With so many people offering advice on weight loss, it can be hard to separate fact from fiction. All too often I’ve overheard a hardworking gym-goer sharing a well-meaning but ill-informed tip with another exerciser. And I’m not the only one who’s heard fitness folklore being swapped on the training room floor. I spoke to top experts in the field to find out the common fitness myths they hear from clients. From the pseudo miracles of the “fat-burning” zone to the misguided magic of working out on an empty stomach, here are the fitness falsehoods you should never follow.
Myth #1: You can target belly fat.
Truth: It has been proven that you can’t target fat loss. It does not matter if you do one hundred crunches a day, it won’t burn the fat on your belly. Don’t listen to those midnight informercials, they just want to disinform their audience and lead them to believe false promises that will only serve to sell their products. To lower belly fat you have to lower fat everywhere in your body by leading a healthy life, exercising daily, getting plenty of sleep, and avoiding stress.
Myth #2: Fat and carbs make you fat.
Truth: Sure there are bad fats, such as saturated and trans fats, but there are also good fats, such as polyunsaturated and monounsaturated that are essential for proper nerve activity, vitamin absorption, immune system function and healthy cells.
Carbs, on the other hand, are usually believed to be extremely bad for dieters, but they are not. Sure, there are processed foods, such as white bread and pasta that are bad for your health, and will cause weight gain, but there are also foods rich in carbs that are excellent for your health. Vegetables are among the healthiest carbohydrate sources. They contain vitamins, fibers, minerals and antioxidants. Fruits, whole grains, beans, and lentils are also carbs rich foods that are good for you.
Myth #3: The more you sweat, the more you burn.
Truth: Sweat has nothing to do with intensity. Sweat is just a biological response that cools your skin, therefore you don’t burn a lot of fat in a sauna after all. Fat is oxidized inside of your body, and you are not going to lose it just because it is hot outside. Although sweat is a sign that you’re making your body work, don’t be fooled by “easy sweating” because all you’re losing is water, not fat.
Myth #4: Running is bad for your knees.
Truth: James Fries, M.D., co-author of a 2008 study from Stanford that tracked 528 runners and 423 non-runners beginning in 1984, found that running makes your bones and ligaments stronger, can be used as a treatment for osteoporosis, and prevents fractures of the hips and spine. Ligaments don’t wear off after years of running, which is one of the things that causes joints to wear out.
Myth #5: Run long distances if you want to be in shape.
Truth: It all depends on your goals, if you want to run a half marathon or a complete marathon then yes, you do need to run long distances in order to be in shape for those competitions. If you want to run 100m as fast as you can, then your fitness does not depend on running long distance.
If you want to burn fat, then running during long periods of time is not the best plan. The more your body gets used to running for long distances, the less calories it will burn. Instead, try running for shorter periods of time, but at a higher speed. High intensity cardio is a good way to lose fat and not lose muscle mass. Look at long distance runners compared to sprinters. What body do you want?
Myth #6: Heavy means fat.
Truth: You must not be alarmed if sudden weight gain happens after you start weight training. It is natural for the body to gain some muscle weight, and after a couple of weeks your body will start losing some fat and you will be back to your normal weight. Inflammation also plays a part in gaining weight after you train with weights, but it won’t happen all the time. Besides, muscle has a much greater density than fat so your gains won’t be reflected on the scale.
Myth #7: If you stop training, your muscles will turn to fat.
Truth: Muscle doesn’t turn to fat if you take a some time off from the gym. With time, your muscles will atrophy and you will burn less fat, but they won’t turn to fat, that is one of the greatest myths in the fitness community. The fact that some people start getting into unhealthy diets and stop exercising when they stop going to the gym is what makes them gain fat.
Myth #8: If you train hard and consume fat burners you can eat whatever you want.
Truth: Theoretically, to lose weight you must burn more calories than those you consume. If you sit around the house, eat unhealthy food, and take fat burners, then you will gain weight. Fat burners increase your heart rate and aid in training performance, but they will not act as a magic pill and make you lose fat. Think of fat burners as the cherry on top of a healthy fitness routine, not the magic cure.
Myth #9: Cheat meals are the same as re-feeds.
Truth: Cheat meals should be considered a reward, and you should only have one if you earned it or if you really need it. Re-feed, on the other hand, is a strategic increase of calories that will boost your training intensity. One is a reward, the other one is a fitness strategy, don’t confuse them.
Myth #10: Doing crunches alone will help you get a 6-pack
Truth: Your abs muscles will only show up if you have a flat belly and exercise your muscles. If you have noticeable fat in your belly, then your abs will stay hidden underneath it. Burn fat, eat healthy, and then do your abs, that’s how you’ll get 6-packs.
Don’t be fooled! Commit to be fit.