Why I Stopped Reading Mainstream Fitness Magazines – A Former Addict’s Confession
Muscle Comics: This used to be a common sight lying around the house.
This piece starts with an addict’s confession. I’ve been reading men’s fitness magazines for over 6 years – even longer than I’ve been lifting. I’ve held subscriptions to more than one (though thankfully not at the same time). I’ve bought specifically to obtain free samples of protein and pre-workout which are strategically taped to the front for weak minded men like me.
But a few months ago I said ‘enough is enough’.
Since then the transformation has been dramatic. I have cancelled my subscriptions. I’ve refused to renew when cold called. I can even walk past the magazine aisle in the supermarket with out so much as a twitch of my foot.
So what happened? How did I got from regular subscriber to a man who shuns all glossy paper printed fitness advice? There have been three major realizations which led to my secession.
Realisation 1: Print Magazines are Financed by the Sports Nutrition and Supplement Industry
When it comes to ‘scientifically backed’ Kool Aid, I drank the entire barrel. Almost all of the meal plans, supplement plans and nutrition advice in the magazines I was reading advised me to drink my body weight in whey protein powder every day. What’s more, the pricier proteins where better (hydrolyzed peptides anyone?).
Contrast this with what I’ve more recently been reading online from websites such as T-Nation where whole foods are valued over supplements as a general rule. Strength guru Jim Wendler also advises on a diet made up primarily of whole foods with the odd shake to complement a strength athlete’s protein requirements.
So I made the change from multiple shakes to mainly whole foods (see my Liver and Bacon recipe). Almost instantly I had more energy, my digestion was better (surprise, surprise) and my supplement bill went through the floor.
Pick up almost any fitness magazine in the store and nearly half of those pages are ads for supplements. Is it any wonder that articles in them are heavily biased towards taking supplements? Do you think their feature writers would make it past edit if they criticized the supplement industry, eschewed their products and recommended whole foods?
Realisation 2: Fitness Magazines Hardly Ever Talk About Steroids or Performance Enhancing Drugs
I’ve written ‘hardly ever’ because they do. Sometimes. But generally to tell you how evil they are and how they would never condone the use of such satanic substances.
And then you turn the page to see the most outrageously muscled man you’ve ever seen in your life. Did he attain that physique naturally? Unlikely. Apart from rank hypocrisy (which could have been a fourth realization) there is a problem here.
If, like me, you read to be educated you want to know the facts about the issues. You want opinions and studies from honest people who will tell you straight. One columnist I like is Mexico based John Romano. Here’s a guy who is brutally honest about the use of Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs).
In his articles, he writes openly about his own use of pharmaceuticals and about what the main dangers really are. Because of his perspective, he’s able to call out athletes who he suspects aren’t being straight about their drug use (See ‘Crossfit and Steroids‘ – T-Nation.com 5/12/14). You’re not going to find a piece like that in a Weider publication any time soon – particularly given Crossfit’s investment in this media format.
Another writer who will give you it straight on the S-Word is Mike Cernovich, author of the ‘Gorilla Mindset‘. On his website ‘Danger and Play‘ he frequently wrestles with issues such as male steroid use, Human Growth Hormone (HGH) and testosterone replacement therapy (TRT). If I want to learn the facts, I know what I’m going to read.
Realisation 3: Images of Super Shredded, Contest Ready Physique Athletes do not Represent and Attainable Target for the Majority of the Population
My long term fitness goals are to have visible abs, to keep getting stronger and to still be fit and active in my later life. I will never enter a physique competition. I will never be a professional bodybuilder and I’m not sure I want to make the sacrifices required to look peeled, shredded or diced.
But this wasn’t always the case. I used to read these magazines and think that the models and bodybuilders represented the type of physique I wanted to aspire to. Except they don’t.
I gradually realized that the images in these publications are often taken close to competitions (either before or after). This is when the models look at their absolute best. Right before they go on a post-competition Krispy Kreme binge.
Defining your goals based on what someone else has achieved is dangerous ground. They’re living their dream (hopefully), maybe you should find your own. If it’s the same dream, then go for it. Just do it for the right reasons.
As a Dad, longevity has to be the goal. You want to be around as long as possible. And that means being healthy for as long as possible. I’d rather play the long game while still being a fit, athletic and muscular Dad.
So it’s sayonara mainstream fitness media. We had a blast, but somewhere along the way, I grew up and I don’t need you any more. I’m not reading any less, but I do read fewer supplement ads…