Yes, you do. The title was more “clickbaity” than anything else. (It’s just the way it is now)

Although motivation is quite important, discipline is what keeps you going indefinitely. So use these motivational tools to your advantage to help you reach that discipline stage and let me know how that works out for you! Feel free to reach out in the comments to share your experiences with these types of motivation.

References

Cerasoli, C. P., Nicklin, J. M., & Ford, M. T. (2014). Intrinsic motivation and extrinsic incentives jointly predict performance: A 40-year meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin,140(4), 980-1008. doi:10.1037/a0035661

Kilpatrick, M., Hebert, E., & Bartholomew, J. (2005). College Students’ Motivation for Physical Activity: Differentiating Men’s and Women’s Motives for Sport Participation and Exercise. Journal of American College Health,54(2), 87-94.

Discipline [Def. 1]. (n.d.). In Merriam-Webster. Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/discipline

Research vs. “Bro Science”: Who Can You Really Trust in this Industry?

In an online space full of so-called “gurus” and online coaches, who can you really trust in this world? This doesn’t only apply to the fitness community either.

This is seen in nearly every niche. Whether in fitness, finance, marketing; the list goes on. There’s good, honorable individuals who truly want to help others for a living. And then there are others who want to prey on the vulnerable and misinformed in order to make a quick buck. Sometimes its intentional, sometimes it’s just pure ignorance. Whatever the reason, it needs to be put to stop.

On the other side of the spectrum, you have actual researchers with a formal education in some exercise science related topic. But just as with the “bro scientists”, you must think critically when evaluating what these researchers have to say as well.

Wait wait wait, you mean I can’t trust them either? No, that’s not what I’m saying either. There are many variables that influence my bold claim (see what I did there?). Let’s dive in!

Fitness Gurus & “Bro Science”

You see that guy or gal on Instagram with the physique you aspire after; rock hard abs, toned legs, small waist, broad shoulders. You get my point. They’re giving you some free content to look at like snippets of their workouts and what they eat in a day. They usually have a caption about why you should do the workout their doing or why you should take the supplement they take. Aha, we’ve found out how they’re getting paid.

Now listen, I’m not saying that wanting to make a living isn’t bad (like I do with this website), but it just makes me sad to see individuals that just getting into this scene get ripped off by people who claim to know what they’re talking about, but aren’t.

Just take a look at the literally thousands of supplement companies out there nowadays. You think all of them are adequately dosed with the highest quality ingredients and that they are looking out for your best interests. No. Of course not. There are very few and far in between. And these “gurus” and usually sponsored by said companies and receive commissions to sell there (usually bullshit) products to you.

A few other things to be weary about when looking at these fitness gurus:

  • They don’t have a formal education on a related topic
  • They don’t cite their references when making claims
  • They don’t hold any certifications related to health or fitness
  • If they’re selling something to you that’s too good to be true, it probably is

They don’t have a formal education on a related topic

Listen, you don’t NEED  a formal education in exercise science to understand the fundamentals and even some of the intricacies of exercise science. BUT, it certainly does help when you’re explaining the finer details, which this field most definitely requires.

A big thing many people miss is that it a formal education helps out a lot when it comes to interpreting the research in the field. Sure, anybody can access most of these articles through free databases online. But it takes a trained eye to spot out key variables in the study, such as:

  • Were the methods/procedures used appropriate for the topic?
  • How were the results analyzed and interpreted?
  • How can this be practically applied to the real world?

They don’t cite their references when making claims

Anybody can just type something and claim it as fact. But, you need solid evidence to backup your facts and claims.

This is where the scientific literature comes in. These must be properly cited in order to back up what you are saying. Because if not, then you’re in for world of trouble when people call you out on your bullshit.

Again, this is also where a formal education plays a vital role. Just like anybody can just type something, anybody can just cite something as well. This is even if the reference doesn’t even match what they’re saying. I’ve gone through some of these fitness blogs and looked at their references and proven this to myself (not going to cite these sources to avoid exploiting them).

You have to know how to interpret the data properly in order to know what exact implications can be drawn from it.

They don’t hold any certifications related to health or fitness

Now, this should be the next best thing to a formal education. In fact, it gives a person brownie points if they pair this with a formal education.

These would include things such as a personal trainer certification, a sports nutrition certification, exercise physiology certification, and the list goes on and on.

For example, a personal trainer certification gives an individual a basic understanding of human anatomy and physiology, as well as Sports Nutrition. Even with this, somebody can most definitely be more trustworthy than someone who just did their research on Google.

If they’re selling you something that’s too good to be true, then it probably is

Oh yes, the biggest culprit of them all. The oh so famous keto only burns fat diet craze is definitely included in this category.  But there are definitely other ones as well.

I’m going to lay a very hard truth on you, what actually works in this field isn’t exactly what I’d call “sexy”.  And by this I mean there’s never really just one variable to be blamed here. It’s hard to package it in a nice, flashy ebook.

For example, going back to keto, many people who are firm believers in this and demonize carbohydrates will put insulin to blame. The raising of insulin is the reason why you’re gaining body fat. This is a much too simplistic way of looking at it.  Now I’m not saying a keto diet is bad , far from it. It happens to work well for many people and that’s absolutely fantastic, but it’s not magic that’s making that happen, it’s often personal preference in terms of what foods they like to eat and what they can sustain as a diet long term.

Another example is when people tell you specifically how to train. This could include making very black and white statements such as “only lifting very heavy weights makes you build muscle and lifting light weights makes you tone”.  Again, much too simplistic for a topic so complex as exercise physiology.

So they’ll make this very strong claim, and then they’ll coincidentally provide you a product that fixes the problem they just addressed. Trust me, nothing in life is ever that simple. The plan you put in place must be calculated and planned by an expert.

Researchers

This is where it gets real interesting.

The research field is ever-expanding to address a wide variety of topics. This is amazing as it helps us to address the many gaps we have in our knowledge about this broad field.  However, just like with our fitness influencers and gurus, there are good and bad researchers and studies.

Lets use an example that’s become very infamous in the exercise science research realm.  The one I’m talking about here is Dr. Jacob Wilson’s study about the supplement HMB. This has received a lot of controversy due to its claims of the results being “better than steroids”, with subjects gaining over 16 pounds of lean body mass over the course of 12 weeks just by taking this supplement. Ironically, he just released a video defending his study, if you would like to watch it the video is below.

You also have to take into consideration something called inter-individual variability. Basically, what this entails is that there are many things that make individuals different from one another; including genetics, age, sex, and our body’s physiological responses to certain stimuli, such as particular nutritional protocols, supplements, and drugs.  Because of this, research can only do so much to standardize these variables

Also, there’s also something that we call in the scientific literature external validity. This refers to how the results of the study can be applied to the real world. This correlates with something called internal validity, which is basically how effective the protocols  are being used to test what is being tested.  The higher the internal validity, the lower the external validity most of the time and vice versa.

Looking at the research is a great way to help us establish the best direction in which to go or where to turn. But also, one shouldn’t take it too literally either.  As the saying goes, what works best for one person may not work well for the other. Utilize the literature for the fundamentals, but also use critical thinking as well to be your own researcher. Essentially, be your own guinea pig. Apply what’s in the research and see if it actually works for you.

Final Thoughts

Unfortunately, clear answers are very difficult to come by these days. It’s hard to know who exactly to trust. Invest in the content of those we have never let you down. Use that intuition of yours to determine what this person’s goal is. Overtime, you can see if they’re in it just for the money, or if they’re really interested in making a difference in your life.

That even includes myself. I can say as much as I want that I care about your best interest, but until I prove that to you (which is what I hope I’ve done) then you really have no idea what my intentions are.

Bottom line; if you mostly see the selling of products rather than the distribution of information at the forefront of this person’s content, then I think you know what their motive is.