There are myths and tall tales for just about every aspect of life, and the fitness world is no exception. The rise of the internet and the social web has helped to fuel a number of these common myths and misconceptions as people tend to believe everything they read. Here to dispel some of the confusion is MAG’S myth busters’ guide to fitness.
Myth: Fruits have sugar and are bad for your diet
Busted! Fruit is an excellent source of fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants but also contains a lot of sugar and is therefore discouraged from certain diets. However, the right kind of fruits can be a healthy part of any balanced diet. You should always try to choose fresh fruits which contain a lot of fluid and fibre, as they tend to fill you up on fewer kilojoules. Choosing fresh, low GI fruits like apples, pears, peaches and oranges, and consuming no more than two fruits at a time shouldn’t have an effect on your blood sugar.
Myth: Crunch your way to a sexy midsection
Busted! While crunches will strengthen your abdominal muscles, focusing solely on them won’t help you achieve that sexy midsection you’ve always dreamt of. You first have to get rid of that layer of belly fat that covers your stomach muscles. The best way to reduce belly fat is to follow an exercise routine that consists of high intensity cardio and strength training that incorporates a number of compound movements, combined with a healthy, calorie-controlled diet. This way you’ll decrease your overall body fat content and, soon enough, you’ll have that flat midsection with sexy six-pack abs.
Myth: Weight training ‘bulks’ you up
Busted! Most women believe that weight training will leave them looking like a bodybuilder. The truth is that if you want to tone up and slim down then you need to train with weights – heavy weights. Olympic bars, barbells, dumbbells and kettlebells offer the type of resistance that causes the greatest ‘metabolic disturbance’ during and after your training session. This is what burns the most calories and sculpts sexy, shapely muscle. The only way that you’ll grow to bodybuilding-type proportions is if you eat enough calories to fuel that fuel of growth. Weight training also prevents degenerative conditions like osteoporosis as you get older, which means it has added health benefits.
Myth: If the scale hasn’t budged, you’re not making progress
Busted! Don’t focus on the number on the scale because a kilogram is a kilogram. Your weight doesn’t distinguish between muscle and fat mass. That means you could replace a kilogram of fat with a kilogram of muscle, which would make a massive difference to your appearance, but not to the number on the scale. Use the tape measure, the mirror and a body composition analysis to track your progress, not just the scale. This approach gives you a more holistic view of the changes you are making to your body.
Myth: If you’re not sweating, you’re not working hard enough
Busted! Contrary to popular belief, sweating is not an indicator of how many calories you’re burning. Sweating is your body’s way of cooling itself down. Some people also sweat more than others. Walking or doing some light weight training burns a significant number of calories yet it doesn’t always make people break out in a complete sweat.
Myth: Cardio burns the most fat
Busted! Nothing could be further from the truth. Resistance training is able to burn as many calories, if not more, than basic steady state cardio. Resistance training has the ability to burn calories both during the activity and up to 48 hours afterwards. This is caused by the metabolic disturbance caused during high-intensity resistance training. High-intensity cardio such as interval and aerobic threshold training can also burn many calories, but this type of training is not achievable for everyone. The muscle that resistance training builds is also more metabolically active, which raises your basal metabolic rate. This means you burn more calories throughout the day, even while at rest. Resistance training therefore boosts your metabolism while also improving your insulin resistance and can ‘shut down’ the fat-storing enzymes in your body.
Myth: The longer the workout the greater the benefits
Busted! Ideally your workout should never exceed 45-60 minutes. The key to an effective workout is not the duration but rather the intensity and efficiency of it. The trick is to work hard and smart at every session. If a workout takes longer than an hour to complete then you’re probably wasting too much time between sets, doing too much talking to your trainer or not exercising properly. Exercising for more than 40 minutes can also boost cortisol production, which can increase abdominal fat accumulation and reduce muscle mass.
Sugar: The sweet stuff is enemy number one when it comes to losing weight. Recent studies have suggested that our excessive consumption of sugar is contributing to the obesity epidemic. On average we’re eating about twice as much sugar as we should be. Try to opt for low sugar alternatives and get in the habit of reading the labels of the foods you buy and if sugar is listed in the first three ingredients then don’t buy it.
Trans-fast: A trans-fat is a form of unsaturated fat which behaves like a saturated fat because of its chemical structure. It should be avoided as trans-fats increase the levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol in your blood, while also lowering the amount of ‘good’ cholesterol in the blood.
Processed meats: A processed meat isn’t just spam, which is what initially springs to mind. The definition includes any meat that has had something done to it to make it last longer (through salting, curing, smoking or using chemical preservatives) which includes lunch meats as well.
Ready meals: They’ve been on the bad list for a while, but ready meals are often laden with a large amount of salt and sugar and are highly processed. Popular choices such as lasagne, moussaka and curry are some of the worst culprits as they can contain large amounts of saturated fat.