When it comes to men’s fitness there is a lot of misinformation out there, especially at this time of year. People feel compelled to go on a health kick, buy all the latest supplements, lose weight quickly, and pack on tons of muscle too.
If you followed all of the advice that is out there, you would get nowhere because you would be trying to stick to an overly complicated regime that involved restricting certain foods and the times that you could eat and perhaps even struggling through ineffective workouts.
There is no need for any of that. You can get into great shape by just making some simple changes to your lifestyle. Let’s break down some of the most common myths and truths when it comes to men’s fitness:
Myth One: You Can Eat Whatever You Want If You Go to the Gym
If only this were true. Sadly, you cannot, as the saying goes, outrun your fork. Unfortunately, a lot of people fall into the trap of going to the gym to exercise, burn a few hundred calories, then eat more than they burned because they think they earned it.
Studies show that the body secretes appetite-regulating hormones following exercise. Some people produce more ghrelin—the hormone that makes you hungry—than others, and some produce peptide YY (PYY), which makes you less hungry.1
It’s a good idea to learn how you respond to exercise and be realistic about the number of calories that you burn in a session. In general, if you’re trying to lose weight or get abs, then you shouldn’t be eating back your exercise calories. If you’re trying to gain muscle, then you do need to be proactive about eating more protein and potentially consuming more calories.
Myth Two: You Can Tone Specific Body Parts
The term “toned” is a misnomer in the lexicon of the exercise industry, as is the idea of spot reduction. You cannot “tone” certain body parts, rather, you can only make the muscle bigger and stronger or lose fat all over your body.
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If you are carrying a lot of fat and want to show off your abs or your biceps, you will need to first build up those muscles, and second, lose enough fat to reveal them.
Spot reduction is a myth. One recent study demonstrated this by having participants engage in endurance training with just one leg for 12 weeks.2 The participants lost fat all over their bodies, but the change between the trained leg and the untrained leg was insignificant. Your body will take fat from wherever it is most accessible, so you cannot “remove fat from your thighs” without also removing it from another part of your body.
Myth Three: You Need to Be Sore to Make Gains
A lot of people believe that if you aren’t suffering from delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), then you aren’t getting stronger. The good news is this is untrue. While DOMS isn’t necessarily dangerous, and it is normal to get it after a hard workout, especially a hard workout that is new to you, the absence of DOMS does not mean that you are not building muscle.
Studies show that hypertrophy—the state where the muscle is built—can happen even if there is no soreness after a workout.3 There is no need to “confuse your muscles” to boost strength gains. Consistency is key. As a beginner, you may find that you can add a little weight every workout, but as you become more experienced, it is normal for those newbie gains to slow down. Be patient and keep pushing yourself. The time will pass whether you train or not, so you may as well keep working and getting results.
Myth Four: Squatting Is Bad for Your Knees
This is a myth that has been embraced with enthusiasm because a lot of people like to skip leg day. Yes, squatting isn’t fun, and it can be bad for your ego when you realize that you can’t squat as much as you think you should be able to. Squatting is not bad for your knees though.
In fact, when performed with good form, squatting can actually help develop the muscles around the knee and improve stability.4 If you don’t know how to squat, then it is worth hiring a personal trainer to help you. Warm up with just the bar and slowly work your way up to heavier weights. Squatting with free weights can be both intimidating and frustrating, especially if you are used to machines, but once you learn good form, you will realize that you can get a very good workout with lower weight than you might think.
Myth Five: Protein Is Bad for Your Kidneys
Like so many other myths in the world of fitness, this one starts with some basis in truth. Your kidneys do have part of the job of filtering protein, and there are some studies that have shown that excess protein intake can cause damage.
However, those studies are old and are based on research that was conducted on individuals who already had a kidney condition. More recent studies have been performed on healthy volunteers and found that protein intakes of up to 3.3g of protein per kg of body weight had no negative impact on renal function.5
That level of protein intake is around four times the current World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations. So, if you are an average gym-goer looking to supplement protein for health reasons, then taking an occasional protein shake or eating some extra chicken is unlikely to do you any harm.
Myth Six: Supplements Are Necessary for Progress
The fitness industry would love to see people spend money on ZMA, BCAAs, creatine, protein, pre-workouts, fat burners, and numerous other supplements, but there is no real reason to do so. The supplement industry is booming, with consumers taking supplements for day-to-day health and for sports or weight loss purposes.6
Many of these supplements are a waste of money, however. Researchers have investigated a number of popular supplements, including chromium, creatine, ephedra, and amino acid supplements and have found that of those, only creatine appears to have a beneficial impact.7
Myth Seven: Strong Men Don’t Talk About Their Troubles
So far, physical fitness has been covered extensively, but health is more than that. Depression and mental health issues are a common problem and something that a lot of men struggle with.
There is still a common perception that men should not ask for help and that they should be able to control their feelings because of gender norms. This myth is damaging and puts an unnecessary mental health burden on men. Depression is a serious issue and help is available for those who need it.8
Myth Eight: Snoring isn’t a Problem
Getting a good night’s sleep is vital. It is not possible to make up for sleep after long periods of sleep deprivation, and missing out on quality sleep can contribute to many health problems. What a lot of people don’t realize is that if you’re snoring, you might not actually be getting a good night’s sleep.
Snoring is especially worrying if it is also accompanied by feeling sleepy during the day because the snoring may be caused by sleep apnea.9 This is a condition occurs when an individual stops breathing while they are asleep because pressure on your airways makes it difficult to breathe. So, if you struggle to sleep or snore, it may be worth checking with your doctor about the risks of sleep apnea.
Myth Nine: Moderate Drinking Is Good for You
A few years ago, there were headlines all over the web saying that moderate drinking is good for your health. This is another one of those misconceptions that people hope to be true, but sadly, the studies making this claim were flawed.
While it is true that the studies showed that a group of moderate drinkers had better health outcomes, the researchers failed to control for socioeconomic status. Once you start breaking down the health outcomes by income, those who are moderately well-off tended to just be healthier in general, whether they were moderate drinkers or not.10
As mentioned previously, when it comes to the health and fitness industry, there are generally a lot of misconceptions that have come about because of the advertising strategies of supplement companies or because of social norms that still exist. Either way, being aware of these misconceptions can help you know what to look out for and allow you to better achieve a happier and healthier you.
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