June 28, 2015 Damon Hayhow

Body Recomposition Science vs Scientism

bodybuilding science vs scientism voodoo

Everything we read about gaining muscle and reducing fat (body recomposition) talks about the biochemical processes – the actions of hormones, nutrients, enzymes etc –  that take place inside our bodies. We are told these processes are discoveries of ‘science’ and, because science is absolute truth, to act upon it unquestioningly… like religion. And, like religion, there are now myriad warring factions in constant, unwinnable, circular debates about different contradictory writings of ‘science’.

The greatest irony is that science is supposed dispense with the need for belief, faith and choosing sides. Real science can and does do this. Unfortunately most coaches and trainers have become acolytes of the religion of Scientism. They quote scientific studies like bible passages, yet measure none of the biochemistry they discuss, nor do they even measure the body composition outcomes they promise to achieve. This is the difference between science vs scientism!

Would a Scientist Call That Science?

Try telling a real Scientist that you have a scientific weight training program, but do not measure your limit-strength capacity or progress, and see what they have to say? Tell them you follow a ‘scientifically proven’ diet that is imprecisely measured and inconsistent from day to day, and see what they have to say? Try telling them you take a variety of carefully timed supplements, scientifically proven to achieve highly specific biochemical changes, none of which you measure, and see what they have to say? Tell them your unmeasured training and diet are performed specifically to change your lean mass, which you do not calculate, and see what they have to say? I’ll give you a hint: they’ll justifiably think you a fool. You aren’t being scientific, no matter how many studies you quote. In fact, the more studies you quote, the more of a fool you look!

The fact is, if you cannot or do not measure what you are trying to affect, you are not being scientific. And none of us have any practical ability to measure the billions of biochemical processes constantly taking place inside of us. You never have, and never will, see or measure a fatty acid being burned, a protein being synthesised or a hormone catalyse a cellular response. You’ve got no idea what fuel source each cell in your body is using from one minute to the next. Even if you did, by the time you measured them, they would have changed. And even if that didn’t matter, with all of the computing power of every computer on the planet, it would still be impossible to calculate the net outcome of the trillions of quadrillions of possible chemical reactions that could take place in your body over time. And even if you could do that, it would be absolutely impossible to correctly predict every possible external variable such as change in daily temperature, your sunlight exposure, disturbed sleep, relationship stress, immune reactions etc. that significantly impact the outcome.

The only thing of certainty is that you will probably be wrong every time you base your actions on guesses about things you cannot see, cannot measure, cannot know and cannot control. Even if you get the outcome you wanted, you will be wrong about why it happened which means your flow-on guesses about your guesses will go further off track. Call your guesses educated guesses. Call it ‘science’. Quote studies. Dazzle yourself with the brilliance of your knowledge. But tell any self-respecting scientist that you are acting upon their research without measuring any of the variables they measured and they will think you an ignorant, arrogant fool acting on blind guesses! And you would be!

The good news is: you do not need to know how your body works in order for it to do so! Your body will do what it needs to do to keep you alive despite all the stupid things you do

Adaptations vs Machinations

The fact is, your body is an amazing adaptive organism. It is not a stupid machine; certainly not as stupid as we are as it’s operators. Every time you think you can manipulate the machinery of your body (e.g. Im going to go for a run to burn fat) you will cause the opposite adaptive response! Thats how adaptations work! And thank god they do, or we’d all be dead!

The good news is: you do not need to know how your body works in order for it to do so! Your body will do what it needs to do to keep you alive despite all the stupid things you do. For example, you are reading this blog with eyes that have (apparently) replaced every cell they are made up of, over and over, countless times during your life; and I bet you never once worried about what you needed to eat or do to make your eyes work, or what you need to do to make sure you do not start growing toenails or an eardrum on your eyeball? It’s not perfect, but your body mostly has things pretty well covered.

Even when you do really, really stupid things and bad things result, sometimes they are still for the best. For example, I have met countless people who have persisted for months or years with malnourishing, sub-1200 calorie, near-zero-carb diets, while abusing themselves with 2+ hours of pointless, miserable aerobic exercise per day. Most of them are not lean, not muscular and they do not ever change. They think their bodies are ‘broken’. Really, their bodies are proving how brilliantly adaptable they are! They’ve adapted to keep them alive in the absence of critical nutrition and an abuse of exercise. Forcing these people to hold fat, not grow muscle, not be able to train hard and occasionally not be able to get out of bed is the most logical way to stop them dying. Who cares how the biochemistry works? Just be glad it does. And it is so brilliant that even if you messed with a biochemical pathway to change the result, the body will exploit a different pathway to achieve the same ends. The body does what is necessary to keep us alive regardless of all the ridiculous abuse we put ourselves through.

The only input and control you have over the body’s internal biochemistry is by doing the external things that would make the body logically change itself into the organism better suited to performing that function. For example, if you want to become leaner, stronger and more muscular you should probably work at lifting heavy things, and eat lots of good nutritious food. That might sound way too simplistic compared to quoting fancy-sounding studies that you have not read and do not understand; but gosh darn if it doesn’t work a lot better!

Scientific Diet Principles

If you want to manipulate your body composition scientifically then you need to measure your food and training and the resultant changes in your body composition. So how do you do that exactly?

In order to measure the impact of diet upon body composition, you need to eat the same quantities of the same foods, every day, and measure the change in your body composition after a week or 2. In other words: follow a diet and measure what happens to your body weight and body fat percentage.

It’s simple, logical and allows for the making of intelligent adjustments without any concern for internal biochemical machinations.

This does not mean that you cannot achieve body recomposition results when varying your diet constantly. Perhaps a varying diet is the very best way to get a change in body composition? The trouble is, whether you do or don’t get a result, you can not determine which part of what you did worked or didn’t work when you have multiple variables. Worse still, you cannot be sure what to change when a varied diet, fails? If it changes all the time, what do you change when it fails?

You do not need to eat a varied diet. The only real difference between eating consistently the same vs a varied diet is whether you are ignorant or informed about what is working. Given the choice, why choose ignorance? Is that few seconds of yumminess or convenience worth total ignorance? Maybe it is for some? But don’t call your diet ‘scientific’ just because you can quote some biochemical gibberish that you’ve never seen, cannot prove and you have no intention of measuring. Thats not science; it’s Scientism. It is a form of religious ignorance.

Scientific Strength Training Principles

In terms of weight training scientifically for body recomposition, the relevant metric is peak-strength performance capability. If your peak-strength performance capability is not increasing, you can be certain you are not increasing in contractile muscle tissue. The way to accurately measure your strength performance capability is to lift the most weight you can, for as many reps as you can, in a prepared (warmed up) but completely unfatigued state, and compare it to how you performed under the same conditions previously. Almost any other test is a test of energy regeneration.

Again, this doesn’t mean that training to failure is necessary or the only way to train. It doesn’t mean you need to use 1-rep-max performances for measurement; you could use any rep range or even a calculated 1-rep-max like we do at Recomp HQ. I am not saying you cannot achieve a result – even a better result – without training to failure. I am saying that to measure your limit-strength progress accurately, you need to train to your limit and compare it to your previous performance.

The only real difference between training to failure vs not is whether you are ignorant or informed as to whether your training is progressing, when it is progressing and how it is progressing. You don’t need to do it. But why wouldn’t you?  Its simple. Its effective. Its logical. You know you can get a result training to failure. Is letting yourself be lazier in the gym really worth total ignorance? Maybe it is for some? But don’t call that ignorance ‘scientific’ because someone with a flashy reputation declared that there is a better way of training. Its not scientific; it is Scientism.


Admit you have no clue how your body works, you never will, and just get over it! It doesn’t matter! If you did learn everything there was to learn, you couldn’t measure it in yourself anyway. So you have no way of applying it. Other than being academically interesting, everything about the amazing biochemical processes of your body is utterly useless to you.

Fortunately, when it comes to using science to build a leaner, more muscular physique, you do not need to know how your body works; you need to measure what you are doing and what is resulting! Even if you could know and measure everything there is to know about how the body works – and you can’t – all you could do is adjust the food you eat and the weight you put on the bar anyway. The biochemistry takes care of itself whether you understand it or not. Maybe thats why many of the worlds most magnificent physiques belong to very, very unintelligent people?

If you want to manipulate your body composition intelligently and scientifically then you need to measure your food, measure your strength performance and measure your body composition. Make logical adjustments to the measured inputs (diet and training) according to the measured outcomes. Use science by using the scientific method on yourself. That is what my Recomposer software was designed to assist. The decisions you make need to be logical and based on the relevant measurements you take on yourself. Then, even when you fail to get a result you still learn something positive. Never base your actions on blind faith of Scientist Priests in the church of Scientism.


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Damon Hayhow

Damon Hayhow has been in the body recomposition (Recomp) and bodybuilding industry for 30 years as a coach, competitor, gym owner, teacher, sponsor, show promoter, judge and MC. He has won National competitions in both powerlifting and bodybuilding, set world records, and coached others to the same success in strength sport and physique competition.

Body recomposition diet and training concepts based on logic and reason; not scientism