I’m a pretty even-keeled guy. But even I get bent out of shape when I hear people talking nonsense about fitness. Despite all the research that’s out there, people STILL believe this baloney.
And many times, that’s exactly what’s keeping them from leading a healthy lifestyle!
It’s tough to separate truth from fiction. So I’ve eavesdropped on a conversation or two, and tried to tease out the 3 craziest claims out there.
Fitness lie #1: Doing more reps at a lighter weight will create long, lean muscles.
Many people, particularly women, work with super light weights, where they can do 15, 20 or even more repetitions. They’ve been told that heavy weights create big, bulky muscles, while lighter weights create long, lean ones.
Physiologically, you simply cannot increase the length of a muscle, no matter what you do. You’re limited by what experts call the “insertion” points of your muscles. That’s where they begin and end.
The important thing to remember when working out is to lift the most weight you can for about 8 to 12 reps. And you should work to exhaustion. In weight-lifting speak, that means the last 2 to 3 reps should be difficult to do.
Does that mean you should never work out with lighter weights?
Of course not. If you’re just starting out, you’re sick, or you have an injury, it’s perfectly fine to do more reps with lighter weights. You’ll still build muscle. Just remember to always work to exhaustion.
Fitness lie #2: Muscle weighs more than fat so if you lift weights, you’ll see the scale go up.
Quiz: You’ve got a pound of muscle on the scale and a pound of fat. Which weighs more?
Think about it — they both weigh the same pound!
Same thing with muscle and fat. It’s a myth that muscle “weighs” more than fat. What IS fact is that muscle is denser than fat. That means it takes up less space on your body.
So although you may weigh the same 150 pounds as your next door neighbor, if you have more muscle on your body, you’ll look a lot better in those skinny jeans than she will.
Weight training is a good thing on so many levels. In addition to all the health benefits (including building bone, improving insulin response and reducing back pain), it helps you torch more calories 24/7.
Yes, muscle burns about 67% more calories per pound compared to fat1. So that means the more muscle you have throughout your body, the more calories you’ll be burning.
All. The. Time.
So muscle is ALWAYS a good thing to have.
Fitness lie #3. Working out on an empty stomach helps you burn more fat.
This myth has been the topic of gym rats and fitness enthusiasts for years. But does it really stand up to the science?
Researchers recently analyzed a group of studies that investigated whether the body would use more fat if exercising after a fast vs. after eating.
The results? Whether your stomach is empty or full, your body burns about the same amount of fat.2
Seems like good old common sense comes in to play here. Our bodies require fuel to move, and certainly to maintain the high-intensity workouts that actually burn fat. So give your body the fuel it needs to power through your workout. And get the fat-burning results.
The ideal pre-workout meal or snack should contain easily digested carbohydrates — at least 30 grams — to give you the energy you need to power through a workout.
Plus some protein — about 10 to 20 grams — to build muscle and reduce post-workout muscle soreness.
Keep it lower in fat for rapid digestion.
Some yummy (fat-burning) ideas:
- plain Greek yogurt with fresh berries and raw cashews
- hard-boiled egg, 100% whole-grain toast and almond butter
- low-fat cottage cheese, fresh berries and walnuts
You can also whip up a RealMeal GF shake with 1% low-fat milk and a few fresh or frozen berries for a perfect pre-workout blend of carbs and protein with an added bonus: energizing B vitamins, antioxidants and other key nutrients. You’ll not only properly fuel your workout, but maximize muscle repair and recovery after your exercise session.
The moral of the story? Don’t believe everything you hear! (And, if you’re not sure, come here to find out!)
Steven Sisskind, M.D.
1. ZiMian Wang, Zhiliang Ying, Anja Bosy-Westphal, et al. Evaluation of specific metabolic rates of major organs and tissues: comparison between men and women. Am J Hum Biol. 2011; 23(3): 333–338. PMID: 21484913.
2. Schoenfeld B. Does cardio after an overnight fast maximize fat loss? Strength Cond J. 2011;33(1): 23-25.