I believe in research, the scientific method, and peer reviewed information. I think all of these provide the checks and balance necessary to ensure that reliable, repeatable, and accurate information is created and used for the benefit of the human population.
But it is not the end all be all. It doesn’t know everything. It can be wrong. And it can be sorely behind the times.
I have to coach people through something all the time. Just because there isn’t research on something or the research has not been conducted in a particular avenue does not mean that avenue or direction is not valid, useful, and reliable.
There are two other things I feel are important – experience and results.
Someone who doesn’t create research but has 10,000 hours of practice and experience in the field can be a reliable source of knowledge and techniques. Even if they do not cite research on a regular basis.
And results. How can we argue with results? Isn’t that what scientific research is? Simply testing a protocol and examining the results? Yes. So a practitioner who can cite you a list of actual clients with real results they have accomplished over the years is also a valid source of information.
Sometimes experienced and results driven practitioners are ahead of the research. Look at bodybuilders and figure competitors. When it comes to lowering body fat and improve fitness they are experts. They have been advocating for decades a higher protein, moderate fat, no refined carbs, no sugar diet. And they have done this through the Atkins phase, the Food Guide phase, the low fat phase, they have never deviated.
Science has now caught up. Research is showing that high protein diets are not bad for your health. Saturated fats are not clogging your arteries and creating bad cholesterol levels, it is simple sugars and refined carbs doing that. Yay, science, thank you.
It is the same with exercise. Science is finally beginning to recognize that machine based training is not that good for you. Long slow cardio is not the best way to improve your heart health. Fat loss is best accomplished with high intensity exercise. Resistance training is beneficial for all ages.
And now, my favorite science statement of 2010 so far – in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition – the obesity epidemic is being caused by too much food and not enough exercise.
I could have told them that. And it would have been cheaper than what that study cost.
The perfect practitioner is one who blends experience and science and has a track record of proven results. If someone focuses only on one of those three aspects do not pay them money or take their advice. Check credentials, ask questions, do some of your own research.
A professional will be able to tell you the last book they read, the most recent research they have read, the most recent changes they have made to their practice, and their most recent success stories. And all of those should be within the last few months.
If they can’t, then they ARE NOT a professional, they are an unprofessional hobbyist.