Pick up any given fitness or health magazine and there are a million different tips and tricks on the “sure-fire way to lose weight.” We’ve all heard the rumors — Are they true? Let’s explore some common fitness and health myths:
- Eating at night will make you gain weight.
Wrong. You must look at your caloric intake as a whole. If you are consuming more calories than you are burning, you will gain weight. If you’re in a deficit, you will lose weight. It’s the overall intake throughout your day that counts. In fact, eating at night will actually help you maintain muscle as you sleep. Opt for high protein snacks before you go to sleep such as greek yogurt, cottage cheese or a protein shake to help your muscles continue to grow throughout your 8-9 hour fast (getting enough sleep is crucial for warding off unwanted lower belly fat and helping to repair your muscles!)
- Weight training makes women bulky.
Did you know that muscle is more dense than fat? This means that 5 pounds of muscle takes up much less room in your body than 5 pounds of fat (see photo below. Gross, huh?) Women do not produce enough testosterone to achieve a “bulky” look without the help of added supplements or steroids. Don’t fear the weights, ladies! You burn more calories following a weightlifting session than in that miserable one hour spin class. Having more muscle on your figure creates curves in all the right places. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn throughout the day. Want to optimize fat loss? Try incorporating sprints into your routine. Studies show that a series of six :30 second sprints (sprint :30, walk :30) caused participants to burn more fat all day long than others who spent an hour on the elliptical doing steady-state cardio.
- Protein powder will make you gain weight.
This is a fear for many of us ladies out there. Fear not! Incorporating more protein into your diet is an essential part of muscle growth and fat loss. What makes you gain weight is an excess of calories, no matter where those calories come from. If you’re eating in a caloric surplus you’ll gain weight, whether it’s from a chicken breast or a slice of pizza. A diet rich in protein allows your body to shed those hard to lose pounds by maintaining your muscle, which burns more calories even when you’re just sitting there!
- Calories are calories.
Unfortunately, this is not true. Don’t we all wish we could just sit around and eat pizza all day, as long as we were under our daily calorie limit? First of all, doing this would allow you to eat much less food AND you wouldn’t be as satisfied by the end of the day. It is the quality of your calories that counts. Your body thrives off of vitamins and nutrients. Eating a diet rich in vegetables, lean meats, fruits and quality grains allots for more energy, a higher metabolism and an increase in overall health. It is also true that proteins, carbs and fats all have a certain place in our diet and are not created equal. Eating 1,000 calories worth of bread is different than eating 1,000 calories of chicken breast. Your body uses the calories differently. An excess amount of carbohydrates is generally stored as fat, whereas protein is stored in the muscle. Healthy fats (avocado, nut butters, olive oil) should be used in moderation because they are much more calorie dense than their carbohydrate and protein counterparts (meaning you consume more calories by eating less.) As a general rule of thumb, it’s recommended to consume 40% carbohydrates, 40% protein and 20% healthy fats as part of a healthy diet. This will vary for different fitness goals, but it’s a good start for beginners.
- You must work out 7 days a week to see results.
Aren’t you glad this is a myth? Your type spent outside of the gym is actually more important than the hours you spend in the gym! Recovery is an absolutely essential part to any fitness program. You should allow for 1-2 full rest days per week (one of those can be active rest.) When you exercise, your body creates tears in your muscles which allows them to grow. Spending a day resting allows your body to repair those torn fibers. Alternatively, if you don’t take a day off, your muscles will not have enough time to repair themselves and the muscle fibers will never fully recover. It’s also recommended to not train the same body parts two days in a row. For example, if you work legs on Monday, wait 2-3 days before doing any strenuous leg workouts. Again, sleep is crucial! Make sure you’re getting at least 7-8 hours to allow your muscles to repair themselves fully.
- Starving yourself will help you lose weight.
Wrong, wrong and more wrong. This is a common misconception, especially amongst women. You find yourself in a time crunch and need to lose weight quickly for a wedding, vacation, or some other special event. “I just won’t eat,” or “I’ll starve myself by eating less than 1,000 calories,” you think to yourself. Want me to fill you in on a little secret? This will cause you to gain weight in the long run. You see, when your body isn’t fed the proper nutrients, it goes into survival mode. It holds onto all the fat you have and stores it so that it can tap into the fat stores that you’re not feeding it. Bottom line? You need to eat to lose weight. Find what your daily caloric intake should be by calculating your BMI and eat 200-300 calories less than that. NO MORE! This will ensure a safe, long-term weight loss that minimizes your chances of gaining the weight back the second you start eating normally again.
- Exercise has to be done in a gym.
There are so many different workouts that can be done at home. Gyms are a great place for motivation and complicated machinery, but you can surely achieve similar results with an at-home fitness regimen. Pushups, lunges, squats and a countless number of other exercises don’t require a gym. I often create HIIT (high intensity interval training) circuits into my routine when I can’t make it to the gym. It incorporates 20 seconds of all-out effort followed by a 10 second rest period. My favorite exercises include burpees, mountain climbers and high knees. Going for a run outside or taking a brisk walk are also great cardio exercises that allow you enjoy the great outdoors — something we should all be taking advantage of!
- There’s a secret to helping you lose weight.
If this was true, don’t you think everyone would do it? There’s no magic remedy, no pill you can take, and no goal you can accomplish without the basics: Clean eating, determination and hard work. Your diet constitutes 90% of your results. You can’t out-exercise a bad diet. Many of us have used the justification process — “Oh I worked out this morning, it’s OK if I eat this cheeseburger.” Wrong! You’ll find yourself like a lost puppy chasing its tail, never getting any results. Bottom line: Go to the gym. Get sweaty. Make healthy choices. That is when you will start seeing results.
Get it? Got it? Good. You don’t need to starve yourself to lose weight. You don’t need to spend 6 hours a day in the gym to get the results you want. It’s quite simple actually — work hard, eat right and you will see the results you want. Word of advice: be patient. You won’t have abs tonight, tomorrow or even a few weeks from now. Consistency is key but if you stick with it and make long-term changes, you’ll be glad you did. 😉