Most fitness myths are harmless, but some can keep you from getting the best out of exercise or at least slow your progress.
I once worked with a girl called Amanda whose well-meaning friend told her she could reduce the size of her thighs by wrapping them in cling wrap.
Another friend said she’d heard that applying rubbing alcohol and Vicks Vapo-Rub before the cling wrap would bring even better results. So Amanda tried it. It was messy; it stained her clothing, and it made her legs burn and itch.
Amanda measured her thighs after removing the wrap, and each was about an inch slimmer. As you can imagine, she was thrilled.
That was until she measured them again a couple of hours later to find they were the same size they’d been before applying the wrap. She hadn’t lost fat or inches, only water. As soon as she rehydrated, the “weight” was back.
This article on 20 of the most common fitness myths busted will help you separate fact from fiction.
Diet and fitness go hand in hand, so along with looking at some of the most common fitness myths, we will also discuss some of the biggest nutrition myths that could be stopping you from reaching your goal.
20 Common Fitness Myths Busted
20) If I work out, I can eat anything I want to and not gain weight
There’s no secret to losing weight. If you take in more calories than you burn, you will gain weight. Take in fewer calories than you expend, and you will lose weight.
People who regularly exercise will increase their metabolic rate, both during exercise and for a while after. Unfortunately, the number of calories burned after exercising is minute, so you won’t be able to get away with eating an apple pie rather than an apple after your workout.
19) The less you eat, the more weight you will lose
While this sounds feasible, the reality is that drastic weight loss regimens don’t work. The human body has evolved to conserve as much energy as possible. When we dramatically cut calories, our metabolism slows to ensure vital body functions and processes continue.
During this process, muscle is replaced by fat. Muscle burns more energy than fat. With a higher level of fat and less muscle tissue, your metabolism will slow, and you will gain weight more easily.
18) Crunches burn belly fat
This fitness myth has been around for so long that not many people question it. Crunches will help to tone your abs, but they don’t burn belly fat.
To reveal the muscles created through exercise, you will need to lose any excess fat that is concealing the muscles.
The best way of doing this is through food portion control to create a calorie deficit and regular cardiovascular exercise. Combine this with the right ab exercises, and flat, defined abs will be yours.
17) The right diet and exercise will spot reduce your problem areas
Diet and exercise can reduce our overall body fat, but we can’t isolate fat loss to a particular body part of our choosing. The only way to do this is through surgical procedures such as liposuction.
Though it doesn’t always appear to be the case, when we lose weight, we lose it all over.
Women tend first to gain weight in the hips, buttocks, and thighs, while men tend to gain in the abdominal area.
Areas carrying the most weight will take longer to look slim than those with less stored fat. Stick with your diet and exercise program, and you will reduce fat in your problem areas.
16) If you eat low-fat foods, you will lose weight
Food that is low in fat is not necessarily low in calories. It can, in fact, contain even more calories than the full-fat version of the food. This is because food manufacturers often include sugar and other additives to improve the flavor, which can sometimes be lacking in low-fat, fat-free, and reduced-fat foods.
We also tend to overeat when eating low-fat foods, thinking we can do so without worrying about weight gain because we perceive the food as healthy.
In many instances, it’s better to eat a smaller but tastier and therefore more satisfying serving of the full-fat version of the food.
Using salad dressing as an example, along with tasting better, the regular version of this can also be healthier due to the fat helping your body absorb the nutrients from salad vegetables.
15) Going gluten-free will help you lose weight
This is one of the biggest nutrition myths.
Adopting a gluten-free diet will not automatically enable you to lose weight, though some people do lose weight on this type of diet. This is because many foods containing gluten also contain refined carbs, and often sugar and unhealthy fats.
Examples include white bread and pasta, processed cereals, cookies, cakes, and other baked goods. If you limit or eliminate these from your diet, you will lose weight. However, if you simply replace regular packaged and highly processed foods with gluten-free versions, it’s unlikely that you will drop any pounds.
For more information on gluten-free weight loss, read Do Gluten-Free Weight Loss Plans Work?
14) If you exercise in a hot room, you will sweat out fat
You can’t sweat out fat. Sweat consists of water, plus trace amounts of minerals, lactic acid, and urea. It does not contain fat. Perspiration generated through exercise is our body’s way of cooling itself down to its normal temperature.
You will not lose more weight exercising in a hot room. In fact, you will be better off exercising in a room with a comfortable temperature as you will be able to put in more effort.
13) The longer the workout, the more effective it will be
This is another of those fitness myths that’s been around so long that people believe it without question.
We used to think that to benefit from exercise; we had to undertake it for 20 to 60 minutes straight, 3 to 7 days a week.
Scientific studies carried out in recent years have proved that doing short bursts of very intense activity, such as Tabata or HIIT, brings better results.
Doing even one or two 15-minute Tabata or HIIT workouts a week is now thought to be more beneficial than doing three traditional fat-burning workouts a week.
12) The scale is an accurate indicator of fitness
The scale is not necessarily a reliable indicator of fitness. Some people are very light in weight, but they are not fit. Others weigh more than the recommended weight for their height, yet they are very fit.
Part of the reason for this is due to muscle weighing more than fat. So, if you regularly train with weights, you may weigh slightly more, and the scale may not represent your actual fitness level.
Another thing to take into consideration is your measurements.
Muscle takes up less space than fat, so you may lose inches but not many pounds if you work out regularly.
The scale cannot provide a truly accurate assessment of body fat either, with a body fat caliper giving a far more reliable reading.
Something else to look at is your Body Mass Index (BMI). This takes parameters other than weight into account to tell you where you fall on the obesity scale.
11) People who don’t eat a lot of fruit aren’t healthy
Fruit is healthy, but it contains a lot of sugar.
While the sugar in fruit, known as fructose, is not as harmful as refined, processed sugar, too much of it can be detrimental.
Fructose is stored in the liver. With too high a dose, its effect on the liver is similar to that of alcohol. And just like alcohol, fructose is metabolized directly into fat.
Some fruits, including lemons, and limes, contain very little fructose. Others, like grapefruit, kiwi fruit, and berries, are relatively low in fructose and very nutritious.
However, fruit juices, dried fruits, and certain fruits, including plums, pears, and red apples, contain a high level of fructose. Consume these in moderation if you are trying to lose weight.
Vegetables are a better choice overall. They generally contain more nutrients than fruit, fewer calories, and less sugar. Fill up on them at every meal and eat them as a between-meals snack.
10) To lose weight, you must eliminate fat from your diet
Not true! Healthy fats are crucial to good health. They play a vital role in internal body functions, and they help to prevent chronic disease.
For example, the right fats control bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol, preventing heart disease. Fat is also necessary for maintaining healthy hormone levels and making use of some vitamins.
Fat is required for muscle growth, and it helps regulate our appetite. A diet made up of carbs, protein, and no fats can make your fat loss or muscle-building goals virtually impossible to reach.
The key is to consume healthy fats such as olive oil, fish and fish oils, avocados, flaxseeds, and raw nuts without overdoing it.
9) It’s not good to eat after 6 pm
It’s not good to eat a very heavy meal at night, or at any time for that matter. However, our bodies don’t suddenly stop burning calories come 6 pm. Not eating after this hour is one way of restricting how many calories you consume in a 24-hour period. This won’t necessarily result in weight loss, though, particularly if you fill up on food before 6 pm to sustain you until morning.
Consume fewer calories than you burn, and you will lose weight, regardless of the time you take your meals.
8) Weight lifting makes women bulk up
This is one of the most common fitness myths of all. If you’ve seen photos of female bodybuilders, you may have assumed that lifting weights will cause you to bulk up. The reality is that bodybuilders achieve their physique through daily training with heavy weights and following a stringent diet.
An individual’s ability to build muscle is also primarily determined by genetic factors. It’s said that fewer than 1% of women and 10% of men can develop massive bulk, so some bodybuilders resort to taking steroids and growth hormones.
Regular weight lifting sessions will improve your strength, define your muscles, and help you to lose weight by burning calories.
7) Lifting light weights is a waste of time
It was once believed that we had to lift heavy weights to build muscle.
A study conducted by McMaster University found that light weights are as effective for building muscle as heavy weights.
The key is to work to the point of fatigue, which will involve doing more reps while maintaining the correct form.
To continue to see benefits, gradually increase the load you are lifting or add another form of demanding exercise to your routine, such as plyometrics.
6) If you lift weights then stop, your muscles will turn to fat
It’s impossible for muscle to turn to fat. Muscle and fat are different types of tissue.
However, when weightlifting, we can eat more without gaining weight. This is because we burn calories during and after working out. People with a high percentage of lean muscle also have a faster metabolism.
So if you stop training, you will burn fewer calories, and with less muscle, your metabolism will slow. In this situation, you will need to reduce your food intake to prevent the calories you are consuming from being stored as fat.
5) You can’t lose weight without doing cardio
To lose weight, all you need to do is expend more calories than you consume. How you do this is entirely up to you.
Regular cardio activity promotes weight loss, but it is by no means a necessity. It will, however, enable you to eat more when dieting or make it easier to maintain your weight loss.
Regular cardiovascular workouts will also improve your heart health, build stamina and increase your energy levels. Older people in particular benefit from aerobic activity because as we age, our metabolism slows, and exercise helps to boost it.
Exercise also tones muscles, with muscle loss often a result of weight loss.
If you don’t have time to spend an hour on a treadmill, try HIIT, which will give you a great workout in 10 to 15 minutes.
4) When trying to lose weight, cardio must be done early in the morning on an empty stomach
According to reliable research, exercising on an empty stomach can burn more calories than working out after meals. However, it is certainly not essential for fat loss. If you want to do your cardio workout first thing in the morning before breakfast, do so. If you prefer to do it later in the morning or in the afternoon or evening, that’s fine too.
Some people find that when exercising after not having eaten since the previous day, they don’t have the energy to work at high intensity. Experiment and see what suits you best.
If you decide to exercise first thing in the morning, make sure not to skimp on water. It can also be a good idea to drink a glass of fresh juice before starting your workout.
Once again, the most crucial ingredient for fat loss is using more calories than you consume. Do this consistently, and you will lose weight.
3) High protein diets are essential for fat loss
The best fat loss diet is the one you can sustain. Eat less and increase your physical activity, and you will lose weight.
2) No pain, no gain
This is one of those fitness myths that is partly based on reality.
It’s not unusual to feel slightly sore when you start working out or when undertaking a new form of exercise. Exercising to the point of feeling pain, however, will do you more harm than good.
Pain indicates that something is wrong. If you hurt when exercising, ease off. If the pain persists, stop.
The pain could be due to you using a bad technique or the beginning of an injury.
Incorrect form occurs when you use the wrong muscles to perform a move. If you work out this way, you won’t get the most from exercise. You will also increase the likelihood of sustaining an injury due to excess strain being placed on your muscles or joints.
It’s unwise to exercise while injured. Doing so could make the injury worse and further delay your progression.
1) Carbs make you fat
Carbs get an undeserved bad rap. The reality is that they are a valuable component of a healthy diet. It’s calories that make us fat.
If you eat a lot of “bad” carbs and in doing so take in more calories than you need, you will gain weight. The key is to eat “good” carbs and restrict your intake of simple carbs.
Complex carbs, including whole grains and vegetables, are nutritious, filling, and contain fiber. These are regarded as being healthy or good carbs.
Simple carbs, such as sugars and highly processed starchy foods, contain empty calories and almost no nutrients. These so-called bad carbs should be kept to a minimum.
Carbs also fuel workouts, and they are essential to building muscle. If you eliminate them from your diet, you might burn fat faster, but you will not have the energy to work out optimally.
20 Common Fitness Myths Busted Summary
I hope this article outlining the most prevalent fitness myths has helped to dispel some of the misinformation that is out there about diet and exercise. When it comes to these two topics, everyone has an opinion.
The next time you hear a weight loss tip or workout “fact,” don’t take it at face value. Research the topic. Doing so could prevent you from wasting time and effort on something that has no basis in reality.