There are tremendous benefits to living in this age of information, besides being able to Google the name of that kid who was in all those movies (answer: Haley Joel Osment, obvs).
For one, there is access to a seemingly never-ending stockpile of tips, tricks and hacks, meant to help us improve our quality of life. The only issue is that, when new research or ideas arrive that render our previous conceptions completely inaccurate, there is no sanctioning body scrubbing them from our minds, let alone from the web.
Accordingly, outdated outlooks and fitness myths continue to thrive on the internet and spread like wildfire to the detriment of the consumer.
So, in an effort to help stamp them out, we gathered a few of fitness experts to separate the fact from fiction and beak down these 10 fitness myths:
Myth: The scales know all
Scales are a useful tool for monitoring the changes in your body over time, but under no circumstances should you live or die by them. The readings that you get when stepping on the scales should be considered with other key information like body fat percentage. Also, the idea that muscle weighs more than fat is completely false.
“I have a lot of clients that have their mind set on a number, and there is nothing wrong with that, but there are a lot of factors to take into account,” says trainer Don Saladino of Drive495. “Consider that you may be retaining water, or need to replenish, or any other elements that could effect that reading. So don’t let the scales rule how you measure your progress.”
Myth: If you use weights, you will get bulky
Not everybody wants to look like they live at Muscle Beach, but the weight rack is actually an incredible tool towards creating a lean frame, as long as it is used in the correct method. In fact, using weights can create the kind of resistance necessary to build a lean frame, according to trainer Alex Silver-Fagan, who instructs both yoga and Crossfit.
“Don’t be afraid of the deadlift,” says Fagan. “If you want to start easier, try the sumo deadlift, but these movements are a sure-fire way to built your best body, because it hits every part. I try to push people towards using weights with foundational movements for the best results.”
Saladino agrees, adding that his female clients, including Scarlett Johansson, also incorporate deadlifts into their training.
Myth: You have to eat less in order to lose weight
Severely restricting calories can actually trigger the opposite effect: your body becomes convinced that it needs to build up fat stores if it is unsure about how often it is getting nutrition. Instead, focus on preparing smart, wholesome meals and try to eat around five times a day, which will keep your metabolism on the move.
“It is truly more about eating right than eating less,” says Alejandro Chaban, certified nutritionist and author of Think Skinny, Feel Fit. “I am not a fan of restrictive diets, because they don’t work. The real path is keeping a consistent eating pattern, including snacks and water.”
Myth: You can target specific areas for weight loss
Despite what numerous fitness blogs may claim, there is no definitive way to target a single area for weight loss. Focusing workouts on a specific section of the body will not reduce fat deposits there, but will rather build up the muscles underneath.
That being said, by training those muscles you will stimulate your body into burning fat in order to repair them, which will have positive results overall.
“I would say that the concept of ‘spot training’ is one of the biggest hoaxes out there,” says Saladino. “Doing hundreds of crunches isn’t going to make your stomach shrink. It should be about getting your entire body programmed to burn fat, and that is when you are going to see those areas slim down.”
Myth: Protein shakes can serve as a meal replacement
There is no question that, with the success of establishments like Juice Press and Juice Generation – along with the number of Vitamix mixers people are buying – more protein shakes are being consumed than ever. Unfortunately, many consumers are under the impression that they can drink a shake instead of making a meal. Though that is acceptable from time to time, it should not be a daily occurrence.
“I recommend people treat protein shakes as a snack to be added to a balanced nutritional plan,” explains Chaban. “Even for people who are looking for weight loss and lean body mass, and especially if they have an active lifestyle.”
There are also lots of products on the market that claim to be healthy, yet have an ingredient list that suggests otherwise. “I always encourage people to read labels, and don’t be afraid to ask employees for information when ordering,” Chaban adds.
Myth: You should avoid carbohydrates at all costs
Over the past few decades, there has been rampant demonization of carbohydrates and gluten, much of which was completely unwarranted. Carbohydrates are a leading source of fuel for the body, and if you aren’t taking in enough to power your performance, than your system will suffer.
“Eating carbohydrates is extremely important for an active person,” says Saladino. “That doesn’t mean you should never follow low-carb, gluten-free or ketogenic diets from time to time. But you should always incorporate them back in if you can.”
Myth: Cardio is the best way to slim down
For most people, if you pointed them in the direction of a gym and told them to lose weight, they would head to the treadmill or elliptical. That may be the quickest method if you were asking them to sweat it out, but, for a more effective, long-term burn, research says the best option is high-intensity strength training.
This is due to the “excess post-oxygen consumption” that occurs; elevating your metabolism even after you put down the weights.
That’s not to say that running isn’t an excellent means of exercise, especially because you can do it regardless of where you are. “Some people enjoy that time on their own,” says Saladino. “So if makes you happy, do it, and for the best results combine it with other exercise.”
Myth: You have to stretch before a workout or you’ll get injured
The concept of warming your body up is still a valid one, but you don’t need to target specific muscles with long, hard stretches anymore. In fact, research has shown that doing so can actually decrease your range of motion and destabilize your muscles, leading to a less productive workout.
Before training, Saladino prefers starting out with a dynamic warm-up that includes weighted lunges, medicine ball slams and jumping jacks. “Combining a few functional movements that engage the whole body is a much better way to ramp up into your session,” he says.
Don’t go straight to the showers when you are done, either: stretching can still be useful post-workout or, better yet, try to incorporate a foam-roller into your cool down.
Myth: You have to drink eight glasses of water a day
The average adult loses about four to six glasses of water a day, according to research from Harvard University, so the idea of drinking eight glasses doesn’t make much sense off the bat. There’s no need to set Google reminders to drink water every other hour – simply drinking it when you’re thirsty is completely acceptable.
The rest of the water you need should be provided so long as you’re consuming enough water-rich foods like vegetables and fruits. Of course, that number should be altered if you are in a particularly hot climate or exerting yourself more than usual.
Myth: Going to the gym everyday is the best way to get fit
The work you do at the gym can really benefit your health, but many trainers agree that what you do with the hours between workouts is just as important. “Is going to the gym six days a week instead of three better? Not always,” says Saladino. “It really depends on how you are spending them, and the conditions surrounding those workouts.”
“I have seen people go to the gym every single day and have negative results,” he adds. “Recovery is a fundamental part of being healthy.”
Great methods of recovery include staying generally active between your workouts, getting plenty of sleep and following a thoughtful nutritional plan. “There is no way you are going to see the changes that you want without proper eating to support the training,” says Fagan. “The choices you make outside of these doors do a lot to determine the results that you see.”
The biggest myth of all: That anyone has all the answer
The one true constant is that no one regime that will work for everyone. The name of the game is being as informed as possible, through research and any wellness professionals in your life, while listening to what your own body is telling you.