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Busting Fitness Myths
By Angela Bentley
Date: August 2016

The nutrition and fitness world are riddled with myths and half-truths which can leave you feeling very confused and unsure what to believe. Today I will help to debunk 8 of the most common fitness myths.


Myth 1: Pre-exercise static stretching improves performance and decreases risk of injury.
 
In recent years research has actually demonstrated that the opposite can occur. The type of stretching (if any) should be individualised to the specific athletes’ requirements. For instance those coming out of rehabilitation or with a limited range of motion may benefit from static or PNF (proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation) stretching. However, the opposite would be true for those engaging in strength or power training where reductions in performance have been demonstrated with such stretches. Overall, dynamic stretching, which includes slow controlled movements through a range of motion appropriate to the type of exercise you are about to perform has been shown to be the most beneficial for performance enhancement 1,2.


Myth 2: If you exercise you will lose weight no matter what you eat.
 
In order to lose weight we need to expend more energy than we are consuming. If our energy intake is more than our expenditure we will gain weight. Exercise helps to increase energy expended directly and indirectly, it can therefore assist with weight-loss when we are following an energy-controlled diet. However, this does not give us free reign to eat huge quantities of whatever we want as this could easily result in weight-gain instead.


Myth 3: Lifting weights makes women look bulky.
 
Strong is the new skinny! This fear is unfounded and benefits of strength training are vast.
Strength training assists with weight-loss, increasing bone-density, heart health and mental-wellbeing amongst other benefits3. Muscle is also more metabolically active than fat, which increases your resting energy expenditure, meaning you can eat more4!
The reason that women do not get as bulky as men when lifting weights is due to their hormones. Testosterone is the hormone that helps men to bulk up. While women also have testosterone, the levels are far lower, making it much harder for women to naturally bulk up in the same way5,6.


Myth 4: Abdominal exercises help with fat loss in the tummy area.
 
Although we probably all wish it were that easy, it unfortunately is not. While ab exercises can definitely help to strengthen and define tummy muscles, we cannot pick and choose where we want to lose weight. Developing visible abs is more about lowering your total fat percentage which can be achieved through a good diet in combination with strength and cardio training. Sufficient sleep, and keeping stress-levels in check also have an important role to play7,8.

Myth 5: Cardio first, weights second.
 
Actually, it doesn’t really matter, doing both, in whichever order will be highly beneficial. But if you are going to prioritise, it might be wiser to put weights first. Why? Well because doing cardio first can use up your glycogen (muscle energy) stores leaving you feeling a bit sluggish when you get to the weights9,10,11.


Myth 6: A pure protein shake is all that you need for recovery after exercise.
 
While you definitely need protein to repair your muscles after exercise, the macronutrient that you need even more of is carbohydrates. The reason that we require carbs after exercise is that our muscles only have the ability to store limited amounts of energy in the form of glycogen. During exercise these stores diminish and we require carbs to resynthesize glycogen. The ideal ratio of carbs to protein is 3-4:1. FUTURELIFE® High Protein Smart Food and FUTURELIFE® Smart Drink both have characteristics making them ideal for exercise recovery.


Myth 7: It is inevitable that we will gain weight as we get older.
 
It is true that as we age our muscle mass decreases and our metabolism declines, however, this does not have to lead to weight gain. In order to prevent the dreaded bulge it is advisable to increase physical activity (or maintain if you are already active) and to include strength training into your routine. Strength training will help you to build lean muscle which in turn increases your metabolism. Diet also has a very important role to play because as we get older we require fewer calories and it becomes necessary to change our eating habits accordingly. Cutting back on sugary, highly-processed and convenience foods is a good way to keep excess calories in check13.


Myth 8: The scale is a great indicator of progress.
 
The scale is a great indicator of weight, but when we use weight to measure our progress when training we are likely to become demotivated. This is because muscle is a more dense tissue than fat, so although you may be slimming down and losing centimetres as well as fat the scale may not always tell you want you want to see14. As mentioned previously, lean muscle mass also raises your metabolic rate, which should further assist with weight-loss. Using an accurate fat percentage measurement technique or even a good old tape measure is a far more effective way of tracking your progress.
References:
1) http://www.ideafit.com/fitness-library/pre-exercise-stretching-and-performance
2) http://www.brianmac.co.uk/dynamic.htm
3) http://www.womenshealthmag.com/fitness/weight-exercises-women
4) http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/toning-body-thighs
5) http://www.womenshealthmag.com/fitness/strenght-training-myths
6) http://www.webmd.com/women/guide/normal-testosterone-and-estrogen-levels-in-women
7) http://www.mensfitness.com/training/build-muscle/seven-of-the-biggest-myths-in-fitness%E2%80%94debunked
8) http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/top-9-fitness-myths-busted?page=2
9) http://www.prevention.com/fitness/fitness-tips/cardio-vs-weights-which-should-you-do-first
10) http://www.womenshealthmag.com/fitness/cardio-or-strength-first
11) https://lifereimagined.aarp.org/stories/40986-Which-Should-You-Do-First-Cardio-Or-Strength-Training-
12) http://www.ajol.info/index.php/sajcn/article/download/88379/77991
13) http://www.healthscopemag.com/weight-gain/
14) http://www.prevention.com/fitness/strength-training/does-muscle-weigh-more-fat

Products mentioned
• High Protein Smart Food
• Smart Drink

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