Oasis Magazine Articles

Myths of Strength Training

By Lindsay Everhart

In the world of “broscience”, the gym is packed with information that isn’t always conducive to our fitness goals. Check out these common myths to be sure you don’t fall victim!

1.       Cardio is the best way to lose weight

Sure, with the right diet tweaks and a steady commitment, you will absolutely see the pounds melt away with cardio. Is it the best way to lose weight and keep it off? No. Cardio raises your metabolism only temporarily. Building muscle, either through athletics or weight-lifting, raises your metabolism permanently (or for as long as you keep the muscle through a healthy lifestyle); the more muscle you have, the more calories your body burns. Bonus: it gives your body sexy curves you’ll never attain through running alone. So save yourself the hours of mundane training on the treadmill and lift some weights to build curvalicious, calorie-busting muscles.

2.       Lifting weights makes you bulky

This is only true if you have soaring levels of testosterone, which most men do. Women, on the other hand, don’t have the right hormonal balance to build giant muscles. Ladies, unless you’re taking a hormone supplement or have a rare medical condition, you will never look like Arnold Schwarzenegger from lifting weights.

3.       You can spot treat fat away

Unfortunately, this is not the case. No matter how many crunches or inner thigh exercises you do, the jiggle will not go away until you lower your overall body fat percentage. Once you do this, your sexy six pack and shapely thighs will shine!

4.       Stretch before your workout

This common advice has come under scrutiny in the past few years. Why? Because static stretching while your muscles are cold can potentially damage them. Moreover, it may even minimize their ability to do work at maximum capacity – a big no before a strength workout. What should you do instead? Ideally, engage in static stretching after your workout when the muscles are warm, and foam roll tight muscles as they occur to minimize imbalances.

5.       Pregnant women shouldn’t exercise

How sad that our expectant mothers, who will soon have little time for themselves and will be chasing after toddlers and doing daily tasks one-handed, are being told to not stay fit! Mothers-to-be, you are absolutely allowed, and even encouraged, to exercise during your pregnancy. While I wouldn’t recommend training for a triathlon, you are most welcome to do cardio for up to half an hour (more than this depletes oxygen supplies in the circulating blood and potentially to the fetus) and to lift moderate weights, with only a few modifications a knowledgeable trainer can recommend.

6.       If you work out hard enough, you can eat whatever you want

I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but this just isn’t true. Yes, you can get away with donuts and a family-size pizza here and there (guilty), but benefits of exercise won’t shine through if you don’t eat well. Pay particular attention to the ratios of your macronutrient intake (lean protein, healthy fat, and whole carbohydrates). Most fitness experts recommend a 45-30-25 ratio (carbs, protein, fats, respectively) for building muscle, and slightly less carbohydrates (and counterintuitively, more healthy fat) if you are trying to lose weight.

And of course, math is key – calories in should equal calories out. Come to the REPS Fitness Center to have your body analysis done – this will show you your BMR (the number of calories your body requires to do its basic functions), add your calorie expenditure based on your lifestyle, and incorporate the calories you burn through your fitness regimen. For example, a 30 year old, 170cm female who weighs 60kg, has a moderately active lifestyle and engages in strength-training four days a week should consume about 2300 calories per day to maintain her weight.

7.       If you stop working out, your muscle will turn to fat

Many people have noticed that when they stop exercising, they gain weight, and they attribute this to losing muscle. This is not exactly what happens. When you stop exercising, your muscle does shrink in an effort to conserve energy; since the body is no longer using the muscle as vigorously, it decides to focus the energy elsewhere. So the muscle is still there, its role has just been minimized.

Why does one gain weight then? It’s often because the person is still consuming the same number of calories as when they were exercising, but no longer engaging in the extra activity to burn those calories. So, if you do stop working out, be sure to lower your calorie intake in order to maintain your figure.

8.       Deep squats cause injuries

How unfortunate that this myth has made the rounds! Deep squats not only activate every single muscle in the legs and glutes, they also activate the core; and the lower you go, the more your bum gets a workout (hello, ladies!). We should rightfully be afraid of injuries while weight-lifting, but form is key to safety – deep squats don’t cause injuries, poor form does. Ask your trainer to give you instruction if you’re unsure of the proper form for any exercise.

9.       Supplements can be used as replacements

While this is largely a matter of personal opinion, by relying on supplements for your meals and macronutrients, you can miss out on many other things the body needs, like fiber and micronutrients. Rather than making whey protein and power bars your primary source of macronutrients, instead opt for eating well-balanced meals, and stick to the supplements when your body needs the extra push. For example, taking whey protein after a workout is a fine option, as your body particularly craves protein (and carbohydrates) within the hour after vigorous exercise.

10.   Cravings should be ignored

Am I telling you to eat that slice of cake you really want? Not exactly. But if you are craving something obnoxiously sweet, it’s possible your body is telling you it needs more carbohydrates. Try eating a piece of fruit or a healthy carbohydrate, and see if your craving subsides.

Another possibility is that you are feeling emotionally unwell and that your brain needs a boost of dopamine (very similar to what happens when an addict craves his vice). By fulfilling your craving, you activate your brain’s reward system, making you feel better (this explains the terms “comfort food” and “emotional eating”).

Either way, cravings are your body’s way of saying it needs something. Listen to it, as the body has evolved amazing ways to communicate with your mind.

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