This post is going to debunk some crazy ideas and old wives tales that have been believed over the years by many people and that are often reinforced in the media and even many gyms itself.
The Top 7 Lies of Health & Fitness (there are many more of course )
1) Cardio is the best way to “Tone up” and burn body fat
2) Sit ups will give you a flat stomach or 6 pack abs
3) Protein shakes will “Bulk” you up or make you big
4) When you stop weight training your muscle turns into fat
5) Porridge for breakfast is a good thing
6) Eating 4-5 pieces of fruit per day is healthy and promotes fat loss.
7) A low-fat diet makes you lose body fat
#1. Cardio is the best way to tone up or lose body fat.
Somewhere along the lines, many (not all) people have been conditioned to believing that using pieces of equipment like the cross trainer or stepper or group exercise classes are an effective way to burn body fat. Before I continue, I want to make it clear that I DO NOT have a personal grudge against cardio. What I don’t like is misleading information and the vast majority of gym goers are consistently drip fed this information from a variety of sources. Cardio CAN be the icing on the cake when it comes to fat loss if performed correctly.
Cardio actually means “heart and lungs” so if we can raise our heart rate to 145bpm for example, it doesn’t actually matter what activity we perform, we are still doing “cardio”. Enter weights or resistance training. An effective weight training programme will not only elevate your heart rate, it should build muscle and effectively raise your metabolism. This extra muscle will allow you to consume more calories and STILL burn body fat. Ladies, please note that when I say build muscle I don’t mean you will become muscular. A big difference. Another very important point is that with cardio, once you stop exercising your body stops burning calories whereas with weight training you effectively continue to burn calories for up to 24-48 hrs later through a process called EPOC.
If you are going to perform cardio then keep it short and fast. HIIT is the best way and avoid extended cardio sessions like spin. Read my controversial post on why spinning is a really bad way to burn body fat
#2. Sit ups will give you a flat stomach or six-pack abs.
The biggest myth in the gym yet every day so many people are crunching away like mad trying to burn that body fat. Please stop. It doesn’t work. Don’t believe me? Look at the pic here of our very own Tom Dyer. From the look of those abs I guess he must have done thousands of sit ups, crunches, twists etc. Believe me when I say he possibly trains his abs once a month, if that. EVERYONE has a six-pack as that’s the way our muscles are shaped or developed but the reason we can’t see them is the body fat covering them. If you lower your body fat by using a mixture of resistance training, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and a consistently clean protein based diet, your stomach will become flatter and your abs will appear. Magic! 🙂
#3. Protein shakes will “Bulk” you up or make you big.
One of the most common myths that circulate most gyms and something I hear nearly every day and not only from woman but also men. If it was as easy as taking a protein shake then every 2nd person would be massive which just isn’t the case.
Firstly, from a female perspective. Females do not have enough of the muscle-building hormone, testosterone, to build a visible amount of muscle. Protein shakes are convenient way to achieve optimal levels of protein needed for muscle repair and recovery and to start the fat burning process after a workout. They DO NOT miraculously build muscle. Muscle is very hard to build so it’s the training stimulus and hormones (Testosterone) combined with meticulous planning of diet, calories and protein levels that produces weight gains in the form of muscle. Rest assured, bulking up is a MYTH.
#4 When you stop weight training, your muscle turns to fat.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Muscle and fat are two different elements entirely and to actually turn one to the other you would be breaking every law of physics. Its like comparing an apple to an orange. I think this myth has come from the fact that sometimes you may see a previously muscular guy who has stopped training look a bit flabby or over weight. What actually happens is that his muscles have atrophied (got smaller) from not training and possibly he has kept his calorie intake the same as before, hence causing him to gain body fat. This will give him the appearance of his muscles turning into fat. All that has changed is ratio of muscle to fat. Lots of muscle and low-fat equals a lean, muscular look. Less muscle and more fat gives an overweight or flabby appearance. For women, this will never be an issue as it is very hard for any woman to gain a noticeable amount of muscle in the first place. Women need to train hard and heavy as much as possible to achieve a lean, sexy look. See this post
#5 Porridge for breakfast is a good thing
The traditional “healthy” breakfast for many consists of cereal, toast and orange juice. For a few that have realised that cereal is not a great idea, porridge seems like a wise choice. I have to admit, it’s the best of a bad bunch but will still cause a few problems. To start with, oats are still fairly high GI (Glycemic index) which means your blood sugar will rise quite rapidly and this will promote fat storage unless the calories are immediately used. On top of that, gluten is found in oats and this can cause stomach issues to sensitive individuals. From a personal perspective, once I changed from oats to an all protein breakfast, I was able to getting much leaner than ever before and I also had less digestive issues to say the least. I assumed everyone had gas and lots of it. Since moving to the meat and nut breakfast system that we advocate so strongly, my digestive issue have become a thing of the past. I urge you all to stop eating this so-called “healthy breakfast” and look here for the best solution. The picture of the oats with fruit does look very tempting, I must admit 🙂
#6 Eating 4-5 pieces of fruit per day is healthy and promotes fat loss.
When I analyse a clients diet and look for areas to improve with regards weight loss or losing body fat, more often than not I find that the individual is eating 3, 4 or even 5 pieces of fruit per day. This is a definite no-no if the aim is lose body fat. Fruit contains sugar naturally in the form of fructose and although fruit also has lots of goodies like vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, the sugar can still cause your insulin levels to spike causing you to gain body fat. Certain fruits have a much higher GI level than others, things like grapes and very ripe bananas so they would be best avoided entirely apart from after an intense workout. Limit your fruit intake to 1-2 portions of berries like blueberries, strawberries or blackberries and have a 6-10 nuts with the fruit as this will blunt any insulin response the sugar may produce. Make sure that the fruit is organic as strawberries and blueberries are some of the most sprayed crops on the market.
#7 Eating a low-fat diet helps you lose body fat.
I saved this one until last as it’s the least understood point of them all. How on earth can having a low-fat diet actually promote weight gains and how can eating lots of dietary fat actually promote a healthy metabolism and help to shift body fat? It really doesn’t make sense to many people so is often overlooked, plus supermarkets are constantly bombarding us all with message of “Low Fat” foods and low-cal options. No wonder the average consumer is confused. What you must understand is that carbohydrates are the culprits when it comes to excess fat gains, not fat. Generally, Low fat means high sugar.
Of course, there are good fats and bad fats and its the good fats that we need in abundance. Sources like coconut oil to cook with, extra virgin olive oil for drizzling on vegetables or salad and avocados and raw nuts and seeds. ( See diagram ) Fat from these sources are required by the body for many functions such as protecting vital organs and transporting vitamins and minerals through the body. Omega 3 found in cold water fish like salmon, sardines and mackerel are fantastic for a variety of things. Click here to learn more.
Contrary to what many believe, good fats will actually lower your cholesterol too. Bad fats to avoid are trans fatty acids found in packaged snack food such as cookies, crisps, cakes and biscuits. Saturated fat has been given a bad rap but isn’t the villain its made out to be. Coconut oil is almost purely saturated fat but it will actually speed your metabolism up helping you to burn calories rather than promoting fat storage. It’s actually the only fat you should ever cook with. Learn more here.
When I have been in a “lean phase” or trying to get into my best shape, I up my levels of fat very high and drop my carbs very low. This will help me to burn as much body fat as possible but also give me the energy required to function very well in a normal active daily lifestyle. If my carbs were low and my fats were also low, just as many people believe they should be I would struggle to get through the day. Lack or energy and concentration and my mood would be awful. My joints would also ache due to lack of lubrication.
In the 14 day Fat Furnace we talk about how good lots of dietary fat is for you and actually how essential it is to get the best results. Fat is not the enemy for a healthy diet and lifestyle and the sooner you believe this to be true the sooner you will get much better results from your fat loss efforts or regime.
I hope you have enjoyed this post as much as I did writing it. As always, any questions then please ask. I am happy to help.
Train hard, live easy.
Gavin @ UCF