Here’s how to know if a fitness influencer is actually qualified to give you fitness advice — plus some major red flags to watch out for.

illustration of fitness influencer doing virtual workoutShare on Pinterest
Illustration by Joules Garcia

Love to hate ’em or hate to love ’em, fitness influencers are an undeniable, unavoidable part of life now.

Whatever your social media app of choice for mindless scrolling is, you’re gonna come across fitness influencers sharing workouts, supplements, day-in-the-life (DITL) vids, what they eat in a day, their favorite products, flawless photos in the least amount of clothing they can get away with to show off their bods, and on and on.

BUT do they all deserve our trust? And if not, how do we know who to trust and who to unfollow?

We spoke with Maria Leguizamon, a certified personal trainer with Recess.TV, about how to figure out which influencers to trust. And she would know — she’s a fitness influencer herself, with more than 145K followers on the ’gram.

So let’s talk about how to filter out the truth from all the obviously filtered Instagram pics.

The question of the day!

The answer: It depends. While it may seem like views, shares, and likes are good indicators of trustworthiness, they’re really (really, really) not.

Lots of influencers are likable — it’s how they amass such large followings. But Leguizamon says it’s not so much about that feeling of “Do I trust this person or not?” — it’s more about results, community, and expertise.

“It’s more about seeing the results you get from their advice,” she explains, “and the commitment to their community, not only as a fitness influencer but also as a personal trainer.”

According to her, a good influencer is one who is truly an expert but who is also engaged with and truly passionate about their community of followers — so it’s about more than money or follower count.

When you’re watching fitness content on social media, you definitely need to have your skeptical spectacles (skeptacles?) on. Here are some Q’s to ask yourself when evaluating whether the advice is legit or nonsense:

Is it a quick fix?

Is it a workout promising 2 weeks to a bubble butt, or a hack to lose 10 pounds in a week? Stop, don’t collaborate, and don’t listen.

Making lasting change to your body — be it fat loss or sculpting — always takes time. And you should be doubly skeptical if they’re promising a quick fix … after you pay them.

“When I see some fitness influencers charging insane amounts of money for programs or fitness advice,” says Leguizamon, “I question it.”

Is it obviously dangerous or ridiculous?

Pretty self-explanatory. Does the advice leave you shaking your head or raising your eyebrows? 🚩🚩

Case in point: dry scooping. This trend involves swallowing a scoop of pre-workout powder with just a swig of water (when it’s meant to be mixed into 6 to 8 ounces of water). And TBH, most of the people doing it (or at least the ones posting about it on TikTok) look really fit.

BUT dry scooping just AIN’T IT, Y’ALL — in fact, it’s already been linked to one heart attack in an otherwise healthy 20-year-old because it delivers a highly concentrated, quickly absorbed dose of caffeine.

What makes this person an expert on this topic?

A lot of content you see online might seem legit — it’s not touted as a quick fix, it doesn’t seem dangerous, and it’s not obviously ridiculous. So digging into the creator’s expertise is probably the biggest and most important thing you can do when evaluating fitness advice on social media.

FWIW, having a muscular body doesn’t make someone a fitness expert.

Certified personal trainers, physical therapists, orthopedic doctors, kinesiologists, sports medicine docs, and other legit experts have in-depth knowledge of body mechanics, injury prevention, proper form, and more. That non-certified 19-year-old TikToker churning out homegrown workout routines does NOT.

The same goes for nutrition: We all eat, but we ain’t all nutrition experts — so let’s leave the detailed diet advice to registered dietitians and nutrition-savvy medical professionals.

And here are a few things that influencers get straight-up wrong on the regs, along with Leguizamon’s tips about what to look for:

1. Form, form, form

While many influencers focus a lot on proper form, others tend to gloss over it — which isn’t cool, according to Leguizamon. “Without teaching how to have the correct alignment and form, people can easily get injured,” she says.

The same goes for proper breathing while exercising, which will help you maximize your effectiveness as well.

If an influencer is sharing workouts, they should be showing you proper form to prevent injuries, as well as how to breathe through each movement.

2. Lack of evidence

“Anyone can google a workout routine,” says Leguizamon, “but the most important aspect of it should be a routine that is going to give you results.”

Screenshotting those cute workout routine images on Pinterest is great and all, but you should be verifying that it was made by a pro who knows how to craft an effective routine.

3. “Weightlifting will make you bulky”

“I think one of the biggest misconceptions is that lifting weights will bulk you,” says Leguizamon. “I wish it was that easy!”

So when she sees influencers (especially female ones) shying away from lifting or strength training, she’s always suspicious.

After all, “lifting weights will make you strong and help you tone up and grow muscle,” she explains. To bulk up, she adds, “you will have to eat insane amounts of food. Particularly for women, female hormones will prevent excessive muscle mass growth.”

4. Wild supplement claims

OK, naturally, fitness influencers make a lot of money through brand collabs, sponsored content, and affiliate sales — especially with supplement companies. That’s NOT to say that every brand they work with is automatically untrustworthy. But it is a good idea to do some research yourself before purchasing a supplement.

When you see an influencer saying things like “life-changing” or “game-changing” when it comes to a supplement — especially if it’s one they’re getting paid to promote — you gotta work some of that “trust but verify” action.

Look for supplements that are produced in facilities that follow the current good manufacturing practices (CGMPs) — a set of FDA standards — and that are third-party tested for purity, quality, and the presence of contaminants.

For sports supplements, an Informed Sport and NSF Certified for Sport certification is a good thing to look for — these labels ensure that the supplement is free of banned substances.

5. Body transformations

Finally, while it’s totally cool to follow fitness influencers for (sound) advice or inspiration or just because they’re interesting, one thing you want to avoid is aiming to have a body exactly like your favorite influencer’s body.

A lot of influencer content kinda does have that undercurrent of “If you do what I do, you can have a body like mine.” And that’s just not how bodies work.

Between airbrushing, filters, lighting, posing, and professional photography, your favorite influencers probably don’t even look like their IRL selves in some of their most stunning and popular photos. (Need more proof? Check out Youtuber Stephanie Lange‘s videos on influencers IRL.)

And no amount of weight loss or working out is ever gonna change your fundamental bone structure. So while you can definitely change your body through diet and fitness, there are some things you just won’t be able to do. (For example, don’t expect to have a thigh gap if you’ve got narrow hips. BTW, you don’t need a thigh gap anyway.)

Look for fitness influencers who encourage you to make the best of the body you have through sustainable weight loss or realistic workout routines, rather than those who make you feel like there’s something wrong with how you currently are.

First, let’s talk influencers. What are some signs that a fitness influencer knows what they’re talking about and deserves that double tap?

“Check their certifications,” says Leguizamon, adding that you should cross-reference the advice they’re giving with that of other influencers — esp those who’ve got the creds to back up what they’re saying. If you’re not hearing similar advice from the experts, that’s pretty sus.

As for other sources for credible info about health and fitness, Leguizamon recommends the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Council on Exercise. (These are the two biggest and most well-known certifying orgs for personal trainers, so you can use them to get connected with a trainer too.)

Remember, there’s nothing wrong with being a fitness influencer, and your faves probably aren’t purposefully trying to mislead you (even if they get some things wrong).

But being an influencer is a job, and a lot of expectations come along with it.

That *life changing* supplement that’s always sneaking into their Instagram stories? There’s a huge chance the brand is paying them to advertise it.

That #BodyGoals photo on the beach? You can bet that the posing and lighting were 100 percent on point, and it wasn’t a candid shot — even if it looks like it was (or the caption implies that it was).

We love keeping tabs on influencers (not gonna lie — our daily matcha latte habit was inspired by #ThatGirl Toks), but we encourage realism when it comes to taking their advice.

When in doubt, seek out a professional who is an expert in the area you need help with — a certified personal trainer, a physical therapist, or a registered dietitian.