With exercise and nutrition, there is a whirlwind of differing and contradicting information out there: high carb low fat vs. low carb high fat diets, strength training vs. cardio, crunches vs. no crunches, and so on. To clear some of the air, below are some common myths explained and backed up by extensive research and analyses:
1.) “Strength training will make me bulky”
Many women are hesitant to do any sort of resistance training because they are afraid they will “bulk up.” In reality, most women do not have the genetic/hormonal makeup to put on a ton of muscle. The more muscular women you see who are body builders or professional athletes are most likely performing vigorous strength training routines at high volumes as well as taking supplements to aid in their gains. The average woman who strength trains 2-3 times per week, even if she lifts heavy, will develop a more lean physique. Gaining lean muscle mass will also boost your metabolism, which could help with overall weight loss; this is because muscle mass requires energy to maintain.
2.) “I can’t do cardio and strength training”
There is some truth to this, but only on the far end of both spectrums. If you are a long distance runner but also involved in a vigorous strength training program, your strength training may interfere with your endurance; likewise, if you are a weight lifter but also exhaust yourself doing intense cardio daily, you will not be able to maintain as much muscle mass. Essentially, something’s gotta give. However, a long distance runner will find that performing moderate strength training a few times per week will aid in endurance, while a weight lifter will find that moderate intensity cardio will aid in their strength training by helping with circulation and decreasing recovery time. For the average individual, finding a balance somewhere in the middle (depending on your goals) is probably the best option.
3.) “No pain, no gain”
The first step to breaking this down is finding the difference between joint/musculoskeletal pain and the “burn” feeling that goes away after your muscles stop working. If you feel any pulling or sharp pains that inhibit your ability to move, you should stop exercising right away. If you feel a muscular burn that goes away, this is most likely the build up of lactic acid in your muscles and it is more than okay to continue.
4.) “Lift everyday”
The ASCM recommends that we only strength train each muscle group 2-3 days per week. Now, there are a couple different ways you can do this. If you train full-body and hit every major muscles group in a training session, you should do this a maximum of 3 days per week on nonconsecutive days. If you want to increase volume and do a “split routine,” you can break this up by muscle groups (upper body and lower body days, for example) and train four time per week (upper body Monday, lower body Tuesday, rest Wednesday, upper body Thursday, lower body Friday). Notice that even with a split routine, you are still giving your each muscle group at least 48 hours of recovery. It is not recommended that you train the same muscle groups 2 days in a row.
5.) “More protein, always”
Protein is great, but too much protein is not. If your protein intake has exceeded your body’s threshold, it is not stored for later; the body simply excretes the Nitrogen (from the proteins) as waste. This can lead to dehydration and unnecessary stress on the kidneys. The general protein recommendations for an average sedentary adult is 0.8 g/kg of body weight (1.0 g/kg BW for recreational athletes). The average American consumes far more than they need.
6.) “I want to lose fat here, here, and here”
Unfortunately, spot training is not possible. Fat cells are distributed across your entire body, so the only way to lose weight from a specific area is to lose overall body fat. Everyone holds fat in different areas and loses/gains weight in certain places first/last, so try to avoid getting discouraged about certain areas of your body.
Stephanie Spoto, CSCS