The world of fitness can be a confusing place, and you can often find yourself bombarded with contradictory advice. We’re here to help by debunking the biggest fitness myths so you can focus on doing the right things to optimize your nutrition and exercise.

The best way to lose fat is to do cardio

Many people believe that spending 45 minutes or more on the treadmill, running trail, elliptical machine, or similar machines every day is the best way to lose fat. This is an outdated belief; research proves that a combination of resistance training and high intensity interval training is a far more effective method, as well as having a host of other benefits for your appearance and overall wellbeing.

When you do cardiovascular exercise, it’s true that you will burn calories. But as soon as you stop exercise, there is no long-lasting effect on your fat loss. If you train with weights, however, the muscle you build will increase the number of calories you burn at rest, so your workout continues to burn fat for you all day by maintaining an active metabolism.

It’s also possible that by doing large amounts of cardio you may start to burn muscle as well as fat, further reducing your lean muscle mass. In addition to this, your body will adjust to the amount of cardio you’re doing and become more energy efficient, meaning that you will have to continue to increase the frequency and quantity until you’re running many miles a week, burning muscle and having a negative impact on your joints. Cardio also reduces the body’s release of fat-burning hormones and enzymes. So if you want to get lean, lift some weights and explore interval and circuit training. You’ll probably find it’s a lot more interesting too!

You should train the abs last

It’s a commonly held belief that you should work your abs at the end of your training session to get the best effect. This myth has never been backed up by scientific theory, and in fact, the opposite is true.

The core is the powerhouse of the body; without a strong core, all of your other exercises and your general strength and stability will be compromised.

Research has shown that exercises performed at the beginning of the workout have the best chance of being executed with good form, and have the best effect. So it follows that you should work your abdominals and other core muscles at the beginning, and not the end, of your training session.

Leaving the abs ’til the end will mean that you’re attempting to work the muscles when you are already fatigued, drastically reducing your form, and the beneficial effects.

Muscle turns into fat if you stop exercising

This is another myth that is incredibly widespread but that has no real basis in fact. Muscle tissue cannot just transform into fat, and vice-versa. When you exercise with adequate calorific intake, you gain muscle and burn fat. When you stop exercising, you lose muscle and gain fat, and, as we said earlier, the less muscle you have, the less fat you burn. Although there are ways to optimize the effects of your workouts, fat loss still comes down to a simple balance of fuel in versus energy consumed, and there’s no getting around that.

Bodybuilding programs work well for regular people

There is no magic solution for fat loss, and like many other extreme fitness and nutrition regimes out there, bodybuilding programs won’t work for the average person just wanting to get fit and lean. Bodybuilding programs are for bodybuilders, and will only be effective with many hours of committed exercise, specific dietary requirements, and in many cases, drugs.

Many articles that you can find on the internet, convincing you that this or that workout in combination with a supplement will give you the body of a bodybuilder, are in fact written by, or sponsored by, the marketing team of the bodybuilding supplements manufacturer. Be on the lookout for misleading information; if it looks too good to be true, it probably is!

What you eat doesn’t matter as long as you train hard

Ever thought you could justify eating tons of junk food because you exercise regularly? Unfortunately, this is a myth. As well as stopping you from being able to lose fat, poor diet will mean that the potential benefits you could be getting from your exercise regime will be dramatically reduced. So someone who trains hard and is well nourished by a good balance of macro- and micro- nutrients will always be in better shape than someone who eats poorly. You simply cannot out-train your diet.

You gain fat as you age

It’s a commonly held belief that the process of aging makes gaining fat inevitable, but we’re here to tell you that this is not true. The body undergoes certain changes as we grow older, such as a reduction in testosterone and DHEA production in men, and in the effectiveness of women’s insulin-regulating hormones. These hormonal shifts slow down the metabolism and encourage our bodies to hold on to fat.

Luckily, these changes are easily overcome with the right nutrition and exercise. You can boost your metabolism by eating plenty of lean protein, helping to increase muscle mass and increasing the number of calories you burn at rest. Combine this with an exercise regime that includes resistance training and cardio, and you’re well on the way to reversing the natural shifts that occur with age.

You should do high reps to get ‘cut’

This is a myth that still governs many people’s workout regimes: that high reps will cause you to lose fat and look more ripped, and low reps will build bulk. Again, this is not true. The underlying principal is very simple. In order to build muscle, and continue building it, you have to steadily increase the amount of weight you’re lifting. If you want to look ‘cut’, pay attention to your diet. You have to lose fat for your muscles to have good definition, and the best way to do this is to eat well.

You can spot reduce your fat reserves

One of the biggest myths when it comes to fat loss is that if you work the muscles in a certain area, you’ll lose fat in that area and it will appear more toned; so if you do tons of sit-ups and crunches, you’ll lose fat on your stomach.

Again, it would be nice if this were true, but it simply isn’t. There are two steps to getting toned, and you can do them both simultaneously. One is to increase the size of your muscles. The other is to reduce your fat; this will happen as the result of a calorific deficit, and occurs all over the body at once, but cannot be targeted to specific areas. When these steps are both being undertaken, your muscles will appear more defined, giving that toned appearance we all aim for.

Quantity over quality

Another common misconception is that the results you get from your fitness training are directly proportional to the amount of time you spend training. The truth is that the nature and quality of your training, in combination with what you eat, is by far more important than the duration. In fact, training too frequently, for too long, and without sufficient recovery periods, will cause you to become fatigued and be less effective in your workouts, as well as increasing the possibility of injury and illness.

Women will get bulky if they lift weights

Many women are spending hours a week on the treadmill, labouring under the belief that in order to have a slim, feminine figure, they should avoid lifting weights. The truth of the matter is that it is incredibly difficult for women to become bulky, as they simply don’t produce enough testosterone. In order to get bulky, even men have to significantly increase calorific intake and regularly lift heavy weights; it’s not something that happens easily, and for women, it’s very difficult indeed.

What you will find instead, ladies, is that by building muscle, you will gain some significant benefits: increasing your lean mass (i.e., your muscle) will mean that your body burns more fat while at rest; some extra muscle in the right places will give you a much more feminine shape, and a lean, toned physique; and you will become more functionally strong, improving your posture and the overall stability of your body.

So there they are: the biggest fitness myths, debunked. I hope you’ll find this new clarity helpful in pursuing your health and fitness goals.

Join us and 8,427 others for FREE!

Join us to get the latest fitness deals and hottest options sent straight to your inbox!