When it comes to exercise and fitness we’ve all heard the phrases, “muscle weighs more than fat”, “abs are made in the kitchen”, and “working out in the morning burns more calories”, but are they true? Should you really believe all those catchy phrases that are supposed to boost you into a super fit body? I’m going to discuss each of these, as well as a few more, and hopefully straighten out some of these fitness myths.
Fitness Myth #1: Muscle weighs more than fat
If you stop to think about this myth for a second, you’ll realize just how silly it is. How can a pound of muscle weigh more than a pound of fat, if they’re both one pound in weight? What this myth is really trying to get across is that muscle is more dense than fat, so it takes up less space in your body.
A great example of this is when a woman gives birth. While pregnant she will gain weight because of the baby, and may quickly lose weight after giving birth. Just because the scale reads the same number it did pre-baby doesn’t mean she has that same pre-baby body back. Her body fat changes, so her body shape changes, leaving her with a different body than before, resulting in her clothes from before probably not fitting yet.
Something that goes along with this myth, or way of thinking, is the idea that when you start a new workout program and you gain weight quickly, that weight is new muscle. The weight is actually your muscles responding to the new workout. If you’ve started doing something new, like running or lifting, you know that the next morning you’re sore. That soreness is your muscles responding to the trauma the new workout brought. Since the muscles are working in new ways, and are exposed to trauma, they require more water. This water is the weight you see on the scale, not new heavy muscle. Let your clothes be the judge, and if you are sore don’t weigh in.
Fitness Myth #2: You burn more calories during a workout, rather than after
The reality is it really depends on the workout; some workouts are more effective at calorie burning during and some are better after. Workouts that burn more after are usually heavy strength training or cross-training. If you’re doing things like HIIT (high intensity interval training) or heavy strength training, fat will continue to burn for upwards of 24 hours after. The best workout for burning fat is actually a little bit of everything, which is why HIIT has a longer burn; it’s working on strength and cardio at the same time. A shorter workout may also burn more fat longer if the intensity is high enough. The best way to achieve the longest burn is to look for a combination workout, something HIIT and low impact if possible.
Fitness Myth #3: When you lift weights, you bulk up
Women mostly think of this myth, because they don’t want to look like a body builder. Lifting weights, especially heavy weights, will transform your body and will help to keep your body fat lower. Muscle is built because of testosterone, which is higher in males than in females. Since ladies have lower levels of muscle building hormones, it’s almost impossible to “bulk up” by lifting heavy. By lifting heavy I mean being able to do 8-15 repetitions before failure, or you can’t do any more. Muscle building with heavy weights is gradual, and has some plateaus, which makes it easy to get bigger or toned but stop when you’re satisfied.
Fitness Myth #4: You can spot reduce fat
Most of you probably already know that you can’t spot reduce or spot correct fat, but we all wish we could. The reality is that the amount of fat cells you had during puberty is the same amount of cells you have now. The number of fat cells doesn’t change, we don’t make more, the ones we have just get larger (or smaller). Also, the first place you put fat on is the last place it will come off, which is why areas like the stomach and love handles are tough, and you can’t spot reduce them.
Fitness Myth #5: Ab exercises give you flat abs
You can’t just do crunches and get a six-pack, which is why the new phrase “abs are made in the kitchen” is being passed around. In order to get a six-pack you need abdominal and core training as well as less body fat. The abdominal muscles need to be strengthened, but also the fat in front of them needs to be reduced in order to actually see the muscles. A regimen of strength training, cardio, core, and proper nutrition will all help in getting that six pack to show up.
You could have a six-pack with nutrition alone, just think of the show Survivor. The contestants don’t eat processed food and are too busy surviving to think about getting a workout in. Because of their super low or starvation diet, many begin to get a six-pack, usually the men before the women. While this isn’t the proper way to get a six-pack, it proves that nutrition, or reducing body fat, plays a huge role in having abs that show.
Fitness Myth #6: Loose skin can be tightened with exercise
Skin is genetic in terms of its tone and elasticity. The longer you’re heavy, the less elastic the skin will be, so it may tighten but not back to its original state. Building muscle may help fill in some of the space below the skin, reducing a droopy appearance, but exercise cannot tighten the skin. Surgery is an option, but there’s no cream, vitamin or supplement that will firm it up. Eating right is the most important component because healthy nutrition leads to healthy skin. Eating things that are high in fatty acids will help your body make new cells which is the closest you can get to making new skin.
Fitness Myth #7: It’s best to exercise in the morning
There’s always talk about when is best to exercise. Some people say the morning, some people say the evening, I say do it whenever works for you. Whatever time of day you can stay consistent with, that’s the time to do it. Morning people may be more successful because it became a lifestyle, and also because the morning may have less interruptions. Morning workouts are ideal if you want to help improve your sleep quality, and reduce body fat because you’re working out in a fasted state. Afternoon people may have more success because their body is already warmer from being awake longer. Remember a shorter workout is better than no workout or one that gets interrupted. Track your progress like, when you workout, for how long, and how you feel. Tracking will help you find your patterns and see what works best for you.