If you’ve spent any time learning about fitness and nutrition, there’s a good chance you’ve run into plenty of false information about exercise and eating to get fit. Unfortunately, figuring out what’s fact and what’s fiction can be tough, especially when certain falsities sound logical enough to be true.
In this blog, we’re sharing six of the biggest myths about fitness, muscle building, and fat loss and why they’re downright false.
1. Fasted Cardio Is Superior
Ever heard you should do your cardio first thing in the morning on an empty stomach to maximize fat loss? Don’t believe it. The idea here is that because your body is in a fasted state, it’ll immediately turn to your fat stores to fuel your cardio session. And although the thought process sounds pretty logical, researchers have disproved the theory many times.
Fact: According to science, it doesn’t really matter when you do your cardio. Aerobic exercise coupled with a hypo-caloric diet (eating fewer calories than you need to maintain your weight) will yield changes in your body composition regardless.
Since your body needs nutrients to perform optimally, it’s actually not a bad idea to have a small meal before you train. But leave enough time for your food to digest before you hit the gym. When nutrients are available in your bloodstream, you can actually train with more intensity, which can help maximize your results.
If you’re not sure what to eat before a workout, getting nutrition coaching from an experienced personal trainer is an excellent way to help maximize your results.
2. You Can Lose Fat in Just One Place
Ever heard you can shrink one area of your body by doing enough of the “right” exercise? Don’t fall victim to this bad advice. Spot reduction (losing fat from just a single area) is a total myth and it’s been debunked by dozens of studies.
Fact: Losing fat is kind of like draining a swimming pool. When you drain a pool, you can’t drain water from just one corner of it; the water level continues to decrease the longer you let it drain. The same idea applies to your body. The longer you create a calorie deficit through exercise and healthy eating, the more fat you’ll lose from all over.
Fat storage and fat loss are largely controlled by your genetics (hormonal imbalances play a role for some people too). So no matter how hard you try to crunch away the stubborn fat on your stomach, it’ll stay there until your body is ready to get rid of it.
If you’re having a tough time losing fat, a good personal trainer can help you with individualized nutrition coaching and a training plan that's designed to help you get the results you’re looking for.
3. Fat Can Turn Into Muscle or Vice Versa
Ever heard your muscle will turn to fat if you take a break from working out? Or maybe you’ve heard that your fat turns into muscle when you start working out? While both of these theories might sound fairly logical, they’re totally false.
Fact: It is physiologically impossible for muscle tissue to transform into fat and it’s also impossible for fat tissue to transform into muscle. You can grow new muscle cells and you can also grow new fat cells. You can lose muscle cells with extended periods of inactivity (muscle atrophy), and they can also shrink with shorter periods of inactivity.
Fat cells, on the other hand, are something you can never totally lose without medical intervention. When you lose fat, you’re essentially draining the fat out of each fat cell, but the cell itself remains. If you regain fat, those cells will fill back up, and you’ll simply have more fat tissue on top of your muscle.
4. Muscle Weighs More Than Fat
Plenty of folks gain weight when they start lifting and assume that gain is happening because someone once told them that muscle weighs more than fat. But that is entirely false. A pound is a pound is a pound. A pound of muscle weighs a pound, just like a pound of fat weighs a pound.
Fact: Here’s what this myth is really getting at: A pound of muscle takes up less space inside the human body than a pound of fat. Let’s illustrate this by comparing a pound of lead to a pound of feathers. Which one takes up more space? The feathers, of course. But which one weighs more? Neither. They both weigh a pound.
Muscle tissue is more compact than fat, which is why your body measurements will get smaller when you gain muscle and lose fat. And, as you gain muscle and lose fat, you’ll look smaller even at a similar weight.
It’s common for folks to get discouraged when the scale isn’t moving downward much, but what they don’t realize is that they’re losing fat tissue and adding muscle tissue. Ultimately, that change in body composition is causing a dramatic change in their appearance, even if it’s not causing a significant change in the number on the scale.
5. You Can Out Exercise a Poor Diet
Ever hear someone say they need to do X amount of cardio today because they want to burn off extra calories from all the pizza they ate last night? While in theory, this might seem like a logical idea, it’s really not. You can’t out-exercise less-than-optimal eating habits.
Fact: Although exercise does prompt your body to burn calories, your body becomes more efficient over time at the exercises you perform to burn those calories. For example, a person who weighs about 150 pounds and who is brand-new to exercise will likely burn about 100 calories for every mile they jog.
Over time, however, that person’s body will become more efficient at jogging, so an activity that once burned 100 calories per mile might eventually end up burning 80 or 90 calories per mile. The more your body adapts to an exercise, the more it will compensate for calorie expenditure when you do it.
But that’s not the only reason you can’t really out-exercise a poor diet. Generally, when you eat more calories than you burn in a day, it takes A LOT of exercise to burn those additional calories off. If you routinely eat 500 calories more than your body typically burns, you’d have to exercise for hours just to burn through the excess. Ultimately, you’ll end up spinning your wheels wondering why you’re making little to no progress toward your fitness or weight loss goals.
If you’re trying to lose weight, the best way to do that is to make sure you’re consistently eating in a deficit and feeding yourself nutrient-dense foods.
6. The More Time You Spend Training, the Better Results You’ll Get
Ever heard people brag about the fact that they spend two to three hours in the gym each day? And have you ever felt like you weren’t doing enough because you don’t have time for that?
If so, here’s some news you’ll enjoy: You do not have to spend hours in the gym daily to get great results. And quite honestly, spending hours upon hours in the gym each week can actually hinder your progress.
Fact: Although training is essential for building muscle and burning fat, recovery is just as important. When you spend too much time in the gym, you overstimulate your central nervous system and spike your cortisol levels, which negatively affects your ability to sleep and your body’s ability to repair your muscle tissue and burn fat.
How long should you spend in the gym? Lots of experts say an hour or less per session is a good target. But each person is different, so your personal trainer can give you a recommendation based on your needs and fitness level.
And if you can’t make it to the gym, you can still get a great workout in your living room. Check out Best At-Home Exercise to Build Muscle for some ideas!
Avoiding the Fitness Myths That Can Slow Down Your Progress
Whether you want to lose fat, build muscle, or do both, working with a knowledgeable personal trainer is your best bet. Having an individually tailored training and nutrition plan will help ensure you’re exercising efficiently, and eating the right nutrients to build muscle and maximize your workouts.
Your trainer can also help you determine your daily caloric needs to ensure you maintain enough of a calorie deficit to lose fat at a steady rate. Perhaps more importantly, a good personal trainer can help you stay accountable throughout your fitness journey.
Fitness is a lifelong marathon, not a sprint, and when you achieve the results you’re after, you’ll have to work to maintain them. Having a pro to hold you accountable even when the going gets tough can help ensure you don’t lose sight of your goals.
Get Individualized Personal Training & Nutrition Coaching at Envision Fitness
At Envision Fitness, we know there’s no shortcut to achieving the fitness results you’re after. We also know that with the guidance of a knowledgeable personal trainer and a strong support system of like-minded individuals, you can achieve any fitness goal you set. At our Hopkins, MN gym, we’re committed to empowering our members to be the best versions of themselves and if you’d like to join us, we’d love to have you!
To get started or learn more about us, give us a call today at 952-444-2791 or book a free fitness consultation online. If you can envision your potential, we’re here to help you reach it!