Here we are with the second to last instalment of the 50 fitness myths series. Let's jump right in.
If you missed parts 1, 2 or 3 go back and read those first.
You Need to Have a Spotter to Lift Heavy
Maybe once upon a time this was true, before advances in self-spotting equipment such as power racks with adjustable safety bars found is most high street gyms or rubber bumper plates that can be dropped like those used in Olympic lifting. With these advances in gym equipment you can now push yourself harder than before without exclusively needing a spotter. However, there are a few things to keep in mind when training heavy to ensure you avoid injury and get the most out your training;
- Use a rack with pins and safety bars to catch the weight if you fail
- Know your limits and don’t go to failure
- Leave a rep or 2 in the tank on each set and work towards continual progression
- Stop before your form breaks down to decrease the risk of injury
Whether you’re hunting for a new PB, trying to increase your strength or simply looking to test your 1 rep max you can now do this with less reliance on a spotter provided you have a safety system in place.
Training on An Empty Stomach Is Bad For You
Contrary to popular opinion you can train on an empty stomach without fainting, losing your muscle mass or having your performance effected. In fact, there are some documented benefits from doing so.
Studies have shown that training in a fasted state can provide the following benefits:
- An increase in growth hormone which works to protect lean muscle and promote muscle building in the body. In fact, one study found growth hormone to be increase by 2,000% in men and 1,300% in women (34, 35).
- An increase in fat burnt when training fasted compared to a fed state. This is a result of increased fat utilization for energy for those exercising fasted. (36, 37)
It’s important to note that if you’re going weight training on an empty stomach it’s advisable to take BCAA prior to working out to help prevent the breakdown of your muscle mass which can occur when training in a fasted state. (38) This is not to say that you cannot lose fat without training in a fasted state but it does go to reassure those who otherwise cannot train that doing so on an empty stomach is not going to result in the loss of all their muscle mass and may even result in an increase in fat loss.
Low Intensity Steady State (LISS) Training Is Best for Fat Loss
This myth is probably quite old school now.
In fact, it might be better written as HIT (high intensity training) is best for fat loss. However, as with most things in fitness the truth is somewhere in the middle and ultimately which one you choose depends on a variety of factors. You have to evaluate both methods and decide what’s going work best with your lifestyle and therefore be sustainable. Even if you think LISS is better but only have time to do HIT, guess what…HIT is better. At least it is for you, for now.
Considerations for LISS:
- Less stress and strain on the body
- Can be boring
- Takes a long time
Considerations for HIT:
- Can be tough on your body
- Workouts are quicker
- Can burn the same calories as LISS in a shorter amount of time
At the end of the day, one is not necessarily better than the other. It’s all about what works for you.
Being in Shape Requires Excessive Time, Sacrifice & Commitment
Contrary to popular opinion this isn’t true, yet when you try and explain this to people it’s like they don’t want to hear it. There is this idea in the fitness industry that to get in great shape you have sacrifice your lifestyle, eat boring food and be miserable. Like there is some unspoken rule which says that to get the body you want you must give up everything and adhere to some ridiculous extreme.
Now don’t get me wrong, building the body of your dreams is not a quick process so don’t go into it expecting overnight results. However, it’s also not an all or nothing process, there is a middle ground where us average guys can succeed in building the bodies we want whilst also having a life outside of the gym.
Remember if you not a bodybuilder, athlete or physique competitor then you don’t need to train like one.
Rest Is Not That Important
Too many people underestimate the importance of rest and recovery, mistakenly thinking that more time in the gym = more progress.
When the reality is that a lot of your progress happens when you rest and allow your body to complete several important processes;
- Repair/rebuild muscle tissue damage from working out
- Restore muscle glycogen stores to provide energy for your next workout
- Psychological recovery after a tough training session
- Recovery from general fatigue associated with exercise and working out
Allowing your body to do this means it will begin to adapt to the stresses of exercise which in turn means you will get bigger and stronger. The best way to help your body complete these actions is to stay hydrated, get adequate sleep and eat appropriately for your goal. Neglecting to give your body the time it needs to adapt and repair itself after training will result in a noticeable deterioration in your energy levels, performance and results.
You Can’t Build Muscle If You’re Over 50
As we age we begin to lose skeletal muscle mass and strength, this process is called sarcopenia (39). It’s because of this process that some people will have you believe you cannot gain muscle as you get older. However, the truth is you can. Research (40) shows the positive effects of resistance training in men 50 and older.
Sure, it may be slower the when you’re in your 20s and your response and recovery will not be as good but if you adhere to the principle of progressive overload, follow a well-constructed workout programme and eat appropriately for your goal you can and will build muscle and strength.
Drinking Water Has No Effect on Weight Loss
It actually does but maybe not quite the way you’re thinking.
You can’t just chug down water and expect to see the lbs melt away. Let be realistic, if water was that good at aiding weight loss then everyone would be in great shape.
However, water can aid weight loss and weight maintenance is 3 key ways:
- It helps burn more calories
- Can suppress appetite in some people
- Aids in calorie reduction when used in place of sugar loaded or high calorie drinks
Water has been shown to burn more calories when combined with a hypocaloric diet (41) than just a hypocaloric diet alone.
- Additional research studies (42, 43) have shown that drinking 500ml of water increase metabolic rate in healthy adults by 24 – 30%. Which if you were to drink 2 litres of water would equate to about 100 calories.
- Sudies have also shown that drinking water before a meal to reduce appetite in middle aged and older adults (44, 45). There is also research (46, 47, 48) to support the common sense conclusion that when replacing sugary or other high calorie drinks with water you are likely to reduce overall calorie intake.
The bottom line is this, water can be a helpful tool on your weight loss journey but if you want to lose weight you will have to do more than just drink more water.
The Faster You Lose Fat the Better
Faster is better for crash diets.
Faster is better for losing all your hard-earned muscle.
Faster is better for running you into the ground.
If you want to do any of these things, then fine, go fast.
If you want controlled and sustainable fat loss that brings about results then stick with the industry recommendations of 1 – 2 lbs per week.
The only time this number really changes is:
- You are very overweight or obese and have a lot of weight to lose, in these instances you can lose 3 lbs week to begin with.
- You are 10% or lower bodyfat, at this point you should be aiming to lose 0.5 – 1lb a week or possibly slower.
Faster is not always better.
You Can Isolate the Upper Chest
This is a common one, often touted wrongly in the name of prioritising the incline bench press over the flat bench press. Now I’m not bashing the incline press, in fact I love the incline press, it’s my go to chest exercise but not because it can isolate the upper chest.
The truth is you can’t isolate the upper chest, both chest muscles (pec major and minor) work in tandem. It’s not physically possible for you to work one without working the other. However, by using the incline press you can emphasise the upper chest much more than if you were doing flat presses only.
You Need to Eat 5-6 Small Meals a Day to Boost Metabolism
This is a good one and still spread around by a lot of people, even in the face of evidence showing the opposite.
For example, one research study (49) shows that increased meal frequency does not lead to an increase in calories burned.
This study compared 2 groups, one high meal frequency with 6 meals a day and the other low meal frequency with 3 meals a day and concluded “increasing MF [(meal frequency)] does not promote greater body weight loss.”
In addition, a review of multiple studies of human feeding concluded there is no difference in total calories burned between frequent and infrequent meals when an equal number of calories are consumed (50).
What does this mean for you?
Simple. Eat as often as you want, whether that’s 2 times a day or 8 it’s up to you. At the end of the day it’s the total number of calories that you consume that will determine the change you see in your weight, not the number of times you eat.
Stay tuned for the final instalment of the myths series coming soon and check out the previous parts below.