Fitness is hard enough as it is. Whether it’s thinking about getting that bum to the gym, finding the motivation to actually turn up and then still, you’ve got to get the workout done. Misconceptions around fitness make this ordeal even harder and we’re all often left wondering what really is the truth and what is actually a bit off-the-mark. To make your life a little easier, here are a few myth busters that might help you to get the most out of your workout – and some might even surprise you…
1. Doing lots of cardio is the most effective way to lose weight.
Now before we start, let’s get one thing straight; there is no magical secret to weight loss – it’s actually down to a little bit of simple mathematics. To lose weight you must be in a calorie deficit and this means consuming fewer calories that you burn in a day. So let’s say that your goal is to drop a 1lb a week; 1lb = 3,500 calories. Divide this by the number of days in the week and you’ve got 500 calories to knock off your daily calorie intake.
There are many physical and psychological advantages to doing cardio (short for cardiovascular exercise). It’s great for your heart health; reduces stress and increases bone density – but what it won’t really do is build muscle. The usual types of cardio involve walking, running and cycling but read on and you’ll learn that you don’t have to be slogging away on a treadmill for hours to burn those extra calories.
Strength/weight training is becoming an increasingly popular way of getting fit, especially for women. Gone are the views of ‘weights make you look manly’ that came with the idea of lifting weights. Strength training will not only shift those pesky pounds but will help keep the weight off for good. Why? Because lifting weights aids in muscle growth and muscle needs extra calories to maintain and grow (cue that extra slice of pizza).
‘HIIT’, an abbreviation for ‘high impact interval training’ has becoming a phenomenon in recent years – think Joe Wicks, the ‘Lean in 15’ King. HIIT involves a period of high intensity aerobic work followed by an immediate period of rest. For example, 30 seconds of jumping squats followed by 30 seconds of rest and repeat. The key is to work so hard that the period of rest is essential. HIIT not only burns calories for hours after your workout, but preserves muscle and can be achieved in a limited amount of time – perfect for those with busy lives.
So although regular cardio is a great way of losing weight, there are other very effective and perhaps more fun ways of getting through that ‘hardio cardio’.
2. Abdominal exercises will give you a six-pack.
Although it’s proven that training your abdominal wall will help to strengthen your core, it’s unlikely that doing ab exercises alone will give you that visible washboard six-pack that you’re seeking.
Having a six-pack is generally down to two factors: genetics and having a low body-fat percentage.
Davina McCall, famous for her washboard stomach recently told New! magazine: “It’s one of those physiological things I just have. “Honestly, I’m not going ‘oh my god I must go and work on my six-pack’. It sounds terrible but it’s just there”.
So for the majority of us mere mortals that aren’t blessed in the genetics department there are things that we can do. ‘Cleaning’ up your diet is great way of leaning out the stomach – lots of water, vegetables and wholefoods. Forget fad diets, ‘skinny teas’ and ‘miracle’ supplements as these aren’t so sustainable and probably won’t benefit your health.
Developing a fitness program that incorporates compound exercises (exercises that involve the whole body), full-body workouts and ‘fat-burning’ workouts will also aid in shedding extra that extra fat.
Do less of the the spine-crunching exercises that are often deemed strenuous on the spine and focus more on movements that will work the abs in their natural bracing position (think plank, side-plank and swiss-ball rollouts).
3. You must have a protein shake after every workout.
It’s pretty likely that you’ve heard that you should consume protein within an hour following exercise to fuel muscle growth; Whether that’s a shake, or protein enriched foods like chocolate bars, cereals, bread and ice-cream, but is it really necessary?
It’s proven that protein is used in the body for the production of muscles which enables growth and healing but it’s a bit of a fallacy that it must be consumed within the hour window. Instead, to encourage muscle growth and aid in healing, your overall protein intake is much more important – and this doesn’t have to be in the form of a shake.
“Supplements are purely for convenience” says registered dietician Rebecca Scritchfield. “There’s nothing in a drink made from a supplement that is superior to regular food.”
Currently, the recommended daily intake of protein for women is around 46grams. Consuming protein-rich foods like chicken, eggs, red-kidney beans and yogurt will ensure you’re hitting your recommended daily protein in-take.
For all you gym-goers that will feel like life is unbalanced unless you consume protein after their workout, chocolate milk is just fine, “but you don’t need a lot”, says Scritcfield. Chocolate milk has the perfect amount of carbohydrate to protein ratio and enough to satisfy the muscles.
You had me at chocolate milk…
4. Exercising on an empty stomach will burn more fat.
Otherwise known as ‘fasted cardio’ – a habit in which you don’t eat for a stretched period of time before exercising. This is rumoured to increase fat burning, but is it really true?
Let’s get a little sciency: exercising on an empty stomach means that your carbohydrate stores are depleted, resulting in the body using fat stores for its energy instead. Research has found that there is some evidence to suggest that fasted cardio may boost fat burn, but only fleetingly.
Ingesting food before a workout increases an “afterburn” effect (burning calories after your workout). Studies found that fasted cardio reduced the “afterburn” effect considerably which means that less calories are burned throughout the day.
Exercising in a fasted state can also affect the quality of your workout: “If you don’t eat, you’re not going to have the energy to train at full capacity”, says Jay Cardiello, a NSCA and ISSA-certified strength and conditioning specialist. So basically, you may be more likely to either give-up some way through a workout or just not try as hard.
Exercising on empty isn’t always the safest method either. It can cause dizziness and nausea and generally shouldn’t be advised if you’re weight training. Light cardio such as walking or jogging is considered fine, but anything more strenuous than that and you may not be outputting enough energy for your workout to be as beneficial.
5. You can spot-reduce fat – noticeably.
If anyone ever tells you that you can spot-reduce fat with noticeable results? Tell them to jog on (no pun intended…).
Notice the word ‘noticeable’? It’s because there’s been just a handful of studies to show that increasing an exercise in an isolated muscle improves blood flow and turns out, blood flow aids in fat loss. But any fat loss in a specific area was so little, that it simply wasn’t noticeable.
Now that’s out of the way, let me tell you that it’s near impossible for the regular person to influence where their body will draw it’s fat from. Generally, again, genetics are to blame. If you’re mum tends to carry most of her fat around her hips or her thighs then it’s likely that you will be carrying the majority of your fat around that region too. And what about those abs? Turns out the heritability can account for up to 56% of abdominal fat.
Of course there are the traditional ways of burning fat that may help you get to your ideal goal, but targeting certain areas is like fighting a losing battle – plus, i’m sure you’re prefect the way you are.
The Bottom Line…
Ever unsure on anything? Do your own research. Everyone’s got different goals, ‘ideals’ and body shapes. Try not to listen to the ‘know-it-all’ in the gym because chances are, they could be wrong. What is important is that everything that you choose to do is with the right intentions – be fit and be healthy but do it for your quality of life because life is for loving and caring for yourself, from the inside-out.