Update - Who Can You Trust?

Avoiding "Bad Advice"

February 5, 2004

I saw the movie Runaway Jury.  I thought it was a great movie.  Dustin Hoffman and Gene Hackman are two of my favorite actors, and although I read the book by John Grisham, the movie had enough twists and plot variations to keep it intriguing.  No, I haven’t hung up my workout shoes to become a movie critic.  It’s just that the movie started me thinking.

The case in Runaway Jury was built around the question of whether the firearms manufacturers should be held liable for the accidental or intentional shootings of the innocent.  An interesting question that I wouldn’t attempt to answer.  This morning I woke up and went to the gym and I overheard a discussion.

Injecting Fitness?

“No man, it’s not a steroid, it’s a veterinary product, but it’s awesome.  You inject it with an insulin needle and it burns up fat, but it gives you really intense workouts.”

Advice.  I was listening to advice being given.  I would be willing to wager the advisor was not a doctor.  I would also be willing to wager he wasn’t a pharmacist or a veterinarian.  He’s a guy who works out who was introduced to a compound that he may not fully understand, and was led to believe it has some miraculous property that would aid in finding a lean body. 

The question that came to mind was, “should the disseminator of bad advice be held liable of something really bad happens as a result of that advice?”  Rather than attempting to open up a legal dialogue and examine laws and case histories, I decided to write this article to make certain that you always examine the source when being given advice.  Celebrities, gym members, neighbors, and friends are very generous with their fitness and weight loss advice, but with the new onslaught of risky solutions, I think it’s best that advice fall on deaf ears.  If you want expert advice, seek that advice from a proven and credentialed expert.

Going back to the gym conversation, the product being discussed was “Kyno” or Kynoselen ( I wrote at some length about this in another article which you can find at ).  We don’t know if there are going to be long term side effects as this product has just found its way into the gray market.  We also don’t know how pure the product is as there is far less quality control used in veterinary products than in drugs intended for human application.  What we do know is that as soon as someone untrained in giving injections sticks a needle through his or her skin, there are some very real risks.

I remember walking into the locker room at a gym years ago and watching guys use the same needle to inject who-knows-what into their thighs.  Great way to spread anything from hepatitis to HIV.  Injections can also result in abscess, infection, or shock, any one of which can lead to severe complications, and if the individual has an allergic reaction to the substance being injected, there’s no telling if the emergency room will chalk it up to another life saved . . . or the other category.

The advice dispersed in gyms isn’t always life threatening, but it is often flawed, and at the very least can lead to a waste of money, a fruitless investment of hope, or worse yet, a beginning of the hunt for the miracle pill or potion.

The Kyno discussion was one of many I’ve overheard over just the past few months.  In fact, just last week I sat on the seated bicep curl machine to finish up an intense arm workout.  My biceps felt pumped and I knew three sets on this machine would leave me feeling great . . . and I couldn’t help overhear the conversation between two young men using the seated dip machine behind me. 

An Animal Vitamin?

I’ll call the two men involved Frick and Frack:

Frick:  Man, I’d do anything for a killer six pack.  I do abs every day but I can’t seem to get them to show.

Frack: Dude, you gotta get L-carnitine.

Frick: I already use creatine.

Frack: No, this is different.  Carnitine takes the fat and burns it.  It goes right to your stomach area and just gets you ripped, but you gotta use a lot of it, like 3 times what the bottle says.

Frick:  Is it safe?

Frack: Yeah, it’s just a vitamin, but it was discovered in animals and people don’t produce it.  When people take it it makes fat flow into the blood and when you workout instead of burning muscle you burn the fat.

Frick: Do you use it?

Frack: I do, but I was always lean so it doesn’t do much for me, but I have a buddy who swears it works.

I was tempted.  I wanted to firstly go over there and explain, L-carnitine isn’t a vitamin, it’s an amino acid, and it is something we do a very nice job of producing, even if we’re human.  I then wanted to ask to speak to his buddy to find out what else he did when he started using L-carnitine.  This is one of those supplements that continues to sell despite the fact that I never met anyone who noticed a discernible effect from using it.  L-carnitine doesn’t “go to the stomach to make fat flow into the blood.”  It does have a metabolic role in that it acts as a sort of a shuttle to carry fat into the muscle cell so it can be burned, but it is only one player among thousands that all play a role in that process.  To expect that oral ingestion of L-carnitine will “get someone ripped” is the equivalent of throwing a brick on the ground and expecting it to turn into the Sears Tower.

What typically happens is someone gets motivated to start working out, and that’s when they start eating right, and maybe they add a few supplements into the mix.  If they wind up seeing physical improvement, the first question out of people’s mouths is, “what did you take?”

As people begin to believe that there is a “something you can take” that winds up in a positive result, of course the advertisers and marketers tap into that flawed belief, and in doing so they effectively manipulate belief systems and begin a stream of bad advice.  Bad advice takes many forms in relation to fitness and weight loss and the outcome can be irreversible.

Bad Advice on the Internet?

There are so many ads sent via email it’s only a matter of time before we start seeing a carpal tunnel epidemic from people clicking on “delete” so many times. Among the “grow inches” and “lose inches” promises are those that now offer friendly advice promoting an amazing new fat loss product.  Lipostabil.  The websites the e-mails link to promise that this amazing compound is the equivalent of liposuction . . . without surgery.  What is it really?  It’s phosphatidylcholine.  This is an example of some clever marketers, who care very little about the health of others, repackaging something as a “new” substance and attaching it to some miraculous result.  What is phosphatidylcholine?  It’s a phospholipid, found more commonly under the label “lecithin.”  When you find a supplement labeled “lecithin” you’re buying something that is 20% phosphatidylcholine.  Choline is a vitamin type compound that has various roles in metabolic function and it is the key component of acetylcholine which acts in the nerve transmission that signals muscle to contract.  FDA laws do allow approved compounds to be used by licensed medical professionals for off-label use provided there aren’t any laws restricting that use.  In a research study with a small group of only 30 people, phosphatidylcholine was injected into the fatty pockets in the lower eyelids of people with a desire to cosmetically reduce lower eye puffiness.  The study had loose controls, it wasn’t conclusive, and while there was some promise that it might have lessened fat deposits, the study has yet to be replicated.  More importantly, there wasn’t any long term evaluation of the results so there is no actual data to show what happens years after phosphatidylcholine is injected.  According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, the injection of Lipostabil has neither been proven safe or effective. There are also serious concerns.    Considering the chemical makeup of the substance, there is question as to whether it will indiscriminately dissolve cell membranes, leading to unwarranted cellular death.  The ads don’t tell you the risk considerations.  The ads don’t tell you that only licensed medical professionals can legally inject this compound.  The ads show nice pictures of thin happy people and sell the compound along with insulin needles and directions for injecting this into your “trouble areas.”  This is a perfect example of how information of “a new miracle” spreads and leads to the passing along of bad advice.

Injury and Death

I’ve written before about the personal trainer at Crunch Fitness who recommended that his 39-year-old client take a fat burner.  He never bothered to consider whether or not she had high blood pressure, nor did he consider the fact that hypertension is a contraindicated condition for the use of ephedrine products, the main ingredient in the prescribed fat burner.  As a result, she died.

There have been far too many negligence and wrongful death cases in the arena of sports, fitness, and health clubs, mainly because “bad advice” is so freely available.

In 1994, a member of one of the nation’s largest health club chains went through the usual “two free sessions” with a personal fitness trainer.  Never bothering to question the trainer’s credentials, she obeyed when she was instructed to use the leg press machine.  The very first time she used the machine she expressed that she felt a sharp pain her neck. The trainer, without any diagnostic credential or expertise, told her it was because her upper back was weak.  The trainer had her return to the same machine in the successive workout.  When the pain became so severe she felt compelled to visit a qualified medical professional, she was accurately diagnosed.  An MRI revealed three herniated cervical discs.  The case ended up in the court system and was left to legal posturing and maneuvering.  The reality is, the severity of her injury and perhaps her lifelong condition could have been minimized or avoided.  She unfortunately unquestioningly accepted bad advice.

I’ll share one more experience, and then I’ll provide some simple rules that can help you filter out bad advice and keep your personal health and fitness program moving in the right direction.

The Expert in the Health Food Store?

I remember getting a phone call from Louis, a 40-year old father of three.  His wife had passed away and he was raising his children and moving his business into his home.  He decided that after being a victim of stress for the previous two years, he was going to take charge and find a quality of life suitable for him and his family, and as a part of that he decided he was going to get in shape.  He called me to ask if I’d help him design an affordable gym in his home.  We arranged a consultation, with the intention of discussing space availability, equipment options, and budget, but as the discussion continued he began to ask me more exercise related questions.

“Phil, you were recommended to me as someone who was a fitness equipment expert but as I look around your office I must apologize.  I didn’t realize you had such expertise in fitness and exercise.  I know putting the equipment in my home is a big step for me, and I bought some supplements to get me started.  I was going to start walking until I get the gym set up and then progress to weight training.  The only thing is, I have asthma and I want to make sure I take things slowly.”

Hmmmm.  Asthma?  I wondered what supplements he was planning on using.  Of course I asked and he told me he bought Xenadrine.  The “guy in the health food store” told him it was “the best fat burner.”  The “guy in the health food store” never bothered to ask if he was on any medications.  The use of albuterol, his prescribed asthma medication, and ephedrine, combined with the caffeine Xenadrine contained, not to mention the caffeine he drank in his three daily cups of coffee, could be enough to lead to a disaster.  Thankfully Louis wound up getting on a supportive program, forgot about the supplements, and today is very thankful he didn’t follow the advice of “the guy in the health food store.”  Potential disaster averted, but I’m sure there are tens of thousands of cases where “a guy in a health food store” provides bad advice.

An article in a 2000 edition of Archives of Family Medicine (Health food store recommendations for breast cancer patients. CC. Gotay,  et al., Archives of Family Medicine., 2000, vol. 9, pp. 692—698) addressed medical advice given out by clerks in health food stores.  40 health food stores in Hawaii were identified that sold herbal products and the researchers sent someone to each store pretending to be the daughter of a woman with breast cancer.  In 36 out of the 40 stores, the salesperson recommended at least one product as a cancer cure and not one bothered to ask the severity of the illness, the medical treatment being employed, or other compounds the patient may be taking. Not one of the 36 salespeople bothered to mention that the herbal products sold had risks of toxicity and side effects.

When blind trust meets bad advice, the outcome may be hazardous.

Some simple rules to filter out bad advice:

  • Ask for credentials for any advice related to exercise, nutrition, or medical conditions. 

Ask the question, what qualifies you to share this information and how did you acquire it?  What are your credentials in fitness, nutrition, or medicine?

  • Look for a track record. 

Has the individual giving advice proven results specific to your goal with individuals who were in a similar situation to yours?  In other words, just because someone has built up muscular arms, don’t expect that they’ll know how to advise a 60-year-old woman as to how she can improve her fitness.

  • Did they take precautionary measures?

If the person providing advice fails to ask questions specific to your health or any pre-existing conditions, be wary.

  • Always double check with a recognized expert.

While my intention in writing this wasn’t to scare you from accepting advice of qualified experts, when you play around with human movement, nutrient ingestion, supplement prescription, and drugs, you are playing around with people’s health and well being, and well-intentioned advice doesn’t always equate with good advice.  Raise the red flags addressed by the tips above and it should become simple to recognize who is sharing truth and science and who is either intentionally or unintentionally a purveyor of misinformation . . . otherwise known as “Bad Advice.”


Want to get the training and eating strategies down?
Listen to the audio track sharing
the information you need to take control of your body!

Want to spend four weeks incinerating body fat?
Read The Ultimate Fat Loss Strategy


The TRANSFORM! Program is designed to help you cut through all of the nonsense, to help you completely understand the strategy that allows you to gain control of your body composition and your metabolism, and is guaranteed to begin your resolution on the right foot. Let 2004 be the year you gain control. Order my TRANSFORM! 17-Week Body Transformation Program!

Call 1 800 552-1998 or visit the online superstore

What's New:

Phil's Small Group Workshops Return to South Florida!

A new Breakthroughs Seminar

If You Missed Any Updates:

Update 02/02/04 - Another Steroid Question
Update 12/12/03 - the Five Reasons People Fail to Achieve Fitness Resolutions
Update 11/17/03 - Just Because It's In Print . . .
Update 10/15/03 - The 5 VIPs of Fat Loss
Update 8/15/03 - Healthy Foods?
Update 7/7/03 - Bars and Meal Replacements . . . What's Best?
Update 6/9/03 - The Ab-solute Truth
Update 4/20/03 - The Great Diet Debate & Atkins Revisited

For a complete list of previous updates visit the Update Menu

[ Home ] [ Site Menu ] [ For Fitness Professionals ] [ Superstore ] [ Update Menu ] [ Ask Phil ]
[ Small Group Workshops ] [ Programs ]

This site is designed and operated by Phil Kaplan
Phil Kaplan's Fitness is located at
3132 Fortune Way, #D1
Wellington, Florida 33414
The TOLL-FREE Product Order Line is 1 800 552-1998
The Direct Office Number is 561 204-2014
The Fax Number is 561 204-2184