21 Common Fitness Myths Debunked
There is no shortage of misinformation in the world of fitness and nutrition. We are bombarded with promises of rapid fat loss, overnight muscle gain, and superhuman strength on TV, the internet, and in magazines. With so much bad information out there, it’s no wonder that there’s so much confusion about fitness.
Unfortunately, basic fitness and nutrition are not taught in school. Most people don’t know any better than to believe what they are told by the media, which is often wrong. Of course, this is not anyone’s fault. But, after reading this, you will have a much better understanding of what’s true and what not. Let’s explore a number of common fitness and nutrition myths.
1. You need to live in the gym to get in shape.
A lot of people are under the impression that you have to spend hours and hours in the gym every day to have a nice physique. This is simply not true.
Unless you are a bodybuilder or a professional athlete, you don’t need to spend all day in the gym. 45-60 minutes 3-5 times a week is all you need to get in great shape. You can always spend more time working out if you’d like, but it’s certainly not necessary to look great.
2. “I don’t go to the gym because people there will judge me, are rude, and self-centered.”
This couldn’t be further from the truth. People at the gym are usually positive, upbeat, and happy to help out newcomers. In fact, people at the gym are often friendlier and less judgmental than people out in the world.
Everyone is at the gym for the same reason: to better themselves. The only person that is going to judge you at the gym is yourself. Everyone is too busy trying to work on themselves to judge you. Even the fittest guys and girls at the gym started somewhere. Don’t forget that.
3. You can get 6-pack abs by doing a ton of crunches every day.
This is a pretty common misconception. Everyone has abs. The only way to see your abs is to have a low enough body fat percentage. You could do a million crunches every day for 5 years straight but, if you have a lot of belly fat, you’re not going to be able to see your abs. The
The only way to get 6-pack abs is to reduce your body fat percentage to less than 10% (give or take). Crunches and other abdominal exercises can make your abs grow but you won’t be able to see them unless your BF% is low enough.
4. You can reduce fat in one specific part of your body.
A lot of people ask how they can lose fat on one part of their body but not others. Women often want to lose fat on their bellies but not in their breasts. Men want to lose fat on their bellies but not on their arms. This is something called “spot reduction” and it is a myth. It was once thought that you can reduce fat in a certain area by targeting that area. We now know that this is physically impossible.
5. Lifting weights will make you bulky and huge.
I don’t know where this myth came from, but it’s everywhere. I hear both men and women say this. It’s simply not true.
Putting on muscle is hard work and takes time. Women often use really light weights because they think it will prevent them from getting big, but this is not true. The only thing it’s preventing is optimal gains! Women should be training with moderate-to-heavy weights, as should men. Women simply don’t have the hormone profile to get big and muscular. And for a man to get big and bulky it would take years of strict training and eating.
6. You can “tone” your body.
This is simply a matter of people not understanding the definition of the word tone. Muscle tone is the state of tension in your muscles. It has nothing to do with being muscular or lean.
People often say things like “I want to get toned.” What they mean is that they want to be lean, muscular, and have visible definition. This is absolutely possible, but not by “toning.” Toning is a myth, similar to the idea of spot reduction. To achieve a lean, muscular look you need to build some muscle by lifting weights and reduce body fat by watching your diet and maybe doing some cardio.
7. You can convert fat to muscle.
That’s simply not the way your body works. Muscle tissue and fat are built differently and serve different purposes. You cannot convert fat to muscle. And you cannot convert muscle to fat.
8. You need to consume protein right after working out or your workout will be wasted.
The idea that you need to eat or drink immediately after a workout has been around for a while but has little science to back it up.
It has been theorized that there is a window of time after a workout that your body will use protein more efficiently for building muscle. This is called the “anabolic window” or the “metabolic window.” Some say this window is as short as 30 minutes after a workout. Others say that it may last for 4-6 hours after a workout. A 2013 study reviewed 23 previous studies on the anabolic window and found that eating protein right after a workout makes very little difference.
9. If you want to make gains you need to use pre/intra/post workout supplements.
This is nothing more than marketing from supplement companies. The truth is that you really don’t need to use any supplements to make gains.
Proper nutrition and regular exercise are all you really need to get in shape. Can supplements help? Sure, some can. But, they are not necessary. If you are new to the world of fitness, you should focus on your diet and learning to exercise safely and effectively. Then you can use supplements to do what they are supposed to do: supplement your diet and exercise routine.
10. You can’t build muscle on a vegetarian or vegan diet.
You absolutely can. Meat and dairy products are excellent sources of protein but aren’t the only sources of protein. Beans, nuts, seeds, dairy, quinoa, eggs, seitan, and soy are all excellent sources of protein. Certain types of vegetarians eat eggs (ovo), drink milk (lacto), and even eat fish (pescetarian). For strict vegans (no animal products at all), it can be more of a challenge to meet your daily protein requirements. It is not impossible, though.
11. “Natural” bodybuilders and fitness models achieved and maintain their physiques without drugs.
Well, that’s what they want you to believe – and most people do. However, the truth is that most “natural” bodybuilders and fitness models that you see on magazine covers and in supplement ads use anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs).
There is a huge stigma attached to steroid use in society, so it is something that is denied publicly. The problem with this is that it creates a false sense of what it achievable by the average person. This problem is pretty well known among fitness experts. However, the general public and most recreational fitness enthusiasts are largely unaware of this.
12. “The guy/girl with shredded 6-pack abs said so, so it must be true!”
Fitness models are used to sell supplements, workout routines, meal plans, gym memberships and everything else you can imagine. Don’t believe everything you hear because the person who says it has a good physique.
More often than not, supplement companies hire fitness models to promote their products when the model has never used the product themselves. Always do you research before believing anything that you even suspect may not be 100% true. As a general rule, you should always question anything you hear from someone that’s trying to sell you something. This is good advice in and out of the fitness world.
13. I am an ectomorph/mesomorph/endomorph.
No you’re not.
The idea that people come in one of three somatotypes was originally a theory in psychology. This theory tried to associate body type with temperament. This theory has since been completely debunked. Somewhere along the lines, the fitness world started to use these terms to describe people’s body types and their ability to build muscle and fat. There is absolutely no truth to this. Take one look around the gym, the mall, or the street. It won’t take long for you to realize that people come in a lot more than 3 shapes and sizes.
14. You can’t lose weight because you have a slow metabolism.
The flip side of this is people that say they can’t gain weight because they have a fast metabolism. While it is true that metabolism varies from person to person, in reality it doesn’t vary very much. The difference in metabolism between the vast majority of the population is between 200-300 calories per day. If you are struggling to lose weight it is because you are eating too much. If you are struggling to gain weight it is because you are not eating enough.
15. “For only $19.95 you can buy my new book, The Seven Secrets to Super Fast Fat Loss.”
There are no secrets or shortcuts to weight loss. Well, there is one: You need to eat less. But now it’s not a secret anymore. Anyone that tries to sell you secrets, tricks, shortcuts, or life hacks to lose weight, odds are they are full of you-know-what. Consuming less calories than your body needs on a daily basis over a period of time is the only way to lose weight.
16. Doing squats is bad for your knees.
Not if you use good form. Squats are a great exercise but need to be performed correctly to minimize risk of injury. This, of course, is true of all exercises. Keep the weight light and go slow until you have perfected your form.
17. There is only one “right” way to do each exercise.
Most exercises have several variations that can alter the muscles that it works. For example, wide grip, close grip, and neutral grip pull-ups all work the back a little bit differently. One variation may be better for the outer lats while another variation may be best for the lower part of the lats. No single variation is the “right” way to do a pull-up. Different grips, angles (incline/decline), and footings are examples of ways that you can alter an exercise.
18. You need to eat every 2-3 hours to build muscle.
Not true. Most studies show that meal timing really isn’t that important. The only thing that matters is that you hit your calorie and macronutrient requirements every day. Whether you get your calories from 6-8 small meals or one big meal doesn’t seem to make much of a difference.
19. You can only process X grams of protein at a time.
Some studies say 20 grams. Some say 30 grams. Different sources give different numbers. Your body can only absorb protein so fast. But if you eat a 16 ounce steak with 100g of protein, does that mean you only get 20-30 grams out protein out of it? Of course not. You can only process so much protein per hour, but the remaining protein will remain in your intestines until it can be absorbed. You will eventually use the whole thing.
20. Eating fat makes you fat. (or) Eating carbs makes you fat.
In the 80’s and early 90’s fat was the enemy. It was thought that dietary fat made you gain fat. “Low Fat,” “No Fat,” and “Reduced Fat” was seen on every label in the grocery store. In the late 90’s into the 2000’s, the target shifted from fat to carbohydrates. All of a sudden carbs became the enemy. Low-carb diets became all the rage. Then they started telling us it’s not all carbs, just sugar. Sugar is what makes you fat.
Of course, none of this is true. Fat, carbs, and sugar are not the reason that people get fat. What makes people fat is eating more calories than they are burning day after day. It’s really that simple.
21. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
This is an old one, but I still hear people saying it. Breakfast is no more or less important than any other meal of the day. The only thing that really matters is your calories, fat, carbs, and protein intake at the end of the day.
22. You should not subscribe to the Over 30 Fitness newsletter.
This is the worst myth of them all! Okay, maybe it’s not a myth. But you should subscribe to the Over 30 Fitness newsletter. As our gift to you for signing up, you’ll get the free eBook, “Burning Fat and Building Muscle In Your 30s, 40s, 50s, and Beyond.”
Think we missed a fitness myth? Tell us about it in the comments section below.