What Others Are Saying...

  • " Not only is Sean a great nutritionist, but he's an excellent strength coach. I've coached athletes with him on multiple occasions. The most impressive attributes I've seen in him is his integrity, work ethic, ability to work with athletes and desire to be the best coach possible...."

-Luke Richesson. Head NFL Strength & Conditioning Coach for Denver Broncos


The Guru I'm Not

Quick Hit Summary

There is an abundance of self proclaimed training and nutrition gurus/experts championing themselves in the training industry today. Yet how many of these individuals truly deserve this title? It is the opinion of the author that there are far fewer than what one realizes. At a very minimum, to even be worthy of this title, one needs AT LEAST 15-20+ years of actively learning and applying a given skill before he/she can even be considered a candidate for this title.

Gurus and Experts- A Dime a Dozen on the Internet

Figure 1. Albert Einstein- Now there was a TRUE expert.5


  • A leading authority in a particular field1


  • Having, involving, or demonstrating great skill, dexterity, or knowledge as the result of experience or training.2

In my life I’ve had the good fortune to learn from some of the most intelligent men/women in the exercise and nutrition field. This includes individuals with experience both “under the bar & behind the fork” as well as those on the academia end of the spectrum. To me they fit the above definitions; they have great knowledge in their field as a result of direct experience and training.

Unfortunately, in the world we live in today, these titles have depreciated in value thanks, in large part, to all the self proclaimed "guru" or physical training/nutrition "experts" that have popped up on the World Wide Web. I find it laughable how many self proclaimed experts and gurus one can find while surfing the internet. It has become an epidemic that is quickly approaching "pandemic" status. For instance, a quick search on Google provided the following results4:

  • Exercise Expert —> 3,290,000 results
  • Exercise Guru —> 737,000 results
  • Nutrition Expert —> 4,110,000 results
  • Nutrition Guru —> 780,000 results

How many of these results can be traced back to individuals who genuinely fit the definitions of the words? My guess is not too many. To be honest, I feel that an individual needs AT LEAST 15-20+ years of actively studying and applying a giving skill before they can even be considered a candidate for this title. Even if you have this much experience, it still doesn't necessarily mean you fit the description. Many individuals fail to grow as a coach, educator, etc. Their knowledge and skill base is virtually the same as it was when originally entering the field.

Too many individuals get into the physical performance field for the wrong reasons (money, fame, fortune). Often these self proclaimed gurus are great marketers but poor coaches (see Ian's tips below). It disturbs me how hard self proclaimed training and nutrition gurus work at marketing themselves and their skills. Marketing – BLAH! It's a worthwhile skill only if one greatly desires to be famous or highly recognized. Some people work hard in order to further themselves; others work hard to better those around them. I only do the former, if it serves the latter purpose. In other words, I work hard to educate/learn/seek for personal skill growth such that I can better assist those I work with on a daily basis. By the time I'm 50-60 years old, I hope individuals will say that I positively contributed to this field as a coach, writer and educator; NOT A SALESMAN! As outlined in the philosophy and goals of CasePerformance, our mission is to help others achieve success, not become rich or famous.

There are three marketing techniques that I’ve seen these posers use in order to further their status. First, they will link their name up to any and every site that is willing to do the same for them. The content of the site they’re associating themselves with… Who cares as long as it helps get their name out in the public’s eye. Second, a flashy title, proclaiming their brilliance, is mandatory for anything they write. It's always "Revolutionary ______", "The Ultimate ______", "Never Before Seen ______", etc. Here's the thing – very few things are truly "new" in today's training industry today. At best, one is only slightly modifying an idea that someone else came up with years ago. Finally, self proclaimed experts and gurus tend to fill their websites up with more testimonials than a porcupine has quills. Ironically, the testimonials, proclaiming how great they are, often can’t be traced back to real people. Rather they come from individuals referred to as

  • John S., amateur body builder
  • Jill C., fitness enthusiast
  • Rachel W., high school track athlete

It is with great pride that any testimonial, I’ve ever listed for myself can be traced back to a real person.

A Common Trait in True Experts

In my experience, there is a common theme amongst those I consider to be experts in the human performance field. That is, these individuals continuously seek more knowledge. As the saying goes, the more you know, the more you realize you don't know squat. Don’t get me wrong, the individuals I consider to be experts have a plethora of knowledge that has been built upon years of 1st hand learning, researching and training. In fact, the minute amount of knowledge that has slowly trickled out of their minds, on a given subject, is far greater than that which has entered the minds of most…. And no I’m not referring to them getting diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease!!! Despite their already vast knowledge, they realize that more knowledge is out there for them.

Here are just a couple of instances that exemplify this continual pursuit of knowledge…

1) Ian King, just take a peak at our interviews with him – I don't think you'll have any question as to why I include him on the list. Part I, Part II

2) Dr. Lonnie Lowery, an assistant professor at Winona State, who in my opinion is one of the best applied sports nutritionist and exercise physiologist in the business. Dr. Lowery regularly attends conferences within the USA as well as internationally in order to further his knowledge as well as those he educates. On the podcast Iron Radio, which he co-hosts, Dr. Lowery is always displaying this quest for knowledge, discussing newly published scientific journals and how they related to one’s training or nutrition protocols. (As a side note, despite the fact that I consider him a true expert, he regularly refers to himself as the “anti-guru” which strongly contrasts with all of those self proclaimed training/nutrition gurus out there.)

3) Dr. Kenneth M. Baldwin is a professor at the University of California- Irvine. He is a researcher with almost 40 years of experience in the field of exercise physiology. Recently he coauthored an article in the research journal Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews entitled, “Research in the Exercise Sciences: Where We Are and Where Do We Go From Here —Part II.”3 In this article he notes that there are at least 14 DIFFERENT AREAS in exercise physiology alone that still need further investigation.

So what am I?

So do I consider myself a “guru”, an “expert”? Heck no! Don’t get me wrong, I’m confident in my knowledge and always seeking to improve it. However, I in no way, shape or form consider myself an expert. I need many years of dedicated training, coaching and active learning BEFORE I CAN EVEN THINK of earning that title. Even then, you’ll never hear these words come out of my mouth. So where does that leave me? In short, this is what I claim to be:

A physical preparation coach who is passionate about improving the performance of those I work with via training and nutritional intervention.

I don’t claim to be anything more or less than that stated above. I consider myself fortunate to have had many individuals share their knowledge with me; many of whom have taught me how to teach myself. It is this skill I have been given that I've tried to "pay forward" in kind. (Please refer to the Consumer Savvy section of this site for more on this topic.)

I also consider myself to be someone who knows his strengths and weaknesses. Unlike other individuals, I don’t claim to have knowledge in all areas of physical performance. I’m comfortable training individuals who compete in ball/speed/team sports as well sports nutrition in general. What about powerlifting and Olympic weightlifting you ask? Yes, I’ve incorporated training techniques from both of those disciplines into my training with athletes and feel comfortable teaching the lifts. However, as of March 20, 2011, I do not consider myself qualified to coach an athlete whose sole goal is excelling in these sports.

A Final Thought

The goal of this article is not to disrespect everyone who is passionate about training yet lacks the characteristics required to be an expert in my eyes. Rather, my intent is to emphasize how few legitimate experts there are in the human performance/physical preparation field despite all the claims made on the internet.

That being said, should one ignore the advice of someone simply because they don’t fit my standards of “expert”? Of course not; I’ve learned a ton from individuals who have been training, researching, etc for far less than 15-20+ years. They are very intelligent individuals with great experiences. By the time they’re 45+ years old, they may fall within my definition of the word expert. However, at the current time, they do not.

(On an somewhat related side-note, I encourage everyone to check out Ian King’s tips on selecting a good mentor)

Bottom line

The training and nutrition industry is a booming business these days. Unfortunately it’s filled with many self proclaimed “experts” or “gurus.” Yet I ask you, how many of these individuals have truly earned these titles? How many of these individuals have AT LEAST 15-20+ years of actively studying and applying a given skill? As you will see, applying these definitions quickly whittles down the field of candidates. Even if someone has been working in a particular field for 15-20+ years, are they then an expert? In my opinion, NO! They must have been actively learning and applying knowledge the entire time.

So what am I? Simply put, I’m just another individual who is passionate about what they do; I've been fortunate enough to have had many great mentors in my life. In short, I am who I am today, due in large part to the knowledge that others have bestowed upon me. The credit truly goes to them. In the end, I hope to impact the lives of others the way so many have impacted mine.

It is to these individuals, the ones who have mentored me along the way, I dedicate this article.


1 The Free Dictionary. Guru. Accessed March 18, 2011 from: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/guru

2 The Free Dictionary. Expert. Accessed March 18, 2011 from: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/expert

3 Baldwin KM, Haddad F.Research in the exercise sciences: where we are and where do we go from here—Part II. Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 2010 Apr;38(2):42-50.

4 Google Search using the terms “nutrition guru”, “nutrition expert”, “exercise expert”, “exercise guru”. Search completed on March 19, 2011.

5 This image is available from the United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID cph.3b46036. It is now in the Public Domain. This photo was accessed March 19, 2011 from: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Albert_Einstein_Head.jpg

Click Here to find out "Why we do, what we do."

Written on March 20, 2011 by Sean Casey
Last Updated: June 12, 2013

This information is not intended to take the place of medical advice.Please check with your health care providers prior to starting any new dietary or exercise program. CasePerformance is not responsible for the outcome of any decision made based off the information presented in this article.

About the Author: Sean Casey is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison with degrees in both Nutritional Science-Dietetics and Kinesiology-Exercise Physiology. Sean graduated academically as one of the top students in both the Nutritional Science and Kinesiology departments.
Field Experience: During college, Sean was active with the UW-Badgers Strength and Conditioning Department. He has also spent time as an intern physical preparation coach at the International Performance Institute in Bradenton, FL. He also spent time as an intern and later worked at Athletes Performance in Tempe, AZ. While at these locations he had the opportunity to train football, soccer, baseball, golf and tennis athletes. Sean is also active in the field of sports nutrition where he has consulted with a wide variety of organizations including both elite (NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars) and amateur athletic teams. His nutrition consultation services are avalable by clicking on the Nutrition Consultation tab.