Sunday, 22 January 2017

6 Fitness Myths You Really Shouldn't Believe.

Grab yourself a cuppa because you're in for a ride - this is a little lengthy.

Pretty much every girl I know is talking about losing weight or getting into better shape (it's January after all) and I hear so many of the same lines about weight loss and going to the gym. 

Now i'm no fitness guru, I am not qualified, but I have educated myself on the best way to get lean and lose weight over the last year the healthy way. And no, it is not trying out juice detoxes or exercising for hours on end, it's simply exercising more and eating a healthy, balanced diet. Bet you're thinking 'oh here we go again *rolls eyes*, but there are so many people out there who truly believe that these diets are the way forward.

So with all this in mind, my awesome Personal Trainer, Craig Peterson, has explained 6 gym and weight loss myths I hear WAY too often. 

And before you get stuck in - make sure to check out Craig if you're in need of a sports massage or a personal trainer at Virgin gym in Chelmsford, Essex.

Any who, here we go...

1) Lifting weights will make you look like a man.

A phrase you often hear when women first join a gym is 'I just want to tone up but I don't want to build too much muscle or look like a man'. If only it was that easy to become muscle bound. That's no different to going to a boxing class and saying "I want to be a better boxer but I don't want to be as good as Mike Tyson". Hopefully you get the gist.

Toning up isn't really a meaningful expression - you can't 'tone' a muscle, or make it cut, ripped, sculpted etc. The only way you can change the shape of your body is to build muscle or to lose fat (become leaner) - losing fat will reveal the muscles underneath. When you break it down 'toning up' simply means that people want to be able to gain a little bit of muscle or to lose a bit of fat, but usually a combination of both.

Muscle is mostly a product of genetics and testosterone. 99.9% of people will not have the genetics to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger so no matter how hard and smart they train they will never look like him. He was gifted with near perfect genetics to build huge muscle with symmetry. You will rarely see someone looking like Arnie down your local gym and if you do the chances are they are not natural and they will stand out a mile.

When you see those musclebound men and women on the cover of magazines the chances are they are not natural and they likely take steroids/growth hormone/testosterone etc which massively enhances their physiques beyond their natural limits.

Women typically have 15 times less testosterone than men. This means that the average muscle building potential of women is much much lower than that for men, and even the average male will never become musclebound despite an intensive lifting programme. On top of this, unless you are willing to eat the equivalent of a horse everyday (eating a huge calorie surplus) then the amount of muscle you can build is very limited.

2) The weights section is just for men. 

This myth has been around for a long time but I think the corner is gradually being turned. It's true that when you go into the weights section you will likely see men in the majority, but the reality is that most of these are so busy pea-cocking or looking in the mirror that they will never even notice you are the there. The others - that are there to work hard - will be too engrossed in their own training to bat an eyelid.

Working in a gym I spend most days in the weights section and I can see that the balance is changing. Women of all shapes and sizes are using the weights section and in some instances I see women lifting more weight than some of the  guys, or guys asking for lifting advice from the women. If your goal is to lose fat, 'tone up', get stronger, or to change the shape of your body then lifting weights is the most effective means of achieving this. The list of benefits is huge and I have personally trained with people who had seen very little results from attending classes and going on fad diets, but then seen massive body changes by simply becoming stronger by lifting weights. These women didn't start looking like men, but they did fix imbalances, become leaner, fitted into their clothes better and had a new sense of confidence in what they could do with their bodies. Apart from all this, by building muscle it meant that their body burned more calories at rest simply because muscle is a hungry beast.

Think about the women whose bodies you admire - the chances are their bodies have been built in the weights room not on the treadmill. If you just do cardio you will become a smaller version of yourself (up to a point) but if you do weights you'll be able to get a firmer butt, stronger and leaner arms and that attractive shapely back.

3. Eating like a rabbit and cutting out all your favourite foods will make you lose weight

This is true, but hear me out. If you eat lettuce leaves and carrots all day long,  you are sure to lose weight... for a while. Then you will be so bored of this that you will revert back to your previous eating habits and put back on all your weight.

The truth is, all diets work, but only up to a point. If you currently eat potatoes everyday but then you decide to replace potatoes with spinach and only eat potatoes on a Wednesday afternoon then you will lose weight. You might think that this is because spinach is magic and potatoes are evil carbs but the truth is you are just eating fewer calories than before.

All diets work because they ensure you eat less calories than you did before. The simple rule of weight loss or gain is a) eat less calories than you do currently (what you eat currently is called your maintenance) and you will lose weight, this is called a calorie deficit, or b) eat more calories than your maintenance and you will put on weight, this is called a calorie surplus.

Diets are typically viewed as short term and that's why they often fail. People usually cut out things that they actually love (like carbs, chocolate or alcohol) and after a while, they rebel, but because their body has been getting so few calories it has caused their metabolism to drop. This means that when they do revert back to their old eating habits and start eating carbs/chocolate/alcohol again the extra calories instantly become weight gain because their metabolism was so slow.

The key to success is to follow the 80/20 rule. Eat 80% of the good unprocessed stuff like sweet potato, lean meats, wholemeal carbs, oats, vegetables, fruit, eggs, brown rice etc and still allow yourself for 20% of the treats. Don't go overboard with this, remember these are still treats. For example if your goal is to consume 2000 calories per day then 300 - 400 of these calories can be from the naughty foods. But remember, this is included in the 2000 and not on top of it.

If you want to become leaner and your maintenance is currently 2000 calories (you would work this out by keeping a food diary) then the process is simple. Don't worry about cutting out food groups, simply cut your calories by 15% and stick to the 80/20 rule. This means your new goal would be to eat 1700 calories 80% of the healthy stuff and up to 20% of the cheekiness. Make sure you get protein and veg in every meal (ok, maybe not veg for breakfast), but if you look at this is a lifestyle change and not just a quick fix then you will see positive results.

4. You need to work out for hours on end to burn that fat

Can I give you the perfect fat burning formula?

- Eat at a 15% calorie deficit.
- Engage in full body weight training 2 to 3 times per week.
- Add a little bit of conditioning/cardio if you enjoy it or to maintain/improve your fitness.

I wrote it in this order because that is the order of importance (in my opinion). The easiest way to lose fat is through what you eat (see above). You can become extremely lean by making good food choices and by eating at a moderate calorie deficit.

By adding weight training into the mix you can change your body shape, grow some booty and make your resting metabolism higher. You don't need to train for more than 45 minutes and certainly no more than one hour per session. After extended periods of high stress (training) your body becomes less productive and without adequate fuel it will likely become catabolic which is when your body starts to use it's own muscle for fuel - which is highly counter productive.

Cardio is the icing on the cake and should be used sparingly unless you are training for a particular event or sport. You cannot outrun a bad diet which basically means that if you eat too much of the bad stuff, no amount of running will cancel it out. If you eat a heavy curry (taking you above your daily calories), it could be as much as 1000 calories. For most people that equates to two hours of jogging - surely it's much easier to not eat that curry in the first place rather than sacrifice 3 hours of your life down the gym (i've included shower, travel and changing time)!

I see lots of people spending hours and hours on cardio machines thinking it is the silver bullet to achieving their goals, but it very rarely is. For most people 15 minutes of high intensity conditioning or 30 minutes of steady state cardio two to three times per week will be enough.

5. Eating carbs is totally bad for you - you need to cut them out

The old adage 'everything in moderation' is just as true with nutrition. In the 70's fat was the enemy, then it was saturated fat, then it was carbs and now it is sugar. Things tend to go round full circle but the crux of the matter is that if you eat everything in balance (80/20 rule) then you cant go far wrong. Eat too much sugar and your teeth will fall out and your chances of developing diabetes increase but eat it in moderation and the risks are massively reduced.

Carbs have got an unfair beasting recently. They are not the enemy and they have a fundamental role in providing energy for the body. It's true that the body can run on low or no carbs but that does not mean it is optimal, it just means the body is able to adapt. The body's preferred fuel is glucose and the best source of this comes from carbs. If you are an active person or play sports then your body will function better with a good supply of carbs. This is why you hear about marathon runners carb loading and Michael Phelps eating pasta.

Some people respond well to lower carbs and some people respond well to higher carbs, but everyone is unique. What is important is that people realise carbs are not evil. If you eat too much of anything then you will put on weight whether that be carbs, fats or protein. People often mention that they lost weight in the first week of cutting out carbs - this is simply water weight and not meaningful. One gram of carbs leads to approximately four grams of stored water, so when the carbs are depleted then so is the stored water.

One thing to watch out for with carbs is the Glycemic Index (GI) rating of the food. The higher the value the quicker it will be digested. As a rule low GI foods are preferred (such as wholewheat products) because they take longer to digest which means your blood sugar will be more stable and you will have a longer lasting supply of energy.

6. Drinking water helps you lose weight

Water is not the magic key to weight loss but it is pretty amazing.

The human body is made up of approximately 60% water and the muscles are about 70% water. What does this mean? It means that the body operates optimally with a good level of hydration. If you've ever been dehydrated you will know how much it affects performance - the headache, feeling sick, lacking energy. Conversely, when you are hydrated then your body is primed for action.

Water is also a great way to flush out toxins. Drink water frequently throughout the day to the point that you are regularly going to the toilet - you will soon learn the right amount. If you are thirsty then you are likely already a little dehydrated. If you have too little water in your diet your body is more likely to retain water (as a buffer) in the which can give you that bloated look. However, If you are drinking an adequate supply of water then the body is happy and it will realise it doesn't need to preserve the water in the skin anymore. This is why water can seem like a great tool for weight loss. Finally, drinking plenty of water will ensure you never mistake thirst for hunger. Often when people are thirsty they mistake it for hunger which can lead to overeating, when necking a simple glass of water would have been enough to curb those cravings.

Massive thanks to Craig for supplying the answers to these myths and I hope this helps at least some people realise that a balanced diet, regularly exercising and incorporating weights in the gym will help you to achieve your goals.

And if anyone wants to see more fitness-related content then please let me know as it's something I'm really passionate about!

Ta for now x


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