How to Make Sense of Information Overload and Curate a Network of Reliable Sources
Last week I used the analogy of the telephone game to help explain why fitness and nutrition can be so confusing and contradictory.
By the time information reaches you it has already been distilled and distorted.
Now with the age of the internet and social media, this information has never been more easily created, shared and propagated. Anyone with an opinion can now add information to the collective stream of consciousness.
If you want to avoid making mistakes, wasting money, or being conned then you need to develop a way to filter through all the misleading information out there. Below we will go over a few mental tools to help you curate a feed of reliable quality information.
Cultivate a Healthy Dose of Skepticism
Skepticism is about applying reasoning and critical thinking to determine the validity of a claim. It’s about being curious, asking questions, and really evaluating a claim before accepting it as a truth.
You should always bring a little skepticism everywhere you go, but that doesn’t mean you should assume everything is a lie. Instead, as you come across information keep your ears perked up for any signs of concern about the validity of a statement.
For example, let’s start with how to work with through an article or a new piece of information.
Identify Your Biases
Each one of us has prejudices based on our experiences. These prejudices can shape how we view the world, and how we process new information. A great example of this is called confirmation bias.
Confirmation bias is the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or theories. That means if you believe heavy barbell lifts like the squat, dead lift and bench press are the best way to get strong and put on mass you weight any sources that confirm that belief as more reliable.
The result is that we may automatically disregard any information that may be contrary to our own.
This is why you first need to understand your own biases.
Ask yourself if what you know could be wrong?
Approach new information with an open mind. Don’t be afraid to challenge your beliefs. See if they hold up under pressure.
Disassociate what you believe is true from who you are. If the information proves that your belief is wrong that is no indictment on you the person. However, failure to adapt to new information may be.
Read Past The Headline
Headlines are for getting your attention, not for informing you.
Last week I went over an example of how a press headline can grossly misrepresent the contents of a scientific article. If you only read the headline, you’re going to miss the full story.
Check the Authors & Their Credentials
Any quality publication will list an author. If there is no author listed, you should approach the article with skepticism. Next, check out and see the credentials of the author. Are they certified? Are they a professor, doctorate, etc?
Now certifications don’t guarantee reliability. Just consider the time Dr. Oz had to testify before congress in regards to embellished claims he made on his TV show.
So while credentials don’t automatically make your reliable, a lack of a credential should be an immediate red flag.
Check the Date
As an industry we are learning and evolving quickly. As you’ve likely seen many things we thought were true, we’ve learned may not have been. Check the date to see when it was published. If it’s an older date, then read understanding that specific claims or examples may be outdated.
Distinguish Fact From Opinion
Fact - a thing that is known to be proven or true
Opinion - a view or judgment formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge.
As you read, listen or watch look to determine whether the content is based in fact, or if it’s based in opinion.
When presented with facts be willing to question them, especially if they seem to be contrary to other scientific research.
If it’s an opinion, try to understand what they base their opinion on, if it’s valid, and in what situation it may be valid in.
Is there a Bias
Where is this information coming from, a business, a doctor, etc? And what is its purpose?
Is it a descriptive or educational piece as you might find in a newspaper or a textbook?
Or is it a persuasive piece where someone is trying to persuade you to take a specific action.
Understanding the bias and purpose of a piece of information will help you better gauge its validity.
If a piece is highly skewed towards one belief, then you should approach with skepticism.
To help - ask where is this information coming from? What are the motives for the person writing this? Are they presenting a balanced representation of both sides or only one side?
Check The Sources
Are sources provided? If I read an article, I will often click to read the actual scientific study being referenced. If you are being given facts or statistics, expect to see a source for them. If there’s a lack of sources being required, then you should read with skepticism.
Is this information presented by other reputable sources
What do most reputable experts and publications say?
In our world of social media, many people stake their fortunes on being contrarian just for the sake of being different and getting attention.
As I face new claims, I always see how they stack up against the collective opinions of reputable experts and scientific literature.
For example, juice cleanses and detoxes have been all the rage, being promoted by influencers and celebrities for their ability to help you lose weight and detox your body.
However, as we mentioned above a celebrity without credentials in nutrition and health is a red flag. Claims with no scientific research is a red flag. Celebrities and companies with an incentive to promote a product is a red flag.
Before I buy into any claim, I want to know what reputable experts say. If you look around, you’ll find a consensus that juice detoxes are not just ineffective, but also potentially dangerous.
So before you adopt a belief, weigh both sides of the claim and weight the experts more than the promoters.
Put it In Perspective
Remember there is nuance to these topics. It is possible for two sides of an argument to both be right depending on the situation. So as you read, always try to frame the information and put it into context.
How to Avoid False Claims
An easy tip of advice is to avoid anything that sounds too good to be true.
However, how can you know if something is too good to be true if you don’t know what the truth is?
How much weight is reasonable to lose in a week? How much muscle is reasonable to gain? Is there such a thing as foods that burn fat?
Without a basic level of understanding of how diets, health, and body change work you will not understand what’s realistic and what isn’t.
So for this section, I want to give you a brief breakdown of what is true and what reasonable expectations you should use to measure claims against.
Let’s start with the truth that is necessary for any change, but that no one wants to accept.
Making long-term change and transformation takes time, effort, and a commitment to changing your lifestyle.
If you want to be the person who has a 6 pack, then you need to live the life of the person who has a 6 pack. That means eating mostly vegetables and whole nutrient-dense foods, avoiding junk food, exercising consistently, and getting proper sleep.
Let’s say you’re overweight and just want to get down to a healthy weight- that means you need to live the life of someone who maintains a healthy life. This lifestyle won’t be as demanding as a person with a 6 pack but it will mean change and this change will require time and effort to adopt.
This is why diets don’t work. Diets are short-term fixes. They can be useful for a short-term change, but you can’t use short-term thinking if you want a long-term solution.
What does this mean? It means that you need to be skeptical of any program or diet that claims to change your body - with minimal effort, in minimal time, and/or with minimal change to your lifestyle. It’s a lie and you will fail, no matter how much you try to convince yourself otherwise.
Reasonable Expectations of Results
Like most people, you likely have a goal to transform your body. Maybe you’d like to lose weight, maybe build muscle, or just tone up.
In either case, if you know what are reasonable results you can call BS when someone makes a misleading or embellished claim.
When losing weight a reasonable conservative estimate is about a pound a week or around 1% of body mass.
For example, If your 200 pounds you could expect to lose about 2lbs a week without losing muscle mass if you are weight training.
It is possible to lose weight faster however I don’t recommend it.
Losing weight faster than I mentioned usually means losing muscle mass as well. Muscle is important for a well functioning, aesthetically pleasing body. Muscle also burns calories, which means losing muscle will also mean hitting a plateau much sooner.
It is possible to lose 3 or 4 pounds per week in the initial weeks of a low-carb diet. However, that weight loss is mostly water weight and when you reintroduce carbs, it will return as quickly as it left.
Losing weight that quickly usually means using a strategy that relies on willpower instead of building a lifestyle. The result is that when willpower runs out, you won’t have the habits, skills, and systems to fall back on to maintain that progress.
There are several factors that can affect how fast a person can build muscle. They include genetic disposition, Nutrition, Training, and Your starting point.
Here are some reasonable expectations
If you’re a beginner, you’re in luck. Beginners are full of untapped potential and capable of building muscle quickly with just about any kind of training program.
A beginner can be capable of building a pound of muscle a week.
This rapid rate of muscle growth only goes down as you become better trained.
With proper consistent training and nutrition, a beginner can reasonably build between 10-25 lbs of muscle in a year.
However, muscle growth slows as you become fitter. Elite bodybuilders even on steroids may only build 2–5 lbs a year despite spending 20+ hours a week training.
If a program claims that you can build weight faster than our beginner estimates you should stay away.
It is possible to add muscle on quicker than a pound a week, however, this is not typical and you shouldn’t expect it. These exceptions result from either exceptional genetics or steroid use.
The other exception to the rule is if your regaining muscle. It is much easier to gain old muscle than new muscle. What I mean by this is that if you’ve reached a certain point of fitness in the past, you can expect to get back to that level much quicker than someone doing it for the first time. This is what happens in many of those rapid transformation videos.
You‘re not a trainer, or a doctor, or a nutritionist, and you need not be to live a healthy life or make the transformations you’d like to make.
However, if you want to avoid false information, and wasting your precious time and energy then it is important that you cultivate at least a basic understanding of how your body works.
The best place to start is with the first principles.
The idea is to boil things down to their fundamental truths and then reason up from there. Put another way, If you know how things work at a basic level, then you will be in a better position to take care of your body and make sense of the claims being made around you.
Below are a few relevant articles for you to start with.
In a world of information, your ability to be successful comes down to your ability to curate useful and reliable information. Because of this, I will provide a few of the names of people I’ve found to be knowledgeable, reliable, and influential on my career.
Afterwards, I also provide a nice list of a few of my favorite books every beginner should read to get a basic understanding of how health, fitness, and nutrition work.
Curating a Network of Reliable Resources
Below are a few of the experts in no particular order that I enjoy to follow due to their depth of knowledge and openness to new information.
John Rusin - An excellent Physical Therapist that mends functionality with strength and conditioning.
Mike Robertson - Founder of IFAST, And expert strength coach and teacher of the coaches. Offers plenty of resources on his website.
Mike Boyle - A great sports coach that offers great insights on movement coaching, progressions, and injury management.
Josh Henkins - Founder of the ultimate sandbag and DVRT Method. He is a master of progressions, regressions and movement.
Stu McGill - Leading expert in back pain. He is a man that is extremely knowledgeable, offers well balanced solutions, and understandable explanations.
Jeff Cavalier - Physical Therapist, Strength Coach, And best rated Youtube fitness channel. Tons of good video resources there. All of the info is solid.
Adam Bornstein - Former Editor for Men’s health and founder of Born Fitness. A great balanced resource on many common topics.
Grey Cook -Physical Therapist, and Founder of the Functional Movement Systems. His views on movement are ahead of the game, his lectures are excellent, and analogies are perfect. Talks At Google - this is a great introductory talk that is given to normal people, not fitness professionals.
Katy Bowman - A great resource on how moving influences lifestyle. And an excellent resource on moving naturally.
Bret Contreras - The Glute Guy
Roland & Galina Denzel - Founders of Eat, Move Live 52, Doctors, and are a great resource for living and adopting a healthy lifestyle
Molly Galbraith - Founder of Girls Gone Strong. A fantastic and empathetic trainer
Examine.com Not a person, but an excellent resource for understanding supplements and claims. It’s one I reference constantly.
Precision Nutrition - Not Just a person but a group of respected and knowledgeable experts. This is one of the best resources on the internet for learning about nutrition.
Breaking Muscle - A great Compilation of Articles By Industry Experts
Books for Living a Good Healthy Life
Health is more than just what you eat or your workout in the gym and Dan Buettner does an excellent job at compiling the things that the worlds longest lived cultures all have in common. A must read if you’d like to live a long and well lived life.
This is my most gifted book. It’s a beautiful follow up to Dan’s first book on longevity. It breaks down with research the happiest cultures around a the world and provides actionable steps to live your happiest life. If you a human who would rather smile than frown then this is a must read.
The entire time I read this book I thought to myself, “they beat me too it and did a an incredible job at that”. Made of 3 sections, Nutrition, Movement, and Lifestyle, this is a terrific 52 week program for living a healthier life.
Books On Understanding Nutrition and Food
If you’re looking to lose weight and tone up just stop reading and buy this book.
This is one of my most recommended and gifted books because it breaks down the difficult process of fat loss into simple actionable steps for building a lean lifestyle.
From the journalist who coined the term Eat Food, Mostly Plants. Not To Much.
This is a deep look into where our food comes from. Corn is in everything. Petroleum makes our food industry function. Organic is much different than you think it is.
If you care about what your eating - and you should. This is a must read.
This book fundamentally changed how I think about the food I eat. It all about how Flavor drives our food choices. It tells the story of how we’ve shifted from producing quality foods to quantity and what that means for our health.
I came across this book accidentally in a thrift shop. IT is a treasure trove of information on how to cook….everything. From setting up your kitchen, Buying and preparing foods, Knife skills, seasoning, this book is a must have.
Books For Understanding and Starting an Exercise Program
Despite it’s title this is not a sandbag book.
This is a master class in the fundamentals of exercises. Henkin’s does an amazing job at breaking down how to manipulate training variables such as variability, volume, tempo, ROM, planes of movement etc.
Sandbag or not this is a great way to understand how to progress a workout program more than just adding weight.
This was my Book of the year in 2017. This book says it’s geared towards those who are 40+ but in reality, this book is perfect for anyone whose goal is to move better, feel better, and have more energy.
While reading this book I couldn’t help but be reminded of the Einstein quote - “if you can’t explain something simply, you don’t know it well enough”. The brilliance of this book is in how author and physical therapist Bill Hartman is able to take very complex ideas and make them understandable.
This book says it’s geared towards those who are 40+ but in reality, this book is perfect for anyone whose goal is to move better, feel better, and have more energy.
One of the great things about Bills approach and something that has been a focus for me this year is treating health holistically. This means looking at health not just through the lens of exercise, but realizing that nutrition, sleep, and stress all play important roles in your health and goals.
In this book, you will find a number of self-assessments and useful exercises as well as direction on how to organize your efforts to apply to create a workout regimen that truly is all gain and no pain.
If your interested in building strength and using barbells, there is no better place to start than hear.
Brad Schoenfeld is an expert in building muscle. This is a great place to start if you’re looking to add on mass. Muscle Damage, Metabolic Distress, Muscle Tension, Brad breaks muscle building down to it’s fundamentals.
If you wan’t to build strong glutes (which you should, and not just for aesthetics) this is the book I recommend. Bret is the expert when it comes to building strong glutes, and this book is an excellent introduction for any woman looking to build the body of their dreams.
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