Myths About Fitness

Whether it’s on TikTok, Instagram, or YouTube, there’s so much fitness advice out there that it can be hard to know what’s helpful and what’s nonsense. Luis Cervantes, certified personal trainer and co-founder of Fuego Fitness in Los Angeles, likens some of these fitness hacks to get-rich-quick schemes. “I understand we want to get results now, and we want to get them quick,” he says. “But if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.” When you come across fitness tips online, Cervantes recommends doing your own research to see if there’s any truth to the claim and/or the person making the statement. (Are they a certified instructor, or just an enthusiast with lots of followers and great workout outfits?)

Lauren Cornell, RD, registered dietitian and founder of Lauren Cornell Nutrition, says the same can go with people offering nutrition advice—as she puts it, every influencer considers themself an “expert” and may promise results from eating this or that. But you should seek out advice from registered dietitians—with either an RD or RDN credential—and be wary of anyone promising guaranteed results, as dietitians will rarely use such certain language. 

To help you approach your fitness routine with healthy and realistic expectations, we asked trainers and dietitians to set the record straight on the most common fitness myths they hear.

Myth: You should exercise intensely every single day.

Yes, it’s important to maintain an active lifestyle and get up and move throughout the day, but it’s equally important to rest and allow your muscles to recover from more intense workouts. “You should have at least one rest day to recover,” Cervantes says. “Rest includes sleep. It’s a huge part of your recovery. It’s only the time of day your body is completely resting.”

If you’re waking up in the wee hours—or staying up late—to squeeze in your workout, Cervantes says it might be wise to rethink your routine and find ways to compromise. For instance, instead of working out for an hour, you can sleep for an extra 30 minutes and workout for 30. “Listen to your body,” says Cervantes. “You want to be rested to perform optimally.”

2Myth: The longer the workout, the better.

Speaking of workout length, it’s easy to think that the more hours you log at the gym, the better the workout you get. But sometimes less is more. Cervantes says it really comes down to how you exercise and what you’re looking for. If you can get a really intense, efficient HIIT workout in 30 to 40 minutes, that can be more effective than spending two hours lifting weights or doing moderate cardio at the gym.

3Myth: You have to eat within 30 minutes after a workout.

Though experts agree it’s important to eat as soon as you can after a workout, it’s not the complete end of the world if you miss the 30-minute window.

“Refueling is important. Your body is really vulnerable and soaks up nutrients like a sponge,” says Cornell. “The 30-minute window is ideal, but it’s really 30 to 90 minutes.”

The key is to eat a mix of carbs and protein to help with muscle protein synthesis and prevent muscle breakdown. Mascha Davis, RDN, registered dietitian nutritionist in Los Angeles, founder of and author of Eat Your Vitamins, recommends aiming for 15 to 25 grams of protein within an hour after the workout. Some of her favorite post-workout meals are a Greek yogurt bowl, egg or turkey sandwich, fruit and protein smoothie, or grilled chicken wrap.

4Myth: Strength training will make you bulky.

The fear of bulking is one of the most common misconceptions Cervantes hears. While many women tell him they’re afraid to increase the weights they use because they think it will cause them to look bulky, Cervantes reassures that it’s not that simple.

On the contrary, by adding weights to your routine, he says you can enjoy the benefits of building lean muscle and burning fat. Studies have also shown that resistance training can help preserve bone mass, which can help prevent osteoporosis. 

For an easy way to start strength training, Cervantes loves HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, because it combines both cardio and weights, leading to increased heart rate and an after-burn effect.

5Myth: You should do static stretches before and after a workout.

While it’s true you want to stretch pre- and post-workout, there’s a distinction in the types of stretches you should be doing before and after. Many of us probably remember being told in gym class to touch our toes before running the mile. Turns out, this type of static stretching before a workout, where you hold a position for a few seconds, can actually lead to more harm than good. 

“You should always do static stretching after working out since your muscles are warm. But if you pull your muscles when they’re cold, they’re going to snap, sort of like a cold rubber band,” says Cervantes. 

Instead, Cervantes says to do dynamic stretching before your workout to get the muscles warm. Think movements like a light jog, arm swings, jumping jacks, or high knees. These movements stretch the muscles to their full range of motion and emphasize mobility.

6Myth: You need an expensive membership or equipment to be fit.

From Peloton to the Mirror, today’s workout equipment can cost a few thousand dollars—and gym memberships can get pricey. But leading a healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to be so expensive. If you’re just starting your fitness journey, Cervantes recommends finding ways to make fitness a part of your lifestyle, rather than investing in expensive and complicated equipment. This can mean taking more walks during the day or turning brunch dates with friends into hiking or biking. You can also watch free workouts on YouTube or sign up for virtual exercise classes offered by many fitness studios and apps. Plus you can find plenty of affordable workout equipment online (or just use items around your home!). “The goal is to find a long term solution and a sustainable lifestyle,” says Cervantes.

Culled from by Emily Cieslak

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