Ever feel like you’re on a health and fitness challenge with no finish line? You’re not alone. Up to 50% of women are on a diet at any given time(1) and 72% of Australian women say they want to lose weight(2).
So, is it a case of unattainable goals? Or is something leading us astray in our health and fitness endeavours?
Here are 10 of the biggest dieting and fitness myths to be wary of. Avoid making these mistakes and get back on track to achieving your health and fitness goals.
1. With hard work – anything is achievable
Hard work can deliver amazing results – there’s no doubting that. But if you’re striving for a body transformation that is in complete contrast to your natural body shape, then you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. You might want to perform exercises that help to balance your proportions, but be sure to draw your inspiration from people with a similar body shape to your own. Remember, beauty comes in all different shapes and sizes!
2. Exercising in a fasted state is the best way to torch fat
Running on empty might seem like a logical way to force your body to burn fat – but unfortunately – it’s not that simple. Firstly, one of the biggest difficulties with working out on an empty stomach is a lack of energy. If you’re tired, you probably won’t be able to exercise at an intensity you would normally, and you’ll burn fewer calories as a result. Secondly, when you exercise intensely on an empty stomach, your body is more likely to take protein from your muscles to use for fuel(3) – the result being – you’ll burn muscle, not fat. If you’re not seeing the results you want from your early morning sessions, consider having a small meal an hour before your workout, or invest in some high-quality pre-workout supplements.
3. Eating late at night will make you fat
Let’s set the record straight – it makes no difference whether you eat your calories at night or during the day. It’s the total number of calories you consume throughout the day that will make or break your diet. That being said, eating small meals frequently throughout the day can help to keep hunger at bay and may prevent you from binging later.
4. Slashing calories is the key to weight loss
In fact, not eating enough calories can actually lead to weight gain. The body is a smart machine and if it’s running on too little fuel, it will go into survival mode, saving fat stores for an anticipated famine. In short, the more you starve your body, the more fat it will attempt to save. Calculate how many calories you need in a day to achieve your goals (this will vary depending on a number of factors like activity level, age, gender, etc.) and make sure you’re hitting this calorie target.
5. All it takes is cardio
It’s been said before and we’ll say it again – cardio alone is not the key to weight loss and hours spent pounding the treadmill could be better spent elsewhere. That’s not to say that cardio training isn’t important – it is! But a combination of strength and cardio beats cardio training alone when it comes to losing weight and gaining lean muscle. Overdoing it on cardio can actually decrease muscle mass and increase stress hormones in the body that can hinder fat burning.
6. Heavy lifting = bulking
When we talk about increasing lean muscle – we’re not talking about the kind that leaves you looking bulky. For women, weight training burns fat and builds sleek, lean muscle tissue – the kind that leaves you looking toned and fit! The more muscle mass you have, the faster your metabolic rate will be ongoing, and the more kilojoules you’ll burn even when you’re sitting in front on the TV. This is why resistance or weights training is so important as part of your regular fitness regime.
7. Carbs are the enemy
Carbohydrates don’t make you fat, extra calories do, whether you eat them in the form of carbs, fats, or protein. Carbs are actually the body’s preferred source of fuel for most everyday activities. Meaning? if you aren’t eating carbs, you won’t be functioning at your optimal level and your fitness and fat loss results can suffer as a result. The trick isn’t to cut carbs out entirely. Healthy carb sources such as fruits and vegetables, nuts seeds, whole grains, beans and legumes can actually aid fat loss and support muscle growth. What you should do is cut down on refined carbs, including white rice, white pasta, processed snacks and sweets.
8. You burn more calories during ‘that time of the month’
Women actually burn fewer calories while menstruating, not more. But if you’re one of many women who experiences an increase in appetite during that time of the month – it’s not unexplained! A women’s basal metabolic rate (BMR) varies significantly during the menstrual cycle with a sharp rise just before the onset of menstruation(4). The hunger women experience during a period might be an aftermath of a raised BMR just beforehand. The good news – that hunger isn’t just in your head! The unfortunate news – that time of the month doesn’t justify a complete blow out in calories – but a small treat won’t hurt!
9. Expecting results overnight
In a perfect world, fat loss would be instantaneous. But unfortunately, that’s just not how the body works. One of the biggest dieting and fitness mistakes people make is expecting to see results too quickly, and falling off the bandwagon completely when they fail to meet unrealistic expectations. If you shed a lot of weight in the first couple of weeks, this will largely be down to water weight and not a true indication of how effective the program is. Progress takes time, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t experience a significant drop in the scales or your measurements in the first few weeks. Results that are gradual are more maintainable in the long term!
10. What works for someone else will work for you
Burn more calories than what you’re putting in – the fat loss equation sounds simple, but for anyone who’d been on a fat loss journey, you’ll know it’s not that easy! Our bodies are all different and will respond to exercises and diet regimes in different ways. What equates to fantastic results for someone else, might be the completely wrong solution for you. It can take a lot of trial and error before you find the regime that works for you. Stick with it and focus on how you feel rather than a specific dress size on or a number on the scales. The best result is the one that leaves you feeling great! And sometimes – it might not be the one goal you were initially striving for.