Are these fitness myths sabotaging your goals?

Whether you’re working out to improve your physical or mental health (spoiler alert: you’re helping both!), it’s important to focus on knowing fitness fact from fiction to ensure you’re getting the most out of your workouts! With so much information floating around the internet regarding exercise and diet, it can be easy to find conflicting data that makes it hard to discern the right next step. We asked Daily Burn 365 trainers to share the most commonly believed fitness myths that might be holding you back, or worse, putting you at risk for a multitude of injuries and health problems. Here are 15 popular fitness myths, debunked once and for all.

Myth #1: Longer workouts are more efficient.

The duration of a workout does not determine its effectiveness. The main thing is not the length, but the quality of your workout. Consistency is key, but you also need to make sure you’re challenging yourself with the intensity on days you’re not focused on recovery.

Plus, pushing yourself to do longer and longer workouts can lead to overtraining. Doing this on a regular basis can put you at the risk of injury and create imbalances in your body that may cause larger health problems down the road. In addition, some studies show that longer workouts (over an hour) provoke the production of cortisol, a catabolic hormone that actually destroys protein structures, while the goal of any workout – whether it is to burn fat or to gain muscle – is to create them.

And remember, not even a little activity is pointless! Your body will benefit from just one minute of exercise.

Myth #2: You must train every day to achieve results.

Just as you need sleep every night, rest days are absolutely necessary. They are just as important as the workout itself because your body transforms and recovers during the rest time. Plus, working out without proper rest and recovery can cause extreme fatigue, hormone imbalances, and mood swings.

Depending on the intensity of your workouts, the break between them should be from 24 to 72 hours. During this time, energy sources, protein structures and the central nervous system are restored. Try a recovery workout, like a mobility or gentle yoga session on your off days if you really want to stay active.

Myth #3: You didn’t work hard enough if you don’t feel sore.

Soreness does not equal progress! You’ll often feel sore when you start or get back into a fitness routine and it’s generally not something to worry about as it signals that your workout is effective. The more you exercise, the less likely you will experience soreness unless you’re doing brand new moves, but rest assured you are still getting stronger. Muscle pain after a workout is just a reaction to a new load or a new exercise in which previously unused muscle fibers are activated.

Note that there’s a difference between post-workout soreness and pain. The former happens when you get microscopic tears in a muscle and inflammation, and it’s normal. If you’re experiencing sharp, shooting, or persistent pains in your muscles, joints, or ligaments, take a break and check in with your doctor.

Myth #4: You should stretch before a workout.

It’s true that static stretching lengthens muscles and helps prevent injury. But doing it before a workout weakens the muscle, and the reduced tension may increase the risk of injury. This type of stretching should be saved for after the workout. For a pre-workout warm up, go with some light cardio and then do a sequence of movement-based, dynamic stretches – they will prime your muscles and provide the foundation for a better workout.

Myth #5: Lifting weights makes women bulky.

When it comes to increasing muscle size, testosterone is the main factor. Men have 20 to 30 times more testosterone than women which is why they can often bulk up so noticeably. Without specifically training for that, and without chemical assistance, women won’t build the same bulky proportions. On the contrary, strength training often helps women lose weight faster and keep it off in the long run.

Myth #6: Women need different exercises than men.

When it comes to fitness, exercise knows no gender! While there are hormonal differences that can impact muscle strength between the sexes, there’s no need to work out differently as long as you’re choosing the appropriate intensity and weights.

Myth #7: You can reduce fat in just one body area.

Spot training isn’t real. You can build muscle in a specific area but you can’t pick and choose where you want to reduce overall body fat. Focusing on a healthy combination of nutrition and exercise will lead to overall fat burn and weight loss.

Myth #8: Muscles will turn into fat if you stop working out.

Just as wood can’t turn into steel, muscles can’t turn into fat. Muscle and fat are actually two totally different tissue systems with different functions, and although energy is shared between them, they do not convert to one another. That’s just an optical illusion. When muscles are big, they require a lot of energy for their existence, so you have to eat a lot. When you stop working out, your body naturally reduces its demand for fuel. If you keep the same caloric intake and diet without exercising, excess fuel from unused food will go into long term storage, aka ‘fat.’

Myth #9: You’ll burn more fat on an empty stomach.

In theory, when there’s nothing in the stomach, the body will be forced to burn fat for energy. In reality, the body depends on carbohydrates and protein for energy, so it may turn to muscle for fuel. Fasted training will lead to muscle wasting which is the opposite purpose of any fat-loss process. It may also cause the drop of energy levels and performance, followed by dehydration, hyperglycemia, and lightheadedness. To optimize your workout, eat a light, easily digestible meal 90 minutes before exercising.

Myth #10: You can eat whatever you want as long as you work out.

You cannot out-exercise a bad diet. Balanced eating habits are crucial to stay fit. Weight loss occurs when you burn off more calories that you consume, and people often overestimate the amount of calories they burn during a workout.

In addition to portion size, you should take into account the quality of what you’re consuming. Calories are not interchangeable, because foods are different. The type of food you’re eating may command your hormones to store or burn fat, boost or crash metabolism, build or break down muscle. Simple carbs like French fries or a donut will stay with you much longer than green salad or a handful of dried fruit by virtue of their chemical makeup alone, so take that into consideration.

Myth #11: To lose weight, you must do cardio.

Cardio training, and running especially, should be considered primarily as training of the cardiovascular system – the main system of our body and the foundation of our health. The overall weight loss process is more complex than simply putting in miles on a treadmill! You must focus on strength exercises to build muscles and enhance calorie burn, a healthy diet, and cardio workouts to teach the body to use fat for fuel. In fact, strength training helps you lose weight faster and keep it off longer. Mixing both modalities, strength training and cardio, will help you retain muscle as you drop fat, as well as prevent your metabolism from slowing.

Myth #12: Carbs are your worst enemy.

Carbs should actually be your highest nutrient intake per day as they’re the main source of energy and fuel that your brain uses to function properly. Complex carbs like fresh fruit, brown rice, beans, corn, and whole wheat pasta are what our body frequently craves, and that’s a good thing! Your body is letting you know it needs to be fueled. Try to avoid simple carbs; a good rule of thumb is to avoid foods that are white as they are generally high in sugar and fat content.

Myth #13: You need a pre-workout or post-workout snack.

You may not always need extra calories; it really depends on how long and intense your workout is. Listen to your body and have a healthy snack before or after your workout if you’re hungry, but don’t feel like you have to be chugging a protein shake in order to see results.

Myth #14: You need more protein.

No matter how often you hear this, remember: human bodies are not designed to handle a high daily protein intake. Protein overdose can lead to heart disease and weight gain since animal protein is high in saturated fat. Make sure you’re not eating too much of it already. Most adults need around 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day (on the average, this is 46 grams for women and 56 grams for men). This portion can be obtained from two palm-sized servings of foods such as meat, poultry, fish, tofu, beans, or nuts.

Myth #15: You need sports drinks to optimize your workout. 

Sports drinks are a good way to hydrate and quickly get some electrolytes into the body if you’re an endurance athlete who exercises for prolonged periods of time. They often have a ton of sugar, though, so drink them sparingly. Good old water is often best!

With these myths busted, you’re on your way to a more empowered and enjoyable fitness journey! Remember to always listen to your body, consult your doctor if you have concerns, and take it one workout at a time.

Go to dailyburn.com for thousands of great workouts to diversify your fitness journey!

All images via Shutterstock

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