Sorting Through Health & Fitness Myths
Health and fitness fads are a regular occurrence – much like the infamous beauty fads. And nowadays, we don’t just read about them in magazines or watch them on TV ads; we see them plastered all over social media. And it won’t ever change, so long as we’re all buying into it (and we’ve all done it, haven’t we!). Someone tells you that something will change your life, make you look and feel better, and it’s hard not to get sucked in.
There are so many myths out there; it would be a very long read to list them all! So we wanted to look at these ten health and fitness myths, past and present and see if we can shed some light on them.
🙅 Performing exercise on an empty stomach is better and burns fat easier. Afraid not!
Although more fat calories may be used when exercising on an empty stomach, the total amount of calories burned during the workout is comparable to the same workout being done after consuming a snack.
So, really, it’s about the total number of calories burned over the course of a day; not so much about which reserves the body uses to burn the calories.
If there’s a time constraint and exercising prior to breakfast is a better fit, then that’s fine – you have to do what suits you. In fact, it’s very common in early morning runners/exercisers to do this. However, there are some things you may want to consider, depending on the kind of exercise you’re doing.
- After roughly 30 minutes of exercise on an empty stomach, your body can start to use muscle as an energy source. Not exactly healthy for your muscles, and not ideal if you’re looking to keep the tone and shape in your body.
- Working out on an empty stomach can lower your blood sugar and this can lead to hunger. So if you’re finishing your working ravenous, what’s the likelihood of eating more than you normally would for breakfast? Pretty high. And if you’re watching your weight, that could be risky business.
- To move your body efficiently, you need energy. If you’re planning a heavy weight-lifting session first thing in the morning, you want to make sure you’re able to support your muscles every step of the way by giving them the fuel they need to perform well. If you are becoming fatigued quickly and aren’t achieving the correct technique required to complete resistance training, you could injure yourself.
Recommendations for pre-workout snacks? If it’s first thing in the morning, you want something light. Foods that will no give you stomach cramps or make you feel nauseous if you’re exercising soon afterwards. Foods like yoghurt, fruit or smoothies are a great idea as they’re easier to digest.
🙅 Saunas can help you burn fat, right? Wrong.
Although perfuse sweating for an hour can indeed help you potentially shift a few pounds – it’s only water weight and therefore not a permanent solution. Enjoying regular saunas can, of course, be an excellent way of destressing, reducing aches and pains, increasing blood circulation and cardiovascular function. Still, if it’s real fat loss you’re after, you’re better off going for a walk. It’ll move your body and burn up some calories.
🙅 You can eat what you want during intermittent fasting – no, you can’t.
Again, this boils down to calories in, calories out. Unless you’re sacrificing the rest of your calorie intake for one indulgent high-calorie treat, then this isn’t true. You still have to nourish your body fully even if you’re fasting, so when the window of opportunity comes round, you have to eat correctly. Unfortunately, many people use the phrase “so I can eat what I want” regarding fasting, which gives the process a bad name.
Whether you choose a 4, 8 or 12-hour window to eat, it’s to do with the number of calories you’re consuming during the entire day. If you are in a calorie surplus (eating more than the recommended amount for your age, weight and maintenance level), it won’t matter if you are fasting or not; you may gain weight over time. In the same way, if you’re in a calorie deficit, all that means is you’re eating fewer calories than required to maintain your current weight, and you may lose weight – whether you consume those calories in a specific window of hours or not.
🙅 You can target fat loss – nope!
When you lose fat, you lose it from all over the body. It’s just the way the world works, unfortunately! You CAN, however, target muscle tone and strengthening so that when the fat IS lost, the muscle underneath will appear more shapely.
🙅 Running is better than walking – not necessarily.
If you aim to burn a certain amount of calories, you’ll have to go for longer if walking – roughly twice the amount of time as you would if you were running. It’s more about the goal rather than which is most effective. Walking is a lower impact activity, so perfect for those looking to be kind on the joints.
Running and walking offer similar health benefits – so it all boils down to time and preference. Running is more efficient if you don’t have much time – it also puts a lot more demand and stress on the body, which many people may not enjoy. (And it’s about ENJOYMENT when it comes to exercise!!) Getting out for a 15-minute run is going to be more effective than a 15-minute walk. On the other hand, if you DO have 30 minutes for a walk – that’s just as good as a 15-minute run and better than not doing anything at all!
N.B Running may require more recovery time than walking.
🙅 Gluten-free helps avoid bloating.
Anyone ever had a conversation with a self-diagnosed gluten-free dieter? They’re out there. Well, gluten is not the enemy – for most- unless you have an intolerance to it. If you have celiac disease and still consume gluten, it can have adverse effects on the small intestine, affecting the absorption of nutrients and cause other complications in the body.
If you can consume gluten, you should. Many foods that contain gluten, such as bread, cereal and pasta, also contain a vital source of vitamins and fibre. The most important thing to remember is that if we’re going to sacrifice an element of nutrition through a bespoke diet, we must find out how to replenish that loss elsewhere. So, for example, if you’re gluten-free (out of necessity or not), you’ll need to make an effort to get your intake of fibre from other grains, beans, fruits and vegetables.
🙅 Oranges will give you the most Vitamin C – well, there are other, better sources!
Vitamin C is the king of protection. It’s needed for the growth and repair of bodily tissue. It helps to maintain healthy bones and teeth and keep good immune function. It also aids the absorption of iron – it’s a top vitamin, and we need it.
But despite the fact that half a red bell pepper contains an entire day worth of Vitamin C and just six strawberries also provide you with your RDA of the stuff, oranges remain top of the pile when it comes to conscious nutrition. Maybe that’s because they come in their own little packaging and fit more neatly into a lunch box!?
🙅 If you work out for longer, it means better results – wrong.
It’s quality over quantity – you’ve heard it before about many things, no doubt, but it really is true. Unless you’re going for a thorough calorie burn and a 4-hour walk is on the cards, then don’t let time stop you from exercising properly.
In an effort to achieve our health and fitness goals quickly, we often dive-bomb into some new regime. Full throttle towards the goalposts and no regard for our actual wellbeing in the process!! That’s where your 2-3 exercise habits start creeping in – like the longer you do it, the quicker you’ll reach those goals. Well – perhaps if you’re an Olympic athlete or competing for Britain Strongest Man, but if you’re not, then maybe it’s worth reconsidering that take on it.
There are many efficient ways to increase your fitness in a short space of time. And if you’re able to refine your goals down, it makes it a lot easier to plan. In as little as 20 minutes, you can execute a workout of quality – quantity, and in the process, you’ll avoid exhaustion and potential injury.
🙅 Skipping meals can help me lose weight – not a good idea
In a nutshell, skipping meals is a one-way ticket to binge town. Your body goes into starvation mode when you don’t eat and actually sends more signals to indicate hunger. It’s difficult to keep it up, it may make you feel more hungry later and once you do eat, you’re more likely to consume more food as a consequence.
If losing weight is the goal, and skipping lunch is the plan – then don’t. Instead, eat a healthy portion of low-calorie dense foods instead. A big salad with a portion of protein and some fruit. This will fill you up and ensure you don’t get the cravings for naughty treats halfway through the day.
🙅 Eating before bed will make me gain weight – not true
Again, this slips into the realm of fasting and skipping meals. For a long time, eating before bed has been thought of as some sort of gateway to weight gain But as the previous myths point out, it’s more about calories in and calories out over the entire day; consuming more calories than you burn will eventually lead to weight gain
Exactly when you consume the calories, isn’t an issue. However, with our google box culture cemented into the evening routine (especially at the weekend!) it’s easy to see how over-indulging in the late-night snacks can easily have an effect on our weight if we’re not careful!