If you’ve ever Googled things like “how to lose weight” or “how to build muscle” you’ve probably come across a bunch of Bodybuilding.com articles that all seem to tell you supplements are the answer to whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish. It’s a content marketing masterpiece and it’s what Warren Buffet might refer to as “a moat“—that is, a competitive anvantage that can’t easily be replicated by others.
In a talk for college students, Founder of Bodybuilding.com, Ryan Deluca, readily acknowledged that an emphasis on creating content around fitness, nutrition, and supplementation was integral to the success of Bodybuilding.com. He knew that if he could publish enough content around those things, the traffic would naturally convert into customers.
It’s a fairly basic principle in the world of online marketing these days, but back then nobody knew anything about what content would mean in the future. People understood that the internet allowed for commerce, but Ryan was smart enough to see that content and commerce were one in the same.
Having this type of foresight as early as 1999-2000 allowed Bodybuilding.com to ammass an arsenal of fitness, nutrition, and supplement related content, not to mention build the largest online forum centered around fitness… and that was before the fitness and supplement industry even really took off. Today, the site attracts millions and millions of unique visitors searching for general health, fitness, and supplement information and successfully convinces a fair amount of them to buy supplements.
As the saying goes… “All Google Queries Lead To Bodybuilding.com” …or something like that. Okay, I made that up…but you get my point.
As with all start-ups that get acquired (or at least heavily funded) by venture capitalists, however, the information presented on Bodybuilding.com has become more and more biased over the years. Remember, Bodybuilding.com is a supplement superstore. It literally only makes money if you buy supplements (although I did notice some AdSense on their recently…not a good sign by the way).
So what is the content designed to do? Make you buy their supplements!
Don’t get me wrong. There’s still a bunch of useful, accurate information on Bodybuilding.com, but as the years go on, it’s becoming more and more clear that the overarching goal is just to sell whatever supplements they have in stock to whoever will buy them.
In principle, there’s nothing wrong with using content to sell items. In fact, it’s not only a smart strategy, but really the only winning strategy with content. If you’re not selling anything, you’re content won’t justify the cost of creating it and your site will fail.
EVERYONE IS SELLING SOMETHING
All successful websites are selling something. If you haven’t realized that yet, it’s best you come to terms with it…
Some sell advertising. Some sell E-Books. Some sell tangible goods. The issue with Bodybuilding.com, however, is that they tend to favor the brands and products that carry the highest margins. And which supplements carry the highest margins? The ones that are:
- Full Of Cheap Ingredients
- Make Ridiculous Claims
There are definitely some solid products sold on Bodybuilding.com–in fact, the supplements they create themselves are pretty good–but they aren’t as heavily promoted as the under-dosed nonsense products.
They’re always going to push the products that carry the highest margins and this profit-driven mentality is what ultimately calls into question the value of a lot of the content you read on Bodybuilding.com. Here are just a few examples…
In a post called “Ask The Supplement Guru“, Jim Stoppani claims you should “Consider supplementing by taking about 500mg of Beet Extract” to get the benefits of Nitrate. That’s the same dose found in his pre-workout supplement, Pre JYM. What he fails to mention is that the amount of Nitrate found in Beet Extract is negligible, like 1-2%. You would need 30,000mg, not 500mg, to acheive a clinical dose of Nitrates.
It’s funny, because I just wrote an article on that we opted out of using Beet Extract in Catalyst for the simple reason that it doesn’t contain enough Nitrate to actually do anything.
On Bodybuilding.com’s Glutamine page, where all the Glutamine and Glutamine-containing supplements are sold, they state in highlighted letters at the top of the page that Glutamine “may help”:
- Promote Muscle Growth
- Reduce Muscle Breakdown
Not only has Glutamine NEVER been proven to promote muscle growth or reduce muscle breakdown, it’s actually failed to do so in studies.
“What’s that? Glutamine has failed in multiple studies to enhance exercise performance, muscle protein synthesis, or aspects of recovery? That’s Okay! We’ve Got 1 Million Units Sitting In Inventory! Just Say It Works Great And They’ll Buy It!” – whoever runs the show these days at Bodybuilding.com
One of the most frustrating examples of misrepresented science on Bodybuilding.com is that which pertains to Creatine and it’s alternative forms.
Creatine Monohydrate, the most basic form (aside from Creatine Anhydrous) has literally hundreds of studies backing it’s use as a musle building supplement. It’s super reliable, super useful, and SUPER cheap.
So, in an attempt to sell a cheap, commoditized item at a premium, a bunch of companies started selling Creatine HCL.
Not only has Creatine HCL never been proven more efficiently absorbed or effective than Creatine Monohydrate, but logic suggests Creatine HCL is reduced to the same basic Creatine molecule once inside the stomach because the stomach is full of HCL Don’t take my word for it though…
Here’s what the Supplement Experts over at Examine.com, who have spent years researching supplements and compiling data on topics like this, have to say:
I don’t know about you, but the fundamental, chemistry-based argument presented by Examine.com sounds more credible than the arbritrary claims made by Stoppani and Bodybuilding.com, which are quite clearly marketing-driven and lacking any factual basis.
Okay…Sorry FOR BEING MEAN, Bodybuilding.com
The truth is, as a Founder of Momentum Nutrition, I really respect what Ryan Deluca built with Bodybuilding.com. I don’t think there’s anybody in this industry that doesn’t…It’s just the amount of exaggerated, pseudoscientific BS they spew out to push terrible supplements on people that annoys me. That’s all…
To be crystal clear here, the issue is not that Bodybuilding.com sells supplements. The issue is that they sell many TERRIBLE supplements and produce content that makes them seem good, often stating falsehoods as facts, and flaunting their Author’s degrees as proof that what they’re saying is true, even when it’s not. This is unethical to say the least.
I spend a lot of my time producing content in order to build Momentum Nutrition’s audience. It’s one of the few marketing techniques that I genuinely believe in, in a world dominated by click through rates and page views. But here’s the thing…
We produce GREAT content and sell GREAT products. That’s the key.
At Momentum Nutrition, we try to educate people as much as possible because we know that anybody who really knows what they’re talking about when it comes to supplements, and understands the science behind them, recognizes that our products are top notch.
Many of the websites I’m about to mention in this post in fact sell items, some of which may be supplements, but the difference is that they stick to that one simple principle: Create great content, sell great products!
Fitness Sites You Can Trust
So, we’ve established that you can’t trust a lot of what’s written on the internet, especially that which pertains to Health and Fitness. So who can you trust? Don’t worry, there are some excellent sites out there, publishing useful, accurate, evidence-based content that’s actually worth reading if you want to learn a thing or two (or a lot). Here are our Top 5…
If you’ve been bodybuilding or working out for a while, you’ve probably heard of T-Nation. It’s by far the oldest of the websites on this list and continues to pump out some seriously in-depth, practical information about training, nutrition, supplementation, and the ocassional lifestyle piece.
The owners of T-Nation also own a supplement company, BioTest, which they heavily promote on the website. This may seem like a cause for alarm, but it’s really not. BioTest supplements are actually quite effective and usually pretty unique.
They’re not selling you BS. They’re providing great content and selling great products. Sounds like a sustainable business to me…Maybe that’s why T-Nation has been around since the 90’s and attracts millions upon millions of monthly readers/users, many of which are longtime BioTest customers.
As a whole, T-Nation is certainly geared toward a more hardcore style of lifting, but if you’re really trying to make gains, you should listen to what the contributors on T-Nation have to say. At the end of the day, everyone who steps in the gym should be looking to get stronger, atleast in some respect…and these guys will teach you how to get VERY strong.
Muscle & Strength
Muscle & Strength is an online supplement retailer, but with a huge emphasis on providing users with training, nutrition, motivation, and general health information for free. The content is usually pretty science-based, with plenty of study-references and minimal conjecture. Most of the authors actaully know what they’re talking about so they stick to the facts.
It may seem odd to place an online supplement retailer on this list after just talking all that trash about what has become of Bodybuilding.com, but like I said earlier, it’s not the business model that’s flawed—it’s the information.
Even though Muscle & Strength carries a ton of brands that I can’t stand—who make inferior supplements and rely more on marketing than making quality supplements to sell their supplements—I have never read an article on Muscle & Strength that was flawed from a scientific standpoint.
Not to mention, they also carry a bunch of quality products and don’t appear to be pushing readers towards the low quality prodcuts in order to make more money like some retailers (cough cough).
I have no idea who the Founders or Owners of Muscle & Strength are, but they clearly understand the concept of providing quality content and building trust with their readers, rather than forcing supplements down their throats with biased, often extremely out-dated information.
If you subscribe to Muscle & Strength, whether you buy the supplement they sell or not, you’ll learn a lot of useful information that’ll come in handy in the gym.
Breaking Muscle, while not quite as old as T-Nation, has been around for some time now. There you’ll find articles upon articles of training, nutrition, and supplement advice from fitness professionals such as coaches, trainers, and exercise scientists.
In fact, one of the unique qualities about Breaking Muscle that makes it such a valuable resource for becoming educated in matters of health and fitness is the fact that it features content from so many different authors.
Breaking Muscle offers more perspective than any other fitness-related website out there, period. I’ve read information I didn’t necessarily agree with (some is more editorial than research-based), but that’s fine as long as it’s made clear. Do you really just want to read about stuff you already know and agree with? Head over to Breaking Muscle, open your mind, and gain some perspective!
Muscle For Life
Muscle For Life is owned and operated by Mike Matthews, a respected fitness professional who has made it his life goal to help people transform their bodies and live longer, healthier lives. It’s actually not even in my best interest to put Muscle For Life on this list—since Mike actually owns a supplement company that we sort of compete with I guess—but at Momentum Nutrition, we call it like we see it, and Mike is worth a mention.
He is perhaps the most thorough, well-spoken, well-researched author in the health and fitness industry. Not only has he published several best-selling books, but provides a TON of insanely useful, accurate information on his site for free.
Mike offers a wide range of informative content, from nutrition and recipes to in-depth, scientifically sound articles on fat-loss and muscle-building.
Yes, he sells supplements and you’ll often find his brand, Legion, promoted throughout the content, but he’s very clear about supplementation being second to proper diet and exercise. He is extremely engaged with his following so if you have any fitness related question at all you can contact him and he’ll personally answer you.
…Not to mention Legion makes some pretty damn effective supplements…and again, that’s coming from a competitor. If Catalyst didn’t exist, I’d take Legion’s pre-workout.
Modern Athletic Health
Modern Athletic Health is the youngest of the sites on this list, having only been formed within the past year or two, but it’s on track to become a major player in fitness/health/wellness media.
I’ve had plenty of correspondence with MAH founder, Cam, and I can tell he’s extremely dedicated to improving the health, wellness, and overall lives of his readers.
Plus, the content is all over the board so if you visit the site regularly, you’re bound to learn something you never even thought about learning.
Modern Athletic Health pulls content from a wide variety of knowledgable contributors and tackles some unique concepts that most Health and Fitness sites never touch on.
It generates the majority of its revenue from advertising, but you won’t find products randomly promoted through posts or inaccurate content meant to steer you towards a purchase that isn’t in your best interest. In fact, you’ll find discounts codes for awesome products like Formula 56, and they work with a ton of different brands in the fitness industry.
Finding Health And Fitness Info On The Internet
It usually takes people a while before they realize this fundamental fact…
Most of the information floating around the web is complete garbage.
Anybody can make a website and write anything they want. If they do it enough, other people will eventually believe them. Think about the last time you Googled something. Did you click on each result and compile the information, then make a balanced, educated assumption based on the fact? Probably not. I’m guessing you just went with the first thing you saw.
And if you Googled something health and fitness related, you probably ended up on Bodybuilding.com…and probably bought a supplement that you won’t benefit from…but it’s okay, that was before you read this article. You know where to get useful, accurate fitness information that you can actually trust!
I'm Matt, Founder of Momentum Nutrition and SuppWithThat.com. I've spent the better part of the last decade researching and experimenting in the areas of fitness, nutrition, and supplementation, and this is where I write it all down.