If you’ve been good, you have probably been exercising at least three times a week since you were given that gym membership back in December. Perhaps you have only just started, maybe you plan to start very, very soon.
However it’s going, you will very swiftly become aware that gyms are places where spurious rumours, wild theories and unsolicited advice spread as quickly and perniciously as a Queen of Hearts conspiracy theory on the internet.
The problem is discerning who is telling you the truth and who is spreading the fitness equivalent of old wives’ tales. You certainly won’t be able to tell by the appearance of the person proffering the advice. The purveyor of bullshit is as likely to look just as lean and buff as the Johnny Vegas lookalike telling the truth.
And therein lies the problem: 99 per cent of the people trying to help in a gym are doing so because they genuinely care; they want you to succeed. So they come and tell you a way of doing things which they say has worked for them, and you will look at their immaculately toned physique and assume they have some special secret. They don’t. Most likely their body is down to genetics and the simple fact that they go to the gym every day.
So the aim of this column is to deal with some of the most common fitness myths, so you can avoid wasting your precious time.
I CAN SPOT-REDUCE MY PROBLEM AREAS
TRUTH: Spot-reduction is not possible without surgery; your body will simply draw fat from different regions at different rates depending on your genetic make-up. Doing a thousand sit ups will not help you lose body fat, it is just an extremely inefficient way to exercise. Although it is one hell of a feat of endurance.
If spot reduction was possible by training and diet, you’d seldom see women with lower-body fat deposits, or men with beer bellies.
MUSCLE DEFINITION COMES FROM LIFTING LIGHT
TRUTH: Leanness and muscle definition come from having muscle mass and low body fat. If you train with light weights only, you just won’t build muscle. If you don’t have any muscle mass, you won’t burn much fat.
The rule is to work muscle to exhaustion. To do that you need to lift a weight that starts feeling hard to lift on the 9th and 10th repetition.3
CARBS ARE FOUND ONLY IN BREAD AND NOODLES
TRUTH: Wrong. You also find carbs in grains, starches, fruit, vegetables, dairy, nuts, and seeds. These things are good for you, but they are not some aid to weight reduction.4
AVOCADOS, PEANUT BUTTER, AND OILS ARE “CLEAN” AND CAN HELP YOU LOSE WEIGHT
TRUTH: Healthy fats are an important part of your diet, but having even a clean diet doesn’t mean you’ll lose weight. You can be overweight and eat nothing but “clean” food, just look at the Southern Italians.5
YOGA WILL GET YOU RIPPED
TRUTH: Unless you’re doing hot yoga, it doesn’t burn many calories because it doesn’t require much oxygen. It also doesn’t stimulate muscle growth in the same way that weight training does. Most buff and ripped yoga bunnies weight train and practice hot yoga.6
DOING CARDIO BEFORE WEIGHTS WILL HELP YOU GET SHREDDED FASTER
TRUTH: If you run on a treadmill before you hit the weights, you’ll be too fatigued to train as heavily as you can. You need muscle, not miles, to burn fat.7
IF YOU WANT TO GET IN SHAPE, YOU HAVE TO RUN FOR LONG DISTANCES
TRUTH: Your fitness success depends upon your goal. If you want to be able to run 10 miles without breaking a sweat, then yes, you’ll have to run.
If your goal is fat loss, running for miles and miles is not the best way to lose pounds. The more efficient your body becomes at running, the fewer calories you’ll burn. Conversely, gaining muscle forces the body to burn calories at a much higher rate.8
FRUIT IS A HEALTHY SNACK THAT CAN’T MAKE YOU FAT
TRUTH: We eat food because it gives us nutrients and fuel, but any kind of food, no matter how healthy, can make you gain weight. Fruit has a lot of easily accessible carbs, so when you eat fruit, you’re basically telling your body to stop burning fat for fuel. Eat fruit by all means, but make it part of a balanced diet.9
WOMEN WHO WEIGHT TRAIN END UP LOOKING LIKE ARNIE
TRUTH: Utter nonsense. No one can look like Arnie. Not even Arnie was able to look like Arnie until he started taking vast amounts of steroids. Women who weight train will not pile on muscle for the simple reason that they do not have nearly enough testosterone to do so. Women will become stronger, more agile, lose weight and their muscles will become more defined and their skin clearer. BUT, you WILL NOT BULK OUT.10
ONCE YOU HAVE THE BODY YOU WANT YOU CAN LEAVE THE GYM
TRUTH: Sadly not. A great body, like a great (balanced tasty and nutritious) diet, is a lifelong commitment. It is a great idea to take a week off the gym every six to twelve weeks, but take any more than that off, and very quickly you will start looking and feeling like rubbish again.