It’s time to separate fact from fiction and understand the truth about gym myths
CAIRO: Myths come from various “trustworthy sources. Fitness magazines, gym rats and supplement and equipment companies are all a part of putting personal opinion, and not scientific back up. Discard the common myths to understand what has become gym tradition and what will help you develop a solid training philosophy.
Myth: Avoid any kind of resistance training until you have lost weight.
Fact: Weight training can promote fat loss as muscle mass raises the metabolism, ultimately leaving you burning more calories. Research shows that on average, a pound of muscle burns 50 calories per day, whereas a pound of fat burns only six calories per day.
Myth: Certain exercises are not good, because they don’t give your muscle a nice shape.
Fact: You do not control the shape of your muscles, your genes do. You do have the power, however, to control the shape of your body with scientific training and a solid nutrition programme. This will enable you to decrease or increase muscle size, depending on your goals.
Myth: Women will bulk if they lift weight, especially heavy weights. They should lift light and do many repetitions.
Fact: Testosterone is the foundation for muscle building. Women possess only a tiny amount of that hormone. To “tone means leaving the muscle in partial contraction. To achieve this you have to lift heavy enough so the last four or five reps are challenging. Perform 12 – 15 reps to get you a lean, firm look, without adding a great deal of mass.
Myth: The longer and harder you train, the better the results.
Fact: Sorry to disappoint, but practically never. Smart thinking and intelligent training is what will get you the results you need.
Myth: If you stop training with weights, all the muscle turns to fat.
Fact: Apples and oranges – one cannot turn into another. Muscle and fat are worlds apart; they are gained in two different ways and they are lost in two different ways. If you stop weight training, your muscle will decrease in size and it is possible your metabolism will slow down. You need to alter your caloric intake to account for that fact or you will most certainly gain body fat.
*Myth: I just need to do cardio to lose weight and get the figure I want.
Fact: If you only do cardio, aerobic exercise, you run the risk of losing muscle, the very thing that helps keep your metabolism boosted. You need to combine resistance training, to build or maintain muscle, which will give you a great shape, alongside cardio to burn body fat.
Myth: Biking will give me big legs and/or a big butt.
Fact: You only have to look at cyclists to know that this is untrue. Using a bike as a form of cardio, you are targeting your endurance muscle fibres. This will produce long, lean limbs with no impact to your knees. Those who are looking to burn calories should note that it is possible, in a 45-minute spinning class, to burn as many as 750 calories, but you have to work for it!
Myth: Eating before exercise will stop me losing weight.
Fact: If you are going to lift weights then you need to fuel your body one hour and a half to three hours beforehand with a meal of carbohydrates, some protein and a little fat. This is because the muscle needs stored glycogen (the stuff that carbohydrates are converted into after you have eaten) to contract. If you are going to do aerobic exercise, like take a class, walk the track or hit the treadmill, then you can promote fat loss by exercising on an empty stomach. Due to the low level of carbohydrates stored, the body is encouraged to use fat as a source of energy. However, do not try to run a marathon on an empty stomach, because the body cannot rely on fat alone for prolonged periods of time.
Myth: Don’t drink water when you exercise; it weighs you down.
Fact: Once you are thirsty it means you are dehydrated. Unfortunately, the brain does not compute quickly enough and register that the body needs water, therefore initiating a thirst response. A decrease in only two percent of body weight in perspiration can bring on feelings of discomfort, tiredness and laziness; this will severely affect your performance and stop you working as hard. Plus, it is potentially dangerous and possibly life threatening. Therefore, you must force yourself if necessary to drink before, during and after any exercise. A good guideline is to start drinking one hour before you begin exercising; one glass of water every 15 minutes. When you train, keep a bottle of water with you and drink from it regularly. Once you have finished keep drinking regularly.
Myth: Caffeine gives me the boost I need to exercise well.
Fact: Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, so if it is taken about 1 hour before training it could delay tiredness and help to extend performance. However, care should be taken for those who do not react well to caffeine, as it can produce anxiety, irritability and diarrhea, therefore distracting you from your workout. Also, caffeine is a diuretic, meaning it increases water loss, so you need to increase your water intake if you are going to use caffeine as a stimulant.
Myth: Personal trainers are not really necessary; I can do it alone.
Fact: Absolutely, yes you can, once you have all the information you need. Whatever your goal – weight loss, muscle gain or an increase in your fitness level, there are certain criteria that you need to fulfil. Going it alone will endure a great deal of trial and error in the beginning, which can be very de-motivating. Working with a personal trainer can give you results at a pace that you can endure and that will last a lifetime.
It can be confusing. Knowing how to train, what you should eat and when appears to be a time consuming business. In a world where time is a commodity, it is understandable why many do not give it the importance it requires. However, by spending a few minutes a day assessing your training and nutrition programmes, and ensuring your needs are well balanced, you can achieve the success you deserve and the results you desire.
Gina Grant is an AFAA certified personal trainer, group fitness instructor, an APEX and ISSA certified Sports Performance Nutritionist and a J.G. Spinning instructor. She has written for various international publications on a variety of topics relating to health and fitness.