The fitness industry is a place where one persons wrong is another’s right. There are contradictions everywhere and always someone disagreeing with your methods of doing things whether it be in the gym, what you’re eating, to how you’re presenting yourself on social media. I’ve come to terms with this and know that in a few years time I’m probably going to be doing things way differently than I am now, but for now I just like to find new ways to make progress, and I love that I can always be reading some new information and science (undercover geek) about my passion- it’s great that there’s an opportunity to learn something new every day.
However, I do also believe that there are a few common myths in the fitness industry that should be eradicated- I see on Instagram TOO many people using these pointers within their fitness journey, and I feel like shaking them! Disagree with me if you want, someone else probably does, but I think if we minimalised these myths and stopped as many people following them then it would lead to more happy, healthy fitness journeys! So let’s get started;
1. No carbs after dark
Who in the blue hell would restrict themselves from carbs at any time of the day, let alone prime time for a big fat dessert? Avoiding carbs beyond a certain time of day is literally pointless. Does that mean you eat extra carbs or try and cram as much in as possible before it goes dark?! Does that mean you can eat as many carbs as possible but as long as you don’t go past 7 then you’ll be fine..? You can see how people easily go wrong here – focus on the overall calorie input & expenditure, (how many calories you’re eating, & how many you’re burning) rather than avoiding carbs beyond a time of day or colour of the sky. I’ve had some new low weigh -ins off the back of eating midnight snacks; it’s a myth.
2. Uphill walking isn’t cardio
I’ve had this debate with quite a few people, as they’re surprised when I say I don’t like running & rarely run over walk (unless I’m running home to dinner or something..) When prepping for a comp, uphill walking on the treadmill is one of the most common forms of cardio. This is because when walking at a quick pace on a high incline, calorie expenditure is fairly decent (I look at how many calories I burn in one minute). Yes of course you’re not going to burn as many as if you run for the same amount of time, BUT – it’s not a strenuous activity, & when it comes to muscle recovery it’s easy & kinder on your muscles than having them recover from sprints or a long run. When preparing for a show or just looking to burn calories, you’re not focusing on anaerobic or aerobic endurance, and the quicker your muscles recover for the next session, the better. When you’re tired from a long day or diet macros- who wants to run anyway!? I either use cross trainer or uphill walk, stick a tv programme on and it’s sorted. The point being- calories still get burnt, and when you’re prepping or on a cut, that’s generally the main idea. (Not saying you can’t run when prepping.. just saying I don’t)
3. Food is ‘clean’ and ‘dirty’.
Now don’t get me wrong, I do understand the main concept of this and get what some people mean when they use this term. ‘Clean’ food meaning full of micronutrients, or low in fat or carbs, and ‘dirty’ food as processed, high in saturated fat and all the rest. But where’s the cut off point where a food is determined as dirty? If I eat chocolate everyday, does that mean I don’t eat clean? Because I do eat chocolate, or a food that would be considered as ‘dirty’ every day.
Some people genuinely see food as ‘clean’ and ‘dirty’ and if they don’t eat ‘clean’ they can’t lose weight.. False. Food can be enjoyed no matter it’s nutritional value, and you can still lose weight or reach your goals. It’s a simple concept- you can eat all food, no restrictions to food type- but in moderation. I eat wholesome and nutritious foods that fill me up and are full of nutritious micronutrients 80% of the time. But the other 20% I eat foods that contain sugar, fat, CARBS.. because I can, and so can you. Because they’re not dirty, or clean. It’s just food! and it’s about being sensible how much and how often you have them, as well as prioritising the overall calorie balance (intake and expenditure).
4. You don’t need to exercise, just drink herbal teas.
Ahhh Herbalife.. this is actually a thing. I feel like myself & my fellow fitness friends all feel the same about this- anyone encouraging someone to replace their meals with a herbal tea needs a pinch to the tricep (how painful are these btw) Firstly, you shouldn’t skip meals – your body needs food for fuel & to make those gains in the gym. Your muscles will not grow on a diet of tea (as much as you guys know I love my daily jug of English Breakfast, WHICH btw I’ve had to cut down to one a day can you believe?!)
Yes, you may see a drop in weight to begin with if you just drink tea for meals. But a) the majority of that will be due to the huge calorie deficit- going from eating a solid meal to basically just water – why not just change what you’re eating? For example if you’re over eating; consider your portion sizes. You can still be in a calorie deficit and eat a decent amount of food.
b) Will it fill you up? Probably not. Which will most likely lead to over-eating later on in the day, or mad hunger that you can handle for a bit, but then get to the point where you think ‘f’ it, I’ll just eat 5 chocolate bars, 3 bagels, a small child and a pizza. Instead, a nice balanced meal of protein, fats & carbs would have filled your hunger & kept you satiated & energised.
c) The huge deficit you put yourself in whilst replacing meals with tea will not only leave you feeling sluggish with a lack of energy to train, but also as soon as you start eating normally again, that calorie deficit will decrease, and then you’ll potentially feel rubbish about not making continuous rapid progress, or it will lead to weight gain. Are you going to drink stinking herbal tea forever?? Don’t think so honeybooboo! Just looking out for you here, food over everything!
6. HIIT workouts mean you burn more calories during the day.
Of course you burn calories during the rest of the day… you’re a a living, breathing human being – it’s science..
A lot of people talk about, and buy into, the ‘after-burn’ effect- basically it’s additional energy expenditure (oxygen consumption) due to your body performing tasks to recover and return to it’s resting state. With HIIT exercise, people have bought into the idea that as you work super hard for a short but intense period of time, your body will work extra hard for ages after to get back to that state. The EPOC (exercise post-workout oxygen consumption) after doing HIIT is literally only slightly higher than continuous or steady state- cardio. It’s minimal, and wouldn’t really make a big difference unless you were super lean, trying to get super super lean. Instead of focusing on those details, I would focus on the total amount of calories burnt in your overall cardio session.
7. Doing crunches or sit ups will get you abs.
I hear this one a lot. When summer comes around & Instagram is filled with 6 packs, I’m sure the question ‘how many times do you train abs?’ comes to every person who has an one showing. My first ever 6 pack came around a couple of months before my first comp, and in the run up to that point I hadn’t trained abs once. Those muscles will show when your body fat is low enough to show them. They’re all hiding under there somewhere- of course your core muscles can be worked on like any other, and progressive overload (i.e. training abs with high weight and volume) will encourage them to grow, so when your body fat IS low enough you can pronounce them even more. But no matter what people say, you can’t get abs by doing sit ups 6 x a week if you still have that fat sitting on top!
So there we have it, my top 7 industry lies. If you’re reading through and thinking you’ve been fooled by one or two, don’t worry we’ve all been there! (When I was younger I swear all I used to do at the gym was abs & cardio but never had an ab lols). Looking forward, I think the best thing you can do – and the best thing I ever did, was read more. There’s always new research out and about that will help you on your journey, and it helps to actually know why you’re working so hard in the gym and where the right advice can get you.
Love, L x
(& Charlie @marchonathletic)