Once upon a time, I was an overweight person, like most of America, lost in a sea of fitness myths, advertising, and media that constantly contradicted themselves and each other. The in-shape people simply preached, “Just eat right and exercise!” So I tried to “eat right” and “exercise”. But I was uneducated and going on only the things I thought I knew, which got me absolutely nowhere.
It’s hard enough, mentally, to have the willpower to change your diet and exercise program to be effective without having to sift through all the bad information out there. I’m here to help set you straight with the top 5 biggest fitness myths about diet and exercise, so that hopefully you can have the correct information to reach your goals.
Fitness Myths #1: You Gained Pounds of Fat This Weekend
So you had a rough weekend, or gluttonous week-long vacation, and you stepped on the scale and saw that you [GASP] GAINED 5 POUNDS! You beat yourself up, and maybe you even just decide to give up. Whoa, there….
First of all, you may have put on 5 pounds of weight. This does NOT mean you put on 5 pounds of FAT, which is the one you need to worry about. It takes 3500 calories to gain 1 pound of fat, so to gain 5 pounds of fat = 17,500 calories ON TOP OF your normal calorie intake.
That is a heck of a lot of binging and while I’m not saying it can’t be done, the more likely cause of the increase on the scale is that you ate junk food, which contains lots of simple carbs, which were stored in your body as water. So you probably feel bloated and bulky, and maybe your pants are even a little tighter than normal. But the simple solution is to just get right back on your plan, drink a little extra water and lower your sodium intake, and within a few days you’ll drop the extra water and get right back down to where you were.
Fitness Myths #2: Strength Training Makes You Bulky or Thick
Women tend to be weary of strength training because they worry they will get too muscular or thick. Becoming lean and toned are two processes working together: building up muscle and losing fat, simultaneously.
Building muscle will help burn the fat, because muscle requires more calories to maintain. The more muscle you have, the more calories and fat you will burn just being alive (increased metabolism). Eating the right foods also makes sure that your body uses your stored fat to burn those calories rather than your muscle. It’s true what they say, “Abs are made in the kitchen.”
If you’re one of the women who worries about looking like those buff weightlifter ladies with the defined jaws and manly physiques – don’t. It’s physically impossible for us to bulk up to that level without some hormonal help, which 9 times out of 10, is exactly what you’re seeing with the bodybuilder type women that look like this. This is one of the biggest fitness myths.
Fitness Myths #3: You Can Spot Reduce Fat With Exercise
This one is probably the one of the fitness myths I see and hear most often. I was just on Pinterest this morning, and saw one person after the next post a link to 15 days to lose the flabby arms, with exercises that targeted only the arm muscles. Sigh.
As I wrote about above in Myth #2, working a muscle does not make you lose fat in that area. Working that one particular area does not make that muscle reach out and eat the fat that is covering it, nor does it make it hot so that the fat around it melts. You can’t burn specific calories in one spot; our bodies just don’t work that way.
As I am sure you have all noticed in your own bodies, we store fat in different ways, which is genetically predisposed. What that means is, if our mothers stored their fat in their bellies, we’re likely to also. Does this mean you’re doomed to have a big belly like your mom? No! It just means that if you both eat more calories than you burn, you’re likely to notice the fat building up in the same places.
If this has happened to you, and you’ve put on weight, you have to lose the fat all over to melt it in your trouble area too. You must adhere to a healthy lifestyle to lose your muffin top with a combination of a healthy diet and exercise, so that your body uses its fat stores as fuel. It will burn that troublesome spot eventually, with some patience.
Fitness Myths #4: You Need Long Workouts to Exercise Effectively
The fact is, it’s not the amount of time that you work out that makes your exercise effective, but instead, it’s the INTENSITY. A high intensity workout is short but more effective than a long cardio session.
High intensity interval training, or HIIT, is a form of exercise where you push yourself to your absolute max for a short period of time, followed by a short period of recovery…this is an interval. Doing this type of exercise for just 20 minutes a day is all you need to burn ridiculous amounts of calories and build an athletic body.
When you do low-intensity workouts, such as walking, you burn extra calories, but it begins when you start and ends when you stop. Let’s say you just burned 150 calories walking or doing yoga. Eat two pieces of bread, and your entire hour was a “waste”.
With high-intensity workouts, you use carbohydrates to fuel your workout, and then burn fat for hours after you finish exercising – due to the EPOC effect. The body is put under so much stress during HIIT that it burns calories just trying to get itself back to homeostasis (restoring depleted carbohydrates, re-oxygenating the blood, etc). It also builds muscle as you work, and the more muscle you have, the more calories you will burn just resting, because muscle requires more calories to maintain than fat.
When you’re working at maximum intensity, you will be breathing hard, not be able to speak, your heart will be pounding, and you’ll likely be sweating a ton. HIIT can be applied to all types of exercise – from running to bike riding to weightlifting to bodyweight exercise.
Fitness Myths #5: You Lose Fat Burning More Calories Than You Eat
So not true. You will lose WEIGHT (not necessarily fat) by burning more calories than you eat. Sure, you can probably eat 1200 calories of cookies every day and burn 1300 calories with your own metabolism and a walk. You’ll lose weight on the scale, in the form of precious muscle. Your body will use your muscle as its fuel source before it uses fat, because we are programmed genetically to do so (the body instinctively holds onto fat in case of famine). Not only will you be jiggly, but also you’ll feel bad with less energy, and you’ll be at a higher risk for all sorts of diseases and illness, including cancer and cardiovascular disease.
To lose fat, you need to eat nutritious foods that support your exercise program. You need protein to build muscle, and healthy carbohydrates and fats (especially essential fatty acids) for energy and brain function. A healthy diet will make you feel more clear-headed, give you more energy for your workouts as well as everyday life, make you feel full and satisfied, and planned correctly, will encourage your body to build muscle and use its fat stores for energy – thus melting that fat away.
Losing weight by losing muscle actually decreases metabolism, which will limit how much weight you can actually lose. As I’ve said, muscle requires more calories just to simply maintain than fat does. Increasing your muscle mass, therefore, means an increased metabolism. Simple.
A little education can go a long way when it comes to fitness and nutrition. Having the right information is the key to long-term success in your program, and will help you to break past the barriers to a healthy lifestyle.
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