Oh, the internet. It has brought so much to our lives. You notice I say “so much” without necessarily saying whether it’s good or bad. I think we can all agree that the internet has made our lives both easier and more difficult at the same time. There’s so much good that has come from it, including the availability of information on virtually ANYTHING, right at our fingertips. On the downside, however, the information that is posted on the internet is quite often incorrect, misleading, or flat out made up. In addition to this, there is SO MUCH information out there that it can easily make your head spin within minutes. It makes it difficult to know what you should or shouldn’t pay attention to. Because of this, it’s best to find the sources you trust (scientifically based is optimal) and try to stick to them for the information you’re looking to acquire. This goes for anything, but especially in fitness and health. There are “gurus” who make up false claims to make a quick buck ALL OVER the place and sometimes they’re hard to spot. Add in a celebrity endorsement, and scientists all over the world are face-palming in synchronicity. (insert simultaneous face-palm sound of 1,000 scientists)
Here are 6 Fitness Myths that have been floating around for years that just need to DIE. Science and studies have proven the information below, so you can rest easy knowing that the statements below are TRUE. We are happy to direct you to further information on any of these topics if you’re interested, so just let us know what you want more of and we’ll make sure you get it. 🙂
1. The Myth: Fasted Cardio burns more fat than cardio done after you’ve eaten food, and is therefore superior.
This started primarily in the world of bodybuilding and arose from the idea that if you have no food in your stomach (and therefore no glycogen stores to pull energy from), that your body will go right to fat for fuel, thus burning more fat.
The Truth: Fasted Cardio is NOT superior to cardio done after you’ve eaten for the purpose of fat loss. While it MAY burn more calories from fat, it will also increase your cortisol levels. Cortisol will then go to your amino acids to produce glucose for energy, and this could lead to muscle loss. Muscle requires more energy to be maintained than fat does, so having more muscle will mean your metabolism will be higher. PLUS, you don’t want to undo the hard work you’ve put in with your strength training, do you?
So What SHOULD I do? Fasted Cardio is more of a personal preference. If you like doing your cardio first thing in the morning without eating anything, do it. There is nothing WRONG with it, but people have the idea that it’s going to make them obliterate fat at a much higher rate. That’s simply not the case. If you do like cardio this way, I suggest drinking some BCAA’s (Branch Chain Amino Acids) beforehand to try and help preserve muscle. Whether you do your cardio fasted or not, your intensity and duration will have the MOST impact on how effective it will be.
2. The Myth: Cleanses will “detox” your body.
Oh boy, this one is one of (if not THE) most common myth. The idea is that by taking a combination of special herbs, juices, vitamins, etc. that it will “cleanse” your body of all the “toxins” floating around.
The Truth: Your LIVER detoxes your body. If you have one of those and it’s functioning and healthy, you are constantly cleansing yourself. Save your money.
So What SHOULD I do? While most of the detox and cleansing products on the market are really just a good way for someone to make money, eating healthy and nutritious foods is a good way to keep your body healthy and keep everything moving properly. It’s true, your liver detoxes your body, but the less crap it has to dig through, the better. If you like juices, drink them. If you like the way certain vitamins feel, take them. But don’t believe the hype around most detox and cleansing systems. They typically make you feel good because they require you to eat next to nothing or clean up your diet entirely (which is what you’re REALLY feeling the effects of).
3. The Myth: Don’t eat after 6pm (especially carbs) or it will all turn into fat!
This one makes my skin crawl. I’m not sure who came up with this, but it’s so far from the truth. The idea is that if you eat food (primarily carbohydrates) that your body will turn it into fat since you’re going to bed shortly after that and your body is at rest.
The Truth: It doesn’t matter WHEN you eat your food (to a degree…more on that in a minute). What matters most is that you’re eating the right amount of food each day to reach your goals. If fat loss is your goal, you’ll want to consume LESS calories than you’re burning throughout the day. If maintenance is your goal, you’ll want to consume EQUAL calories to what you’re burning throughout the day. If building muscle/gaining weight is your goal, you’ll want to consume MORE calories than what you’re burning throughout the day. Meal timing can have an effect in the time surrounding your workouts, but unless you’re a professional athlete, this is something that you shouldn’t start worrying about or focusing on until you’ve mastered consistency in the BIG and MAIN driver of your goals: consuming the right amount of calories/protein/carbohydrates/fats for your goals on a daily basis.
So What SHOULD I do? Eat in a way that works best for you. Everyone has different schedules and lifestyles. If you know that eating at night makes you want to snack, cut off your food early on. If you like to graze throughout the day, you can do that. If you like 3 big meals per day, do that. Whatever your method is, once again, the BIG nugget is to consume the right amount of food for your goals. HOW you do that is a minor detail and shouldn’t be addressed until you’ve mastered the big nugget.
4. The Myth: You HAVE to do cardio in order to lose weight.
One of the first things a bad trainer will tell you when you come to them looking to lose weight is that you must start doing steady state cardio every single day.
The Truth: This is a really generalized statement and it’s NOT the case with everyone (or usually ANYONE initially). This is the kind of myth where the answer is “well, not necessarily”, because cardio can and often does have a place in a weight loss program, but the reality is not so black and white. Cardio is a tool for weight loss, not the main driver. The 3 tools at your disposal for weight loss are: strength training, food intake, and cardio (quite often, in that order).
So What SHOULD I Do? While everyone is different and people with different history will likely have different approaches, generally speaking, weight loss program should start out with a solid strength training program and a reduction in food intake. Minimal cardio may be prescribed at first, but the problem with prescribing too much cardio too soon, is that it leaves you with only one way to go from there: more cardio. For example, if you start off doing cardio 5x/week, what happens when you hit a plateau? You either have to decrease your food intake, or increase cardio. This might work okay initially, but there is a floor for how low you’d want your caloric intake (food) to be. Once you’ve hit that floor, your ONLY option is to increase cardio. This is how people end up having to do an hour of cardio 6-7x/week (or even worse, doing 2 cardio sessions/day!) in order to make any changes in their body. Their metabolism has adapted to the level of activity and low level of food being consumed. This is a recipe for metabolic damage. Start small and get as far as you can with the minimum effective dose (the least amount of work required to make changes). Make slight changes from there and you’ll be golden. 🙂
5. The Myth: Strength training is just for building muscle.
The idea is that strength training’s main benefit is to build muscle and that’s pretty much it.
The Truth: While yes, strength training DOES help you build muscle, it does SO MUCH MORE. A short list is: helps increase bone density (REALLY important as we age, especially for women), increases your metabolic rate since it takes MORE energy to preserve muscle than it does fat (translation: be able to eat more food without gaining weight), and my personal favorite….gain MENTAL strength. Getting stronger in the gym will absolutely increase your mental stamina and strength in your every day life. You’ll have more drive, willpower, and guts to do hard things, like asking your boss for that raise you know you deserve.
So What SHOULD I do? That’s easy, make strength training a part of your weekly routine. We recommend anywhere from 2-5 days per week, depending on your goals, fitness level, and time availability.
6. The Myth: Strength Training will make my muscles too big.
This myth stems from photos of bodybuilders. For some reason, people think that if they start lifting weights, they’ll start looking like a bodybuilder. My instant response to this is ALWAYS: you’re not that special.
The Truth: Building muscle is HARD and SLOW. It takes years of consistent effort to put on just a little bit of muscle. Yes, there are some genetically gifted humans that DO build muscle very easily, but they’re very easy to spot and it’s a VERY small percentage of the population. How do you know if you’re one of them? You already have a lot of muscle and put little to no effort to get it. If that is you, then congratulations, you ARE that special, but odds are, it’s not. If you’re wondering why bodybuilders look that way, for one they are VERY lean (a level that is unsustainable for the long term) and photos (the lighting, posing, etc) typically make them look much bigger and more muscular than they really are in person. In addition, many of them take illegal muscular enhancers and while they don’t magically make muscles appear (you still have to work hard for them), they do increase the muscular growth and speed up the process quite a bit.
So What SHOULD I do? Lifting weights will NOT make you bulky. Lifting weights and eating too much might, but if you keep your food intake at maintenance or below (if fat loss is your goal), what you WILL get is a physique that you probably have always dreamed of having. Muscles are aesthetically appealing, allow you to be stronger, and are a healthy tissue in your body. In short: lift weights. If you get too muscular, come see us and we’ll submit your name to the Olympics committee because you’ve got some gifted genes!!!
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