Think you’ve got the health and fitness equation sorted? You probably do!
But there’s still a wealth of misinformation on the interwebs when it comes to the best and most effective workouts and foods for your body.
Plus, new research is constantly emerging and with it new advice on the latest superfoods you absolutely MUST eat, and what kind of cardio you should actually do (“HIIT is great! Actually maybe moderate intensity isn’t so bad. Should you just go for a walk?”).
It’s confusing and overwhelming – but it doesn’t have to be. Keep reading to find out the top fitness and diet myths you need to stop believing so you can start living your healthiest life yet:
1. If You Don’t Workout Hard and Often, Exercise is a Waste of Time
Nothing could be further from the truth. While getting some physical activity each day is recommended to offset sitting time at work as well as a boost in mood and energy, you can still get great benefits from 1 or 2 sessions each week according to a UK study released in early January.
Results showed that those who get just 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week —dubbed “weekend warriors”—lowered their risk of death by a similar amount to those who exercised regularly throughout the week.
So, if you’ve had a hectic week and missed your normal workouts, never fear. Simply prioritise a few weekend workouts and you’ll still reap the rewards.
2. No Pain, No Gain
Many people think if their muscles don’t hurt or their lungs aren’t burning during intense cardio, they’re not having a quality workout. The truth is exercise does not need to be painful to be effective. In fact, overdoing your training might actually do more harm than good.
While some soreness is expected after starting a new exercise regime, doing too much too soon can increase your risk of injury. My mantra is that exercise should rejuvenate the body, not exhaust or deplete it.
Start slow, do the right exercise for you and your current health and fitness (if you’re not sure what this is, I can help), and make it a part of your lifestyle to get all the benefits without any of the pain.
3. If You Stop Exercising, Your Muscles Will Turn To Fat
This is a common myth I hear time and again from my clients. There is this intense fear that their hard earned muscle will turn into fat if they need to take a pause in their training. However, fat and muscles are two different tissue types and one cannot be converted to the other. The truth is that muscles atrophy, or reduce in size, when they’re not being used as the body tries to normalise its composition.
Considerable muscle tone is not a normal state of being for the body, which is why it is so hard to maintain. You may feel as though you look less toned, which you equate to gaining fat, but this is not the case. If you are recovering from an injury, or illness, be kind to yourself and realise that you are worth SO much more than what your body looks like.
4. Lifting Weights Will Make You Bulky
So many females worry that if they pick up a dumbbell they will turn into the incredible hulk. Fortunately this won’t happen as us ladies have less testosterone than our male counterparts. Strength training should be included in your routine 2 – 3 times per week as it has many benefits.
You will gain beautiful shape to your arms and legs, maintain a healthy metabolism, ward off diabetes, and increase your bone density – all positive things for a healthy strong body.
5. The More You Sweat, the More Calories You Burn
If a sweat soaked shirt was a sign of burning more calories, then we’d all be magically fit from standing in the hot summer sun. The purpose of sweating is to help regulate body temperature and the amount you sweat is highly individual. It’s affected by factors such as air temperature, humidity, the clothes you wear, and your fitness level.
Interestingly, the fitter you become, the more you tend to sweat. Why? Your body becomes a more efficient cooling system, allowing you to exercise for longer. To learn more about sweat and if it can help you lose weight or ‘detox’ click here.
6. To Lose Weight You Need To Give Up Carbs
Every time somebody tells me they’ve cut carbs from their diet, a little piece of my heart dies (and I have an extra piece of bread in their honour). The thing is that most of us require some level of carbohydrates to function at our best.
They help us think, move, breathe and enjoy life. Sure, we can cut carbs temporarily if we need to lose weight quickly, but for most of us, going too low carb for too long can have disastrous effects – especially for those of us who work out. Doing intense or regular exercise while drastically reducing carbs from starchy vegetables, fruit, or grains can lead to:
Decreased thyroid hormones
Increased stress hormones
Impaired mood and cognitive function
Suppressed immune function
This essentially means your metabolism might slow down, cortisol levels will spike (which nobody wants!), you’ll start eating away at your hard earned muscle, cry or get angry at the drop of a hat, lose your period, and get a few too many colds.
Sounds fun, right? Please be sensible with your carb intake and eat enough to support your active lifestyle, nourish the good bacteria in your gut, and keep your hormone levels happy. Here’s a quick guide on some good ones to eat.
7. Sugar is the devil
Criticising one nutrient for all the worlds health problems probably isn’t the whole story. Sure, a diet high in processed sugars from sodas, candy, biscuits and cake isn’t ideal, but that doesn’t mean you need to cut them out altogether.
Quality eating should be healthy, pleasurable, and sustainable – not restrictive. Eighty percent of the time eat whole real foods that your grandparents would recognise and 20 percent of the time eat the damn cake without an ounce of guilt.
8. Doing a Juice Fast Will Help Cleanse Toxins From Your Body
Your body is constantly breaking down and removing unwanted substances from the body through its own elegantly designed system for removing toxins—namely, the liver, kidneys and spleen.
Detoxification has three distinct phases and actually requires protein, antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables, and other micronutrients that a juice cleanse just doesn’t have. To read more about how to support the natural process of detoxification click here.
9. A Protein Shake Is The Best Post-Workout Drink
Eating 30 – 60 minutes after exercise will help you recover faster so you’re quicker and stronger at your next workout – but is a shake your best bet? Maybe not. Your body needs both carbohydrates and protein to kickstart the process of protein synthesis and replace the muscle glycogen you used during your workout, so pure protein alone won’t do the trick.
Plus, those powders can be mighty expensive! Some good alternatives include chocolate milk, eggs on toast, or salmon sushi. However, if you’re in a rush making a protein smoothie can be a quick way to get the nutrients your body needs – just be sure to add milk, a piece of fruit or some oats, and a spoonful of nut butter to make it more nutritionally complete. Here’s more info on how to pick a post-workout snack.
10. You Should Follow a Meal Plan You Found On The Internet, In A Magazine, Or On Instagram
You might be thinking, “Good! I want a plan. I’m sick of trying to figure out all this nutrition stuff! Just tell me what to eat, when to eat it, and the EXACT portions!” But just because the latest Insta-star or celebrity trainer eats a certain way doesn’t mean that it’s right for you.
Unfortunately, when we try to follow rigid prescriptions like this, lots can (and often does) go wrong. Most commonly, you fall off the plan because it doesn’t account for the fact that you’re a human with fluctuating needs for energy and nutrients.
Instead of listening to your natural hunger you deny yourself food because it’s not ‘in the plan’. Or you start missing out on key nutrients like iron or B vitamins because it restricts red meat or carbohydrates making you feel lethargic.
If you want guidance on what to eat that’s appropriate for you and your body, see an accredited practicing dietitian or nutritionist in your area.
Sarah is an Accredited Exercise Physiologist, Pilates instructor and Personal Trainer specialising in women’s health and hormonal conditions. She offers Personal Training, small group Pilates classes, and Health Coaching focusing on nutrition, exercise, and mindset to help you reach your wellbeing goals. Visit www.skactive.com.au to find out more.