You might think that with the wealth of information available on the internet through the likes of popular media, fitness influencers, trainers and ‘gurus’, finding credible health and fitness advice would be easy. Think again…
With more access to information, we’re now at the mercy of an over-saturated (and under-regulated) online market of misinformation and frequently conflicting suggestions or opinions mislabelled as ‘facts’. So as we attempt to tackle our fitness goals and arm ourselves with the right information, we may end up spending far more time than expected simply sifting through sources and articles, hoping to land on something that makes the most sense.
This can be dangerous territory (and a rightfully frustrating experience) so I’ve done the research for you, while talking with some local trainers and fitness experts, to break down the most common misconceptions we frequently face.
Read on for Part II of our round-up of the worst Fitness Misconceptions. Missed the first one? Click here.
1. Static Stretching Before Training
When we were younger, most of us were likely (constantly) reminded the importance of stretching before playing a sport or working out. However, there is a predominant misconception that exists here. While it is important to effectively warm-up and prepare your body for a work out, static stretching before exercise actually puts you at higher risk of sustaining injury when performing weight bearing movements.
Personal Trainer Matt Pauderis breaks it down for us: “Without getting too deep into the science of it all, you want your nervous system fired up before a workout. When you perform static stretching, you’re actually telling your body to inhibit muscle contraction and relax, which makes it far easier to hurt a muscle or negatively impact your strength performance and explosive movements. With this in mind, you should always incorporate a dynamic warm-up before your work out to prime your body.”
A dynamic warm-up consists of a series of movements that help to increase body temperature, activate the nervous system, increase range of motion at your joints and correct limitations. Depending what area of your body you are training, you want to fire up the muscles that you’re going to use, by moving your body through dynamic mobility and activation movements.
2. Muscle Turns into Fat, Fat Turns into Muscle
You may hear people making reference to the concept of turning fat into muscle, or muscle later turning into fat, but guess what? That is actually physiologically impossible, because they are two entirely different types of body tissue made up of different types of cells. As Fit Coach, Yoga Instructor and Nutritionist Dre, says, “You can’t turn apples into oranges, simple as that.”
Sure, you can reduce one and increase the other, but fat is fat and muscle is muscle.
3. If You’re Not Sore, You Didn’t Work Hard Enough
“No pain, no gain”, they say. But is this always the case? DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness caused by connective tissue microtrauma) is to be expected when you introduce a new training stimulus (a new activity, increased intensity or volume) or if you’re new to working out or returning from time off. But should this be the only indicator that your workouts are effective? In the case of a well-executed and consistent training regime, no. DOMS should not act as your constant badge of fitness honour.
In fact, studies show that soreness itself is a poor indicator of muscle adaptation and growth. Over time, your body should become more adept at adjusting to new stimuli (adjusted weights, volumes and exercise movements), so DOMS should not be as pronounced and your recovery process should be more effective. There are also many factors that influence how DOMS presents itself in individuals; some people may continually be sore after each workout, some may always feel fine. With this in mind, soreness and DOMS simply isn’t the best gauge of how effective your workout was or who’s in better shape. Not only that, but while muscle damage is a contributing factor to muscle growth, it is not absolutely essential. Hypertrophy can occur from mechanical tension and/or metabolic stress, both of which can come about without muscle soreness. Therefore, though DOMS can provide a general indication that some degree of muscle tissue damage has taken place, but it is not a definitive measure for it.
4. Fad Dieting and Weight Loss Products
Especially in the age of social media, our access to information and misinformation surrounding popular diets and nutritional advice is seemingly endless. Everywhere we turn, we hear mention of some new diet approach, “skinny” tea or fat burning pill that vows to be the miracle answer to all of our health and fitness prayers.
Here is the thing, though — your diet translates directly to your health and when it comes to good health, there is simply no ‘quick fix’. You can’t expect long-term results, if you aren’t willing to commit to long-term work and positive change. This is where the topic of “fad diets” comes into play, as people seek out quick solutions instead of a long-term, wholesome nutritional plan and mindset they can maintain. As noted on Livestrong.com, up to 50% of women are on a diet at any given time, up to 90% of teenagers diet regularly, and up to 50% of younger kids have tried a diet at some point.
While they can, at times, provide quick results, fad diets often result in rapid fluctuation of weight, weakness and fatigue, nausea and headaches and inadequate vitamin and mineral intake while promoting the complete restriction of certain food groups. The US weight loss product industry was valued at $46.3 billion back in 2004; with that kind of money at stake, remember that these companies likely don’t always have your best health in mind.
Now, that isn’t to condemn all diets. However, when it comes to your diet, your focus should shift to nutrition (viewing food as fuel for your body) and an intuitive understanding of what works for you. In the realm of popular diets, the ketogenic diet, intermittent fasting, paleo diet, slow carb diet, a vegan/plant-based diet — they all have potential advantages and nutritional benefits. However, just because your friend saw incredible results practicing Keto, doesn’t guarantee that you will, too. It’s important to do your own research and speak with knowledgable professionals whenever you’re considering a major diet-related change, and always listen to your body. Trust what your body is telling you, get familiar with ingredient labels and find the nutritional balance and approach that you can genuinely get behind and apply to your daily life in a healthy, enthusiastic way.