Updated: May 6, 2021
I am going to bust some fitness myths today that creep up almost every time one thinks of losing those extra inches of loose fat or gaining lean muscle to look good, feel better. Whatever your goal is, bottom line is, our lives are busy, schedules are packed and fitness not necessarily tops the list..well not for everyone.
For most people, the concept of fitness is first joining a gym and then spending 30 minutes to 1 hour everyday on a treadmill or hovering around some of the so called fad cardio or strength training equipments. Do that for a few months and then ....that's where it ends. Now, we may see some results in the beginning but then progress stalls , you don't see results and your motivation level nose dives. At times, this approach even backfires. Let me explain, all the pain and agony you took your body through these past months, all the exceptions you made in your diets..you want to make it up for that now, your mind craves for high calorie foods and result, you end up gaining more fat!!!! Sounds familiar..I know it does.
Before I proceed further, let me make it clear that I have no intention of public preaching nor am I trying to sell any fitness products. My whole and sole purpose of writing this article is to shed some light on the common myths out there on training, diet and supplementation that are making the whole process of getting fit and losing fat ever so confusing and a bit tad stressful for people who genuinely want to see a change, people who are ready to transform their physique.
Good health will not only make you look good, feel better and boost your self confidence it will also introduce discipline, self control in you, it will make you more effective in your day to day activities, give you a sense satisfaction when you reach your goals, you will have your own fan club :-) and more importantly it will give you the freedom to make your food choices without having to think of gaining weight.
Over the years I have seen countless people in the gym trying hard to lose fat, whether it's the baby fat piled up over the years covering the love handles :-) or the last bit of that stubborn fat covering the ever so evading six packs. Believe me, I was one of them, people who know me and have seen me changing over the last few years would know for a fact that I am not lying here.
Your body of dreams is not far away, you can transform your physique. As someone rightly said..satisfaction does not come from having, but from doing. So "enjoy the satisfaction that comes from doing little things well " H. Jackson Brown :-)
The two key words that will take you over the line are CONSISTENCY and PATIENCE. On that holy note :-) let's get to the core of this article, let's demystify 9 common fitness myths.
Myth number 1
"Cardio burns more fat than resistance training."
Lets find out if this is actually correct?
Cardio will certainly burn fat but only till the time you are on the treadmill, fat burn will stop the moment you get off the treadmill. Lifting weights not only burns real time calories during the workouts but also burns calories throughout the day due to the muscle rebuilding/repair process that occurs in your body post lifting. Many studies suggests that calorie burn i.e., the metabolic spike post a good lifting session lasts up to 48 hours. So you might see real-time calories burnt on the cardio equipment but in reality, calorie burn post weight lifting will likely be higher than calories burnt during a cardio session. Ideally, from an overall fitness perspective, you should include both weight training and cardio in your workouts but limit cardio sessions to 20-30 minutes max. Excess cardio will turn your body into catabolism mode where it will start melting away your lean muscle tissue, also certain cardio workouts like running on the treadmill for hours every day will likely cause knee and ankle injuries. Bonus note :-) studies suggest that HIIT (high intensity interval training) type cardio burns more calories than slow paced cardio because HIIT boost your metabolism and puts your body into a constant calorie burn mode. Example of an HIIT cardio session ,1-2 minutes of resting phase, you speed walk (you should be able to talk without eating up words) and then Sprint like Usain Bolt for 30-40 seconds (barely speak).
Long story short, you need to move your muscles. If you don't use them you are going to lose them.
Unfortunately, we are not getting any younger and as we age (past 40) our body's ability to create and maintain lean muscle mass reduces due to a gradual reduction in metabolism which causes more fat storage, result, problems like diabetes, arthritis and other heart related complexities. If you are in good shape you can keep away these diseases even when you are at the other side of 40. When we are young we ignore the importance of lean muscle mass and lose the window of opportunity to gain lean muscle mass. After 40, it becomes very challenging to gain muscle and lose fat so start early and yes it's never too late :-)
I think our grandparents and their grandparents were much stronger both mentally and physically ...how, why? You probably know it, they used their muscles every day, day long, at the workplace, out in the courtyard, in the kitchen, etc. They ate well and they slept well. We live a more sedentary life, pretty gadgets and little machines do most of the tasks with very minimal human body movement. Everyone of us have our own little army of machines that follow our orders throughout the day.
Lifting weights in the gym to an extent simulate the hard work that a human body is supposed to do and built for, invoke our basic instincts! So get off that sticky recliner, sofa or whatever it is and pump some iron!!!
Myth number 2
"Avoid fats..it will make you fat."
Old school advise..isn't it? Don't put ghee on that roti or paratha it will make you fat! But our Nani-jis, Dadi-jis and Mummy -jis have been telling us to eat ghee it will make you strong, sharp and not fat. I am glad they were absolutely correct...to a certain extent. Fats all kinds except transfats are good and you should include natural fats in your diets. Fats are calorie dense macronutrients (9 calories /gm) compared to protein and carbohydrates (4 calories/gm) hence we should include fats in our diets as long as it fits the total daily calories intake goal.
Bonus tip: you should absolutely find out your target daily calories consumption. There are many ways to do it. Go online, find your Total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) check this link http://iifym.com/tdee-calculator/ , this number then multiplied by a factor (the factor depends on your lifestyle), the end result is your target calories/day. Now if you are trying to lose fat you need to consistently consume about 20-25% less than your daily calories number. On the other hand if you are looking to gain lean muscle, you need to consistently consume 20% more than the target daily calorie intake.
Ex: If my daily calorie intake number is 2800 calories and I am looking to lose fat then I will eat around 2200 calories everyday till I reach my desired body fat percentage. And if I am looking to gain lean muscle, I would consume 3300 calories/day till I am satisfied with my muscle mass. And I will split my percentage calories into 35 % Protein, 45% Carbs and 20% Fats. Most well trained people and athletes cycle their cutting phase and gaining phase to stay lean and strong because if you keep your body into calorie deficit for a prolonged period your metabolism will go for a toss.
Common mistakes most people make while trying to lose weight is that they drop their calorie intake suddenly and do lots of cardio. This will cause a lot of water reduction in the body initially and will cause muscle breakdown (glycogen levels deplete) meaning your body will start burning muscle for energy which will cause a drop in metabolism and fatigue and trauma, reduced strength, reduced concentration levels, reduced motivation. The other big mistake most people make is they under estimate the caloric value of foods. A full plate of butter chicken may just have all the calories that you need in a day :-). An egg has about 50-75 calories but you add two spoons of oil and there you go, you get 150 calories. I am not saying you should eat raw or boiled stuff :-) but just be aware of the caloric value of different foods. Read the labels for nutritional and calorie information and make sensible choices keeping your daily calorie consumption target in mind. I know it sounds calorie counting and people may start calling you names but who gives a damn what people say. I know I will be stronger than that lazy bloke calling me names at the end of this month if I am not already :-)
Try to get your calories as much as you can from natural and whole foods. Lean proteins like chicken, eggs, fish, paneer, tofu, beans, carbs that are low on glycemic scale, such as all vegetables, sweet potato and there is a whole lot of foods you can google will keep you fuller for longer periods . Drink lots of water, keep yourself hydrated at all times. Most of us drink water only when we are thirsty, at this point your body is already in a dehydrated state. Make it a point to start your day with 2-3 glasses of water and down a glass of water every now and then, ex, before every meal.
One more point worth mentioning...Include whey protein in your diet. Our normal diet is not sufficient enough to meet specific protein needs when trying to increase lean muscle mass without consuming excess calories. A good whey protein will enable you to meet your daily protein requirements without adding tons of calories. Timming your protein intake is also very important. I would suggest one scoop 10-15 mins with 20-30 gms of carbs (high in GI like glucose) before the workout and one scoop immediately after the workout. For all the vegans out there whey protein is like a God send.
There are a number of supplements in the market, I will list down a few so you know. It is not necessary that you start these, except whey protein, it's a must for anyone looking to cut fat and gain lean muscle.
Depending on your current level and goals, you might want to start these supplements.
a. Creatine Monohydrate - 5 gms.
b. BCAA 's (make sure leucine percentage is high compared to iso-leucine and valine) - 2-5 gms.
c. Glutamine - 2-5 gms.
d. Coffee, yes coffee. One spoon in your pre-workout shake.
Myth number 3
"High repetitions will make you lose fat faster."
This is the most common mistake, beginners tend to do it more and even people who have been working out for a few years do it. I too did that, no shame in accepting :-)
Recent studies have proved that the ideal rep range to lose max fat is between 4-6 (some where between power lifting and bodybuilding range) . Don't get fooled by the low rep range, 4-6 reps with enough weight such that the 7th or 8th rep becomes almost impossible with proper form. It is imperitive that you find out your one rep max (1 RM). How to find one rep max? There are various tools available on internet, if you know that you can lift x lbs weight max y no.of times i.e., reps then with the help of one rep max tool you can find out your one rep max without having to actually lift such a heavy weight. Your aim should be to lift at least 80-90% of your one rep max for 6 reps. Once you get comfortable with weight and you are able to complete 6 reps consistently for three sets, you add weight (remember gradually). This is how you progress, if you are a newbie you should be able to add weights at a faster rate as the opportunity and scope for progress is more.
Myth number 4
Spot fat reduction.
This is the funniest of all. Spot fat reduction is possible but only if you are ready to go under the knife i.e., liposuction surgery. If you want to uncover your six packs or want to get rid of the loose love handles around the belly, thighs or chin area, you will have to take the holistic approach. Attack fat from all sides!!!
Studies have shown and per my own experience, compound workouts are the best. Some Must Do workouts you need to definitely include in your training routine are:a. Legs - Squats (all variations - back squat, front squat, power squat), barbell lunges, straight leg deadlifts or Romanian deadlifts, lunges and leg press.b. Back - Classic Deadlifts, pull ups (body weight to start with), barbell and dumble rows.c. Chest - Barbell Bench Press (incline, parallel), dumble bench press, dips.d. Shoulders - Shoulder press, Military press (standing and seated), lat raises .
e. Core - Planks (classic, side), crunches (parallel, decline), hanging leg raises, landmine twists
These are the holy grail of all workouts. Please note there is no specific workouts for women. Most women shy away from barbell and free weight workouts and spend more time on cardio and cable assisted workouts. You should absolutely do the above workouts, use barbells. Low lean muscle mass, low bone strenght are very common problems in women, strength training with free weights, barbells increases bone density and lean muscle mass. Of course before starting any workout you should consult your physician and do these workouts with proper form. Watch you tube videos to correct form.
I purposefully ignored arm workouts.. the thing is, if you do these compound workouts you will see your arms grow automatically and if you are still hell bent on doing arms workoutgo ahead and include some barbell curls and hammer curls, close grip bench press, skull crushers, preacher curls. Bonus tip, do your leg workouts twice a week. Most people ignore legs, I have seen people working out their upper body almost every day so much so that they completely ignore their legs. Never forget our legs are the two pillars of our body. One cannot build an amazing physique without strong pillars i.e., the legs. More importantly they are your body's biggest muscle group and have tremendous potential to make lean muscle. Remember.. more lean muscle equals less body fat stored. Lean muscles melt fat in the body to during repairing the repairing process and become more stronger.
Myth number 5
"You can gain muscle and lose fat at the same time."
It's a bit technical. A short and simple answer would be if you are a hardgainer( find hard to gain lean muscle) then it's almost impossible to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time naturally.Many professional body builders can lose fat and gain muscle at the same time but then their routines are different, they develop enormous ability to continuosly lift heavy loads for countless reps, anabolic steroids and various drugs help boost their testosterone levels.
But the good news is if you are a newbie you can gain muscle and lose fat simultaneously naturally in the first couple of years. But after your newbie gains are over, to lose fat you need to be in a calorie deficit diet and to gain muscle you need to be in a calorie surplus diet. This topic is close to my heart and I can go on and on but for the sake of this post I will stop here.
Myth number 6
"Change your training routine every week to gain more muscle."
Don't change your workout, the workouts I mentioned earlier will take you quite far. The only thing you need to change is the volume and loads. Remember your muscles get adapted to the load and become more stronger to take on the same load, so progressive overload is the mantra. Hit your muscles with greater loads every week or two weeks. Even a 2.5 lbs increase over the last set load will make a difference. Set a benchmark for yourself, beating your own previous numbers by weight or by getting an extra set or an extra rep should be your goal. (Log your weights lifted, sets and reps done).
The obvious question here..what happens when you reach a point where you can not get a single rep with additional load to your previous max i.e., you''re stuck at a particular weight. Let's say 100 lbs bench press at 6 reps. Don't worry it happens to everyone we are humans and we have certain limits. At this point try to get more sets/reps with the same weight..even if you get 4 reps or even less try to get that one more set. Do it for couple of weeks then try to increase weights 105 lbs most likely you will be able to hit your target range which is 4-6 reps. If you are still stuck then work with 100 lbs and focus on your form. It is also important to take a week off completely from weights this phase is called de-load phase. I generally de-load every 6 weeks.
Myth number 7
"No or low carb diets will make you lose kilos."
Only a temporary weight loss and this is generally the water loss in your body. A prolonged low carb diet is quite dangerous for your body. Carbs are your quick source of energy it's like the fuel for the body. A prolonged low carb diet will make you jittery, your concentration levels will drop, cognitive skills will take a hit and lethargy will creep in.Carbs are very important, our body first burns carbs for energy, then protein and then fat. You should consume little (20 grams) amounts of carbs before, during and immediately after your workout.
Myth number 8
"Longer workouts will fetch you better results."
Your workout session should be no longer than an hour. If this sounds less..trust me if you do some of the compound workouts I have mentioned above with weights 80-90% of your one rep max spacing each set with 1 min gap..you will be pretty exhausted by the end of first 40 mins into your workout. There could be several reasons why most people will find 1 hr is very less. To list a few: They do slow steady pace cardio on a treadmill, sometimes walking for hours.b. Too much socializing in the gym. Some people just do anything and everything in the gym but workout. Such people never reach their goals, forget progress they do not even know what they are doing in the gym. Keep your talks only till your warm-ups. Once you pickup that barbell you should be in your zone. c. Perform high reps with minimal weights.
Some people think lifting heavy weights will make them heavy so they better pick up a load (which even my 5 year old son can lift) and do 25 reps. This approach will not fetch any result but yes will make your workouts longer. Lifting heavy will not make you big like bodybuilders. Modern-day bodybuilding is not just about lifting, there are several other aspects involve..most people will not have so much of time, knowledge and dedication and abilities. It's like anybody who plays tennis can't become a Roger Federer. So don't worry about getting big, you will only get stronger and fitter if you keep your workouts short and intense. Getting lean should be your goal.
Myth number 9, the last one to be kicked out of the window
"Can't lose fat because of my genes."
This is utter bul*****hit . Genes come into picture when we reach our genetic limit..so if Arnold Schwarzenegger says he cannot get any bigger you gotta believe him because he pushed his body to that limit..you and I are not even close. As I said earlier, the two key words are CONSISTENCY and PATIENCE.
Some people will lose fat at a faster rate than others due to a lot of factors example..body type ectomorph (find hard to gain muscle), mesomorph(can relatively gain muscle and fat at ease) and endomorph (stocky , soft and round body) they have slow metabolism and tend to gain fat faster than the previous two body types. Each body type has to have a slightly different approach, ex: I wouldn't recommend cardio workouts at all to an ectomorph, however everyday cardio is a must for endomorph plus 3-4 days of weight lifting and for mesomorph I would recommend controlled cardio 3-5 days a week plus 5 days weights training. The diets will also have to vary. Ectomorph high fat , high protein high calorie diet in order to gain muscle. Co dime more than the daily requirement. Mesomorph moderate protein, moderate carb and low fat diet and endomorph on a slightly low (calorie deficit diet) high in protein, moderate carb and low fat diet.
I never thought I will write so much..but to be honest, I can't help it. I generally tend to go overboard on this topic:-) :-)
I hope this information will be of some use and will benefit you.
The big question is why should you listen to me and follow whatever I said...well if I would be you and I am serious about getting fit, I would at least give it a try. Well no harm in trying right? and it's free :-)
The thing is, you can completely discount this article but if you were to take an informed approach towards in achieving your fitness goals, you would definitely seek expert advice and you would also read about various trends and routines and you should do that. I can guarantee that all the latest and greatest routines will some way or other come down to the basics which is what I wrote in this article.
Trust me when I started 10 yrs ago I started seeing changes almost immediately, my routine had lots of cardio everyday and moderate weight training, which I really thought was good enough. It did help initially and I lost a lot of weight but I can't say if it made me really strong and fit.
But then, I got stuck, stuck at the same 30 mins cardio and same weights and obviously I was not making any progress. I wish I had someone to tell me what it takes to build that ultimate physique and I guess I was a little lost then.
I have read several books , articles, studies and I still do. What I shared here is a gist of my training experience and information I've gathered through various books (Arnold Schwarzenegger's encyclopedia of modern bodybuilding, F.U fat by J.S, Beyond Bigger Leaner and Stronger by Mike Mathews to name a few).
Anyways, long story short...Today it's only just the myth busters and hope you liked it :-)
Stay Lean Forever....