Today, we have several high quality bodybuilding mags out there for us to read, study and learn from. We can gather inspiration, learn new ways of dieting and, for the interested, get the latest gossip from the pro scene. Sometimes a good bodybuilding mag can be a fountain of knowledge, sometimes it's nothing but photos and interviews with bloated meatheads and sometimes it's a prescription of the perfect way to overtrain, tear your shoulders apart or damage your health in every possible way.
Bottom line: Be critical.
Let's start off with the most bogus-infested part - supplements. Always assume that the company is trying to rip you off, and the more they preach about the amazing effects, the more suspicious you should be. Before and after pics doesn't mean squat. Neither should you pay any attention to the grinning bodybuilder who credits his late success to three different companies in different ads within the same mag. Diagrams, men in lab coats and gung-ho enthusiasm means little. What you SHOULD pay attention to is what the cans and jars really contain! One brand of Ion-Exchange whey protein which tested OK in an independent lab test isn't the least inferior to the next company who spent $2 million on hyping theirs, and therefore charges $25 more a can. You should also be suspicious about a manufacturer who puts every imaginable popular supplement into their protein powder, claiming that it will eliminate the need for anything else - when the dosages are close to nothing. And the biggest warning sign of all should be when the magazine itself starts focusing on a particular "upcoming, hot" supplement that is assumed to rock the world - by a specific brand, coincidently owned by the same people who own the magazine. Beware! If there really were something revolutionary coming through, it would be reported in several mags, not just that one! And keep a close look on the layout of an article regarding a certain supplement.
If you find a tiny stripe saying "Advertisement" at the top or bottom, a certain company has just tried to take you for a ride. They assume that 9 out of 10 will read it as a plain article - as it looks the same, complete with signatures, photos and referrals to studies - and just soak all the hype up as a scientific FACT. Simply put: They're playing you for a fool. And it better be a damn GOOD product if you choose to still buy their stuff after having tried to take you for a ride like that.
Scientific reports written by some big-name bodybuilder might very well be the work of a ghostwriter, so don't be surprised if you find a guy whose most common sound is "Duuh" supposedly writing an in-depth article about advanced biomechanics. As for training advice, just skip it. Everybody who's not taking in the quantities of drugs these boys are into won't have any interest in it anyway, as it's simply not applicable. It's like taking advice about competitive boat-racing when you're working on your pick-up truck in your backyard.
The gossip part is amusing. Just think of Venice as a little Wonderland inhabited with all kinds of crazies, and among the crazies you find a bunch of huge bodybuilders, male and female, who're all desperately trying to be the top 5 in the world. The main part avoid work, do drugs and only hang out with each other. Is the stage set for a marathon clown act or what? Once in a while someone gets busted, screws around too much or dies from the drug abuse, and in between they spend their time bad-mouthing each other, trying to become movie stars and promoting the supplement company that pays the most. It's actually pretty sad, but as they're doing it out of their own free will I can't feel too sorry for them. Think of it as a farce and you'll have the right perspective.
The best part about the mags is that most of them have a good staff of scientists and doctors who are experts in the field and tell the latest research to you - in plain English! Again, beware of scam artists who might hold some Ph.D. or similar, but consistently push a certain brand. If you suspect someone to be paid off, it's not at all unlikely that the person is. Fortunately, most of the people in that field are serious and reliable persons, so it should be pretty easy for you to weed out the scams. If they have a Q&A column and answer everything by listing a few recommended brands - but also add: "...but if you REALLY want your dollar's worth, go for the 'MegaTech' brand!" - you know there's something fishy going on. Ignore anybody who claims that he found a supplement to be equally or more effective than a steroid.
Competitions, photo shoots etc.
Competitions are interesting as they tend to set the tone for the bodybuilding world in terms of the ideal. If BIG gets rewarded, BIG is the goal. If RIPPED gets rewarded - well, you get it. Photo shoots are mainly for inspiration, but ignore the poundages they're using. If you see someone doing shoulder presses with 400 lbs, don't assume that it's the normal workout-weight that the person is usually repping out with, but more likely something he's working his ass off just holding up for a few seconds for the shoot until the helpers are there to take the weights down again. Otherwise you might find interesting tidbits of information, suggestions for low-fat meals and ways to stay mentally sharp. Soak it up, be critical and weed out the 90% that doesn't make sense or doesn't apply to you. Keep the rest and use it to your advantage. After all, it's all about getting the tools for YOUR progress.