Four Common Fitness Misconceptions

Every time we hit this point in the year I feel a strong obligation to “keep it real” for you all.

Some of you might be putting off workouts until January, while others might be getting a head start on “next year.” Regardless of where you are on your fitness journey, I thought now would be a good opportunity to clear the air on some common misconceptions.

Not only is it important to be armed with the right exercise program, but it’s equally important to have more awareness about falsehoods. That way you can maintain the drive to keep going throughout the year even when you feel you aren’t making any progress. So as you embark on your quest with high hopes and renewed motivation to conquer all of your goals in 2017, now you will know how to handle any or all of the following fitness myths that may work their way into your consciousness.

▪  Weight training will make me bulky (specifically women): Did you know that only 12 percent of women weight train? This has to do mostly with the misconception that weight training will make them bulky. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Typically we envision men’s physiological response to weight training, but there is a significant difference in how the sexes respond. This is mainly because of our hormone differences. Men respond to weights by increasing in mass due to their high testosterone levels. In fact, men’s testosterone levels are 15 to 20 times higher than women’s on average.

So how does weight training actually help change women’s bodies? Growth hormone secretion is nearly three to four times greater during weight training for women compared to cardio. Growth hormone plays a primary role in mobilizing fat for energy (i.e. fat loss) and sparing glucose (carbohydrate stores) during exercise. In other words, there is a greater likelihood that fat will be the preferred fuel used during weight training instead of carbohydrates. Also, more fat is utilized to aid postworkout recovery after a weight training session compared to cardio. And last, women generally adapt to weight training by recruiting more muscle fibers as opposed to increasing the size of the muscle fibers like you see in men, giving them a leaner appearance.

▪  Spot reduction works: You cannot use specific exercises targeting the area that you want to get smaller. Banging out thousands of crunches alone will not slim your midsection. Nor will spending hours on the inner/outer thigh machine at the gym to lean out your legs —period. All despite what those amazing infomercial companies claim with their latest version of “ab blasters” or “thigh masters.” This type of localized fat reduction simply isn’t possible. The only thing “amazing” is that enough people still buy into it.

The truth is, there is no direct line from the abdominal muscles to the abdominal fat, or from the leg muscles to the leg fat, etc. Exercise requires energy, which comes in the form of either carbohydrates or fat. During physical activity, your liver sends some energy, in the form of sugar or fat, to the part of the body that needs it most depending on the activity.

In other words, if you are doing squats, that energy is going to be sent to your legs. But that fat could have been sent from your arms, legs or back — anywhere. When fat is mobilized from a particular area, it is first sent to the liver to be routed toward its final destination for usage. This is mostly determined by a genetic predisposition. Your body will have areas it will draw from more often and others not so often (aka your stubborn area). The only full-proof plan is the combination of a consistent well-balanced exercise program with solid nutritional intake. Which brings us to our next misconception. …

▪  I’m working out, so I can eat whatever I want: It is very common for people to think that exercise gives you a hall pass to eat whatever the hell you want. Absolutely not! Garbage in, garbage out; and your exercise performance and results will reflect that. Think of it this way: It takes only five to 10 minutes to consume 1,000 calories on a fast-food run, while it would take two hours of jogging at a 12-minute-mile pace to burn off 1,000 calories. You can quickly undo any progress you are making in the gym with a poor diet, particularly if you are trying to lose fat.

Want to get lean and mean? Then you better start eating clean. Fruits. Veggies. Whole grains. Lean proteins. Healthy fats. And the occasional indulgence is acceptable and healthy as well. I enjoy a good beer or a small dessert after dinner. But 80 percent to 90 percent of what goes in is high-efficient fuel that will drive my performance, give me energy and keep me healthy. So I encourage you to do the same. Pay attention to what you are eating and how you are eating. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, and nutrition is highly individualized. Start with the basics, then tinker and modify until your body responds in the most positive way and you discover the formula that works best for you.

▪  I’m not losing any weight, so my program must not be working: The scale could quite possibly be the single worst indicator for measuring results when it comes to fitness. As most of you know, I tend to advocate measuring results based on improving overall fitness, but I do realize that most of you reading this would like to see a reduction in body fat, which is perfectly acceptable when done correctly. But please note, the scale can be the most deceptive method of measurement — ever.

I have had countless experiences with new clients who see little to no change in weight within the first few months of getting started. However, their clothes are fitting looser and their circumference measurements are going down. How is this possible? There is a simultaneous change in fat loss and muscle gain. If you were to lose 5 pounds of fat while gaining 5 pounds of muscle, the scale is obviously not going to reflect that.

Some other things to remember. First, your body will eventually hit a ceiling in muscle gain. In other words, you aren’t going to continue packing on muscle for every pound of fat loss. Second, having more muscle increases you metabolism. For every pound of muscle, you burn 30 to 40 calories per day. So if you did add 5 pounds of muscle, that’s an extra 150 to 200 calories you are burning daily. And the last thing to remember, muscle is much denser and occupies less space than fat. If you look at the comparison of 5 pounds of muscle to 5 pounds of fat, the difference is pretty remarkable.

In other words, having more muscle is a very good thing and is only going to make a lean, mean, fat-torching machine!