Have you ever set a resolution, mustered up the courage to actually see it through, only to hit a never-ending plateau or not see the results you imagined? You may have fallen victim to some infamous fitness myths that are secretly sabotaging your efforts, draining your energy and stealing your motivation. Here are 5 myths about fitness (most of them learned the hard way) that are helpful to know as you begin your fitness journey. Since fitness basically boils down to two main areas, we’ll address the myths in those subjects respectively: food and exercise.
Clean Eating Myths
The #1 fitness myth in our 5 myths about fitness list is “Eating a fat-free diet is essential to losing fat”. This couldn’t be more wrong. Not only does your body need fat to burn fat, good fat also helps your body stay fuller longer- thus avoiding the extra calories you would have eaten while avoiding fat. A healthier option would be to eat good fats such as avocado, nuts, cheese, or healthy oils (olive oil, safflower oil, or pure canola oil to name a few). Eating fats in moderation and along with healthy proportion percentages of carbs and protein is the best way to set your body up for clean eating success. For more on healthy proportions or balanced percentages, you may want to look into macronutrients. Regardless, eating healthy fats helps your body feel and stay full, break down each meal more completely, using it for fuel and energy and even increase your metabolism at the same time.
The #2 and #3 myths can be combined in one paragraph because the myth buster applies to both. The #2 myth is “skipping meals to save calories is a good way to lose weight” and #3 “Eat three large meals a day with strictly no snacking!” Wrong, and well … double wrong. This is why. Your body needs to be fed to continue basic living functions like pumping blood through your body, brain functioning, speaking, getting dressed, etc. Even sleeping burns calories! When your body senses that it is not receiving regular food, it begins to conserve calories (store them for emergency use). What this means for you is that while you may see a short-term dip on the scale after fasting, it is probably mostly water weight. Unfortunately, not only will you not see long-term results, you may even see weight gain! After fasting, your body may still be in conservation mode when you finally eat and because you haven’t eaten, your metabolism will also be running slow and sluggish. Your body will not only burn those calories slowly but may also tend to store them as fat. A healthier alternative? Eat six smaller, well balanced, frequent meals spaced evenly throughout the day. Not only does this continue to give your body the energy it needs, it continually keeps your metabolism running, which is a bonus for you on your weight loss journey. This is also the reason that eating three big meals and no snacking is a myth. Think of your car. City driving vs. highway driving. Keeping your metabolism running throughout the day is easier on your body, just as highway driving is easier on your car. Except with this case, your body is burning more fuel on the highway drive than on the city drive.
Weight and Cardio Exercise Myths
The last two of the 5 myths about fitness involve exercise. Myth #4, “ Weight-lifting is going to make me bigger”. This depends on your definition of bigger. The number on the scale may not be as low as you hoped, but your clothes size drop and you will be lean and toned. Weight loss comes in two parts. Eat less calories than you burn (within reason) and burning more calories than you currently do. The muscle tissue in your body burns fat and calories at a higher rate than regular tissue. Having toned muscles not only keeps your calorie furnace burning, it also gives some definition and tone to your frame.
Finally, myth #5 is “ long cardio sessions are necessary for fat loss”. While cardio is necessary for burning extra calories and numerous other physical benefits, too much cardio can be harmful to your health journey. Instead, try short bursts of high-intensity cardio, like HIIT training, or interval training. This has proven to be more effective in fat burning that long steady state cardio sessions. While we are on the topic of too much cardio, remember that too much exercise in general can also be bad for your health. Your body needs rest for your muscles to recover properly. Not giving your body the rest it needs can lead to plateaus, burnout, or injury.
Eat, Lift, Rest, Repeat
Just as you would not expect your car to run without fuel, you can’t expect your body to perform without food. Increase your metabolism by eating clean, proper amounts of carbs, protein, and healthy fats. Eat six smaller meals rather than skipping meals or eating three large ones. Build your muscle base and try short bursts of high-intensity cardio rather than long steady state sessions. Above all, give your body the rest it needs to recover. Wake up, repeat, and you’ll see results in no time.