Going into the New Year you’ll likely be holding onto some fitness goals that you would like to accomplish. You’re (hopefully) getting started on these goals armed with fitness knowledge that you’ve plagued the internet for so that you have the best chance at accomplishing what you have set out to do. However with the fitness, health, and nutrition world there is also a fair amount of myths and “false” knowledge I guess you could say, floating around. So, rather than individually addressing all of them, I thought I would condense them all into one post.
Basically, I don’t want you embarking on your fitness journey with this unrealistic expectation of how it’s all going to go down in your head. This industry is FULL of companies and Instagram models that are trying to feed you lies so that you’ll buy their product, support their brand, or buy their “booty building 101” program.
Here I have listed all the (most relevant) healthy living myths and why they are exactly that: myths.
You can spot reduce
I think this is the most common misconception there is in regards to fitness and weight loss. Contrary to what you may have being lead to think, there is NO SUCH THING as spot reduction. Let me repeat that again in case you didn’t get it the first time. THERE. IS. NO. SUCH. THING. AS. SPOT. REDUCTION.
Spot reduction is a false claim made by God knows who that you can target specific areas of fat on your body to reduce it. You can’t. You can’t do a load of tricep curls and melt away your bingo wings and only your bingo wings. Just like doing crunches will not target your belly fat; crunches target the muscles (abdominals) UNDERNEATH your belly fat.
Think about it… if you can’t control where you put fat on, what makes you think that you can control where it comes off?
When you workout and lose weight, you are decreasing OVERALL fat mass – you don’t get to choose which area it comes off of specifically. However, by working out certain areas you can gain more muscle there. This way once the fat starts dissipating, the shape of your body will change and certain areas will be more defined – with muscle. And no, fat doesn’t “turn into” muscle, either. It’s biologically not possible. Just to clear that up.
When it comes to working out, more is better
It’s not a case of less is more here, but it’s definitely not a case of more is more here, either. Your body needs rest in order to recover and grow. Working out every day is actually more detrimental to your health and body than it is good.
As you can see in the picture(s) below, after a workout your muscles are fatigued and depleted of energy (not to mention pretty beat up and torn apart from the resistance placed on them). If you were to then workout AGAIN on that same muscle group the next day, that “recovery” dip will keep getting lower and lower below baseline. This is a recipe for injury.
Now I’m not saying to take a rest day every day after a workout day, but you should give your body at least one or two days a week to rest so that it has a chance to repair itself and restock it’s energy reserve. Allow at least 48-72 hours between training the same muscle group to allow it to heal.
Cardio is better for long term body recomposition/weight loss
Cardio is good for many things – increasing cardiovascular health for starters. But what it is not good for is long term weight loss (unless you continuously increase the time and intensity of your cardio sessions forever), or body recomposition.
Don’t get me wrong, cardio is great for shedding weight quickly (if you’ve never worked out before/are grossly over weight). However, I find so many people think that by doing cardio their bodies are going to change into that dream physique they’ve always wished for – they won’t. Cardio does absolutely nothing for body recomposition; that’s what weight lifting is for.
By lifting weights you are also gaining muscle, which per pound burns more calories at rest than fat does. Basically you’re killing two birds with one stone by participating in resistance training; recomping your body, and giving yourself the ability to burn more calories at rest – meaning that the weight you’ve lost will be easier to keep off.
Do cardio for your heart health and your ability to go up the stairs without getting winded, but lift weights or do some kind of resistance training to gain muscle to recomp your bod and keep the weight off.
Carbs are bad for you
Probably the most frustrating myth to bust is this one. At the end of the day life is sad when you restrict yourself from enjoying carbs. Cake. Bagels. Pasta. All carbs all great.
But back to the science.
Many people who cut out carbs see a dramatic loss in weight quite quickly. HOWEVER, that is not because carbs are “bad” or making you gain weight. Carbs naturally make us hold more water (which we need btw for obvious reasons like because our bodies are 80% water…), so as you can imagine, when you cut carbs out, your body doesn’t hold onto as much water. Now suddenly you’ve lost all this weight (which is just water) because you went on a no carb crash diet. You introduce carbs back into your diet. Guess what? You gain back all that weight you lost because your body is back to holding onto that water again because it has carbs swimming around in it.
Not only that but by cutting carbs out of your diet you’re also cutting all the calories that carbs come with. Less calories than usual = weight loss. The same thing would happen if you were to cut out all fat or protein from your diet. A decrease in overall calories means a decrease in overall weight. That’s how it works.
AND your brain runs SOLELY OFF OF CARBS (unless in strict ketosis). Ever wonder why you feel groggy and tired when you cut carbs out of your diet? It’s because your brain literally is running out of energy to function because it NEEDS CARBS TO FUNCTION.
Can you tell I’m passionate about this one?
Eat your carbs. They fuel you body and your brain and they taste good. Thanks.
If you need further convincing, go read this article.
Squats are bad for your knees
When done correctly, they are absolutely not.
Here is a little intro written by Mark Rippetoe to a Huffington post article that I could not have said better myself:
One of the most persistent myths in the entire panoply of conventional exercise wisdom is that squats below parallel are somehow bad for the knees. This old saw is mindlessly repeated by poorly-informed orthopedic surgeons, physical therapists, and chiropractors all over the world. Better-informed professionals such as productive strength coaches, weightlifters and powerlifters, and those willing to examine the anatomy of the knees and hips for more than just a minute or two, know better.
Why though? Why are squats not as bad for your knees as you’ve been taught to think?
Squatting is a natural position and movement for our body to do… yes, below parallel. There are people all over the world that take a dump in this position and it sound to me like they’re doing fine… in the knee and pooping areas. Not only that, but while squats are a hip dominant movement (not knee), they actually help STRENGTHEN the very muscles and tendons that help knee your knees strong and healthy.
“When you do squats, the weight is distributed among several strong muscle groups, including the thighs, hips and glutes, rather than being imposed directly on the vulnerable knee joints” (Iron Magazine). There is actually more of a negative effect on the knees when movements such as the leg extension are performed due to the shearing effect which breaks down the cartilage around the knees.
Don’t be afraid of below parallel squats, be afraid of the people telling you not to do them.
You should always stretch before exercising
Now, I’m not saying don’t stretch at all. What I’m saying is that stretching – primarily static stretching – is something that you generally shouldn’t do before working out. Why, you ask?
Well first of all, the biggest misconception with stretching prior to exercise is that it will increase your performance, which is simply not true. Another is that it decreases the likelihood of getting injured – it actually could increase your chance of getting injured if you stretch the muscle while cold.
Recent studies are cautioning people away from the ever-so popularized “ALWAYS stretch before you exercise” movement as it has actually been found to decrease performance.
Simic et. al. (2012) concluded in a meta-analysis that “the usage of static stretching as the sole activity during warm-up routine should generally be avoided”.
Stretch after your exercise or at non-exercise times to reap the full benefits. This article by Boston University is a great little resource!
Fasted workouts burn more calories than fed workouts
“Yea but if you burn the calories on an empty stomach then you start the day out in negative calories”. Ooook, and if you did the exact same workout at 3pm after breakfast and lunch you’d still be burning the same amount of calories, putting you back the same amount that you were if you were to workout fasted…
As in, you could either:
Start the day off at 0, go to the gym and burn 300 calories, go home and eat breakfast which is 400 calories, then have a a snack of 100 calories. By mid day you are at 200 calories.
OR, you start the day at 0, eat breakfast which is 300 calories, have a snack worth 10 calories, then go to the gym and burn 200 calories. By mid day you’re at 200 calories.
IT’S THE SAME. The only difference is is that the second option gives you more energy to actually complete your workout, and decreases the chances of you burning away muscle mass due to your fasted state because your body will have carbs to burn.
I can understand that there are some people that prefer to not eat before a workout (maybe because it makes them nauseas or because they workout at 5am and can’t bare the thought of pre-workout food), but at the very least have a protein shake or some BCAA’s pre workout.
Lifting weights makes women bulky
“I don’t want to get bulky I just want to get toned” is something I hear quite often. Toned?! Toned is jut another word for gaining muscle. In order to become “toned” you have to gain MUSCLE.
But here’s the good news for you ladies out there not wanting to get bulky: we don’t have the hormone profile (enough testosterone) to ever become “bulky”. How many women have you seen in the gym lifting weights that are “bulky”.
To be honest I think this is just something insecure men made up because they felt threatened by strong, bad-ass women doing their weight lifting thang in the gym. Keep lifting weights, ladies, don’t listen to those boys.
For more on this wild misconception, read this article.
Well, there is is folks, 8 of the biggest misconceptions when it come to fitness and nutrition. Is there any myths that drive you mad that I haven’t mentioned?
Until next time