Fit and Beautiful for Your Wedding
Facts vs. Fiction
Mischa Kubancik is the co-founder of Beyond Limits, a
personal training company in San Francisco. In addition to helping brides
prepare for their weddings, she is also a certified triathlon coach and has
been helping clients reach their goals for over ten years.
It is hard to say where they got started, but many commonly held fitness
"truths" are really fiction. For the most part, they won't really hurt you,
but some can really ruin the effectiveness of your program. Here are the facts
behind some common fitness fictions.
- Strength training turns fat into muscle and when you stop working
out, the muscle turns back into fat.
The reality is that fat and muscle are two entirely different parts of the
body and have very different functions. One cannot change one into the
other. Fat is stored energy (calories you haven't used yet) and is stored in
many places throughout the body â€“ most notably under the skin. Muscles, on
the other hand, are what move your body. When you work out, you may increase
the amount of muscle tissue in your body and/or decrease the amount of body
fat stored, but you aren't converting one to the other. When you stop
working out, muscle size decreases and body fat increases, which can give
the impression of muscles turning to fat.
- Doing abdominal exercises will give you a flat stomach.
Abdominal exercises are intended to strengthen the abdominal muscles, of
which there are several. The "stomach" is an organ and will not be affected
by crunches. If you are trying to reduce the amount of body fat stored
around the pelvis, you need to do cardiovascular exercise. This is not to
say that abdominal exercises are worthless. They are very important. Having
a strong core will help prevent many injuries (including back problems) and
abdominal exercises are part of a well-rounded program.
- Using the adduction/abduction machines (inner/outer thigh) will make
your legs thinner.
This is a similar situation to the abdominal exercises. It is not possible
to "spot reduce" meaning choose an area of the body and decide to make it
smaller. The only way to reduce body fat is to take in less calories than
you use. The ad/abductor exercises (this also includes floor exercises) are
designed to increase the muscles that move the body from side-to-side. This
doesn't necessarily mean it will make the legs bigger, but they are
certainly not going to make them smaller.
- Doing strength training everyday will speed up your progress.
Strength training every day actually will lessen progress and possibly cause
injury over time. All physical conditioning is based on the concept of
overload and recovery. When you lift weights, you cause microscopic tearing
to the muscles. (This is really a good thing!) On the off day, the muscles
are able to repair themselves in preparation for the next session. If there
is no off day, all you have is day-after-day of tearing, which eventually
will lead to an injury. So there is no benefit in doing more than 3-4 days
of strength training each week.
- Eating protein makes your muscles bigger.
Although muscles are made up of proteins, the act of eating protein does not
generate an increase in size. Only strength training can effect an increase
in muscle size. In fact eating too much protein can have some drawbacks.
Eating more calories than your body needs will cause you to store body fat.
It doesn't matter if it is protein, carbohydrates, or dietary fat; too many
calories will increase body fat. Excess protein can also lead to more
serious health problems, so it is not a good idea to eat more than your body
requires. To increase muscle size, you need to do consistent strength
- Using free weights will make your muscles big while using machines
will tone your muscles.
The effects of resistance training are a result of intensity, frequency, and
genetics, not the type of resistance used. If your program follows the
principles of fitness, it doesn't matter if you are lifting rocks. Machines
allow a person to perform the exercise with less chance of injury, and are
often less intimidating. Free weights, on the other hand, allow for multiple
exercises and infinite combinations of exercises, which is beneficial to
avoiding a stale program. Free weights also will fit almost anybody's size
and shape. A successful strength training program depends more on the
consistency and execution of the exercises than on the equipment used.
- Exercising in the "fat-burning" zone is the best way to lose weight.
This is one of the most confusing aspects of fitness. Technically, there is
a point where the body uses body fat for energy and the physiological
impulse for this happens at a slightly lower heart rate. However, this
information is really only relevant to elite level athletes looking for a
performance enhancing edge. For people trying to reshape their bodies, the
important factor is the total amount of calories used versus the total
amount of calories ingested. Let's say two people are exercising for 30
minutes. The first person is exercising at less intensity (the so-called
"fat-burning zone") while the second person is exercising at a much higher
intensity. This means the first person should have used more body fat,
right? Wrong, the truth is, the second person used more calories and at the
end of the day ended up with a larger caloric deficit than the first person.
If this is repeated every day, it is the second that will lose more body
fat. So don't be misled by those "fat-burning" programs at the gym.
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