Fitness Myths and Bad Advice

Fitness MythsEveryone likes to give advice from food to diet to business to financial and a lot of it is sketchy, but sometimes I wonder if any area of life has more myths than health and fitness.

People share fitness advice they read or were told by their favorite trainers, but much of it is patently wrong, which is a shame because bad advice often stands in the way of people and their health and wellnes goals. Often the fitness industry is the culprit with its focus on looking good rather than being healthy. Regardless of your motivations for getting more fit, if you are like most people, you also want to be healthy and live a long life. Here are some of the many, sometimes conflicting, fitness myths.

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Carbs are Bad – The fitness industry often suggest people trying to look better should essentially starve themselves. The problems is that If you eat very little, the body thinks it is starving and reacts by realeasing chemicals to protect body fat. In some cases, eating very little can actually make you gain weight. And don’t forget that by eating a reduced amount of carbs you may inadvertently be eating a reduced amount of essential nutrients. Carbs are in fact your most useful weapon in getting healthier as they required to function at peak levels and for exercise that leads to fat loss.

Protein Protein Protein – Many people in the fitness industry, particularly in the bodybuilding community, advocate a diet with enormous amounts of protein. You can increase muscle mass with supplemental protein, but almost all research agrees that this effect plateaus between 6-8 g of protein per day per lb of body weight – well below what is often recommended. While consuming more protein per day may sound good, it can have some serious downsides to your health including bone loss, osteoporosis, kidney damage, kidney stones, immune dysfunction, arthritis, cancer promotion, and low-energy. For more on how this actually happens see Protein Overload.

Chemicals Can Help you Get There Faster - A quick browse of titles in a GNC or Popeye’s store and you will see host of high tech, “scientifically proven”, chemically infused formulas designed to make you fitter, strong and faster. The clerks in the stores typically have no idea what the products consist of and I assume that neither do most of the customers. These stores are the mecca of processed and synthetic food. Real food is better.

Quick Fixes – You have probably seen the ads, “get ripped in 30 days” or “lose your belly in 6 weeks”, “get the body you want in a month”, etc. They usually suggest that you can become uber fit in a short period of time often with a minimal amount of effort. Too bad it ain’t so simple. Actors and actresses with chiseled bodies on screen often undergo months of intense training prior to filming and aren’t able to maintain the look afterwards. Making a major body change abd staying healthy takes a lot of time and hard work. Making a permanent change requires a lot of discipline and a health first philosophy.

Eat a High Fat Diet this is a popular trick to get your body to burn fat instead of carbs for energy for weight loss. Fine in theory but when combined with a low carb diet or when diets are not carefully planned, can result in nutrition deficiency since people simply don’t eat enough good whole food. Better to eat a balanced diet with sufficient amounts of carbs, protein and fat.

Candy is a good post workout food. Look at the snacks available at the reception in most gyms. Instead of fresh fruit or whole foods, five of the last six gyms I visited, sold sugar laden bars that claim to be great nutrient and protein sources. What could be worse than toxic food after a great workout? Good for profits, bad for you.

To Bulk Up Eat Tons of Calories – The competitive sports and bodybuilding communities are especially guilty of promoting a temporary high calorie diet for those that want to add bulk to their frame. Often the diets include foods high in starchy carbohydrates and saturated fats. Few strategies could be more harmful to your health, putting enormous strain on your internal organs and contributing to heart disease, high cholesterol and blood pressure all of which ultimately shorten one’s life span. In cultures where people often live past one hundred years, the common ground in their diet is eating at or below their caloric requirements.

It’s about Looks – The marketing programs in the fitness industry are designed to pray upon people’s insecurities about their looks. Consequently programs and diet regimes focus on providing customers with the fastest results because it is good for business. Unfortunately there is far less focus on strengthening the heart and our other internal systems, avoiding diseases, developing endurance and increasing longevity because these things are all below the surface or take longer to achieve. Looks can be deceiving and weight and tone are not great measures of health. Sometimes people who are not considered “ripped” can actually be very strong and healthy, while slimmer people can have high levels of fat around their vital organs and be significantly unwell. Similarly many bodybuilders become weak and exhausted by prolonged intense training and aggressive dieting. Furthermore their immune system is often so compromised, that catching a cold could easily lead to pneumonia.

Minimize Cardio Training – I saw this first hand when once engaging a personal trainer many years ago. He suggested that I use cardio to warm up for other exercises and only perform cardio exercise a couple of times a week. I have also heard others talk about minimizing cardio workouts to avoid putting stress on your body. Nonsense. Carefully stressing your body and its systems is what strengthens them and regular cardio exercise will strengthen your heart and improve your overall health.

No Pain, No Gain – This is a common slogan used in the fitness industry that is easily misinterpreted. There is a difference between stressing your body and experiencing real pain. As a rule of thumb, a fitness activity that hurts while you are doing it, means you are probably doing it incorrectly or injuring yourself. Fatigue or stiffness in the muscles the next day usually means you effectively stressed your body properly.

Often these myths have more to do with pushing products and membership than poor education, but either way they prevent people from achieving overall health and longevity.

Fortunately there is plenty of sensible information on the Internet. Take the time to educate yourselves on diet, nutrition, and overall health and don’t fall for any of these myths.

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