We get told conflicting things all the time in the fitness industry and lots of them can be very misleading. As a beginner, it is so difficult to know what to believe or where to start by reading all the fitness fiction that is available online. That's why I thought it might be worthwhile busting some of the common fitness and food myths so you can train and reach your goals more effectively and efficiently:
1) Crunches are the key to a flat stomach and abs
Whilst crunches are great exercises to build your abdominal muscles, they do not give you a flat, toned stomach on their own. Ab definition is only possible with a low body fat percentage which will mainly be the result of a consistently healthy diet. Of course crunches and other ab exercises help that process by building the abdominal muscles, but in order to be able to see those muscles you must reduce your overall body fat which will make you look more lean.
2) I can spot-reduce my problems areas
This leads me to my next point - so many people ask me 'how can I lose fat on my stomach?'. Answer: you can't spot reduce! This means you cannot remove fat from certain areas of the body by simply working those areas more - hence why thousands of crunches won't give you a flat stomach. If you want to lose fat in a certain body area, the best way to do this is to eat healthily and lift weights - this will decrease your overall body fat and increase your lean muscle mass. Your body is genetically predisposed to store fat in certain locations in a certain order, so when you lose weight your body will also burn fat in a certain order... which means it might be that it will come off your stomach last (that's definitely the case with me!). Just keep going: consistency is key.
3) Lifting heavy weights will make me look bulky
This is the biggest myth in female training... and the real truth is: no no no no no they will not!! Women simply do not have enough testosterone to get 'big' in the same way as men. Lifting heavy weights will make your muscles stronger but, unless you are eating a huge surplus of calories every single day and pumping your body with testosterone, you will not look bulky. Many women think they should lift lighter weights for higher reps - this is simply not true. Doing this will build muscular endurance but it will not build strong muscles which is what gives you that 'toned' look (when combined with a low body fat). Lift heavy weights and eat a healthy, clean diet and you will not get bulky.
4) You have to do tonnes of cardio to get lean
Cardio is great for improving overall health and fitness, but hours and hours of cardio is simply not necessary to get lean. You may lose weight faster if you run for hours a day, but you will be losing muscle at the same time (which is why it's so important to integrate strength workouts into your gym routine). In fact, you really need to do very minimal cardio to get lean... the majority of looking lean comes from eating a clean diet. The best way to look lean is to lift heavy weights, do 20 minutes high-intensity cardio once or twice a week and eat a clean diet. And the most important part? Be CONSISTENT - it will not happen overnight.
5) It is better to workout in the morning before breakfast
Not necessarily - in reality, the time of day you work out will make minimal difference to your overall results. You should just do what's best for you - I'm a morning person and enjoy working out in the morning so I get up early to go to the gym. But if you are a night owl then like me then that doesn't matter... just go at the best time for your schedule. What about fasted cardio? Well that is also not necessary. It works for some people, not for others. Just listen to your body and do what feels best for you!
6) Eating smaller meals more regularly helps you lose weight
We often get told that we should eat 5-6 smaller meals per day to lose weight because digestion stimulates our metabolism. At face value, it seems to make sense because surely boosting your metabolism means losing weight? No. For a male who is trying to gain weight, lots of smaller meals might be better because it could make it easier to eat 3000-4000 calories a day. But for a female eating 1,500 calories to try and lose weight it could be detrimental - each meal will only be 300 calories!! These portions will be be so small and unsatisfying which will leave you feeling constantly hungry. But once again it depends what your body responds best to - if you enjoy eating small but often then by all means go for it but the important point is that you do NOT have to!!
I think the most important message to take from busting these myths is that a lot of it comes down to what works for you as an individual. Everyone is different and as long as you've got the fundamentals right, these slight variations won't make much of a difference to your overall long-term result. So listen to your body, do what makes you happy and stay motivated!