“You want me to use how much weight?” said the terrified, young twenty-something as I eased her into her new training regimen. “But, I don’t want to bulk up!”
And so goes another training session with a person who has fallen victim to all the misinformation available regarding fitness and health. But, it’s no surprise. There are a number of fitness and health crazes that continue to gain popularity, and continue to repeat their cycles of “miracle cures” without any hope of dying – and that’s too bad.
As a personal trainer who has helped train people for decades, the stories never end. They appear, disappear, and re-emerge as a new version, but they never really go away. Well, it’s time someone set the public straight.
Here are seven ridiculous health trends that really need to go away:
1. Cardio, Cardio, and More Cardio
Despite what most people think, engaging in extended cardiovascular activity doesn’t provide more benefits just because you’re doing it longer; in fact, it can be counterproductive. This is, in part, because exercise is actually a stressor, which tests the body, forces it to exhaust itself and recover, and thereby making itself stronger. However, when you are exercising too long, the cortisol your body releases during this period – intended to help the body break down energy stores – begins to work against you. The National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, has noted that this extended cardiovascular activity can actually bring on insulin resistance, which may cause you to end up gaining weight instead of losing it. Plus, excess cardio has also been shown to contribute to a reduction in bone density and muscle mass. So, while it’s true that the group exercise instructor may be hot and worth an hour of your time, the cardio that goes with it may not. It’s better to hit the weights for that addition twenty minutes instead.
2. Buying Into the Latest “Miracle” Fat-Burning Supplement Craze
Lose up to 15 pounds this week! Have a lean, hot body like Gisele Bündchen by the weekend!
The real deal: it’s not going to happen. Even if it were possible, science still prevails. You have to burn an extra 3500 calories for every pound you want to lose, and there is no supplement out there that can increase your metabolism enough to burn that many calories without causing other issues, like the inability to sleep, and potential organ and tissue damage. Even if you do want to give your metabolism a little extra kick, studies have shown that good old caffeine works just as well, and may even enhance athletic performance. Plus, remember how cortisol works? If the body gets too stressed outside of its normal activity, it will end up being counterproductive overall.
3. Overkill: Trying to Obtain Long-term Results in the Short-term
Just as too much cardio will be counter-productive, trying to get some extra-shapely legs and toned arms in the span of a week isn’t going to work out either. If those “bat wings” you’ve been putting off getting rid of are still there a week before an event, they’re still going to be there. That’s because building muscle and tone takes time – it takes cycles of muscle exhaustion and recovery in order to look its best. Additionally, you just can’t burn the fat that fast, nor can you choose where your body is going to take it from.
The best results from any fat loss and strength/muscle training workout come from a routine of consistency and patience – a routine that doesn’t spike and drop cortisol levels or mess up your adrenal hormones. Otherwise, you are just battling against yourself, instead of helping your body work toward its goal.
4. Eliminating or Skimping on Fat
Although some weight loss trends and diets promote promote eating foods which are fat-free, this isn’t necessarily as healthy of an option as you might think. Dietary fat – like the natural fat from avocados, salmon, olive oil, and almonds – is very good for you. It’s good for your skin, your brain, and your eyesight, and it provides the essential fatty acids that our bodies need to function properly, but that our bodies cannot produce on their own.
So, while the grocery stores may be tempting you with fat-free foods, you must also keep in mind that in order for them to taste good, that fat needs a substitute – and it’s usually sugar. Check the labels.
5. Skipping Out on Your Personal Training
Do you know how many people pay for their personal training sessions… and just don’t show up? Why bother taking that extra step to book the time when you aren’t going to follow through? The only way true results are achieved is with consistency, and when you enlist the help of a personal training professional, they are giving you advice for a reason: it works! We are here to keep you on track, keep you accountable, and get you that lean, toned body you want over time. No one can simply snap their fingers and make it happen. You have to put the time in.
6. Foregoing Blood Work
Sometimes problems with getting in shape aren’t something a person or a trainer can fix on their own. Occasionally, there are internal problems that need to be addressed by a doctor – like hormonal issues or essential vitamin and mineral deficiencies. JJ Virgin was famous for saying, “ Test, don’t guess.” There’s a reason for that.
Having blood work done can pinpoint any hormonal imbalances and metabolic issues that cause your body to stop functioning as it should. If you are experiencing extreme fatigue or you find you just aren’t feeling as you should, then blood work is definitely in order.
7. The “Electrolyte” Con
Many energy drinks and sports beverages advertise the benefits of the additional electrolytes in their drinks as something that every person exercising really needs to balance their bodies after a workout. Unfortunately, this just isn’t true. Unless you’re running marathons and holding extended training sessions, you’re not going to lose enough to matter. Plain old water with do the trick just fine, and if you want something with a little extra health benefit, find a good coconut water with no added sugar.