Joel Peterson, Personal Trainer

Diet and Exercise Myths

Joel Peterson – Level 5 Personal Trainer Apple Athletic Club

I’m not sure where and how all of the Diet and Exercise Myths get started but they travel like wildfire and smolder for years, wreaking havoc on those who are seriously trying to get healthy.

Popular misconceptions can damage your fitness plans. Yahoo Shine, CNN and Mercola have collected some of the most pervasive and damaging fitness-related rumors. Here are some of them and a few more:

MYTH – Strength training will bulk you up…

In fact, researchers have found that working out with heavy weights increased exercisers’ sleeping metabolic rate (the number of calories burned overnight) by nearly 8 percent. That’s enough to lose about 5 pounds in a year right there. It’s true that HEAVY weight training will cause muscles to hypertrophy, or enlarge, but even to put on five pounds of lean muscle takes a year or two.

MYTH –Spot reduction exercises reduce fat in one area of the body…

The human body does not allow spot reducing, which would include losing fat exclusively in the abdominal area. If you were to lose weight, it would occur all over your entire body. Unfortunately, body fat is not necessarily reduced evenly. People often have trouble areas where the fat is last to go.

Women especially find this to be their stomach, legs or arms. There is not much that can be done about this aside from continuing to lean out. A reduction in body fat occurs when a person is in a caloric deficit. This occurs with two variables: decreasing the amount of calories you consume, increasing the amount of exercise you participate in, or doing both.

Resistance training is used to help build and maintain muscle tissue, while cardiovascular training is a tool used to help achieve a caloric deficit. Here is a statement that many of you probably do not want to believe: There is no exercise out there that is going to burn fat off of your body in a specific area! No resistance training exercise will help tone or reduce fat on top of any muscle in your body. It is a reduction of calories and an increase in exercise that will take care of that.

There is a very big misconception regarding that “burn” you feel after performing many repetitions during an exercise. Some people actually believe that is the fat melting off the body right before our very eyes! That burn is actually caused by lactic acid, which is used by your muscles to form adenosine triphosphate (ATP) for immediate energy.

I often see a female lying on the ground at the gym performing sets of 100 crunches. She probably assumes that burning sensation is actually helping her “toning her stomach”. If you are performing a set of 100 repetitions on any exercise, don’t you think it is time to move on to something a little harder?

Diet and Exercise Myths

MYTH – All calories are equal, so it doesn’t matter what you eat…

Some foods take more work to eat, and therefore burn more calories while you’re digesting them. Eating vegetables and lean cuts of meat can increase your calorie burn by up to 30 percent. More important is eating simple carbs that will spike your insulin – causing more fat to be stored and setting you up for TYPE II DIABETES. AVOID SUGAR. PERIOD.

MYTH – Eating fat will make you fat…

Getting enough of the right kinds of fat in your diet is actually essential for good health. Fat doesn’t make you fat – eating more calories than you burn makes you fat. Cut down on the simple carbs and use healthy fats like avocados, coconut oil, raw nuts and olive oil. You will feel much fuller and less hungry later.

MYTH – Diet soda will help you lose weight…

Diet soda can increase your risk of metabolic syndrome, a group of symptoms that includes high levels of belly fat, blood sugar, and cholesterol.

MYTH – Your cardio machine is counting the calories you’re burning…

Our elliptical trainer or treadmill cannot accurately gauge how many calories you’re burning without knowing your weight, sex and body composition.

MYTH – Low-intensity exercise burns more fat…

The more intensely your exercise, the more carbs you burn, and when your body has burned up all the carbs, it starts burning fat. So again, loosen up on the carbs.

MYTH – Long cardio workouts are the key to weight loss…

This is by far the most believed myth I encounter. If you walk into any gym, you’ll see most people crowding the aerobics equipment and using the treadmill or elliptical machine for an hour or so, thinking they’re getting an excellent workout however, there is a growing body of excellent scientific research showing that you can perform a significantly SHORTER workout, at a greater intensity, and get BETTER results than the usual, time-consuming cardio routines.

The reason for this is because high-intensity exercises engage a certain group of muscle fibers that you cannot engage through aerobic cardio, and engaging these muscle fibers cause a cascade of positive health benefits, including improved fat burning. They will also boost your body’s natural production of human growth hormone (HGH) which is a vital hormone that is key for physical strength, health and longevity.

MYTH – Diet and exercise are equal when it comes to losing weight…

While exercise is important and crucial for weight loss, the foods you choose to eat are THREE times more important for controlling your weight than your exercise. It’s very easy to sabotage yourself with sugary foods and beverages, especially those that contain fructose. This includes so-called “healthy” beverages like energy drinks, and similar types of sports and recovery drinks. Fructose, which is hidden in virtually every processed food, tricks your body into gaining weight by fooling your metabolism, as it turns off your body’s appetite-control system. Fructose does not appropriately stimulate insulin, which in turn does not suppress ghrelin (the “hunger hormone”) and doesn’t stimulate leptin (the “satiety hormone”), which together result in your eating more and developing insulin resistance.

MYTH – It doesn’t matter what time of day you exercise…

First let me make it clear that any time spent exercising is better than no exercise at all. So if you’re extremely busy and can only carve out time for exercise at a set time each day, so be it. But, if you can work it, there is reason to believe that exercising first thing in the morning may give you added benefits and coincidentally this is also the most convenient time for many.

MYTH – Diet foods will help you lose weight…

Stocking your pantry with diet foods is one of the surest ways to lose the battle of the bulge, and this is largely due to the fact that they’re loaded with artificial sweeteners. Substances like Splenda and aspartame have zero calories, but your body isn’t fooled. When it gets a “sweet” taste, it expects calories to follow, and when this doesn’t occur it leads to distortions in your biochemistry that may actually lead to weight gain.

As far as “sweetness satisfaction” in your brain is concerned, it can tell the difference between a real sugar and an artificial one, even if your conscious mind cannot. Artificial sweeteners tend to trigger more communication in the brain’s pleasure center, yet at the same time provide less actual satisfaction.

So when you consume artificial sweeteners, your body craves more of it and also real sugar, because your brain is not satisfied at a cellular level by the sugar impostor! By the way, craving sugar is one of the surest ways to add extra calories to your diet. So avoid artificially sweetened “diet” foods if you care about keeping your weight in check.

MYTH: You’re destined to gain weight as you get older…

Weight gain is not a rite of passage into your middle-age years, but the problem for many is that weight gain is insidious. It creeps up gradually as you become less active than you were in your 20s and 30s, and suddenly that pound a year has added up to 10, 20 or more extra pounds as you head into your 40s, 50s, 60s or beyond. Adding to the equation, if you don’t stay physically active you will lose muscle mass as you age, starting around age 40.

This loss of muscle means you’ll burn fewer calories both when you’re active and at rest, plus your body composition will shift to less muscle and more fat. The solution is remarkably simple, however, and does not require plastic surgery like liposuction or even starving yourself on a diet of celery sticks. All you need to do to stay lean and fit well into your older years is eat healthy.


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