Everyone has encountered advice based on unproven science, especially in the pursuit of weight loss or muscle gain. With the rise of the “Instafamous” generation, sports performance tips are no longer restricted to just the locker room. “Bro science” has flooded the internet and our daily lives. It’s often information overload on what should be taken for truth or fiction. Here are a few examples — some laughable, some you may learn from.
What is factual science and what is bro science? When it comes to choosing nutritional supplements, developing healthy eating habits and improving performance, be sure that the things you put in your body are backed by proven science and not bro science. We at Global Performance Nutrition Institute (GPNi®) often get asked questions on diet – what works and what doesn’t. With so many supplement choices and new “fad diets” it’s often very confusing. We like to present new diets, but also give a balanced perspective. We critically examine and communicate what is proven by science and what is complete rubbish. Unfortunately, these bro science myths spread like wildfire and most people believe them without hesitation. However, these untested theories or facts are quickly waved away by some people while some hold on to them. This brings about an emerging debate on the authenticity of bro science.
WHAT IS BRO SCIENCE AND WHAT IS REAL SCIENCE?
One can refer to bro science as a piece of advice that has been handed down from gym experienced “bros.” According to Dictionary.com, bro science is a slang term for misinformation, usually bodybuilding related, that is circulated without being backed by scientific research findings. Nutrition researcher Alan Aragon defines bro science as, “a bunch of facades or the advice and reports of gym bros which are considered more reliable than scientific research.”
Real science is a scientifically tested and reviewed by experts in the field. For publication in a reputable journal, research must meet procedural, ethical, and statistical guidelines with enough detail that it can be reproduced. A question to ask: would the locker room advice you are hearing hold up if tested in a study? An example of real science testing large numbers of athletes to find what works is the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) “Position Stands.” You can read what works– according to the science.
The popular concept of bro science took off in 2008 but gained popularity in the 2010’s. The word bro refers to men in the gym who assume themselves to be knowledgeable about nutrition and supplementation. They seem confident about their “knowledge,” and one might easily believe them.
Bro science often stems from trial and error with a specific exercise, food choice, or supplement. We all have different bodies and what works for one person may not work for the other. Believing anecdotal or word of mouth on tips in the gym might be tempting because of the performance outcomes you perceive in others.
IS BRO SCIENCE DANGEROUS?
While some bro science is not entirely bad, some can bring harm or injury—or, not work. Side effects, hormone imbalances, tainted ingredients, and health complications have been documented by the World Anti-Doping Agency.
BRO SCIENCE MYTHS DESTROYED
In this section, we will focus on factors that differentiate bro science from science-based practices. This will help to make your fitness and performance more effective and safe.
Bro science: Guy, “Avoiding carbohydrates after exercise will increase growth hormone to promote muscle hypertrophy.” (No study to link.)
- ISSN exercise & sports nutrition review update: research & recommendations
- Apost-workout meal creates a greater anabolic effect than going without food. When carbohydrate delivery is inadequate, adding protein may help increase performance, ameliorate muscle damage, promote euglycemia and facilitate glycol re-synthesis.
Bro Science: “Caffeine dehydrates you.”
- International society of sports nutrition position stand: caffeine and exercise performance
- Scientists do not support caffeine-induced diuresis during exercise, or any harmful change in fluid balance that would negatively affect performance.
- Caffeine helps to improve physical performance in both trained and untrained individuals.
- Supplementation with caffeine has been shown to acutely enhance various aspects of exercise performance in many but not all studies. Caffeine is used to moderate muscular endurance, movement velocity, sprinting, muscular strength and jumping.
- Caffeine helps to improve physical performance in some individuals who are under conditions of insomnia.
- Drinks and workout supplements and other sources such as gum, mouth rinses, energy gels and chews containing caffeine have been said to enhance anaerobic and aerobic performance.
Bro Science: “Protein makes you fat.”
- International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: protein and exercise
- There is new evidence that suggests higher protein intakes (>3.0g/kg/d) may have positive effects on body composition in resistance-trained individuals (i.e., promote loss of fat mass).
- The maximum amount of protein recommended for athletes per serving is mixed and is dependent upon age and recent resistance exercise stimuli. The most accepted recommendations are 0.25g of a high-quality protein per kg of body weight, or an absolute dose of 20-40g.
Bro Science: “Creatine makes you bald and lose your hair.”
- International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine
- Presently, we have no scientific evidence that the short or long-term use of Creatine monohydrate has any detrimental effects on otherwise healthy individuals.
- Creatine has been proven to be clinically effective for use in nutritional supplements in terms of muscle uptake and ability to help with high-intensity exercise capacity.
- Creatine has been reported to be possibly beneficial regarding preventing injury and/or management of select medical conditions when taken with recommended guidelines.
- Creatine monohydrate has been applauded for having several potentially beneficial uses in several areas and further research is warranted in these areas.
SOCIAL MEDIA & BRO SCIENCE
There has been an increase in the popularity of bro science as result of social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube. For instance, an Instagram user @broscience.co posts memes about the gym and fitness on the page.
A lad: “Why aren’t I getting bigger?”
An older guy: “Because you aren’t lifting heavy and eating enough.”
Imagine the lad goes home then informs somebody about what he heard from his “mate in the gym.” Then, somebody tells the other — that is exactly how information spreads.
Although it is important to always be learning and get your information from a wide variety of publications, it’s equally important that the information is from a reliable source. The only way to ensure this is to fact check information.
The International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) is a group of leading experts in sports nutrition science that provide and analyze researched backed studies. In 2003 the ISSN was founded by Drs. Jose Antonio and Douglas Kalman to ensure that there is a global standard to determine what is fact vs. fiction.
Always follow real science and not bro science!