4 Fitness Myths That Need to Die
1. “You Have to Stop Eating Carbs to Lose Weight”
The war on carbs has become so mainstream that many individuals genuinely believe the only possible way they can lose weight is by cutting them out of their lives completely. In fact, many peoples idea of dieting is simply “eat less carbs” with no other strategy in play. Unfortunately, for many adhering to a low/no carb diet is extremely difficult and they end up failing every time they try.
The good news? You don’t need to cut carbs out of your diet to lose weight…
Weight loss happens regardless of your “macronutrient balance” (the total number in grams of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats you ate for the day) and the only thing that matters is that you are in a daily “caloric deficit” (consuming less calories than are being expended by your body). So long as you are eating in a caloric deficit whether or not your calories are coming from carbs, proteins, or fats is irrelevant.
You could take a person and put them on an all carb diet and, so long as they were in a calorie deficit, they’d still lose weight. Probably wouldn’t feel so hot only consuming carbs (and there would definitely be some long term health effects not eating any proteins or fats)…but the person in question would lose weight.
Macronutrient balance can be customized to the individual and the balance of how many carbs/proteins/fats will mostly depend on what makes you feel the best, more so than anything else. There’s a whole boatload of bad reasons carbs ended up getting demonized over the years, but all you need to know is, if you want to lose weight…be in a caloric deficit. It’s that simple.
2. “Stretching Prevents Injury”
Stretching is good for two things. One, it makes you more flexible. Two, it kinda feels good. That’s it.
Despite everyone constantly telling you that you need to remember to stretch so you don’t get injured…it’s just something people say. We have no evidence to support that stretching decreases likelihood of injury prior to exercise.
What’s important is to not get “stretching” mixed up with “warming up”. Warming up before physical activity DOES decrease likelihood of injury, but even though people think of stretching and warming up interchangeably, a good warm up does not need to include stretching at all to be effective. Warm ups can be as simple as doing a lower intensity variant of your intended movement for the day. For example if you plan on running a brisk walk slowly ramping up into a jog could be used as an effective warm up. If you were planning on doing barbell squats, warming up with bodyweight squats, to an empty barbell, then slowly adding weight would be an effective warm up.
Stretching very simply makes you better at stretching. This isn’t to say that stretching is completely worthless, just that it isn’t the injury cure all its touted to be. If you are going to stretch your purpose should be that you either want to be more flexible OR stretching just makes you feel good which is a completely viable reason to stretch.
3. “Exercise More to Lose Weight”
An area I see individuals struggle the most with when it comes to weight loss is the general strategy of trying to exercise their way to weight loss. While logically this seems like the go to option for weight loss, it ends up being extremely costly in both your time and energy to burn any significant amount of calories. Not to mention all that hard work can be undone in a short 10 minute timespan of eating.
Thanks in no small part to the inaccuracy of calorie trackers in fitness watches and fitness equipment such as treadmills and ellipticals, individuals highly overestimate the amount of calories they are able to burn in a given training session. Add on top of this that people are also likely to underestimate the calories they are consuming in any given meal and you have a recipe for weight loss sabotage.
It is much easier to focus all of your weight loss efforts on establishing good dietary habits like calorie tracking, and eating balanced nutrient dense meals, than it ever will be to exercise your way to weight loss.
This isn’t to say that your exercise efforts are all in vain. Physiologically speaking you will be doing wonders for your health and well-being, and yes…you will be adding a little extra bit of calorie burn to your energy expenditure for the day. Just no where near how much you think you are. I like to tell clients to think about their exercise sessions as “extra credit” to their weight loss, rather than trying to do the math and subtracting it from their dietary calories. Exercise to keep yourself healthy and strong, focus on your diet to hit your calorie deficit.
4. “Bedrest Will Cure Your Pain/Injury”
Did you break your leg? If so, yeah you can probably sit this one out (At least for a little).
However, if you are dealing with your normal aches and pains of the gym (think things nonspecific low back pain or general shoulder pain), completely stopping physical activity is one of the worst things you could do.
This can be confusing to hear at first because in situations involving injuries like back pain, or simple joint pain, a general physicians recommendation will be “don’t lift weights for a month then come back and see me”. Not only is the “don’t lift weights” part misleading, this more often than not leads to someone completely stopping physical activity altogether. By no means am I blaming the physician, we have to remember at the end of the day this is a general physician not a movement specialist and they often have to make a call for you after a very brief consult.
However, keeping a muscle moving through it’s normal range of motion, and ensuring blood flow to the injured area actually helps with injury recovery. In fact, bedrest could leave you worse off than you initially were. This is seen in many cases of low back pain where basic physical activity decreases perception of pain for individuals. By no means does this mean you need to head to the gym and go max out while you are injured. Just that completely stopping physical activity probably isn’t the best move.
General protocol in these cases is establishing exercise variations and managing training load to achieve “pain free reps”. For example, for someone experiencing low back pain they may not be able to do their normal sets of 315lb deadlifts from the floor. However, perhaps they can do sets of 95lb deadlifts on blocks set up to mid shin height, and they can do so comfortably. Despite this not being the normal training they are used to, it’s a much better alternative to doing nothing at all.
If you’ve experienced any physical therapy sessions, you’ll know this is how many non-acute injuries are dealt with. The physical therapist works with an individual to move a muscle through it’s normal range of motion. If range of motion is limited, the goal is to slowly progress it. Once full ROM is achieved the next goal is slowly strengthening the muscle. This can definitely be an overwhelming process to learn at first and in cases where you are unsure of what to do it’s good to go to a trusted movement specialist to help you out.