By now maybe you’ve learned that stretching before exercise isn’t best and that drinking eight glasses of water a day isn’t necessarily the universal ideal; common concepts like these have been widely debunked in recent times. Instead, the following fitness fabrications are tidbits that are probably still being passed around during small talk at the water cooler or by a well-meaning friend who feels they’re a fitness “expert.” Continue reading to find out the real facts and then spread the truth by setting the record straight next time you hear someone spout out a “tip” that’s just not true.
“Your body needs a certain amount of carbs, fat and protein to function,” says Lauren Brown a trainer and sports nutritionist for Balanced Fitness and Health. “Too little of one and too much of another will throw the body’s equilibrium off, resulting in malnourishment, weight gain, muscle loss, etc. Carbohydrates are the body’s number one go-to for fuel. Without it you will eventually lack energy, experience brain fog, and feel depressed and moody. Just be sure to choose healthy carbohydrates such as vegetables, fruits and whole grains and avoid processed carbs that contain simple sugars and other toxic ingredients.”
"Running has long been thought to cause damage to the knees from all the pounding you experience with each foot strike,” says Jason Fitzgerald, a 2:39 marathoner and the founder of Strength Running. “But in the past decade, multiple studies have shown that long-time runners have no increased risk of knee damage. And those with a history of knee arthritis don't have much of a history with running! In fact, running can even be healthy for the knee, promoting cartilage repair in the knee. Of course, we're talking about moderate running here—if you're running marathons or workouts at 6:00 mile pace or faster, you could be increasing your risk of knee arthritis.”
“There's no such thing as spot reduction,” says Russell Wynter, a NASM certified Master Trainer and co-owner of MadSweat. “Doing crunches to reduce body fat will only be effective in strengthening the muscles in that area. Only your overall calorie burn will lead to fat reduction, so don't just focus on one type of exercise, be sure to address everything from cardio and resistance training to nutrition."
High intensity exercise is arguably the most popular fitness trend at the moment. And while upping the intensity of your workouts certainly provides several advantages, it doesn’t mean that every single one of your gym sessions should be all out. "Not being sore, also known as DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), the day after a workout doesn't mean you haven't had a good workout,” says Crystal Reeves, also a NASM certified Master Trainer and co-owner of MadSweat. “Muscle soreness is a poor indicator of adaptation and growth because it can vary greatly between individuals. So, the bottom line is you don't have to be super sore to get a great workout."
“Sugar by itself will cause fat storage and weight gain,” says Brown. “However, sugar in combination with fiber has a different effect. Fiber reduces insulin and blood sugar spikes, which minimizes the risk of fat storage. Fruit contains such fiber and is preferred if you’re having a sweet craving. But as with anything, too much of a good thing will cause weight gain. So be sure to not over-consume fruit and include lots of vegetables in every meal. The more fiber you get, the less sugar has an effect on blood sugar spikes.”
I talked to fitness experts Shannon Barbadian and Lori Kenyon Farley to collect a roundup of tips that will help you lose that last bit of super stubborn fat. If you’re determined and motivated to tackle your goal and follow all the way through, well then more power to you. Follow these eight tips and you’ll say sayonara to those final few pounds in no time at all.
“Body Mass Index (BMI) is the standard measurement used for determining who is normal-weight, over-weight and obese,” explains Brown. “Although it takes into consideration height and weight, it does not take into account body fat and where it is distributed on the body. It also doesn’t take into account muscle mass, which weighs the same as body fat.” She continues, “It has been long believed that people with a BMI of 30 and higher are at an increased risk of dying from heart disease, diabetes and cancer, amongst other diseases. But recent studies are suggesting in some cases a high BMI could actually protect a person from dying from chronic diseases such as heart failure and kidney disease. Whereas a low BMI may indicate that a person is suffering from an illness.”
Yes, on paper, this widely popular concept might be true. However what it fails to account for is that the way the body processes food varies greatly from one individual to the next. In fact, one recent study that overfed 16 male and female subjects by 1,000 calories for eight weeks (which, according to the one pound/3,500 calorie idea should have led each subject to gain 16 pounds) resulted in entirely different weight gain amounts for each of the participants. Obesity expert Dr. Yoni Freedhoff summed the idea up nicely in an article on Greatist saying, “People have different fuel efficiencies, whereby two people eating the same number of calories may see markedly different impacts of those calories upon their weights.”
“Each individual body is different and every lifestyle is different,” Brown explains. “It’s completely a matter of choice whether you eat six small meals or three large meals a day. Your metabolism is not affected either way. The body is smart and just needs to know that it will be getting that next meal. Establishing a schedule (routine) of when you eat, as well as eating quality, minimally processed foods, will help keep that metabolism firing.”
"At the end-of-the-day, it all comes down to the total amount of food taken in,” says Brown. “Ideally you want to consume the bulk of your calories earlier in the day so your body can utilize that energy more effectively during the day, instead of trying to digest it while you sleep. But eating after a certain time, as long as you are within your normal daily allotment of food, has not been proven to cause weight gain.”
Maybe you’ve seen charts that compare the amount of calories in certain foods to the amount of time you’d need to spend exercising to burn off those calories? Here’s why those are bogus: it all goes back to the fact that the way the body burns calories is completely different among individuals. And while those charts may give you a pretty close ballpark estimate as to how much activity you’d need to burn off your meal, at the end of the day it’s sort of silly to think of food and exercise that way. “For most people, weight loss and fitness can be as simple as move more and eat a little less,” says Reeves. “Focusing on the enjoyment of exercise will affect you more positively than obsessing over food."