Don’t believe the hype – five fitness myths that might be holding you back

The fitness world is peppered with myths that sound like they should be true but are actually the opposite. Believing and then acting on these myths can severely undermine your progress – even if you exercise frequently and diligently.

If you stop falling foul of these myths, you will find that you can reach your fitness goals more quickly and easily than ever before.

1. You need to do a ton of cardio to lose fat

Look around any gym and you’ll see this myth in action; row upon row of exercisers doing hour after hour of cardio to lose weight and burn fat. Come back in a year and guess what? They’ll still be doing it, and they’ll still look the same despite working in the so-called fat burning zone.

Why is this the case? Because most of those exercisers are attempting the impossible – to out-exercise a bad diet.

Cardio DOES burn fat and calories but at a depressingly slow speed. It can take 10 to 15 minutes to burn 100 calories so to lose just a single pound, you’ll need to clock up over six hours of exercise. However, it’s very easy to eat too much food and completely undo the calorie-burning benefits of cardio.

Instead of trying to exercise the fat off, understand that a healthy diet is the foundation of weight loss. Clean up your diet, hit the weights, do enough cardio to keep you fit and healthy and you will lose weight. What you eat (or don’t eat!) is far more important than the exercise you perform.

2. Strength training makes women look masculine

Many women mistakenly believe that pumping iron is for the guys and that even a few sets of leg presses or pull-ups will give them manly, unattractive muscles. This simply isn’t true.

Women have, on average, one-tenth of the muscle-building hormone testosterone compared to men. Most men find building muscle a real challenge and they are hormonally equipped for the process of hypertrophy.

With very low levels of testosterone, women simply don’t have what it takes to develop large, masculine muscles, especially if they follow a workout designed specifically for women i.e. not a muscle-by-muscle bodybuilding split routine.

Steering clear of the weights means that many women miss out on the myriad of benefits that pumping iron provides including:

  • Increased bone mass
  • Firmer, stronger muscles
  • Better posture
  • Faster fat burning
  • Improved confidence
  • The ability to target specific muscle groups with laser-like precision

So ladies, there is no need to fear the weights – you won’t end up with large, masculine-looking muscles. You can, however, use weights to sculpt your best body ever.

3. To get a six-pack, you need to do lots and lots of crunches

Developing a lean and mean six-pack is the goal of many exercisers. You can see them in the gym; they’re the people doing lots of crunches, sit-ups, leg raises, and all those other abs exercises – usually for high reps.

The myth that you need to do a lot of abs work to get a six pack stems from the idea that you can “spot reduce” fat from a particular area if you exercise until your muscles burn. This burning is simply lactic acid – the by-product of anaerobic activity. It has very little to do with fat burning.

Here’s a secret; you already have great-looking abs. It’s just that they are hidden under a layer of fat. By all means work your abs just like any other muscle but if you want to see the results of your workouts, you need to eat a little less and exercise your whole body a little more to burn more calories and strip the fat to unveil your abs.

4. If you exercise, you can eat whatever you like

Many exercisers mistakenly believe that, if you exercise, you have a licence to eat whatever you want. And while exercise does burn calories, that doesn’t mean you don’t need a regular supply of nutrients, protein, healthy carbs and fats.

Exercise takes a lot out of your body and you need a healthy diet to put those resources back in. Without good nutrition, your body will not have the materials it needs to fuel anabolism and hypertrophy.

The quantity of food you eat is important but then, so too, is the quality. And don’t go thinking a few supplements can make up for an otherwise unhealthy diet. That simply is not the case.

As an exerciser, your diet needs to be healthy and balanced so your body has all it needs to power you through your workouts and fuel recovery. If anything, the more exercise you do, the healthier your diet needs to be!

5. If you exercise, you need to take sports supplements

Fitness magazines are often packed with adverts and advertorials masquerading as articles that not-so-subtly imply that, to make progress, you have to take a lot of supplements. It doesn’t matter what your goal is, there is a supplement that will allegedly help you get there quicker and more easily.

Subsequently, many exercisers spend their hard-earned money on liquids, pills, powders and potions in the hope that they too will experience the benefits that the advert promises. Sadly, this is not usually the case.

While some supplements can be beneficial (creatine, protein powder, pre-workout energisers, and fish oils for example) most provide very few benefits above and beyond a placebo effect. Also, no supplement will work unless you a) exercise appropriately, b) train appropriately, c) get enough rest between workouts, and d) eat a healthy diet.

If you are eating well, training right, and getting plenty of rest, you will make good progress without the use of supplements. By all means take them if you want to but make sure the rest of your fitness and nutrition ducks are in a row otherwise they won’t do you any good at all.

Myths – they are very common and a lot of people believe them. Don’t blindly follow the herd; learn to weed out the truth from the myths to avoid sabotaging your progress and wasting your hard work and dedication.