You’ve probably heard comments like, “pain means your workouts are going great,” “compression gear increases exercise stamina,” or “strength training can help ladies bulk up.” Along your fitness journey, you’ll come across multiple half-truths and myths from the media, friends, or colleagues. These people may mean well, but some myths may do you and your fitness regimen more harm than good. How about we bust some misconceptions floating around the fitness world? Here are ten of the biggest fitness myths people still believe.
10 Exercising Before Breakfast Burns Fat Faster
The rationale here is that if you’ve not had anything to eat, your body will burn the pesky fat in your cells for energy. Well, that’s not how things work. The problem is that your body relies on a carbs and fats combo for energy—it will turn to your muscle stores and fat fragments within your bloodstream—and not the fat in the fat cells to power your workout.
You’re likely to become lightheaded, hyperglycemic, and dehydrated and cut back on your workout intensity or stop altogether. Besides, your body might try to make compensations by burning less fat once you have your meal to balance the fat levels used while exercising before the meal.
Snack on a fruit or low-fat yogurt at least an hour before your first workout of the day. If your workout isn’t grueling or lasts under an hour, you can go about your day as usual. But if it is a tense workout consuming milk, a whey protein shake, or fresh fruit within the first half hour after the workout will help your body recover well.
9 You Need to Put in an Hour Workout to See the Benefit
Most people believe long chunks of time on a workout equals greater benefits and will spend an hour at the very least on exercise. In one study, researchers put participants in two groups. One group exercised for an hour while the other only put in 30 minutes. This study went on for three months, and the researchers found that those who spent an entire hour didn’t lose more body weight or fat compared to the participants in the 30-minute group.
In other words, relative to the energy the hour-long participants expended, the loss in weight or fat was too little. They also ate more, leading to lower weight loss. Interestingly, those who exercised for half an hour per session were more psyched up for physical activity after their workout than the hour-long exercise participants.
Exercise is not about putting in an hour or longer; brief bouts of activity like 30-minute jogs or a few five-minute brisk walks can offer benefits. The key thing is to incorporate regular physical activity into your lifestyle.
8 You Don’t Need Extra Protein in Your Diet
Most people will tell you that you’re already consuming too much protein (especially if you consume animal protein) and shouldn’t add any more. Your body exploits the protein to build muscles and repair them following workouts. If you exercise regularly, your protein intake may need to go up a notch since workouts like endurance training or resistance training break down muscle protein more rapidly. Regular exercisers can consume 1.2-2 grams of protein daily per every kilogram they weigh, while those who aren’t active can do with 0.8 grams.
Vegan, vegetarian, or other protein-rich foods can cater to your nutritional needs. Protein supplements are just that. They shouldn’t supplant actual food but rather boost dietary needs when necessary. If you want to take supplements, protein bars, powders, shakes, and capsules are possible options.
7 Running Can Cause Osteoarthritis
Running is a high-impact exercise that applies pressure to your hips, knees, and ankles, which has led many people to assume that long-distance running wears out knee cartilage and, in time, may cause osteoarthritis. This degenerative disease carries chronic pain, can limit movement, and sometimes lead to sleep disturbances and depression. So the concern that stress-bearing movements may potentially damage the joints and lead to this disease is real.
A study seeking the link between running and osteoarthritis concluded that the former actually reduced osteoarthritis cases. The 2013 study followed 74,000 (plus) runners and over 14,000 walkers over seven years, and it deduced that the runners didn’t have higher incidences of osteoarthritis.
If anything, habitual walkers experienced lower hip replacement and osteoarthritis incidences far more than runners. That said, overweight persons and those living with pre-existing joint injuries may find that running exacerbates joint pain. A professional trainer or physician can help you identify more suitable exercises.
6 You Can Eat What You Want as Long as You Work Out
Many people think they can chow down on junk food and burn off those calories when they hit the gym later. Working out while ignoring your diet will take you nowhere, and chances are you can out-eat your workout. Say you burned 500 calories at the gym, then ordered a large pizza on your way home—two slices will wipe out your hard work. Reach for more, plus the dressing or sauces, and you’ll have consumed more calories than you burned.
Since foods aren’t the same, calories aren’t always interchangeable, meaning you may not burn them out at your next training session as quickly as you think. Yep, those food calories might be sticking around for a while. Besides, refueling your body refined carbohydrates will leave you feeling hungrier soon enough and reaching for something else.
Intense workouts shred your muscles to rebuild them bigger and stronger, but that happens when you consume nutritious body-building (aka protein-rich) foods, not crappy meals. When you sit down with that bowl of ice cream, you aren’t helping your body rebuild itself with the proper tools. Then there’s the part where you might lose your motivation to work out. A good diet and exercise motivate you to move and achieve your goals, while a poor one may make you feel lethargic. Splurging occasionally isn’t bad, but making it a habit won’t help your fitness goals.
5 You’ll Grow Fat if You Eat Fats
That’s if you’re consuming the not-so-good saturated fats that typically appear in fatty cuts of poultry, beef, lamb, pork, sour cream, lard, tropical oils, cheese, butter, and yummy ice creams. These foods aren’t just rough on your weight; they are excess calorie sources but can cause inflammation and put you at risk of heart conditions.
Unsaturated fats aren’t just nutritious; consuming them moderately may help sustain your body cells, fight inflammation, raise good cholesterol, enhance vitamin absorption, and even reduce the risk of heart conditions. Better yet, eating unsaturated fats help reduce your appetite. They are the last to leave your digestive tract, meaning you’ll feel fuller longer, unlike carbohydrates and sugars that stimulate your appetite. This, in turn, keeps you from frequently snacking, reducing your caloric intake.
When you consume fats, the leptin hormone is activated, which tells your brain that your cells have taken in enough fat, reducing your appetite. Healthy fats are found in avocados, almonds, peanuts, pecans, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, edible seeds, olives, wild-caught salmon, herring, Bluefin tuna, and oils like olive, sunflower, canola, and soybean oil.
4 Exercising Can Result in Preterm Labor
It’s natural for pregnant women to feel some concern with exercising lest it induces preterm labor. Does it escalate preterm birth risks? The short answer is no. Remember Alysia Montaño, the runner who competed in USA Nationals while eight and five months pregnant? Twice I might add. She was eight months pregnant the first time and five months pregnant the second.
In a study to review the effects of exercise in 2000 healthy-weight pregnant women, researchers found that those who engaged in physical exercise throughout their pregnancies stood better chances of carrying to term. Not only was preterm birth not affiliated with exercise, but it boosted the rates of vaginal deliveries. Exercising also helps release tension, reduce stress, improve mood, improve self-image, and reduce postpartum depression.
Ideally, a pregnant woman should engage in moderate-intensity aerobic activities for at least 150 minutes each week. By moderate, we mean exercises that induce sweating and raise heart rates but still allow the woman to talk normally. Safe exercises include brisk walking, water workouts, stationary bicycling (ditch standing bicycling for now to reduce chances of falling), and modified Pilates. If you’re an athlete, experienced runner, or jogger, talk with your ob-gyn to know what activities you can engage in.
3 A Sweaty Work Out Can Eliminate Toxins
You’re likely to read about detox workouts that supposedly eliminate toxins from your body through your pores. It’s an appealing idea, and some research has found traces of toxins (heavy metals) in sweat, but these perspiration-removed toxins are so low in quantity you can compare them to a small drop in a bucket. So sweat isn’t a reliable form for toxin removal, the liver and kidneys are, and they do this through urine and stool.
Sweating is all about temperature regulation. We can’t, however, discount the role of exercise in toxins removal and helps the process by keeping your liver and kidneys in optimal condition. Our cells are bathed in an extracellular fluid that encourages these cells to release toxins which it carries to the waste management team (liver and kidneys) for proper disposal.
Minimal movement causes the extracellular fluid to stagnate, leading to toxin buildup. Regular movement keeps the fluid flowing enough to flush out toxins. As you exercise, you reduce fat tissue, a favorite hiding place for certain toxins, effectively keeping down the toxins in your system.
2 Exercising in the Evening Will Keep You Awake at Night
The rationale? Exercising encourages your body to release adrenaline and keeps your brain active, making it tougher to wind down. Since none of us want to be hooting with the owls while the rest of the world slumbers, we take this advice. Is it all true?
A 2019 study published in Sports Magazine examined the onset and sleep quality among healthy people who exercised in the evening and found that it actually helped them snooze faster and remain in a deep sleep longer. However, high-intensity workouts done an hour (or less) before bedtime saw participants wait a while before sleeping, and the quality of sleep was poorer.
So you can add some evening exercise routines; just don’t engage in vigorous activities too close to bedtime. Some great exercises for this time of day include walking, stretching, and breathing relaxation exercises.
1 A Fat-Burning Belt = Awesome Abs
Most of us struggle with belly fat, and the promise of a belt that you can wrap around and watch the fat melt away, leaving behind chiseled abs, is alluring. Some manufacturers recommend wearing their belts for a couple of minutes daily, while others advocate wearing their products as you exercise to burn belly fat. Do they work?
Belts compress your body cells by ridding them of water, making them smaller and creating temporary flat stomachs or abs. But that fat is still inside your body; after some time, these cells rehydrate and regain their original shape. Your midsection will feel warmer and sweat because your body retains less water in that region.
The loss of water leads to sweating, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re sweating the fats away. A lifestyle change that includes calorie-burning exercises, effective nutritional health plans, and patience is the best way to deal with stubborn belly fat. No magic, real work.