These days there are so many fitness facts flying around on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram telling you what and how you need to live and be and do in fitness. As someone who is actively trying to get you to your goal, I promise I am on your side. I want to be a trusted source for you. With that, I want to dispel some of the things I see fly around on the internet and hear in passing.
Women Will Get Bulky from Weight Lifting
This couldn’t be further from the truth. While there are many different types of exercise that can lead you to your desired fitness, weight lifting reigns king in the transformation business and reshaping the body as you want it. Obviously, there is plastic surgery. However, I am sure weight lifting is a much cheaper and more fulfilling way to get what you’re looking for. The truth of the matter is that it is very difficult to create large muscles. Building muscles requires an oddly specific storm of conditions to actually take place, and even then, there are times where the body resists it.
I’m sure everyone has heard of CICO or calories in calories out. Rule number 1 for bulking up is eating in an energy surplus. If you aren’t doing this, then it doesn’t matter how consistent you are at the gym or how intense your workouts are, plain and simple: you will not put on weight. So, for anyone to get larger from weightlifting that is a diet issue and not a weight training issue.
For any girl who has a story about a girlfriend that went to the gym and started weight training and ended up getting bigger, I highly encourage you to check with your friend about their diet. How many of us have gone to the gym and used it later as an excuse for a couple of drinks with friends or a couple pastry treats at the coffeeshop later. Doing this will directly lead you down a path of consuming more energy than you are burning.
The guys and girls that have that stereotypical bodybuilder’s physique in the gym have those physiques on purpose. There is nothing accidental about it. These people have been rigorously training for muscle growth for years on end. They are constantly trying to create the perfect conditions in their training, diet (macronutrient intake), sleep patterns, style of lifting, and on and on. Believe you me, I wish it were something more like instant muscle growth. This perfect storm required for muscle growth is discipline that starts and ends in the kitchen, which leads me to my next subject in these fitness facts.
Cover Page Bodies: Realistically
The people you see on the covers of Shape magazine, Men’s Health, Instagram, or whatever other fitness publication do not roll out of bed looking like that. These people have been training for months and eating very specifically, probably weighing everything they eat down to the grams, along with spending hours in the gym just to prepare for that photo shoot. This is not a sustainable way of living, and often these people will chow down the minute they get a chance. Now this isn’t a reason to give up on your fitness goals either, the goal is to find a good balance between the fun and the hard work. After all, we want these to be life habits, not flashes in the pan.
Spot Targeting Fat
“Do this ab workout to reduce stomach fat!!” Don’t worry, at first, I fell for it. I also still wish it were so. Unfortunately, it is not. The truth is, this comes from people looking for quick and easy ways to get the results they want. However, all the good things in life come from hard work and earning them. If no one has told you that, I am so very happy to have given you part 15 of my dad speech.
When the body is intensely exercising and metabolizing food for energy, resources are being pulled from all over the body. What fat gets mobilized and used by the liver, or whether the carbs from the muscle or the liver are used, are out of our personal control. Since resources are being pulled from multiple areas around the body there is no way to tell exactly where they are coming from, let alone use resources from a specific spot. Multiple studies have been done on this subject, all of which concluded that spot reduction of fat is yet another misunderstood fitness fact. Or as President Trump puts it, “Fake news”.
Infographic and Social Media Workouts
We all have seen them, infographic workouts on Instagram and Pinterest to “Lose weight fast with these workout” or “Workouts for getting ripped”. Whatever their claim is, by-and-large these workouts aren’t what they say they are, and the only thing they are selling you is lies. Quite often images of other people with or without their permission are put onto these workouts, and of course they are lean, muscular, and outright sexy people. I don’t care who you are, unless you already looked like that before, working out 3 times a week is not going to give you a fitness model’s physique. Not now, not ever. See fitness facts myth above about cover pages.
Please be aware that people who take time to really write workouts that work and give you the correct information to be successful are usually not offering it up for free. Of course, there are some that do. However, working out is a lot like dieting. Diets aren’t a one-size-fits-all for the human and extraterrestrial race kind of thing.
Fad Diets: More Fake News
Keto, Whole30, Atkins, Paleo, whatever it is may have worked for your friend or your neighbor. That doesn’t mean it will work for you or that it is the magic cure-all diet that everyone needs to try. Don’t let these fad diet fanatics convince you otherwise. If anyone you know is following one of these diets, I am sure that you are already aware of it because, like cross fitters, it is the only thing they seem to want to talk about.
Do these diets work? Absolutely for some people they do. Let’s talk about the magic of these diets that people see when they start though. Most of the results, unless they are already in a fit and healthy manner, are coming from the fact that they are actually providing their body with good nutrients now. Anyone is guaranteed to lose weight if they drop pizza, fries, hamburgers, soda, and alcohol out of their diet while simultaneously starting to exercise. All these things are a catalyst for people unknowingly ending up in an energy deficit. Additionally, some of these fad diets require you to track macro nutrients, leading to a less accidental and more purposeful deficit.
If you have read some of my previous posts, you know I will preach from the highest mountain top that we are all biodiverse unique beings. This means that what works for one person may not work for the next person. What macro nutrient goals you need to hit is solely based on you and your body. I do not believe that there is one specific diet for anyone and everyone out there. This is part of what I love about being a nutrition and fitness coach, sleuthing out what works for each individual to get the results they need.
The Numbers on the Scale Mean Everything
This sounds counterintuitive I know, but weighing yourself isn’t an accurate measure of a whole lot other than what you specifically weigh. Even then what you weigh may not be specific to your health. I am not talking about obesity here. I am talking about relativity to yourself versus others and health charts. Everyone has heard the adage that muscle weighs more than fat, meaning that one person who weighs 150 lbs. at 6 feet tall can look completely different than someone else that weighs 150 lbs. at the same height. Weight also fluctuates throughout each day, and even across the week. Your sleep patterns, stress levels, water consumption, food intake, how much salt you consume, and what kind of job you have are just the tip of the iceberg of things that make the numbers on the scale fluctuate day in and day out.
BMI calculations at the doctor’s office are common place practice during your yearly physical. However, today’s system of measuring BMI is under a lot of scrutiny for the exact reason as the example given above. I personally have been told by doctors that I am overweight according to the charts, but that I am also fit as a fiddle and have a large muscle index accounting for the difference.
If You Must…
Please be careful about how often you are weighing yourself. I still weigh in myself, but I strongly recommend doing it only once a week towards the end of the week. This way, if you are attempting to put on or take off weight you will be able to see the sum of the week’s result, and not the day to day fluctuation that can lead to discouragement. Also please check to make sure that your scale is accurate and maintained by people who care. Damaged scales will also lead to inaccurate weight measurement. Additionally, I highly recommend using the same scale consistently for weighing yourself. The scales at your doctor’s office, gym, and home can all weigh you completely differently. Pick one and stay with it.
Do You Really Need Supplements?
This leads to my next of the fitness facts or lack thereof. You don’t need supplements to be fit, healthy, or even get large hulking muscles. I want to cover a couple of the one-off supplements that get pedaled around the nutrition shop like crack, but let’s stick to an eye-in-the-sky view real quick. At a base level, you should be eating your nutrients. If your goal is to aim for 1g of protein per body lb. then you really need to be trying to make sure you consume this via food. The same goes for all your macronutrient goals across the board. Supplements are exactly that. A supplement:
Supplement – something that completes or makes an addition.
I know that the people across the industry push supplements on you like they are going out of style, but you don’t need them, especially if you are new. You may be asking right about now, “well when do I need supplements”? The answer to that is if you are unable to consume your necessary macronutrients.
Do Testosterone Boosters Work?
What could be more appealing for the wild males in the gym than added testosterone? As if there weren’t enough in world already. In one such study among the 109 common ingredients tested in testosterone boosters, 61.5% no data was able to be concluded on the effect of T levels. So just over half of the ingredients were inconclusive. 10.1% showed data that they decreased testosterone production. An astonishing 24.8% of the ingredients tested showed data that they had an increasing effect on Testosterone levels. and finally, 18.3% of the ingredients showed data they there was no effect on T levels. Basically, only 24.8% of the ingredients in the some of the testosterone boosters reflect any increase, while 10% of them show a negative effect.
By and large these supplements don’t work. This study also found that these supplements often exceeded the FDA UL for ingredients for zinc, B3, and Magnesium. All three of these have direct links to testosterone regulation.
Moreover, another study had this to say about their findings.
“Our investigation revealed that limited human studies have evaluated T-Boosters, resulting in no definitive findings of efficacy. In the absence of additional human studies, patients should be cautioned before considering T-Boosters, given the availability of highly effective therapies approved by the Food and Drug Administration.”
Do Fat Burners Work?
This is another supplement that gets pedaled around the supplement stores and websites. Americans spend about $2.1 billion a year on weight-loss dietary supplements in pill form alone. A study on thermogenic substances when compared with a placebo had no major differences between the them. In short, they do not work. On the other hand, some studies do show that they have small and inconsistent effects. So where do these claims come from? It’s a small combination of a couple of things. The first being that it is true, products like caffeine and green tea extract show evidence that they increase a person’s metabolism and decrease your appetite for a short period of time (shout out to those folks on Keto), which means higher energy levels. These higher energy levels then allow you work out more intensely or for longer at the same intensity.
Readers please know that the FDA has known lax regulations on supplements sold over the counter. They do not go through the same levels of inspection that prescription drugs are required to. The FDA knows that supplement industry regulation needs to be better, and currently it looks like they are planning to make that happen.
Too Much of a Calorie Surplus
Starting out I had not the slightest idea on how to eat in a proper surplus. I chose to live and die by the sword of the calculations of the MyFitnessPal app. Since then, I have learned that the calculations it produces are more of an estimation that can be about 40% off. Of which, there are about 3-4 different equations to reach your caloric level, all differing in total calories. I can also guarantee that your activity level will be set wrong the first go-around on the app.
It takes roughly 3,500 calories to lose or gain a pound. Divide that up by days in the week and that is how many additional calories it will take to get one pound of those sweet Jesus gains on you. Only problem is, eating in a surplus means more energy consumption than what you’re spending. So, if you aren’t putting in the work, your body is just going to store those extra calories as adipose tissue AKA fat.
I also met people that were my physique goals at the time. Some of these people were eating in 750-calorie surpluses or 100-calorie surpluses. That’s the equivalent of 1.5 lbs. to 2 lbs. a week in sweet nasty gains. I fell for this garbage as well, and ended up having to stop a bulk sooner than I desired to get back down in weight. For that reason, I am going to refer you to the last sentence of the previous paragraph, aaaaaaand do you even diet bro? As previously discussed, everyone is unique and their goals around dieting will be different. But rule of thumb, what you want to add is somewhere are 10% of your maintenance calories for a lean bulk. Additionally, this will keep you closer to your desired weight for longer while bulking, in case you have a Men’s Health or Shape magazine photo shoot coming up.
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- ^Merriam Webster. (2019/08/11). “Definition of SUPPLEMENT.” https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/supplement
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