Eight fitness myths that refuse to go away
The search for a perfect bod has spawned a host of myths. All of us want maximum results with minimal effort and this search for a ripped eight pack has thrown up all kinds of hair brained ideas about fitness, most of them incorrect and some of them downright dangerous. Nykaa spoke to leading fitness instructors and nutritionists about the worst of the lot.
Myth: If it doesn’t hurt, or if you’re not drenched in sweat, the workout is worthless
Reality: Sure your biceps may scream while doing a particularly heavy set or your thighs may burn during an intense spin class but the worthwhile ‘no pain no gain’ should be felt in the days following the class, not during it. “In fact, if you feel noticeable pain during the class it’s a sign that your muscles or joints are being pushed beyond their limits,” says fitness instructor Neha Brackstone. She says such pain is usually a sign of injury rather than a sign that the workout is working. Similarly sweating profusely post workout doesn’t mean the workout is more effective. Some people sweat more than others and perspiration is simply the body’s way of naturally cooling down.
Myth: Your cardio machine is counting the calories you’re burning.
Reality: This is a real minefield. One stationary bike states that you’re burning 300 calories in 30 minutes and another one across town insists it’s just 150 calories. These numbers don’t mean anything,” says personal trainer Roshan Patil who earlier worked with the Talwalkar chain of fitness centers. He says that some machines don’t even ask for your weight or sex. “For instance if you have 20% body fat you will end up burning a lot more calories than if you have 35% body fat,” he explains. That’s not to say that the numbers your cardio machine spits out are totally out of whack. Use them as benchmark by all means but remember they’re not carved in stone.
Myth: You can target problem areas with strength training
Reality: If only! Wouldn’t it be a perfect world if you zap a paunch with hundred daily ab crunches? But the fact is you can’t. Sure your stomach muscles will feel tighter but a six pack you won’t get unless you go on a strict diet and lose those rolls around your middle. Strength training can tone and build muscle but you won’t be able to see them till the fat over them melts away first.
Myth: Your weight is all that matters
Reality: It’s a common sight; newbies hitting the gym and weighing themselves every day. Weeks later you hear them complain, “But I haven’t lost any weight. What’s the point of coming to the gym every day?” What they can’t see is that they’ve become healthier, have a reduced risk of high blood sugar and cholesterol and better energy levels. “These are the more intangible benefits of working out,” says Brackstone. Weight loss isn’t all that it’s touted to be, especially if you aren’t over weight to begin with.
Myth: The more I work out, the better
Reality: This is one of the worst of them all! Patil says studies show that your body needs rest days to recover in between workouts. “Building muscle isn’t about pumping up your existing muscles. What happens is that small tears occur in your muscles and they become stronger when they repair themselves.” So if you’re going to do the same sets every day you’re setting yourself up for injury because you’re overworking your muscles. So all you fitness fiends listen up! Rest for at least 24 hours between vigorous workouts or at least work on a different set of muscles during consecutive workouts.
Myth: Weights will make my muscles bulky
Reality: This is the commonest concern among men and women doing weights for the first time. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll look like Popeye unless you’re taking steroids. “The big bulky muscles that some men sport is because they glug down large amount of protein shakes,” says Patil. He says regular weights will add definition to arms, chest and legs but definitely not make you bulk out abnormally unless you’re taking unnecessary supplements.
Myth: If I’m trying to lose weight, I should focus on burning calories through cardio, not building muscle
Reality: Of you should be doing cardio for calorie burning but weight training can also boost your metabolism and make it easier to torch fat. It’s true muscle weight more than fat. A person can weigh less with less muscle tone and look bigger than someone who weighs much more but has more muscle tone. “Both cardio and strength training with weights and your body weight are necessary for weight loss and overall toning,” says Patil. That and a sensible low calorie diet. In fact the more muscle you have, the more efficient your body’s metabolism, so start lifting now!
Myth: Glug down a protein shake after a workout.
Reality: A study at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, concluded that this was a myth perpetuated by protein shake manufacturers. “Protein sources in real food are Number One. Cheaper and real food also provide other benefits including vitamins and minerals,” the study noted. Nutritionist Naini Setalvad concurs. “Protein shakes and energy bars are okay only in an emergency, but you’re far better off eating real protein-rich foods such as yoghurt, nuts, seeds or a chicken/paneer whole wheat sandwich.”