This list will help to debunk the common misconceptions floating around the gym. Read on and learn the whole truth.
- No pain, no gain. Bogus statement! It is true that both weight training and cardiovascular exercise usually involve some type of minor discomfort, such as feelings of slight burning or fatigue and moderate to heavy breathing. However, pain is entirely different. If you feel pain when you work out (particularly joint pain), you're doing something wrong. Stop exercising immediately, and have it checked by your physician. Pushing through agony can lead to serious trouble. If it checks out okay, seek the assistance of a qualified trainer; something is probably wrong with your exercise program or technique.
- Eating extra protein builds muscle. We already went over this one in Your Personal Protein Requirements, but allow me to drive the point home. The increase in muscle size, known as hypertrophy, has nothing to do with eating a lot of protein. Muscles get bigger when you overload them via weight training—not by eating kilos of tuna. The recommended daily amounts for protein remains about .36 to .8 per pound depending on your activity level.
- Weight training will give you bulky muscles. After reading that weight training causes muscles to increase in size, it's no wonder some women are hesitant to lift weights. Fear not: your lower testosterone levels cause increases in strength and tone without all that increase in size. Incidentally, even men have to have a genetic predisposition to getting bigger. Some guys can cut and bulk quickly, whereas others work their tails off without much visible result. Stick with a moderate weight-training program, and you'll be fine.
- You only burn fat working cardio at a slower pace. This myth got a lot of play back in the '80s, with exercise classes actually slowing down the pace to “burn more fat.” In terms of weight loss, that's just not the case. The crucial factor for losing weight is the total amount of calories burned, and it doesn't matter whether it comes from carbs, protein, or fat. For instance, a 130-pound woman doing a high-intensity workout (such as jogging) for 30 minutes will burn approximately 350 calories; that same woman will only burn 140 calories at a low-intensity workout (such as walking).
What if you're just starting out and can't sustain a fast pace for more than 5 to 10 minutes? In that case, you're certainly better off doing something at a slower pace for a longer length of time. Again, the reason is that you'll burn more total calories in the end.
- Sit-ups can burn fat off your waist. Not a chance! Remember, there is no such thing as spot reducing or burning the fat off a particular body part. Fat comes off the body as a whole (through aerobic activity and proper nutrition) and, unfortunately, not always in the places you want it to come from first (such as “the incredible shrinking bra”). You can buy every tummy-tucker and blubber-blaster on the market. Abdominal-toning exercises only strengthen the tissue underneath; they don't zap off that mid-section fat (contrary to what they might say). Look on the bright side: below all the flub, you probably have some dynamite muscles—something to look forward to when you lose that outer layer.