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5 Common Fitness Myths Debunked

By / 04.22.14

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In today’s society, fitness and nutrition myths are a dime a dozen. Seems like every week some new study or method pops up, claiming that eating protein is worse than smoking, or eating breakfast kills, or cardio makes you fat. Enough is enough.

Just about everyone involved with fitness and health is very passionate about whatever personal beliefs and opinions they may have. Just try telling any big guy at the gym with his gallon of water and tilapia and rice that his bro-science eating methods are outdated, and you’ll be lucky to make it out alive.

For those of you who have an open mind, I’m going to talk about some very common fitness myths I hear about every day. Practices and techniques that, while not necessarily horrible dangerous, simply aren’t true. If you do any of these, feel free to continue if that’s what your into, just know it’s not necessary.

Myth 1: Eating frequently speeds up your metabolism and helps you lose weight.

False. There’s nothing wrong with eating 6 small meals a day if you enjoy that sort of thing, but it does not lead to burning more calories. There is plenty of research out there that has compared frequent meal intake throughout the day with several big meals, and guess what  – the results were exactly the same, provided the total caloric intake was the same.

The main factor in weight loss is your total caloric intake for the whole day. You need to be in a caloric deficit to lose weight, and if eating small meals all day helps you stay on track, go for it. However, you could also just eat two giant meals, and as long as your calories and macronutrients are the same, you’ll get the same results in the long run.

If you have a high caloric intake, you’ll probably feel better about spreading it out over the day, since a huge meal can upset your stomach. For muscle gaining, it’s probably better to spread your protein through the day, but for fat loss, it really doesn’t matter. Do what you want, just don’t want any of you bros who hate eating baby meals every two hours thinking they have to do so.

Myth 2: You need to do cardio to lose fat.

Again, not necessarily true. To lose fat, you need to stay in a caloric deficit, which means taking in fewer calories than you burn in a day. Cardio is a great tool to help you burn some calories, and it’s very good for your body in terms of overall health, but it isn’t necessary. If you want to hit the trail to help burn off those weekend beers, then knock yourself out. But if you hate cardio, like I do, then feel free to skip it and just stick to your diet.

Myth 3: High repetition training “sculpts” or “shapes” your muscles.

No, no, no. I fell for this one for a long time, but sadly, this is not true. Using high repetition sets when lifting weights (12-20 repetitions) is a great way to pump some blood in there, improve your muscular endurance, and can stimulate muscle growth.

However, you cannot change where your muscle attaches to your body, and doing sets of 15-20 reps won’t “sculpt” or “define” anything. Want to see definition and lines in your muscles? Take care of all the fat covering them up, and maybe then you’ll see some muscles.

High rep sets have their place, but if that’s the only kind of training you use, and you’re currently in a caloric deficit, you’re probably going to lose a whole bunch of muscle mass. Add some heavy lifts in your program all the way through your diet if you want to keep your gains and have something to show once all that damn fat is gone.

Myth 4: Crunches and sit-ups are the best exercises to get a six-pack.

Most of you probably know this one isn’t true, but just in case, here it is. You can’t spot reduce fat, so doing loads of crunches will definitely make your abs stronger, and you’ll probably feel an epic burn in your stomach, but it’s not reducing fat.

Look, everyone has abs. If you want to see them, you need to remove the fat covering them up, through proper diet first and foremost, and intense exercise. You can do crunches all day, but if you have fat covering them up, you’ll never see them.

Abdominal training is important, but it’s not the most important step in getting a shredded mid-section.

Myth 5: Carbs or fat make you fat. 

You can insert any “evil” food you want – sugar, alcohol, gluten, dairy, Ramen, whatever you’ve heard is bad. The truth is, excess calories make you fat, not any one food.

Sure, those foods might not be full of healthy nutrients, but will they automatically make you fat? No way. Just look at the guy who lost tons of weight eating nothing but Twinkies.

If most of your food comes from whole, unprocessed sources, throwing in some junk food here and there is no problem at all. Too much of anything will make you fat, but there is no one food that directly leads to fat storage. If you enjoy something, go ahead and have it occasionally.

Matt Dustin is a personal trainer and strength coach. You can check out his website at www.theathleticphysique.com, and follow him on Twitter for more cool stuff.

[Image via ShutterStock]


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