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The truth behind 10 fitness myths60 year old woman lifts heavy weights

Anastasia Chopelas, Ph.D


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You can burn more fat at the target heart rate.

Walking is good exercise but burns less fat

False. The target heart rate is 60% to 70% of your maximum which is 225 minus your age. Target heart rate is achieved at a relatively low intensity of exercise: many people can reach at a fast walk. The reason why this idea got started is that it was discovered during low-intensity exercise, a greater proportion of fat versus muscle is burned than during high-intensity exercise.

The problem is that the afterburn effect, the increase of metabolism for a day or two, is absent in low-intensity exercise. Furthermore, heavy exercise such as weightlifting and intervals does consume muscle but is then rebuilt and more in the subsequent two days, increasing muscle mass overall. Increased muscle mass also burns more calories in a day.

The combined effect is that you burn more calories (and fat) overall by intense exercise, not low intensity exercise. It is easier to maintain weight and keep waistline trim if interval and weight training are included in a fitness program.


You can make up for bad eating habits by exercise.

exercise doesn't make up for a bad dietFalse. Exercise cannot make up for poor eating choices. While helps burn calories and will add muscle, it can’t make up for the lack of nutrition, and deluge of chemicals that the body has to process. Poor diet can wreak havoc on such health parameters as cholesterol and blood pressure; and can profoundly affect blood-vessel and brain health.

The best example of this is Dave Tate: (The Dave Tate Project at T-Nation) who was an extreme weight lifter, eating and burning well over 6000 calories a day. His diet was full of twinkies, hamburgers, French fries, and sugared sodas. He woke up one day to realize that his health was in the toilet: “with high cholesterol, high blood sugar, high liver enzymes, and a mess of other problems.”

He turned this around by hiring well known nutritionist John Berardi, who straightened his diet out. At the end, he lost some unneeded fat and ended up with very healthy health parameters. The moral of the story: you can’t out-exercise a poor diet. It’s not just calories, but the quality of the food, that matters.


You burn more fat on an empty stomach.

Don't work out on an empty stomachFalse. Supposedly fasted cardio will burn fat faster. Despite several studies, there is no definitive proof this works. In fact, because there is no fuel after several hours of fasting, cardio will break down and eat up precious muscle to a greater degree (in addition to some fat). Fasted weight lifting is also not advised because unfueled, you won’t get as much out of your workout. Eating before any kind of workout is recommended.


You can reduce a pot belly by doing a lot of ab crunches, i.e., spot reducing is possible.

Weighted crunches don't spot reduce
False. Working out a muscle or set of muscles will make them tighten and grow. Fat loss and fat distribution is based on genetics. Fundamentally, if you are on a fat loss program, the fat will come off all over your body based on your fat distribution. Although it doesn’t come off proportionately all over but rather irregularly, spot exercise does not influence how it comes off. After the fat loss period is over, if the loss is maintained, the body then redistributes the fat according to your genetics. In other words, if you are an “apple”, your belly fat will be the last to go and if you are a “pear” then the leg fat will be the last to go. A lot of ab strength work, such as what the young woman is doing in the picture, will actually increase the size of the muscles and consequently waistline. You will look trimmer and fitter even if the size is slightly larger.

Women need different exercises than men.

Kim Lyons, strong and sexyFalse. If Kim Lyons is any example of what intense training will do to our bodies, such as lifting heavy weights and doing interval training, all excuses for not doing it go right out the window. I’ve heard it said that women should lift less and do more repetitions so as not to bulk up. I don’t see any bulk here. Kim is about a size 2 and is quite dainty in clothes. Muscles are muscles regardless of which gender they’re on. They require the exact same kind exercise to firm up, grow and make a beautiful sexy shape.

Stretching before a workout can help you prevent injuries.

Stretch only after warming upFalse. Muscles should be warmed up first before exercising to prevent injury. Stretching a cold muscle can cause rips and tears. Stretching should be done after the warm-up AND work-out. Warm up would include walking, climbing stairs, or biking.


Running is counterproductive to strength training.

False. This myth comes from looking at the difference between long distance runners and sprinters. There are two types of muscle in our bodies, fast twitch and slow twitch. The fast twitch are thicker and used for intense exercise, such as sprinting and weight lifting, while the slow twitch are long and lean and used for long steady exercise, such as marathon running.

If you don’t use a particular type of muscle, it atrophies. If you only do long distance running, you stimulate the slow twitch muscles preferentially, making you look leaner and longer than a sprinter. It doesn’t burn up muscles unless you are overtraining.

Overtraining, whether long distance running or resistance/weight training, will break down muscle tissue. Without adequate time to recover to rebuild the muscle tissue, continued breakdown will occur.

Both strength training and cardio should be included in a fitness program: they each provide a different purpose: one for endurance and the other for strength.


You should only eat egg whites, not the yolks.

Egss are super healthyFalse. Eggs have been vilified from an incomplete study many years ago with regard to their cholesterol content. In fact, egg yolks are very rich in essential nutrients. They contain cholines which are essential for good brain function and memory. An increase in memory problems in the US coincides with the recommendations for cutting down on egg yolks due to cholesterol worries. One whole egg in the morning can hold off hunger better than a bowl of cereal and contains far more nutrients: this leads to eating fewer calories all day long and will help keeping the waistline under control. The recommendation for avoiding eggs was based on an incomplete study showing that eating eggs increased serum cholesterol levels. Had this study been concluded as subsequent studies were, it would have been discovered that eggs have a healthy effect on cholesterol levels. Yet, this myth still lingers and is in many dietary recommendations.


Vegetarian diets are healthier than meat-inclusive diets.

vegetarian diet isn't necessarily healtier than one without meatFalse. Unless a vegetarian includes adequate protein in the diet and makes up for the missing essential nutrients such as vitamin B12 and iron somehow, a vegetarian diet can be lacking in essential nutrients. Healthy meats such as grass-fed, wild salmon, and organic or free range chicken provide plenty of high quality protein with all the essential amino acids as well as nutrients not found elsewhere. Just because someone labels him/herself as vegetarian, doesn’t mean their food choices are good for them. They just don’t eat animal meat. For example, cakes, ice cream, potato chips, and alcohols do not contain meat. Consumption of these will lead to as many problems as a meat eater eating unhealthy foods.



Shakes and Protein Bars are good for weight loss.

protein bars are mostly cookies or candy barsFalse. Most protein bars are just candy bars with added protein, with little fiber, a lot of added sugars. The protein is usually some cheap source such as soy protein, which isn’t healthy for many people. They are high calorie and seldom hold ones hunger for long. Shakes are also lacking in staying power for much of the same reason. Protein powders, depending on the content, on the other hand are good additives into normal foods for boosting up the protein content. They do not aid in weight loss unless you are watching your calories. The best foods for fat loss (distinguished from weight loss is that weight can also include muscle and water) are whole foods with plenty of protein and fiber, containing beneficial fats, and are vitamin and mineral rich. These satisfy hunger longer and provide needed nutrients for sustaining a healthy body and mind.