These days, trainers and coaches are becoming more educated on effective methods for weight loss and management. Because of research and practical application, we have a better understanding of how the body responds to different types of exercise and why one modality may be superior over the other. The fitness industry has come a long way, but it’s not finished evolving just yet. Unfortunately, there are still lots of misconceptions floating from person to person that keep individuals from reaching their health and fitness goals. Trainers and coaches on a daily basis have to dispel these myths so that individuals can have the right information in order to accomplish their goals. Below are some misconceptions that I commonly hear from my clients, and even some trainers!
- It takes at least 20 minutes of low-intensity cardio to begin burning fat. So not true. Your body uses carbohydrates, fats, and proteins for energy to do its job in the resting state as well as during movement. Carbohydrates, because of its ability to be broken down quickly, are the primary energy source. Your body uses all three sources simultaneously to produce energy. However, during low-intensity exercise, the percentage of fats the body uses increases. Normally it’s a 50/50 split between carbohydrates and fats. But, you begin using fat at the beginning of the workout.
- You do resistance training to build muscle and cardio to burn fat. This is true, for the most part. Contrary to popular belief, resistance training actually helps the body to burn quite a bit of fat by stimulating muscle growth, which influences resting metabolism, and boosting post-exercise metabolism. It helps you to burn more calories hours after the workout. Muscle is the only organ in the body that can burn fat; one pound burns at least 50 calories per day. Low-intensity cardio burns calories only during the workout, with your metabolism returning to normal levels within minutes after the workout. Both resistance training and higher-intensity cardio are essential if you want to lose weight.
- Cardio is the quickest way to burn fat. Not exactly. Remember that you only burn calories during a low-intensity workout. It takes burning 3,500 kilocalories to lose one pound of fat. You have to accumulate enough calories during your cardiovascular workouts each week to create enough of a caloric deficit, provided that your nutrition program isn’t flawed. This is possible, but it takes longer to do. When time is a factor and you’re not seeing the results that you want, then you are more likely to quit exercising. Moreover, low-intensity cardio decreases muscle mass, which affects your resting metabolism. A 30-minute intense weight-based interval training workout would work better and help you to drop those unwanted pounds quicker.
- Low-fat diets are the best for weight loss. Mounting research shows that low-fat and fat-free diets may actually make you fatter quicker. This is because these foods are packed with added sugars to provide taste. These sugars over-stimulate insulin which takes these sugars to be stored mainly in fat deposits in the abdomen. It’s better to consume a low-glycemic index based diet that contains plenty of healthy fats and lean proteins, such as the Mediterranean diet.
- Steam rooms and saunas help you to lose fat. In order to lose fat, you must move. There’s no way around that. Sitting in a heated room does nothing but dehydrate you, and relax your muscles. You lose weight but it is water weight, and it’s easily re-gained.
- I’m super skinny, so I’m healthy. If you are very skinny, then you may have very little muscle mass. You’re actually skinny fat, and that is not healthy. That means that you carry more fat than muscle and most of your fat deposits probably are in your abdomen. That puts you at increased risk for cardiovascular diseases, cholesterol problems, and some cancers. It’s okay to be skinny, but make sure you have more lean tissue than fat.
- Light weight and lots of reps are the best way to shape your body and not get bulky. Actually, heavy weight and fewer reps are. Light weight does not stimulate the muscles enough to grow and become more compact. It also doesn’t do much as far as boosting post-exercise metabolism. Feeling the burn isn’t essential if you want to reshape your body. And even though women don’t have to worry about this, heavy resistance training is a great way to reshape your body without the bulk, provided that you have a great nutrition and cardio program. You’re wasting your time and you’ll never see the results that you desire. If you want that beach body, pack on the weight!
- Low-intensity cardio in the fat-burning zone will ensure that I burn a lot of fat. In 1994, researchers tested subjects performing two 30-minute bouts of exercise: a low-intensity session and a high-intensity session. The low-intensity group burned 240 total calories, with 96 calories coming from fat. The high-intensity group burned 450 total calories, with 108 calories coming from fat. Even though a higher percentage of fat was burned during the low-intensity session (41%), fewer fat calories were actually burned!
- The scale is NOT your best guide. Muscle causes you to weigh more which is okay if you have lots of muscle but little body fat. Sometimes, weight loss doesn’t show on the scale immediately. Pay attention to how your clothes feel on you, your waist ratio, or if you feel “tighter”. You will gain muscle mass quicker than you’ll lose fat, so be patient and weigh yourself once a month. Don’t put so much emphasis on the numbers in the beginning.
Hopefully debunking these myths will help clarify things and help you to reach your weight loss goals. Weight management is a demanding and sometimes frustrating process. However, with the right information, it becomes easier to achieve what it is that you want to achieve. Knowledge and successful application of that knowledge is empowerment. So, educate yourself and take one step closer to the new you!