Broscience in sports nutrition and why it matters
Broscience is a tag applied to any evidence for change not proven by science. It sounds hollow and demeans evidence it's applied to at a stroke. "But it's not real science" someone will bleat before closing their mind and moving on. By contrast actual science remains the lone gold standard by which all evidence must therefore be filtered.
On the surface this all makes sense. But scratch beneath and it all starts going very wrong.
Take sports nutrition. The vast majority of products are backed to the hilt with scientific evidence proving their performance and health benefits. So they must be good, right?
In theory, absolutely. But what happens to many endurance athletes when they use these products? Gels, bars and drinks all scientifically proven to enhance endurance performance send stomachs south, bounce energy levels erratically up and down and leave athletes struggling with stomach trouble, nausea and worse.
What happened to the science?
Professor Tim Noakes, legendary sports scientist, seasoned runner and author of the seminal book 'Lore of Running' has the answer. In a recent Runner's World interview he explains:
"The problem with the exercise sciences is the influence of industry in directing what research can be easily funded. For example, carbohydrate and fluid intake during exercise has been so well funded not to discover the truth, but to promote the sale of carbohydrate-containing products. Exercise sciences need to find sources of funding that genuinely want to determine the outcome of the research"
In short, an industry that needs science to prove its products work is paying scientists handsomely to prove just that.
The sports nutrition industry has no interest in the actual truth. Any report that doesn't prove its point is simply never published or the test is adjusted until the desired results appear. Meanwhile scientists unable to get funding for genuinely independent research are forced to take cash from industry to earn their living.
- Science was being hijacked long before sports nutrition came along. Here it is in the 1950s being used to prove how safe cigarettes are
The result is scientific results that are anything but, which explains why nutrition products proven to do one thing routinely do quite another in practice.
Real science can be boiled down to asking a question, then devising a test to discover the answer. No PhD needed to understand that.
What is being done in science's name by sports nutrition companies is the opposite. The desired test outcome is decided (product 'x' makes you faster/stronger) and then a test is devised to prove it.
For a great example of all this in action, check out this fun post looking at how one major nutrition company made athletes 26% faster simply by using their products.
But if the science can't be trusted, what's an athlete suffering fuelling issues to do?
- If your nutrition doesn't deliver the claimed results, bring on the broscience
- and become an experiment of one to find your sweet spot
The answer is broscience. It's time to return honest self-experimentation to the honourable place it belongs. Broscience rules and it's time to proudly become an experiment of one in search of your sports nutrition sweet spot.
Try different foods, drinks, fueling strategies and more. Ignore anyone who says you can't, be open to any advice from any source, but be equally ready to throw away any strategy or product that doesn't work for you regardless of the standing, qualifications or background of the recommending source. Whether it's your best mate, an elite athlete, a company or a load of boffins in white coats, if their suggestion doesn't work for you, bin it and move on.
Learn to listen to your body and be alert to how it responds to these experiments. For a great strategy to get started this short post on 'how often should I take an energy gel' details the biggest - and easiest - key to getting this right every time.
We are all different, and if our finest performance is our goal then we need to get in the trenches and start experimenting to find what really works for us. In the name of broscience in sports nutrition, here's to your performance. Cheers!
Want to experiment with some real sports nutrition? Check out our Pre and Post Workout Shakes
and Chia Energy Gels
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