LIES, DAMN LIES AND EXCERCISE!
By Raphael Calzadilla
Monday, November 15, 2010.
It’s that time again. Time to dispel some of the prevailing fitness and nutrition myths — oh and believe me, there are many. So pull up a chair, put aside your “lose 50 pounds by eating only grapefruit” article and open your mind for just a little while. You may disagree with these facts, but that’s what keeps the myths alive.
And, away we go…
MYTH: Women will get big if they weight train.
A woman has approximately one-third the testosterone compared to a man, so putting on a ton of muscle is not going to happen. The women you see in the magazines who look big and manly are on steroids, growth hormones, etc. You may look bulky if you’re carrying excessive body fat and building muscle. However, if you’re reducing body fat, you’ll eventually be able to see those lean, defined muscles.
MYTH: You must work out five to six days per week to make progress.
I see a lot of people in the gym five to six days a week, and they’d be better off playing ping pong. Consistency and level of effort is the key. I’d rather see someone work out three days per week with enthusiasm and intensity, than five inconsistent days of lackadaisical effort. In fact, for those clients that have trouble with motivation, I recommend only two days of workouts per week, but they must do it every week.
MYTH: Spot reducing is possible.
The human body loses fat over the entire body at various rates of speed. It’s impossible to spot reduce. If you’re focusing on only losing fat that sits on your hips, it won’t work. Generally, the first place you gain fat is the last place you lose it.
MYTH: Stretching prevents injuries.
After analyzing the results of six studies, researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could not find any correlation between stretching and injury prevention. According to Dr. Julie Gilchrist, one of the researchers involved with the study, “Stretching increases flexibility, but most injuries occur within the normal range of motion.” Dr. Gilchrist goes on to say, Stretching and warming up have just gone together for decades. It’s simply what’s done, and it hasn’t been approached through rigorous science.”
Make no mistake: A stretching program is not without benefits. Seven of nine studies suggest that a regular stretching program does help to strengthen muscles. However, it does not appear to actually prevent injuries. Warming up prior to exercise and increasing blood flow to the muscles is actually more conducive to injury prevention. I’m not suggesting that you eliminate stretching. It is valuable and flexibility is certainly important as we age. However, we may be off base assuming it’s an injury-prevention technique.
MYTH: One should lose weight before they begin an exercise program.
There is no physiological reason to lose weight prior to beginning an exercise program. Exercise is the best thing for your health, and there is no time like the present to start. There are too many benefits of exercise to list here, but you’re doing every system and cell in your body a world of good by exercising. Any amount — starting with five minutes a day — is beneficial.
Fat loss and muscle gain are only two of the many benefits that your body will experience from exercising. Each day will get a little easier as you become more fit. There is no justification for waiting to begin–unless you have orders from your doctor.
Whether you exercise with 20 percent body fat or 30 percent body fat, you’ll still be providing your body with the same benefits. When you carry less weight, you can move a little more easily, and it may be less strenuous on your heart. You can be more fit at 30 percent body fat if you are exercising than if you try to achieve 20 percent body fat without exercising.
The goal is to gain or preserve muscle and lose fat — not just lose weight (which implies both muscle and fat).
MYTH: Lifting weights very slowly is the best way to weight train.
Lifting super slowly produces super long workouts — and that’s it. University of Alabama researchers recently studied two groups of lifters doing a 29-minute workout. One group performed exercises using a 5-second up phase and a 10-second down phase, the other a more traditional approach of one second up and one second down. The faster group burned 71 percent more calories and lifted 250 percent more weight than the super slow lifters.
The real expert says: “The best increases in strength are achieved by doing the up phase as rapidly as possible,” says Gary Hunter, Ph.D., C.S.C.S., the lead study author. “Lower the weight more slowly and under control.” There’s greater potential for growth during the lowering phase, and when you lower with control, there’s less chance of injury.
MYTH: Eating a lot less or going on a crash diet will get the results you seek.
This was a dietary strategy popularized prior to the 1980s. People would go on crash diets like the grapefruit diet and lose weight — meaning muscle and fat. They assumed just eating less would take care of everything.
Today, we know total calories are important, but so are the amounts of protein, carbohydrates and fats in the diet.
A slight caloric deficit (less than maintenance) must be adhered to, as well as eating small meals and snacks every two to three hours. This helps to control blood sugar; and it is a fact that blood-sugar control will help you to lose fat. It may look confusing, but eDiets.com takes all the planning and hassles away by doing it for you.
MYTH: Performing countless abdominal crunches thinking it will get rid of the “pooch” area on the lower tummy/abdominal area.
I get a question related to this issue approximately 20 times per week. It is not possible to spot reduce any area of the body. The real solution is to reduce overall body fat through a slight caloric deficit, add resistance exercise (weight training) to stimulate the metabolism, and cardiovascular exercise to burn additional calories. That’s the way to fat loss.
Performing crunches will never reduce the abdominal area because it only serves to strengthen muscle, not flatten a specific area. Just as 200 bicep curls will not make the arm smaller, nor will 200 abdominal crunches make the waist smaller. You cannot spot reduce any part of the body. It’s just not physiologically possible.
MYTH: Performing a lot of cardio is the best way to lose fat.
Some people go up to 90 minutes or longer on a cardio machine. The problem with this strategy is it’s completely ineffective. It’s a poor method to lose body fat and a real time waster. You can work out for long sessions with moderate intensity or use shorter sessions with higher intensity (based on your fitness level). You can’t do both!
The shorter, more-intense session will burn more overall calories and preserve muscle, which will make you look tight and lean when you get to your scale weight goal. In addition, the shorter, intense sessions will have a more profound effect on the calories you continue to burn 24 hours after completing the session.
Want to lose fat efficiently through cardio? Pick up your pace a bit and try to get a more intense and efficient 30 to 45 minutes. You don’t need to be huffing and puffing for dear life, just increase the intensity a bit and keep it sustained at a higher level within your target heart-rate range.
MYTH: Calories are the only thing that counts when trying to lose fat or gain muscle.
Ratios of proteins, carbohydrates and fats are also important. The key to losing fat and gaining muscle is controlling and manipulating insulin levels. In simple terms, when we consume excessive calories or excessive amounts of high glycemic carbohydrates at one meal, the body’s blood sugar rises. When this happens, the pancreas secretes insulin to lower blood sugar levels.
One of the many drawbacks of this happening excessively is, along with putting you at risk for diabetes, the body also holds onto stored fat!
A balance of proteins, carbohydrates and fats works most efficiently in losing fat and gaining muscle. Don’t forget, the ultimate key to a lean and tight body is the combination of proper nutrition, exercise and consistency.
*As always, check with your doctor before starting any exercise program.
Raphael Calzadilla, B.A., CPT, ACE is eDiets Chief Fitness Pro
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