Foolproof: Debunking fitness myths 3.0
By Tia Norris, April 2020 Issue.
In honor of April Fool’s Day approaching, let’s
talk about a few more diet and fitness myths that I commonly hear from new (and
experienced) clients. The truth is, most people — and even scarier, many
trainers and so-called professionals — simply don’t know what they’re talking
about when they discuss diet and fitness. The labyrinth of health is
complicated, and the solution to the puzzle is highly individualized. I’m here
to illuminate the dark and winding path to ideal health, and to dispel the
common misconceptions that I most often hear. Let the myth-busting begin.
Lifting heavy weights will make me bigger. The only thing that will make you
actually gain weight is eating a caloric surplus. Read that again. Similarly,
the only thing that will make you lose weight is a caloric deficit. Calories
are what matter in shrinking or growing your muscles. You may be able to
re-composition and change your look slightly while in caloric maintenance, but
the ultimate gas or brake on your size is how much you’re eating. Furthermore,
strength training is essential for all athletes, all ages, all conditions!
Surely by this point, I don’t need to dive into the ocean of scientific
evidence that unwaveringly supports strength training. Take my word for it:
lift heavily, lift often, and always pursue getting stronger.
What works for them, will work for me. I hear, so tragically often, that my
clients started dieting or exercising in a particular way only after seeing
someone else do it that way … or because Suzy Trainer in Lame-o Magazine told
them to do it. DOH! First, check your sources. Does Suzy actually walk the walk
herself as an athlete, with scores of different types of clients aside from
herself, and does she critically think outside of the silly little textbook
that serves solely as the foundation for practice but not the be-all, end-all
solution? Likely not. Your body is your most prized possession — without
health, you have nothing. Only accept advice from trusted individuals. Second,
know that each person is completely unique both in exercise prescription, and
dietary guidance! For example: that person who is squatting with knees way far
forward, might have an abnormally long femur and that’s the best they can do —
you might be built differently and should therefore move differently. Get what
I’m saying? Be skeptical and find what works for you.
Myth: Sodium is bad for me and should be
avoided. Here’s what you need to know about this complicated but essential
electrolyte: first, the more you sweat, the more you need to add extra sodium,
and vice versa for the less you sweat; second, sodium/sweat concentrations are
highly individual, meaning some people sweat more or less salt depending on
their unique biochemistry; and third, not all sodium is created equally (like
all supplements) — go for pink Himalayan salt to replace your sweat loss, best.
On another note, if you’re drinking lots of water, and working out lots, but
still peeing your brains out, consider adding pink Himalayan salt to drinks and
foods to help your body absorb the hydration. After all, that’s one of
sodium’s main jobs. Water retention is not always bad. As an athlete, you want
your cells hydrated adequately, depending on goals.
Myth: To get abs, I need to do hundreds of
crunches several times per week. Girl,
stop it … you’re dreaming and you’re wasting your time. The tried-and-true
formula for abs is simple in theory, but it just takes too long for most
people’s patience. First, reduce body fat through a comprehensive, long term,
carefully constructed diet and strength training program that emphasizes
building muscle while in a controlled caloric deficit. And second, lift heavy
weights on compound lifts (like squats, deadlifts, pullups) with great
technique and consistent, maximal core engagement — avoid machines, too much
cardio, and too high of reps.
Myth: Eating late at night is bad for me.
Thank God that programs like “intermittent fasting” are catching on, to help
cut through the BS on this old wives’ tale. What matters most is your total
caloric intake throughout the day (all 24hrs), against your total daily
estimated expenditure throughout the day. If you’re eating more than you’re
burning, you will gain weight. And vice versa — if you’re eating less than
you’re burning. I cannot emphasize the importance of this energy input/output
equation enough. That being said, it matters so much less (for most clients) when
they eat, versus how much they eat in total. For example, I work until 8-9 p.m.
most nights. I keep my calories relatively light throughout the day. I usually
eat a 2000+ calorie dinner and then go to sleep within one or two hours after
that. Now, of course, I keep my calorie balance in check throughout the rest of
my days, and I’m simply not hungry most mornings until much later in the day
because of this “backloading” scheme … but it works as long as you
balance your energy intake throughout the rest of the day. Talk to a nutrition
professional to find what works best for you.
Check your sources. Educate yourself, through verified research and even consider hiring a coach or nutritionist. Experiment, in a controlled way, to find what works best for you. It’s not going to be easy or cheap — make the investments in yourself, and soon you’ll be able to spot the frauds and the myths from miles away yourself.