There is a staggering, confusing and frustrating amount of misinformation surrounding the complex field of fitness and nutrition. More than being irritating, however, these myths and misconceptions could be actively working against your goals, slowing your progress and just generally making things more difficult than they have to be.
To help you cut through it all, here is a short list of just 5 fitness and nutrition myths that could be getting in your way.
Heavy Weights Make You Bulky – This is actually a sort of two-part myth. Generally the idea is that if you want to gain muscle, you should do fewer reps with more resistance but if you’re looking to loose weight you’ll want to perform tons of reps with light weights. The reality, however, is that training with heavy weights at a rep range of about 8 to 12 effectively activates the target muscles and help them to develop. But this doesn’t mean their going to immediately get big and bulky. That takes years of specialized training and dieting. That muscle activation does mean, though, that those muscles will hungrily burn up tons of calories even after the workout is over. Cranking out tones of reps with light weights, however, will generally not provide enough stimulus to create these changes in the muscle. These workouts often amount of cardio.
Spot Training – An incredibly pervasive myth that refuses to die despite mount of evidence against it, sport training (or spot reduction) teaches that you can target a specific area of your body for weight loss or muscle gain. This concept is why, when trying to build a 6-pack, people will perform innumerable crunches. Unfortunately, this is just not how things work. Instead, you burn fat from reserves all over your body when you exercise, not just from the stores surrounding the target muscle. The exact order that this happens depends largely on genetics. To make things worse, the belief in spot training often leads people to spend a huge amount of time and energy working relatively small muscle groups. This, ultimately burns a very small amount of calories and will not do much in your fat-loss efforts. Full-body workouts with a concentration on larger muscle groups, however, will reduce body fat at a faster rate – across your entire body.
“Diet” Foods – Encompassing a huge range of foods, these “diet” options claim to be somehow better for weight loss and maintenance than more traditional options. This is typically achieved by cutting out fats, sugars or other oft-maligned nutrients. Unfortunately, to compensate for the loss of flavor that happens when these substances are removed, lots of other nasty stuff is added back in. Sometimes, these “fat-free” or “low-fat” versions will have the same amount of calories as the standard varieties. Occasionally, they even pack in more. Often, sugar-free beverages and foods resort to artificial sweeteners – chemicals that have been linked to a host of health problems, including obesity and diabetes. If you are looking to control your intake of calories, fat, carbs or anything else, stick with whole foods that are naturally low in those substances.
The Fat-burning Zone – Stamped all of cardio machines and heart rate monitors, you’ll find a chart of heart rate zones. These graphics often feature something called the “fat-burning zone,” that falls in the realm of moderate-intensity. The theory is that, if you can keep your heart rate in this range, you’ll burn more fat for fuel than you would otherwise. In part, this is true. Your body will depend on a higher percentage of fat for fuel during moderate intensity exercise. Sometimes. These heart rate zone recommendations are based on generalities and may not be true for everyone, depending on fitness level and a host of other variables. But it’s also important to note that, while this technique does burn more calories from fat it uses fewer total calories. When it comes to fat lose, this second number is more important.
Calories In, Calories Out – For a (very) long time, the prevailing wisdom taught that all calories were created equal and that weight control was a matter of simple math. If your calorie intake was greater than you caloric expenditure, you would gain weight. If the two numbers were equal, your weight would stay that same. When caloric expenditure was greater than intake, your weight would decrease. Unfortunately, that’s not how things work. A deeper understanding of nutrition has revealed that your body processes each macronutrient – fat, protein and carbohydrates – differently. We also now know that a huge number of factors, including the processing method of your food, your health, your overall diet, the time of your meals and the health of your gut microbiome all heavily influence your thoroughly your body extracts calories from food.