The meaning of Bro Science
Here is the best description I’ve come across to explain the term Bro Science: 200 lbs. is 200 lbs. You can’t use statistical slight-of-hand to make the weight lighter. There is no amount of fraud that can cause the weight to squat itself. 200 lbs. is 200 lbs.
A few days ago I was scrolling Twitter, and I came across a tweet from a guy who is, “an internationally renowned fitness expert, widely regarded as one of the leading authorities on body composition training.” Awesome. I don’t know this guy’s agenda, but his tweet celebrated the publishing of additional studies showing that muscle growth occurs the same regardless of the number of reps you perform per set, as long as you reach failure.
I tweeted back that, while studies are nice, if you look with your own eyes at the build of an Olympic weightlifter (1 rep) vs. a powerlifter (5 reps) vs. a bodybuilder (8-12 reps), you’re looking at completely different physiques.
The international fitness expert responded: “It’s fine to have your opinion, but note where anecdote falls in the hierarchy of evidence …” and he attached this pyramid image. Dozens of this guy’s Twitter followers piled on and “Liked” his reply.
I hate to break it to everyone: there’s no gotcha here.
If rep range makes no difference, then every competitive and recreational bodybuilder for the last 50 years has been doing it wrong. In fact, we’re all wrong in spite of participating in a sport where every single person is constantly experimenting to find an edge.
When “experts” rely on “studies” as “evidence,” I feel like I’m Inigo Montoya in the Princess Bride: I do not think that word means what you think it means.
Let’s look at some powerhouse studies that have been completely debunked, just in the last week. Since mid-July 2022, we have learned that: 1) all Alzheimer’s research and drug manufacturing in the last 15 years was based on deliberately falsified data, including a drug that costs $56,000 per year per patient; 2) the entire constellation of drugs meant to treat depression—SSRIs—don’t work because serotonin is unrelated to depression; 3) the clot shot suppresses natural immunity, meaning the jabbed are actually at higher risk of contracting COVID than the unjabbed.
Let’s do one more.
A hot topic in nutrition is the importance of fiber. In particular, experts argue that low carb diets are dangerous because a high fiber diet, claim #1—protects against heart disease; and claim #2—reduces diabetes risk. These experts encourage individuals to get their fiber from breakfast cereals, even though cereal has a nutritional profile similar to ice cream. As evidence, experts cite fiber meta-analyses from 2017 and 2018.
If you recall from Mr. Fitness International’s pyramid, meta-analysis is the gold standard of scientific proof. Awesome.
On the other hand, in the world of Bro Science, it’s hard to imagine a more shady process than a meta-analysis to arrive at a scientific result. You aggregate a bunch of admittedly meaningless studies, manufacture criteria to exclude the studies you don’t like, and then mix and match the remaining data to arrive at some preferred outcome.
Don’t take my word for it—here are some observations of meta-analysis from PhD’s at the Cleveland Clinic: “In performing a meta-analysis, an investigator must make choices which can affect the results, including deciding how to search for studies, selecting studies based on a set of objective criteria, dealing with incomplete data, analyzing the data, and accounting for or choosing not to account for publication bias.”
Now, is fiber important? I have no idea. I do know that the pharmaceutical industry, according to MIT professor Josh Mitteldorf, “is so profitable that they can pay off the research institutions, the doctors, the regulatory agencies, and Congress to maintain their profitability. Controlling the flow of medical knowledge is the linchpin of their business strategy, and they do it so well that most health professionals have no idea that what they read in the medical journals is high-falutin advertising copy.”
Additionally, here’s what I can see with my own eyes: low carb diets are so vital to health that there’s an emerging field in medicine that looks at how to de-prescribe diabetes medications for individuals who adopt an ancestoral diet. “Very low carb/ketogenic diets are so powerful that medications (particularly for diabetes or high blood pressure) may need to be adjusted within days of starting. For insulin, sometimes literally on the *first day* of the diet.”
I can also see with my own eyes that meat-based societies, like Eskimos, do just fine without bowls of Cheerios for breakfast. Likewise, you can observe the most astounding transformations in people with gut issues, like Crohn’s disease, when they adopt a carnivore-style diet.
The cool thing about Bro Science is that it is impervious to political beliefs and ideology. 200 lbs is still 200 lbs.