“Knowledge is power” – Sir Francis Bacon
By Will Brink
The above title is one of the best-known expressions in the English language. It was true when it was penned by philosopher Sir Francis Bacon in 1597, and it’s true to this very day… It applies well to the issues of nutrition, supplements, and training, be it to gain muscle mass and strength, or to lose fat.
Can one make progress in their respective goals (e.g., losing bodyfat, gaining muscle mass, increasing strength, etc.) knowing essentially nothing about training, nutrition, or supplements? Maybe….If you do make any progress, it will be slow, hit or miss at best, and often the progress comes in spite of what you did, not because of it! Clearly, a base level of knowledge of a given topic – in this case nutrition, training, and supplements – is essential to obtaining one’s goals. Conversely, does this mean you need to be a rocket surgeon to make steady progress in losing fat or gaining strength and muscle mass? Of course not! As I said in my article on the K.I.S.S principle for making progress (1) :
“…I find people seem to gravitate toward adding complexity to their approach when it comes to building muscle or losing fat. Not coincidentally, it’s the people who take the most complex approaches to their nutrition, supplements, and training who are always the most confused and least successful. They focus on – and subsequently worry about – minutiae that prevent them from seeing the big picture and making the type of progress they desire. It often leads to what is referred to ‘paralysis by analysis.’ The vast majority of people would have better results, not to mention less stress, if they simplified their approach to losing fat or gaining muscle.”
As the reader can see, I’m not advocating making the approach to fitness, fat loss, or bodybuilding, an overly complex process. However, to optimize your hard work in the gym, one must have a solid foundational knowledge of nutrition, training, and supplements.
The Goal Setting Continuum…
I see goals setting as a continuum from the very simple and easy to obtain (“I just wanna lose a few pounds”) to extremely advanced and complicated (“I want to be 3% bodyfat when I step on stage at my next bodybuilding show without losing any lean mass during the diet”) with most people falling someplace in the middle of that continuum.
Depending on how extensive or advanced the goals; success will often be directly proportional to your level of knowledge. For example, how much do you need to know to just drop a few pounds of weight? Not all that much and it can be pretty much summed up as: “eat less, move more.” That’s about it. If your goals are ultra simple and your expectations low, then you need to know very little about nutrition, exercise, and supplements. Will the weight stay off? Probably not. Will that weight come from fat, or will it be water, muscle, and bone and (hopefully!) some fat? Unknown as you lacked the knowledge needed to track it, and adjust your diet, training, and supplement intake (assuming you’re using any supplements) to make the needed adjustments.
Now, let’s say your goal is you plan to lose 20 lbs of fat (not weight!), then gain 10lbs of lean muscle mass, and improve your strength by 15% in all your lifts. Will the same level of knowledge the person above has who just wants to lose a few lbs be adequate for these more advanced and defined goals? Absolutely not. Depending on what you want to achieve on the goal setting continuum, your level of knowledge will need to reflect the goal, unless you have the money to pay a full time coach, trainer, and cook for the rest of your life.
As the supplement and diet industry is a multi billion dollar industry, and most supplements and diets out there are complete junk, and most people fail at their long term goals, it’s painfully obvious we have a massive number of people who do not posses even the essential basic knowledge to make informed and educated decisions. That is, informed decisions regarding which nutritional plan to follow – be it to gain muscle or lose fat – or which supplements to take, or which exercise plans to use, etc., to obtain the goals they have set for themselves.
The bottom line here is: the more knowledge one has about the topic of nutrition, exercise, and supplements, the greater the likelihood they will make informed decisions and smarter choices which ultimately will lead to success in those goals. A bit of a “no duh” of you ask me, but there you have it…
Relevant vs. Irrelevant Knowledge
Clearly, one can fill their head with a bunch of totally irrelevant knowledge that will have no direct impact on their success. However, people that take the “I don’t want to learn anything, just tell me what to eat and what supplements to pop in my mouth” approach will always be the suckers the bodybuilding, diet, and supplement industry use to buy new sports cars to drive all their cash to the bank laughing all the way. Guess what, that includes some of you (yes you!) reading this article. OK, so most people probably fall some place in the middle of the highly informed and the “I don’t wanna learn nothing, just tell me what to eat and what pills to pop” crowed. Let’s find out…
Do you know what you think you know?
So what does one need to know? If you’re going to use for example a whey supplement to increase your protein intake during a diet, or use as a post workout protein source, should you not know what actually makes a high quality whey, or do you prefer throwing money away? If you are going to take X brand of fat loss supplement, it behooves you to know if the ingredients in that product have been shown to be effective – or are in the effective dose in that product – or, you can fall for yet another supplement company scam and add money to their bank account. If you are trying to optimize your fat loss diet, clearly, you will have greater success if you know which macro nutrient is the least likely to convert to bodyfat, or which form of dietary fat is the most effective for fat loss, and so on. If you are taking a supplement that claims to burn bodyfat or increase testosterone, knowing the facts about those supplements is going to save you money and improve the effects, and I don’t think anyone would argue the above.
Test your knowledge!
What I have done is developed two quizzes, one focused on gaining muscle mass, the other focused on fat loss. The questions in this quiz are directly relevant to your success gaining muscle and or strength, and they come directly from my ebooks Bodybuilding Revealed and Fat Loss Revealed. They are directly relevant to the “real world” knowledge required to obtain your goals along the continuum discussed above. Neither quiz is very long, but gives a solid sample of what people should know if they wish to be informed and educated about nutrition and supplements as it applies to the goals listed in the continuum. Take note, I have put these quizzes on my forums and most members could answer most of them, so they are not designed to simply make people feel ignorant. They are designed to be challenging, and let people test their knowledge of the topic; topics which will ultimately help them obtain their goals. Are you ready?
So how did you do? I would hope those who have not read my ebooks on the topic would get at least 8-10 correct on the Bodybuilding Revealed quiz (out of 15) questions and 10-15 questions (out of 20 questions) correct on the Fat Loss Revealed Quiz. The purpose of this article is to impress on reader the fact that no matter where you decide to get your information from, you should be aware that to obtain simple goals, a base knowledge is required. To obtain more advanced goals, more advanced knowledge is required. Just taking other people’s word on it, be it supplement company ads, or “gurus” who are willing to say “just stick this food or this pill in your mouth” via a web site or book without educating you, is a sure road to failure.
See you in the gym!
(1) “Follow the KISS system for success”