The Truth Behind 20 Diet and Exercise Myths
Last Updated: Jan 11, 2017
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Young man doing sit-ups in the gym
We don’t blame you if you’re a little confused about the best way to stay fit and lean. It seems like there are at least a thousand different ways to eat and exercise. Fortunately, most types of activity are good for your body. But as they say, the devil is in the details. That’s why we consulted with fitness expert Ashley Borden, who has worked with some of the biggest names in sports and fitness. Follow her suggestions and you won't fall victim to any of these flawed ways of thinking.
Happy girl lifting some weights
MYTH 1: IF I LIFT WEIGHTS I'LL GET BULKY
If you were to look at one pound of fat, and one pound of muscle side by side, you would notice how much smaller the muscle is even though it’s the same weight. Meaning, the more muscle you have on your body, the less space you will take up. Many people -- both men and women -- think that lifting weights will make you look like a bodybuilder. That’s like saying studying physics will turn you into Einstein. The amount of time, food and discipline it takes to get huge from weights is almost a full-time job -- and sometimes influenced by illegal substances. So embrace weight training. You’ll feel and look leaner and rev up your metabolism.
Related: 13 Benefits of Weightlifting No One Tells You About
Woman exercising in a health club
MYTH 2: AS LONG AS I'M MOVING, I'LL BURN FAT
If you're walking like a snail and your goal is to burn fat, it’s not going to happen. Since everyone’s body is different and responds differently to training, a good cardio starting point is 40 minutes of cardio, three to five times a week in your target heart rate zone. Most commonly, the target heart-rate zone is 50 percent to 85 percent of your max heart rate. Wearing a heart-rate monitor where you enter your age, weight and intensity level is the most accurate and efficient way to determine your heart rate zone.
Related: The "Burn Fat Faster" Workout
Man running on beach at sunrise
MYTH 3: MORNING IS THE ONLY EFFECTIVE TIME TO TRAIN
Are you a professional athlete doing two-a-day sessions? If not, the timing of your workout does not matter. What does is finding a time in your schedule when you can stay consistent with your training. Listening to your body and knowing when you perform the best will help you decide if, in fact, mornings, afternoons or evening workouts are your time of power. Energy and attitude are keys in having great workouts. So learn your body clock, and try to hit the gym when you feel the strongest.
Instructor using stopwatch in gym
MYTH 4: I HAVE TO TRAIN FOR AN HOUR FOR ANY BENEFIT
Absolutely not! It all depends on the type of workout you're doing. If you're doing a HIIT (high intensity interval training) workout, you can accomplish all your goals in 15 to 20 minutes -- or less. Tabata training (eight sets of 20 seconds of hard work followed by 10 seconds of rest) is only four minutes, but an incredible aerobic and anaerobic workout. So it’s not just the time you work. More importantly, it’s what you're doing, your exertion level and the overall structure of your training plan.
Related: 4-Minute Tabata-Inspired Fat-Blasting Workout
Young woman exercising with dumbbells
MYTH 5: WOMEN NEED TO LIFT ONLY THREE-POUND WEIGHTS
This is some of the most irresponsible information you’ll find -- but it’s everywhere! Studies have shown weight training is a key to preventing osteoporosis, creating lean muscle mass, raising your metabolic rate and creating strength. How are you going to sculpt a flat belly, a nice back or great legs with only three pounds? Limiting your heavy strength training is just cheating your body out of the amazing benefits of strength training. And it’s not just limited to women -- men: Pick up the heavy weights and push yourself!
Related: 9 Essential Strength Benchmarks for Women
high angle view of grains
MYTH 6: EATING NO CARBS WILL MAKE ME LEAN
Eating no carbs will make you angry and weak. If that’s your goal, then you are on track! It’s not: "Don't eat carbs." It’s: "Which carbs are you eating and when?" Whole grains, legumes, vegetables and minimally processed grains are all good examples of the carbs that you can eat frequently without worrying about weight gain.
Related: 4 Reasons To Eat More Calories (And Carbs) At Night
MYTH 7: IF I HAVE AN INJURY I SHOULDN'T TRAIN AT ALL
It depends on the severity of your injury. If you have a spinal cord, head or internal injury, for instance, your doctor should determine when you can return to training. However, if it’s a minor injury (sprain, minor tear or something of that nature) you can work your training around the injury. Take 15 minutes before your workout to plan and write out the modification of your program so you can be efficient in the gym with minimal running around. An injury can get you down emotionally, and exercising releases endorphins that will keep your mood up and keep you motivated. So even if you can't hit that certain part of your body while you're healing, it's better to work out what you can than do nothing at all.
Related: 10 Ways to Tell Good Pain From Bad Pain
Woman sleeping on sofa in living room, book covering face
MYTH 8: TRAINING ONE DAY A WEEK IS BETTER THAN NOTHING
If you have a consistent training regimen, and once in a blue moon you have a week where you train only one time in a week, it’s not a big deal. However, if this is your training mantra, then you will fail. It might be tough to accept, but it’s the truth. The key to losing weight and keeping your weight in check is a mixture of hard work and consistency. Again, the time of the specific activity will depend on what type of exercise and the intensity. To lose one pound of weight a week, you have to have a 3,500-calorie deficiency a week. Consistent training, good food choices and proper water hydration will get you there much faster without the muscle depletion that dieting can cause.
Pitcher and glasses of lemonade
MYTH 9: THE MASTER CLEANSE IS HEALTHY
Here’s a four-word mantra that can apply to anyone, regardless of your goal: Food is your friend. My experience with clients that have done the Master Cleanse is weakness, irritability and ultimately binging once it’s finished due to severe calorie deprivation and lack of vitamins and minerals. Science has shown that the kidneys and liver are adequate to break down the body's toxicity. Thinking that a combination of laxative tea, lemon, syrup, pepper and salt water will "detoxify" your body and create permanent weight loss is not only incorrect but ultimately can have the reverse affect.
Related: 9 Unhealthy and Even Dangerous Weight Loss Diets
Adult female with personal trainer at gym.
MYTH 10: YOU DON’T NEED TO BE SHOWN HOW TO USE THE GYM
If you cannot afford a trainer to help you with a program, use the Internet to find specific gender training programs. There are iPhone and iPad Apps and magazines that all have tremendous information and monthly programs to follow for free. Use a reputable source to get your information, and never be ashamed to carry your cheat sheet or phone with you at the gym. The machines can also be daunting, so ask for help to learn the proper way to adjust the equipment. You will feel much more confident returning to the gym when you have a grasp of what you're doing and how to fully utilize the equipment. And more importantly: You’ll see more results and be less likely to suffer an injury.
Related: The 12 Biggest Myths About Personal Training
MYTH 11: MEN AND WOMEN CAN'T TRAIN TOGETHER
Doing a full-body, muscle-specific or cardio workout together can be fantastic and effective! You just need to adjust your weights accordingly, but not necessarily the exercises. In fact, women could benefit from doing “manly” exercises like squats and dead-lifts, and men can benefit from “girly” yoga and Pilates. Obviously, men and women have different strength thresholds, but that shouldn't keep you from doing co-ed workouts. Having a workout partner, even if you work out separately, can be all the motivation you need to make it to the gym that day. So assess your goals and programs, and fit in the workouts that you can do together on the days that it makes sense.
Related: Workouts for Couples
Woman exercising on treadmill
MYTH 12: CARDIO IS THE ONLY EXERCISE YOUR BODY NEEDS
Gravity is not our friend. The reality is, our bodies are slowly collapsing as we get older, and weight training is what keeps us upright, aligned and strong. Raising the arches of our feet, strengthening our pelvic floor, and keeping our head from falling forward are the ultimate goals in preventing our bodies from collapsing as we age. Weight training strengthens tendons and ligaments as well as creates good bone density. While cardio can help with bone density and is an essential part of keeping your heart strong, it doesn't keep your body in alignment and strengthen your key postural muscles. Keep the balance and be sure weight training and cardio are in your repertoire.
Related: Replacing Fat-Loss Cardio Through Bodyweight Training
Kettlebells push-up man strength gym workout
MYTH 13: KETTLEBELLS ARE GREAT FOR EVERYBODY
Kettlebells are basically used to train in modified Olympic lifting patterns. If you have no foundation with this type of training, it can be a disastrous injury waiting to happen. Progression is the key with kettlebells, and using the correct weight for your level. Kettlebells are terrific for cardio and strength-training exercises; however, if you have no previous weight training history or any injury, it’s more effective to focus on building your strength with functional weight training and core work. When you feel strong and core connected, seek a trainer or class that has a good reputation and teaches proper progression.
Related: 12 Reasons to Start Training with Kettlebells
Hugh Jackman And Julie Bishop Light The Empire State Building For Australia Day
Unless you are the identical twin of a celeb, you will never have the same body. Trying to look like someone else is futile. Put your energy into perfecting YOUR body and its mechanics. You must train for your body’s weaknesses and personal physical goals. Envy will do nothing for you but produce negative energy. However, inspiration is a key element for personal transformation and motivation. So it’s not a problem using athletes and celebs as fuel, just make sure your goals are personal.
Related: The 28 Most Memorable Hollywood Bodies
Peanut butter and banana sandwich
MYTH 15: WORK OUT ON AN EMPTY STOMACH TO BURN THE MOST AMOUNTS OF CALORIES
This isn't true, but your schedule can dictate whether or not you eat. I suggest a small snack if you have an hour before you are at the gym, but you don’t need to eat. If you are a big breakfast eater, you’d ideally wait about two to three hours before you train to maximize your calorie burn and get the needed energy from your food. Again, assess what type of training you will be doing (weights or cardio) and eat in accordance to the amount of energy needed, time you wake up and when you will be starting your workout.
Related: 11 Easy Post-Workout Snacks and the Science of Why They Work
elevated view of woman tying her shoe laces
MYTH 16: THE TYPE OF GYM SHOE I WEAR MAKES NO DIFFERENCE IN MY WORKOUT
Your feet are your foundation for every move you make. The wrong shoe can be the cause of ankle, knee and hip pain, along with arch and/or foot pain. Wearing the incorrect shoe can also decrease the efficiency and output of your workout. Arch support, toe box space, ankle stability and cushion are crucial elements in selecting the correct shoe for your feet and sport. Specialty shoe stores will do a gait analysis (watch you walk with your shoes off) and help you select the correct shoe for the needs of your feet.
Related: How to Find the Right Running Shoe
Four men jogging on beach
MYTH 17: RUNNING IS THE ONLY WAY TO LOSE WEIGHT
Running is fantastic cardiovascular exercise, but the mechanics of running may not be for every person’s body. What's more, weight training can lead to more calories burned during a 24-hour period because resistance training can keep your metabolism elevated for 24 to 48 hours after you stop exercising. If you like cardio but don’t enjoy running, try any of these options. They'll place less stress on your joints: Jump on a rebounder, swim, box, bike or use the elliptical machine.
Related: 11 Myths About Running, Debunked
A sign of a good workout is results, not soreness. Some localized muscular soreness that dissipates over a couple days can indicate that you worked hard. But feeling pain in your neck, lower back, or any joint is a sign that you’re movement patterns were off, the weight load was too heavy or you did too many repetitions. Review the workout that caused your pain so you don’t repeat the same disaster.
Related: Top 10 Moves to Help You Recover From Your Workout
Man and woman lifting weights at gym
MYTH 19: I SHOULD TRAIN ONLY WHAT I CAN SEE IN THE MIRROR
I like to call this “mirror body syndrome.” You need to train what’s known as your posterior chain. This includes your back, hamstrings, rhomboids, glutes and calves. Not doing so creates a seriously imbalanced body -- both aesthetically and biomechanically. For guys, it’s typical to over-train your chest, front shoulders, biceps, abs and quads. This can cause posture problems like a forward head posture and rounded shoulders, or neck, rhomboid and trapezius pain. A good way to build a balanced body is a workout that includes equal parts push and pull during your training.
Related: The Bikini Body Workout
MYTH 20: FAT MAKES YOU FAT
This is the mantra from 1982! There are so many incredible studies out about the positive effects that essential fatty acids have on the body. EFAs support the cardiovascular, reproductive, immune and nervous systems. They also help with maintaining a lean body and assist with consistent fat burning. That’s right: Eating fat burns fat! The chief function of EFAs is the production of prostaglandins, which control the body’s functions like blood clotting, fertility, heart rate and blood pressure, and helps with immune function by regulating inflammation, assisting the body to fight infection. Welcome to the year 2011 people! Fat is definitely your friend.
Related: 18 Fat-Rich Foods That Are Good for You
Man smiling and exercising on the exercise bike
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Have you ever heard any of these myths? What other ones might we have missed? Share some of the common misinformation (and the truth behind it) in our comments section below so that our community can benefit from your experiences and wisdom!
Related: The 20 Best Body Weight Exercises
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