Class is in session once again! Today we are going to cover some common fitness myths that just won’t seem to die. Some of these may be completely new to you, some perhaps not. Some of us may have even helped spread these lies (*Gasp!!*). But hopefully, by the end of this, you will have learned something new that you can apply to your life TODAY.
First, a little bit of background. In order for our bodies to lose weight, we need to be in a caloric deficit. This means that we are spending/burning/using more calories than we are consuming. For example, if we are spending/burning/using 3,000 calories every day, and consuming 2,700 calories, we are in a net 300 calorie deficit and will lose weight as a result.
Now, how to enter into a calorie deficit?
That’s a good question (You’re so smart). There are a few ways we can do that. The bulk of our calorie expenditure will come from what is called our BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate). This is the number of calories needed to keep us breathing and alive. The next big contributor is our NEAT (Non-exercise Activity Thermogenesis), which is essentially all the movement in our day that is not explicitly exercise. For example, for me to type this article, I am moving my fingers at a blinding speed which is burning calories (That counts as cardio, right?). Finally, the number of calories we burn during explicit exercise will contribute to our Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE). All of this together will contribute to our weight/fat loss.
Cardio To Lose Weight, Weights to Get “Bulky”
The first myth on our list today is the idea that in order to lose weight you should run the fat off, and if you want to get “bulky” you should use weights. Intense cardio will, in fact, burn more calories than traditional resistance training (Yikes, not a good start to my argument). BUT, that’s only a super small fraction of the puzzle! 30 minutes of running may burn 300 calories, but that is only for that allotted time, after that the fat burning benefits are done (Yes, I know what EPOC is, no, it doesn’t burn that many calories). But, when we resistance train, we are building the BEST fat burning tool of all, and that is muscle. You see, muscle itself is metabolically active. What that means is that it will burn calories just by existing on your body, and when we resistance train we are getting a super-trio of fat burning effects:
- We are burning calories while we are resistance training/lifting weights.
- We are building muscle, which will raise our BMR and burn calories when we aren’t exercising.
- Some of the calories we eat following that resistance training session will be partitioned over to build muscle, instead of going to fat stores.
Now our bodies are adaptation machines. That’s the main reason why we build muscle when we resistance train. Our bodies are adapting to that stimulus we are providing it. Now the stimulus we send our body when we do a lot of intense cardio is not to burn fat, it’s actually to get better at doing cardio. To achieve this, our body will become more efficient at burning calories and as a result, burn LESS calories each time. It will also break down the muscle we worked so hard in getting, BECAUSE that muscle is using a lot of the calories we need, so it will need less of it. To wrap this myth up, resistance training/using weights will facilitate fat loss. Getting “bulky” is dependent on the amount of calories you are consuming, not your mode of exercise.
Go on a Diet to Lose Weight
You want to dial in on your nutrition, but there are many many diets to choose from. Which one is right for you? Keto? Vegetarian? Paleo? Low carb? No carb?? I have heard of some ridiculous stories, ranging from people eating nothing but chicken breast and string cheese once a day, to only drinking kale juice for a week. What if I told you that you didn’t have to go on a diet if you just fixed your own? See, we tend to think that if we want to lose weight we need to just eat salads and go on runs. While that may work in the short term, the number one factor determining the amount of weight you lose, as well as whether or not you keep it off, is your ability to adhere to that diet for an extended amount of time. With that being said, can you avoid carbs for the rest of your life? Can you abstain from eating animal products forever? There is also no guarantee that if you do change these foods that you will lose any weight. Remember, weight loss is a game of calories in, calories out.
Now I am not trying to say any one of these diets is bad. In fact, I would strongly urge you reading this to give them a try. It may expose you to different foods that contain different nutritional elements to boost your health. It may even feel great and be the perfect diet for you. But, I am saying that thinking you HAVE to go on a diet such as one of these in order to lose weight is a fallacy that is widely accepted.
High Reps for Muscle “Toning”
- WHAT IS TONING?
I don’t know if you can tell from my sly innuendos whenever I mention the word “tone” but I completely and utterly despise that word. The word tone should be exclusively reserved for conversationalists and chordophones because it has no place in fitness. Now, there are a million and one reasons why my ears bleed when I hear the word “tone”, but I will keep this short and sweet. The word tone was quite literally created to market to women. In the late 80’s/early 90’s some savvy entrepreneurs wondered how to get women in the weight room, a market that was largely untapped. Well, what better way than to create exercises that “tone” your body that is designed for women! It wouldn’t make them big and bulky, no no no, it’ll give them a “lean, slender look”. This word comes with ideas of how women should train as opposed to men. To get “toned” you need to use lighter weights and do higher reps to get “lean muscle mass (because we don’t want that fatty muscle mass)”.
- There is no difference between optimal training for women and men.
What is going to work for men is going to work for women and vice versa. Now, what is optimal for both in the context of gaining definition? This is dependent on the size of your muscles and the amount of fat you have on top of them. A person with large arms is going to have more definition on those arms at 15% body fat as opposed to a person with smaller arms also at 15% body fat. So if you want to get more definition in any given body part, you have two options:
- Build muscle on said body part so that more definition is visible at a higher body fat percentage, OR
- Lose body fat.
Those are your two options! Higher reps with a lighter weight does not achieve anything magical.
Let’s recap what myths we’ve busted:
- The mode of exercise does not dictate whether you get “bulky” or lose weight. That is determined by the number of calories you have burned relative to consumed.
- A “diet” is not mandatory to lose weight, you can eat carbs and fats and even some sweets in moderation and still lose weight.
- High reps in any given exercise do not “tone” anything.
And please please please, don’t say “tone” anymore in regard to fitness. If you do, Coach Jon will die a little inside.
Sports Performance Coach
“Coach Jon, Irvine Strength and Conditioning Coach who is an athlete himself and someone I recommend to my patients because he knows what he is doing and his attention is on the proper form and injury prevention which is how it should be.”- Dr. Shakib