They bombard us constantly. Every day we here all about “new scientific breakthroughs” or the “latest and greatest way to gain muscle mass / lose body fat.” And of course there’s the age-old bodybuilding “truths” that we accept as gospel. In reality, a lot of these are nothing more than myths, comparable to the Urban Legends we all get spammed with 1,000 times a day over email. We’ve all seen the emails like the one telling us that Bill Gates is going to give us $1000 for simply forwarding an email to everyone on our mailing list. The “BS” Alarm promptly goes off, and we hit “Delete.” So why then do people accept every ad they read, or believe the words of every meathead at the gym without question? While believing in Urban Legends and forwarding every email you get can lead to your unpopularity, following bad advice and Urban Legends within the realm of physical fitness can lead to serious injury and health problems. Bottom line; don’t follow the advice, or worse pass on the advice of so-called “experts” without checking out all the facts for yourself.
These come and go like the tides. It would seem that one day “experts” are telling us (insert food here) will lead to long life and excellent health. The next day they’ll be telling us that the same food is hazardous to your health and will make you cross-eyed and invert your colon! Let’s then separate some nutritional myths from the facts.
Myth: “Sports protein water drinks are a good substitute for water.”
Fact: Bottom line, there is no substitute for water. The purpose of sports protein water drinks is to provide fluid and mineral replacement after strenuous exercise. It is not meant to serve as a replacement for water.
The problem with using sports protein water drinks, as a substitute for water is all the excess carbs. You may read the label and think, “but it’s only got 14 grams of carbs.” Yeah, that’s 14 grams per 250ml serving. The most common sports protein water drinks size is 1 litter, which are four servings. Do the math and you’ve got 56 grams of carbs per bottle. Now truthfully, how many of you grab a bottle of your favourite thirst quencher and only drink one serving? Yeah, me neither.
Myth: “Just don’t eat so much if you want to lose weight.”
Fact: On the surface, this one actually makes sense. If you burn more calories than you are consuming, you’ll lose weight, right? Unfortunately it’s not that simple. Whatever your body fat levels, starvation is definitely not the answer. What happens when the body is starved is it goes into “survival mode,” because it thinks that it is dying due to lack of food. The metabolism then slows down as the body tries to save as much energy as it can. Hence you become lethargic, and you will not burn as many calories naturally as you did before. What’s worse is that when the body is allowed some subsistence, it instinctively causes you to gorge yourself, because it is trying to store as much potential energy as possible.
And remember, the slowing down of the metabolism is a long-term effect. It will not speed back up once you start eating normally again. Hence why most people gain back all the weight they lost and then some once they come off a diet. Their metabolisms are slowed down, and even more calories are going straight to the waistline. The answer? Stay away from crash diets, and do not restrict your calories to the point that you are uncomfortable and feel hungry all the time. Look at changing what you eat. Remember, quality is more important than quantity.
Myth: “You can eat all the carbs you want, as long as they are “complex” and not “simple” sugars.”
Fact: Here’s one that just refuses to die! It’s frightening to think that the majority of people are still taught that 60% or more of their caloric intake needs to come from carbohydrates each day. What modern research has shown is that no matter what type of carb it is, your body processes it exactly the same way. Consuming 50 grams of carbs that come from eating pasta will have the same effect as consuming 50 grams of carbs coming from drinking soda. By consuming excess carbs, no matter where they come from, you’ll still struggle with body fat, and you’ll be putting yourself at a risk for diabetes.
This particular myth has been a scourge on society for decades. Bottom line is somebody needs to put a stake through the heart of this myth and kill it off once and for all. If you really want to fight body fat and avoid the risk of diabetes, keep your carbohydrate intake moderate to low. If you feel that your carb intake is too high, take about a third of the calories you were consuming from carbohydrates and substitute protein.
Myth: “High carb diets work just as well as high protein.”
Fact: This is a fairly new one that started circulating through the mainstream media. Apparently a recent “government” study has tried to prove the above statement. But was that their real intent? Not likely. It is more probable that the intent was to debunk the high protein phenomenon that has been hitting the Country by saying, “but look, you can do the same thing by eating lots of carbs!” Wrong answer. Problem is, were the government to officially endorse the high protein / low carb concept, that would be admitting that they’ve been wrong for the last 50 years or so.
The problem with tests like these is that results are often vague at best, and usually slanted with the results already a foregone conclusion. Bottom line is you never want to do anything extreme when it comes to diet without first researching it thoroughly. Researching it thoroughly means taking the time to learn just how the human body actually works, and how it processes food. Don’t take any research studies at face value without reading to see where they came up with their data. Fact is, if you manipulate data just right, you can “scientifically” prove absolutely anything, and not necessarily be lying!
Myth: “Eat your vegetables, no matter how they’re processed or cooked.”
Fact: Like it or not, we all know that vegetables are an essential part of a healthy diet. Thing is, many of us fall into the “not” category when it comes to liking vegetables. So we try and soup them up as much as possible in order to improve the taste. What many fail to realize is that cooking and processing of vegetables severely degrades their nutritional value. When vegetables get cooked, a large amount of the vitamins and minerals they supply are literally leached out like a sponge being squeezed. Canned vegetables are worse. Not only because they have been precooked and depleted of nutrients, they have high levels of sodium, MSG, and other fillers with little to no nutritional value. The best way to get your vegetables is to eat them in their raw, natural state. Also be advised that some vegetables like carrots and cauliflower are higher in carbs than others like broccoli or spinach.
We hear these every time we walk into the gym. One can’t complete a workout with hearing Joe Snuffy say something like, “Dude, if you do this you’ll get frickin huge, man!” Now if Joe Snuffy looks like Arnold’s big brother, he might have some good info to put out. After all, a great benefit of going to a gym is that we can all learn from each other. If on the other hand Joe Snuffy is built like a pencil, the old “BS” Alarm should probably start going off. Extreme caution needs to be exercised when it comes to doing anything that sounds drastic, otherwise severe injury could result.
Myth: “Do a thousand crunches a day and you will have “washboard” abs.”
Fact: Think that spending an hour a day torturing your abs will give you a stomach that everyone will want to touch? Not without burning off the surface body fat it won’t! Fact is, you could have the most powerful abs on the planet, but as long as there is body fat covering them, no one will know. Don’t neglect your abs workouts, however if you want your abs to show, start more on burning off the excess body fat.
Myth: “Do lots and lots of reps in order to “get toned.””
Fact: Got a soft spot on your body that’s bugging you? Just do a ton of reps each workout and it will melt away, right? Wrong. In spite of what you may have heard or read, fact is “spot reducing” body fat is physically impossible. Females seem especially susceptible to this myth. This is because rarely are they looking to gain size and strength. The most common reason a woman is in the weight room is to “tone up.” They then become frustrated when they achieve phenomenal muscular endurance, yet they still have areas with excess body fat.
This whole issue stems from a misconception about how weight training actually works. Words like “tone,” “sculpt,” and “shape,” are very misleading. A muscle can either get bigger, or it can get smaller. That’s it. You cannot change the shape of your muscles or sculpt them like pottery. And regardless of how much you work your muscles; it won’t change the soft appearance on the surface. On a positive note, what muscle gain will do is help increase your metabolism. A pound of muscle burns approximately 60 calories a day. Add 10 pounds of muscle and you’ll be burning an extra 600 calories per day! Combined with proper diet and cardio, the excess body fat will eventually burn off. However, remember that it will burn off the entire body and not just in the one spot you think it needs to.