You’ve heard the stories: weight training makes women look like Arnold Schwarzenegger, exercising on an empty stomach burns more calories, and more. While some fitness myths make sense on the surface, deeper examination proves these stories are simply made up and have little or no basis in reality. Let’s tackle five of the most common myths and check out the real story behind them.
1. No pain, no gain– Perhaps the most common myth out there is this one that says if you don’t feel pain when you exercise, you are not doing it right. The truth is absolutely opposite: exercise done right should never be painful and professional trainers recommend that you stop your workout at the first sign of pain. The logic behind no pain, no gain says that you can not expect good results without sacrificing something – twisted at best, downright sadistic at worst. Exercise should be something you enjoy or else you very quickly become disillusioned and drop it entirely. While an intense workout may create slight discomfort, it should never get to the point where you are in actual pain.
2. Training with weights bulks women up – Few women want to look like professional bodybuilders, so this myth scares thousands of female exercisers away from weights every day despite scientific evidence to the contrary. The physiological differences between male and female bodies decree that men have a higher percentage of muscle throughout the body; thus men tend to increase bulk with weight lifting. On the other hand, female bodies have a higher percentage of fat to assist with childbearing and have less muscle to build and bulk up. Weight training for women is aimed at producing stronger muscles that can take more stress and bounce back better than ever.
3. Exercising on an empty stomach burns more calories – This one seems like it should make sense since exercise burns calories and an empty stomach has no calories to burn. It seems like you would be ahead of the game. Unfortunately, it does not work that way. Your body needs energy to run, so when you exercise on an empty stomach the body has to find fuel somewhere else. The body tries to provide energy while looking for it at the same time and can get overwhelmed, resulting in the risk of dizziness or even fainting in extreme situations. The smartest choice is to have a small snack about ten to fifteen minutes before working out. Carbohydrates are the best source of energy, so have a small slice of toast or a banana.
4. Crunches are the best way of firming up the stomach – Too many videos and articles send the message that hundreds of crunches are the best way to correct a jelly belly but fail to take into account that most saggy abs are because of excess fat, not weak muscles. Simply doing crunches alone strengthens the abdominal muscles but does not address the layer of fat over the muscles. You may see your stomach appear to grow larger since the muscles are gaining strength underneath the fat layer. The best strategy for getting firm abs is simple: burn fat and strengthen abdominal muscles at the same time. By using a two-pronged approach, fat that covers muscles is burned and the muscles are firmed at the same time, accomplishing your goal and giving you strong, sleek abdominal muscles.
5. Protein will help build muscles – Protein can do great things for your health but it will not help you increase your muscle strength. Too much protein in your diet can lead to unintended health risks such as kidney strain or dehydration. Extra protein also packs extra calories into your diet that can result in extra pounds – definitely not what you want. The best source of fuel for weight lifting is carbohydrates – easily digestible by the body, carbs provide fast, consistent energy for the body and allow you to continue lifting weights longer. That alone is what builds strength, not the specific kind of food you eat. Provide your body with the right kind of energy to use and you’ll be able to build muscle better.
There are many more myths about health and fitness, but the best defense against false information is education. When you are confident that you know the right plan for your body, spotting myths become easy.