Alan Aragon on Turning His Career Failures into Success

On this episode of the Rippedbody Podcast, I interview sports nutritionist, researcher extraordinaire, educator, and one of the most influential figures in the fitness industry’s movement towards evidence-based information, Alan Aragon.

Alan shares the inspiring story of his career journey to date, starting off the “wrong foot”, his feelings about the hoard of smart upcoming talent in the industry biting at his heels, plus the one piece of advice he would give for those looking to build a career in the fitness industry.

I also get Alan’s take on the recent HMB study, and as per usual, Alan does not disappoint with his honest and very diplomatic answer.

Selected links

Show notes

  • Failure to Success Story. See Alan Aragon’s Facebook post for context. Alan Aragon started off in the industry during a time where there were few people truly working in the fitness industry, beyond those sales pitches on late-night infomercials. He started off, for a year and a half, as a Graphic Design major. After, he changed education paths to nutrition after getting the NASM, personal trainer certification. He started working as a trainer and coach on a part-time basis in an apartment gym. [02:40 ]
  • Starting off on the “wrong foot.” Although Alan had an intense interest in health and fitness from the beginning. However, he felt like his parents wanted him to take the “safe” path by going through the Art Major. The “right foot”, according to Alan, would have been to begin diving into exactly what he wanted to do right from the beginning. In another life, Alan would go into music or stand-up comedy. Alan has gotten to see the evolution of the health and fitness industry from the inception. [07:46]
  • Andy starting out. Andy started his education in banking and economics. He caught the travel bug but became a little lost along the way. Without a clear career path, Andy reflects on the difficulty to gain direction. With Alan as a clear role model in the industry, it now feels like there is more direction for those just starting out. [11:55]
  • Alan’s conversation with Eric Helms. Eric Helms remembers when he was more of a student-type figure following people like Alan Aragon. Fast-forward 10-years, Eric is more of a teacher figure. In Alan’s perspective, what Eric did in 10 years, took Alan 20 years. However, Eric attributes Alan as a trailblazer for the industry. [13:05]
  • Alan’s motivation at the start of his career. Alan has an interest in speaker’s ability to capture a live audience to move them. [16:45 ]
  • Alan invited to be on Joe Rogan’s podcast. Traveling and speaking at conferences really started to snowball in 2013. However, the timing just hasn’t worked out. [16:15]
  • Get Alan on Joe Rogan’s Podcast. “@joerogan can’t wait for you to get @TheAlanAragon on the podcast!” [21:35]
  • Alan continues on his motivation at the beginning of his career. When Alan first got his personal training certifications in the mid-90’s, he really wanted to be teaching passionate students on fitness and nutrition on a stage. [22:20]
  • The craft of speaking. Alan’s always updating his presentations based on the currently available information. [24:55]
  • Fighting the industry bullshit. The fitness industry is full of misinformation that motivates Alan to “fight the bullshit”. Alan finds it extremely gratifying to know that he can help people with scientific information and not just debunk misinformation. [26:50]
  • Alan’s timeline. Alan started personal training from 1992 to 2002. From 2002 to 2012, Alan became mainly focused on nutritional counseling. In 2012 and on, Alan has been focused on research, writing, and teaching. The online career started in 2002, but picked up in 2005/2006. He started moderating, as a volunteer, the forums. [29:30]
  • forums and selling supplements. The supplement and article side of the site is a very different world than the forums side. Alan joined for forums in 2003 and in 2005 became a moderator. Answering questions on the forum gave Alan the idea to put more effort into starting his own content. [31:05]
  • Alan at the Fitness Summit. Alan got Brad Schoenfeld’s permission to pick apart one of his papers in March 2011. Alan critically analyzed the paper. In 2012, Brad invited Alan to publish a paper together on “Nutrient timing Revisited.” Brad then invited Alan to the NSCA conference to talk about the Paleo diet. [34:28]
  • Reaching out and genuinely wanting to help can be the start of something great. [33:55]
  • The highlight of Alan’s career. In 2012, Alan got an email with the subject line of “Stone Cold Steve Austin.” Steve Austin asked about making an exception. Steve Austin sought out Alan without a recommendation, purely from his own research. [41:45]
  • Alan had to learn how to argue with people on the internet without getting the person on the other end to be angry. This ability opened doors and was the start of some of Alan’s speaking gigs. Alan only jumps into a debate if someone clearly does not have the evidence to support their argument. [45:40]
  • Stu Phillips debates led to research being published together with Alan. [50:50]
  • HMB study. Lowery et al. recent research study comparing doses of HMB. The concept of 8.4kg of lean mass gain in 12 weeks with minimal fat gain, a product that is twice as effective as testosterone (steroids) and creatine. This concept ignited Stu Phillips to spearhead writing a letter to the NFCA. The best thing that can be done is to replicate this study from independent, peer-reviewed, sources. [53:20]
  • How Alan feels about the pressure of smart youngsters biting at his heels. Alan is not concerned of being overtaken by his students. If Alan was able to groom an upcoming generation to do brilliant work, he feels like he has done his job. [1:02:10]
  • The power of competition. We will all have different takeaways based on available information. [1:05:30]
  • When Alan was presenting at a seminar in the UK (2014), Martin MacDonald was in the audience. Alan feels good, not concerned, that he is inspiring people within the same marketspace. [1:07:20]
  • One piece of advice to someone starting out in the industry. You are going to be scared and intimidated. What separates people who succeed from the people who don’t are those that will take action in the face of being afraid. To have courage. You have to take risks. The only way that you can develop fully in a professional sense is by putting yourself out there. For certain, don’t do nothing. “Do in the face of fear.” [1:09:00]

Thank you for listening! – Andy and Alan

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