Fitness Myths Busted

By: Jordana Kagan

In the September 2009 issue of Maccabiton, a monthly health and wellness magazine published by Maccabi Health Insurance in Israel, Doron Nui and Tzachi Kna’an explore fat burning and muscle building myths in the article “Muscles and Lies.”  I have translated the main points of the article from Hebrew.  Enjoy…

  1. You will gain weight during the first few weeks of beginning your work out because your muscles will develop.  Not true.  In the process of weight loss we lose 25% muscle mass and there is no new tissue built, only muscle breakdown.  However, by combining anaerobic exercises it is possible to maintain muscle mass.
  2. If you do a lot of crunches you’ll get a six-pack.  Not true.  Our stomachs consist of three layers of tissue:  Fat, muscle, and bone.  Doing hundreds of crunches only works the muscle fibers.  What is this similar to?  A bar of nicely wrapped chocolate.  Only by unwrapping the bar will we see the chocolate squares inside.  So too must we remove the fat to reveal the six-pack.  Spot training won’t make fat disappear; it will only strengthen the muscles under the layer of fat.  If you’re dreaming of a six-pack be diligent about your diet, cardio routine, and strength training workouts (which should include all the major muscles of the body, not just the abs).
  3. If you want to lose weight drink a lot of water.  Not true.  Proper hydration is necessary for general health but it’s not connected to weight loss.  In fact, drinking too much water can be dangerous.  Over hydration dilutes the levels of sodium in the blood and could possibly lead to an accumulation of water in brain cells.  So how much water should you drink?  The general recommendation is 1.5-2 liters a day.
  4. In the first few weeks of a diet you will only lose water weight.  Not true.  Our muscles consist of 80% water.  The process of weight loss leads to muscle breakdown and therefore, we go to the bathroom more frequently.  If during the first week of weight loss you lose 2 kg. it’s not “just water” it’s muscle mass.  What appears to be fluid loss is actually muscle degeneration with weight loss.  In order to prevent loss of muscle mass, you need to perform strength training exercises using body, band, or ball resistance.
  5. I lose weight only after I workout in the gymNot true.  Exercise is important to strengthen the body and to burn calories but weight loss itself is a process that takes time.  Substantial weight loss after exercise is a situation of severe fluid loss (i.e. dehydration).  Weigh yourself before and after your workouts.  For every .5 kg lost, drink 750 ml of water.
  6. Fat burning begins only after 20 minutes of aerobic activity.  Not true.  When a car travels from Tel Aviv to Haifa it uses the same amount of gas in the first km as in the 80.  Energy is energy, the situation doesn’t matter.  It’s true that in the beginning of a workout the body uses primarily the available energy-the carbohydrates- but what’s important for weight loss is the caloric deficit you achieve .  At the end of the day, with a negative caloric balance, the body will use its fat reserves which enables weight loss.  So what’s better?  40 minutes of continuous aerobic activity or four workouts lasting 10 minutes each throughout the day?  From the perspective of weight loss it doesn’t matter, but a minimum of 40 minutes of daily exercise definitely improves your health.
  7. After strength training it’s advised to eat protein to build muscle massNot true.  After a workout you should eat protein combined with carbohydrates in a 3:1 ration.  For every gram of protein include three grams of carbohydrates.  It’s similar to building a wall.  The bricks forming the wall are the protein and the worker who lifts the bricks and builds the wall is the carbohydrate.  In order to build muscle mass you have to work the muscle by performing exercises against resistance.  Diet alone cannot build muscle mass.  So what should you eat after a workout?  A cup of cooked pasta and half a can of tuna, a cheese sandwich, or a cup of yogurt with granola.  Replenish your energy reserves so you can recover from your workout and continue with your day feeling refreshed.

3 thoughts on “Fitness Myths Busted”

  1. I am on a Paleo diet. I consume mainly protein and good fats, followed by 15 to 20% good carbs each day. Reading your food suggestions, pasta, bread, and milk is not on my list of foods to eat. Do you think the Paleo diet will lead to successful fat loss and muscle growth?

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