As a fitness professional I see the same common fitness myths perpetuated year after year. Long after I think these myths have been officially debunked, they rise up again. They just won't die. Let me take a stab (pun intended) of ending them once and for all.
MYTH #1: CARBS MAKE YOU FAT (OR ANY OTHER ONE THING)
TRUTH: Carbohydrates themselves do not cause weight gain. When you over consume any food, it can lead to weight gain. Carbs don't make you fat. Dietary fats don't make you fat. When you consume more calories than your body needs it gets stored as fat. Everyone is a little different, but in general most people can be successful by consuming a wide variety of whole foods from nature, enjoying treats in moderation and keeping an eye on calorie intake versus activity output to avoid fat gain.
MYTH #2: LIFTING WEIGHTS WILL MAKE WOMEN BULK UP LIKE A MAN
TRUTH: Those "bulky" ladies that you see on the fitness stage and in magazines worked very hard to look exactly that way. It didn't happen by accident. They trained specifically for that look over a long period of time. They may have taken steroids. It is difficult to put on muscle. If you start lifting weights your results will not look like theirs unless you train specifically for that goal and you do it for years. Pick up the dumbbell or the barbell. You'll develop lean muscle which will help shape your body. Muscle tissue requires more energy at rest, so the more muscle you have the more calories you burn even when you are not exercising. Muscle takes us less space than fat, so when you lose fat and gain muscle, you will look smaller, not bulkier. Ladies with lean muscle look slimmer, fitter and can beat their friends in arm wrestling competitions. Just kidding about that last one.
MYTH #3: RUNNING IS BAD FOR YOUR KNEES
TRUTH: My favorite myth I love to hate. Too much of anything is usually bad, that is why it is called "too much." Too much running without adequate strength in the hips can lead to knee pain. If you listen to your body, do some runner-specific strength training, get adequate rest/recovery, be patient with mileage and intensity and listen to your favorite coach (that's me) then running is not bad for your knees. Bad training is bad for your knees. You can't blame bad training on running as a whole.
MYTH #4: YOU CAN SPOT REDUCE FAT
TRUTH: I know we would all love to believe that we can do 1000 crunches a day to achieve a flat stomach or buy the thighmaster for lean legs, but it is simply not true. You can not spot reduce fat. You can, however, work to reduce your overall body fat percentage through your nutrition and exercise program. Be sure to include weight training (see myth #2) to develop lean muscle for best whole body results.
MYTH #5 : YOU MUST GO HARD OR GO HOME
TRUTH: People tend to think if they are not killing themselves in the gym, then they won't get results, when sometimes the opposite is true. Yes, we should plan high intensity workouts into our training cycle, but they should be followed by lower intensity workouts to allow our bodies to properly recover. Overtraining can increase our chance of injury, cause burnout, fatigue, irritability and raise cortisol levels (the stress hormone) to unhealthy levels.
Spend time on flexibility and mobility work. Take a walk or go on a hike. Be active outside of the gym. High intensity workouts properly programmed are great, just keep in mind there is much more to a well-rounded fitness routine. You should finish your workouts most of the time feeling energized, not beaten down. It's the all-or-nothing thinking that gets us in trouble.
MYTH #6: YOU NEED SUPPLEMENTS TO GET RESULTS
TRUTH: You can get in great shape and never take a single supplement. One of the key principles of fitness success is to start with the basics. Before thinking about supplements, get your basic nutrition, exercise and healthy lifestyle habits in check. If you are sleeping five hours a night, working out inconsistently and binge eating or drinking on the weekends, there are more important things to tackle first. Supplements may (or may not, honestly) give you an edge after you are already doing everything else right. They won't help you if you are not already consistent with your healthy habits. Save your money. (The exception to this rule is that I think it's ok to use a protein powder supplement for when whole food protein is not available or convenient.)
MYTH #7: IF IT'S ORGANIC IT'S HEALTHY
TRUTH: If you choose to buy organic fruits and vegetables then there is no question that is a healthy choice. However, just because a packaged food boasts the word 'organic' doesn't necessarily mean that it is a healthy option. Case in point: Organic Doritos. Organic processed foods are still junk foods. The ingredients are often improved to remove artificial colors and flavors, but they still may be extremely high in sugar and fats. And they cost more. I am pretty skeptical of any packaged foods labeled as organic. Portion control and moderation is key when consuming organic chips, cookies and pizza, just like when you consume the non-organic versions. Don't assume because it is labeled as organic that it is a health food. If it comes in a package, it is probably not.
Did I miss any?
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I am a NASM personal trainer and RRCA adult distance running coach that specializes in strength training for runners. I offer in-person training in the Shredshed, online training and nutrition coaching. If you are interested in coaching, please contact me. Have questions? I'd love to help.
While I am a certified personal trainer and nutrition coach, I am not your personal trainer and nutrition coach. Since I don't know your exercise abilities, injury background or medical history, please see your doctor before beginning any new exercise or diet program. This is an opinion blog. No information in this blog is intended to be taken as medical advice or prescription. Please see your doctor and/or registered dietitian for any health concerns.