If I close my eyes, I can see it all now.
On billboards, signs, and brochures.
On the covers of fitness magazines.
The selling points.
The sales pitches.
We have been sold so many lies in order to sell products, training sessions, and gym memberships that wading through the bull$hite has become a near impossible task.
We are left wondering: Can I really lose a ton of weight eating cookies for every meal on the “cookie diet?”
As you explore the many different diets, exercise methods, and programs available to you, you can relieve some of that inevitable frustration by checking the claims against science, an understanding of the body, (and sometimes a little common sense).
Let’s use science to bust the 3 Biggest (and most pervasive!) Exercise Myths.
Myth #1 – Exercise is about burning calories
You exercise every day. You’re burning SO MANY CALORIES.
So why aren’t you losing weight?**
Exercise is NOT about burning calories.
Exercise is about building muscle.
The amount of calories we burn during exercise is negligible.
So you went to the gym this morning and ran on the treadmill. You burned 350-500 calories, depending on how fast you ran, how long you ran, if you ran on an incline, and how much you weigh. There are a few genetic factors to add on top of that calorie tally, but you get the idea.
After ordering your Starbucks on the way to the office, you just negated your entire workout.
What. The. Fluff.
Exercise is not about burning calories. Weight loss is 90% about the food you eat. If you are trying to create a calorie deficit through movement, you’re going to be on that hamster wheel forever.
And not only is that movement resulting in a lot of wear and tear on your joints through the impact, it usually increases your appetite because your body adjusts to demand.
Your workout made you hungrier and then you eat more calories than you burned during the workout. Oops.
I give up.
Look, it’s actually a lot easier than you think.
Exercise is about building muscle, strengthening the body.
If you get off the treadmill and into the weight room, you will still burn calories during your workout, but you’ll also burn calories after your workout.
Muscle burns significantly more calories than fat, and building extra muscle on your body will increase your metabolism all day, everyday, at rest, and even while you are sleeping.
And then your body does some truly magical witchcraft called “protein turnover.” During a workout, you break down the muscle, causing microtraumas. Then your body rebuilds “broken” muscle and overcompensates by creating new muscle.
In addition to the caloric expenditure during the workout (and the increase to your resting metabolic rate because of all the brand spankin’ new muscle you’ve created over a period of training), ALL muscle worked (old muscle + new muscle = ALL muscle) will engage in this super awesome protein turnover process.
Old muscle (that we already had) is being replaced through protein turnover. In addition to building that new muscle tissue, your body is removing muscle tissue damaged by the workout and replacing it. Protein turnover = even more calories burned.
Holy potato chip!
These calories ADD ++++++ up.
Our bodies are super complex, guys. It’s not as simple as burning calories during a workout.
Building muscle gives you a LOT more bang for your buck.
Combine this approach (a workout that builds muscle) with balanced eating, and YOU WILL BE UNSTOPPABLE.
**Losing weight is about what you eat. You can’t out exercise what you eat. Stop trying.
Myth #2 – Cardio is the Best Cardio
Traditional “Cardio” (running, biking, elliptical-ing) is really steady-state aerobic activity.
Aerobic (with oxygen) exercise is measured in VO2 max, which is the maximum amount of oxygen our lungs can take in → then supply to red blood cells → to deliver to working muscle tissue → for use to create ATP (muscle energy) → to continue ongoing physical activity.
Traditional “cardio” is ONE way to increase VO2 max. And we attached all cardio benefits to VO2 max because VO2 max was the only measurable tool available in the 1980s when “cardio” was born.
But total cardiovascular health encompasses a hell of a lot more than just maximum oxygen uptake.
Long story, short. Cardio is not the best cardio.
~Intense strength training~ produces all the kickass aerobic benefits of traditional “cardio” training (in the form of increased oxygen uptake) as well as increasing cardiac output, which is super important for optimal heart health.
Strength training increases venous return of blood to the heart through the actual muscle contractions and through the dilation of the blood vessels.
Additionally, strength training “adaptations may include an increase in mitochondrial enzymes, mitochondrial proliferation, phenotypic conversion from type IIx towards type IIa muscle fibers, and vascular remodeling (including capillarization).”
OK, then forget all those amazing cardiovascular benefits because here is my personal favorite.
When working the muscles intensely to muscle failure, the muscle fibers that use oxygen to create ATP (you know, the ones we test to get VO2 max) cannot get oxygen quickly enough (because we aren’t allowing them to rest) so the body is forced to resort to its emergency system of producing ATP, the anaerobic system (without oxygen).
The muscle cells use the glycogen stored in the muscle for emergencies to make the much-needed ATP (muscle energy). The muscles are quickly depleted of their glycogen stores, and in the days following our intense strength training workout, the body must take glucose from the bloodstream, convert it into glycogen, and store it into the muscle for the next emergency (i.e. the next workout).
This process balances the glucose levels in the bloodstream, increases insulin sensitivity of the cells, and prevents (reverses!) diabetes, heart disease, and other cardiovascular diseases.
More Cardio than Cardio.
Myth #3 – More Exercise = More Better
When it comes to getting fit (and staying fit) less is actually more.
Simply put: recovery time is JUST as important as the exercise itself. Scratch that, it’s even more important, especially if you exhaust the muscles every time you work out.
But that’s the key, ladies and gentlemen.
You have to completely exhaust the muscles.
Your workout time is not the time to watch TV, listen to your ipod, chat with your friends, put together your mental grocery list, or check out the hottie on the treadmill.
It’s time to focus on the workout and do the damn thing.
100% of your zen-like focus must be on maintaining proper form and alignment, using the correct muscles, and pushing into (not past!) the intensity as you walk the fine line of pushing as hard as you can, without compensating or cheating on your form AT ALL.
If you aren’t doing this, you’re not doing a lot.
It’s not the amount of exercise you do, it’s about the effectiveness of the exercise.
Quality > Quantity
You don’t need to spend hours and hours of your life working out to get all the amazing benefits of a fitness program and to look your best, and most importantly, feel super strong and healthy.
You just need to do it the right way, the first time.
The burn will be REAL when you work your muscles to exhaustion.
But it means double the gains in half the time.
And not only will you walk away with physical strength, but through focus and commitment, you’ll also develop life-changing inner strength.
And the best part is you won’t have to spend hours each week on the treadmill.
Because you have an amazing life to live, don’t you?!!