By Jenevieve Roper PhD (ABD), CSCS (@JLynnFit)
With so many fitness magazines, websites, blogs, and friends with health and wellness advice, it can be hard to distinguish between fact and fiction — especially if you are new to the “fit life” movement. We’ve all heard something from someone who knew someone who read somewhere you should do a certain thing that’s good for your health, only to find out they were absolutely wrong — and it’s time to end the craziness! Read on to debunk some of the most common health and fitness myths so that you’re never fooled by hyped-up hearsay again.
Myth 1: Eat Fat, Get Fat
Remember the low-fat diet craze, when everyone thought that the less fat you ate, the less fat your body stored? Well, that’s not exactly true — it’s more about balance, which makes the powers of the Mediterranean diet a very real, and much better, alternative. Science suggests that a diet containing a moderate amount of healthy fats is not only beneficial for your cardiovascular health, but it can also reduce body fat more effectively than a low-fat diet.
Take-home message: Add avocado, fish, nuts, and other healthy fats to your diet when you can.
Myth 2: Late-Night Carbs Make You Gain Weight
This may be your PT’s favourite mantra, but it turns out that it’s actually kind of wrong. If you take in more calories than you’re burning, you’re going to gain weight — plain and simple. But if your evening carbs are a fuel source designed to replace some of the energy expended during your workout, then they are unlikely to completely derail your diet.
Take-home message: As long as you don’t overindulge, healthy late-night carbs are a-okay.
Myth 3: Running On A Soft Surface Is Better For You
Runners are often told that hard surfaces can be bad for their joints, so many will opt to run on softer alternatives like grass or sand, but this can also be problematic. Grass and sand are both uneven, and one wrong step can lead to a major disaster like turning an ankle or buckling a knee.
Take-home message: Hit the pavement! With the proper footwear you’ll be absolutely fine.
Myth 4: You Need To Poop Once A Day
Many people fall into the trap of believing that pooping once a day means you are healthy and functioning normally, but it isn’t always that simple. Bowel movements are based on several factors, including the fibre in your diet, water consumption, and your metabolism — which means that you may not make the big move in every 24-hour period.
Take-home message: As long as you aren’t going several days without a bowel movement you should feel free — and happy — to march to the tune of your own poop!
Myth 5: No Pain, No Gain
This couldn’t be further from the truth! There’s no need to put yourself through physical pain in order to see improvements in the gym. If you hurt and experience soreness for more than 72 hours, there could actually be a serious problem. A little pain lets you know that you’ve worked your muscles, abided by the overload principle, and scored yourself a generous dose of delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS, for short), but excessive discomfort could mean that you did more harm than good. Plus, if you are now suffering from joint aches, it’s likely indicative of an injury. Don’t aim for pain — as long as you’re pushing yourself and progressing regularly, you’ll make the gains you’re after.
Take-home message: You don’t have to limp out of the gym or ache from head-to-toe the next day to know that you had a good workout.
Myth 6: The Scale Is The Only Way To Track Progress
It’s easy to get obsessed with the numbers on the scale, especially when you’re starting out — but don’t get too distracted by those digits. If you’re a first-time weight lifter then muscle mass may come faster than fat loss, so your weight could actually go up before it goes down. And, as an added bonus, it has been determined that women are naturally meant to carry more fat than men, meaning we shed pounds slower, giving our muscle gains a greater head start.
Take-home message: Ditch the scale and grab a measuring tape for more motivational and accurate tracking!
Myth 7: Daily Exercise Will Keep You In Optimal Health
While we do all need at least one hour of purposeful activity per day in order to lose weight and make improvements to our cardiovascular health, that’s not the only movement we have to worry about. A recent study determined that too much sitting is bad for your health, even if you’re getting an hour of daily exercise.
Take-home message: Try walking or biking to work (or parking farther from the building if that’s totally out of the question), take a lunchtime stroll, and visit colleagues in-person when you can, rather than relying on phone calls and email.
Myth 8: Gluten-Free Food Is Healthier
Gluten-free has become a popular eating trend among fitness freaks, but it’s not actually the miracle diet cure that some people suggest. If you have a gluten intolerance then gluten-free is undoubtedly the way to go, but if you don’t the benefits of gluten-free eating are minimal. These items tend to be highly processed and many of the vitamins and minerals found in your standard, gluten-filled alternatives are lost during the making of these celiac-friendly foods.
Take-home message: You may be curious about gluten-free eating, but avoid it if you can — these products tend to be low in the nutrients you often get from wraps and breads like fibre, vitamin B12, phosphorous, and zinc.
Myth 9: You Need To Drink A Gallon Of Water Every Day
Yes, it’s important to stay hydrated, and it’s also true that we lose water when we sweat. But here’s the thing: gulping back H2O isn’t the only option. We can also get water from our foods — especially fruit. Plus, it should be noted, people’s water needs can vary greatly depending on how their bodies operate and the amount of daily activity they engage in, so the gallon-a-day gospel may not be fitting for everyone. For example, the average water recommendation for athletes is about three litres per day, depending on their sport and intensity (and, in case you were wondering, that comes in at just under a gallon of water per day). You also need less H2O on rest days, even if you live a very active lifestyle.
Take-home message: Always keep a water bottle within reach — but don’t force yourself to hydrate. Your body will tell you when it’s thirsty!