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Articles > Sports & Fitness June, 05, 2015

Exposed – 13 biggest health and fitness myths

Charlie Bertram
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8.86 / 10

As I work my way further into the health and fitness industry I seemingly uncover more and more BS. It’s the type of BS that gets people confused, harms their body, mind and overall screws up what fitness is supposed to be; fun.

That’s why I’ve compiled this list of some of the most common crap that I see people subscribing to all the time. The type of thing that you feel should come with a knock on the door and a leaflet saying “our lord and saviour” on it.

1 – Fat Makes You Fat

Throwback to the 1980’s catchphrase here that’s somehow still made it’s way into modern day life. Fat does not make you fat. In fact, it’s important for a lot of processes in the body such as hormone function and brain health. Omega 3‘s are a fat and you know all about the importance of those. Fat is actually extremely satiating and from the right sources also comes with a lot of vitamins and minerals, too. There are even fat soluble vitamins (A,D,E,K) which can only be absorbed by the body in the presence o fat.

If you want to read more about this then check out my post on the topic: Fat: Friend Or Foe?

2 – Carbs Make You Fat

This one is far more recent yet carries the same amount of nonsense. Carbs DO cause your body to secrete insulin when digested but so do things like whey protein which is associated with fat loss, not fat gain. If you need a bit more convincing, here’s a handy post I wrote quite a while ago all about carbohydrates. . In fact, it was the first every post I wrote on this blog.

What does make you fat? Over consumption of calories with not enough exercise. However, you’re far better off getting these calories from meat, veggies and potatoes than pasta, doughnuts and dairy milk.

3 – Women Will Get ‘Bulky’ From Lifting Weights 

It seems quite plausible. Men lift weights and after a period of time their muscles grow and develop into larger, stronger muscles and so women would do the same, right? Unfortunately not if you’re a female bodybuilder, but fortunately not if you’re most women. Your muscles will get stronger that is for sure. Yet, to get ‘bulky’ or stage-worthy that requires a LOT of effort (and normally steroids). Many females fear the weights area because they think they’ll turn into Jodie Marsh but in reality that type of physique takes a whole bunch of work, dedication and patience. Men produce around 10x the amount of testosterone that a women does so to create the ‘bulky’ look you’ll need to somehow bring those levels up (enter; ‘special medicine’).

Trust me, if you’re not striving for that look you’re not going to get it from doing some squats, deadlifts and military presses. What you will get is stronger muscles, a confidence boost and a reduced chance of injury.

4 – You Have To Eat ‘Clean’ To Lose Fat 

The word ‘clean’ actually has no meaning. Oats are ‘clean’ to most people but to someone following a paleo diet they’re ‘dirty’. The whole ‘clean’ and ‘dirty’ contextualisation of foods is absolute rubbish. Yes, eating fruit and veggies will give you more health benefits than pastries and sweets but that doesn’t mean you can’t include both in your diet.

What does matter for fat loss is a caloric deficit and finding the right split of carbs, fats and protein to suit your lifestyle. If you need some help, I’ve got you covered in this post titled ‘Back To Basics: Fat Loss (And The Most Important Factor Of Sustainable Fat Loss)’

5 – To Get Big Arms You Don’t Need To Do Direct Arm Work 

Rows and presses will work your arms for sure and most beginners can use these exercises for about 6 – 12 months and make solid gains. I honestly believe that any beginner or intermediate lifter can build a solid body while increasing their strength from military presses, deadlifts, squats, weighted pull/chin ups, bench press and bent over rows. Those six exercises will work your entire body to give you fantastic results.

However, as with any muscle, if you really want it to grow then specialisation is a very useful tool. Bicep curls, tricep extensions, skull crushers etc will need to be introduced at some point to really make your arms develop.

6 – Fasted Cardio Is Better For Fat Loss

The idea seems simple in that if you haven’t eaten then the only thing your body has got to use for energy is your fat stores. Yet, in practice it doesn’t work so well as we also have muscle glycogen; glucose stores within the muscles that the body can tap into to create energy.

Brad Schoenfeld and Alan Aragon, both respected experts in the field with a lot of letters after their names, conducted a study and wrote a paper on it which is all explained in THIS article and the study can be found HERE.

The conclusion was:

“These findings indicate that body composition changes associated with aerobic exercise in conjunction with a hypocaloric diet are similar regardless whether or not an individual is fasted prior to training.” 

So you can have your breakfast and still get lean.

7 – High Protein Diets Are Bad For You

High protein diets ARE bad for you*.

*if you have a pre-existing kidney condition.

That’s right. In fact, high protein diets (more than 2.2g/kg of body weight) are not associated with any health issues apart from a slight increase in muscle mass. Not even fat mass.

THIS POST by precision nutrition goes into more depth on protein intake and kidney function if you want to get a little nerdy about it.

Eat steak and be happy.

8 – The More Sore You Are, The Better Your Workout Was 

Soreness is normally due to how much muscle fibre was torn during your exercise session which, depending on your goals, can be good or bad. If your goal was to tear muscle fibre then it’s good but for anything else, not so much. It hinders your recovery time and therefore limits the amount of workout sessions you can have per week.

Not only that but it HURTS. It hurts for days and makes you go “ooh” when you stretch or “ahh” when you sit down.

Sweat isn’t even a good indicator of workout quality. A good workout should be based upon how much it helped you progress towards your goals.

If you like the feeling of being sore then just include lots of negatives (the eccentric portion of the lift) in your training sessions as this is associated with a high amount of muscle damage.

9 – To Get Nice Abs You Need To Work Them Everyday 

I’m not quite sure why people view abs as this magical, mythical muscle that’s unlike all the others so you have to do an ab routine everyday or you’ll never see them.

What’s actually best for making your abs ‘pop’ is having a low body fat percentage. There’s no point working your abs directly if there’s a layer of fat covering them. Once you are lean, however, movements like leg sits, hollow body holds, hanging leg raises and ab wheel roll outs can help them become more prominent.

Treat your abs training like all your other training. You should be focused on increasing the weight they can handle or increasing their work capacity.

10 – You Must Exercise X, Y, Z Way To Be Healthy 

Certain methods of exercise have their benefits. Yoga is great for calming the mind and increasing your mobility. Weightlifting is good for boosting your strength and teaching you movement patterns under loads. Running is good for improving your cardiovascular capacity and endurance. All practices have their benefits.

What this means is that there are plenty of ways you can get fit and active while improving your health. You don’t have to do ONE type of exercise and that exercise only. Test them all out, find what works for you and stick to it. There’s no point forcing yourself to lift weights if you absolutely hate it, no matter how good it is for you. You might love martial arts or gymnastics or trampolining.

Everything has it’s advantages so don’t worry about what you’re doing as long as you’re doing something.

11 – You Must Eat X,Y, Z Way To Be Healthy

Paleo, IIFYM, zone, vegan, vegetarian, fasting, whatever.

As I said before; fat loss and muscle gain all depend on your total calories. What makes up these calories is down to you. Obviously, health is more than just amounts of fat and muscle. That’s why it’s beneficial to make sure about 80-90% of these calories come from highly nutritious sources such as meat, fish, eggs, fruit, vegetables and nuts. However, including some of the good stuff every now and again won’t make you unhealthy. In fact, it’ll probably make you healthier because you’re more likely to stay on track with your diet and less likely to obsess over foods and meals.

Find the diet that you can stick to that also helps you reach your goals and that is the right one.

One thing I will recommend to everybody, though, is to learn how to cook. Being taught how to use seemingly uninteresting food items to create a mouth watering meal is an invaluable skill. Once a week, aim to cook something new from a recipe or experiment in the kitchen. Just once a week, that’s all. It could be for any meal as well. Try out some new pancakes for breakfast, a quick stir-fry for dinner or whip up your own protein bars to save money as well.

Cooking will not only make all your meals taste amazing but it’s a great way to impress people as well as save some pocket money.

12 – You Must Take X, Y, Z Supplement To Be Healthy 

Any supplement that is sold as a MUST is a lie. Everything you can get from supplements you can get from your diet at a fraction of the cost. Some supplements may boost levels of certain substances which can be beneficial for your health but they are not necessary. Supplements are there to aid your diet, not replace it.

I would suggest investing in some creatine, a multivitamin and maybe vitamin D tablets if you’re not prone to getting enough supplements. Anything above and beyond that is down to the person. If you need some help, I’ve made a handy guide to supplements HERE and more specifically, fat burning supplements HERE.

13 – Thin People Are Healthy, Large People Are Unhealthy 

What people show you on the outside can have absolutely no link to what’s going on on the inside. Thin people can look fit, athletic and like everything’s going their way and yet I’ve never met a more self conscious group of people. Larger people are seen as lazy and unhappy with themselves but many exercise viciously each week and don’t give two sh*ts what the world thinks of them.

The mental aspect of health is often taken for granted. Once you have the body you want then you’re happy. If you’re not fit then you’re lazy and sad. Yet, I’d much rather go out with people who don’t want to talk about the gym and their diet all the time. People who will laugh and enjoy a night out without obsessing over their macros and how it’s going to affect their training session the next day.

That doesn’t mean to say thin people can’t be happy. What i’m trying to say is that your mental health is as important as, if not more than, your physical health. Don’t sacrifice your happiness for a beach body (whatever that actually is).

Also, thin people can still be extremely unhealthy. They could be chain smokers who only live on Burger King. Strongmen and powerlifters can look extremely unhealthy but they’re actually super strong and can live off very nutritious diets. Plus size women could be shot putters, olympic weightlifters and dancers. In fact, they could be bloody well anything because how you look doesn’t have to limit you.

So don’t let it.

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  1. Alex

    Whilst I agree with some of your statements I also disagree with a few. For example I think that fast cardio is actually better and that women will get bulkier, faster by lifting weights. Then again though I think that this just proves that everyone is different and that some Workouts/diets will work for some people and others won’t..

    • Charlie Bertram

      Fasted cardio hasn’t been proven to be any better for fat loss when calories have been kept the same. In fact, it’s been linked to minimal amounts of lean mass loss which isn’t desired. Basically, the key to fat loss is being in a deficit and going for a half hour run fasted or not fasted doesn’t make any noticeable difference.

      Also, the term ‘bulky’ is very subjective but often associated with being large or overly muscular. It’s extremely hard for a woman to achieve this type of physique without trying due to their testosterone levels. On average, men have about 8-10 times the amount of testosterone as women. Females lifting weights will increase their confidence and boost their muscle mass making them look more ‘toned’ (toned is simply low levels of body fat and more muscle) while boosting their metabolic rate, strengthening their bones and making them a more capable individual. More women should lift weights and more men should do yoga is what I believe.

      Completely agree that different techniques will work for different people but I still think there has to be certain levels of aerobic to anaerobic training 🙂

  2. mahdi

    health is important