The Lies You’ve Been Told About Your Diet and Fitness

There are a lot of myths in the fitness world. It can be a proverbial minefield of bad information for those just getting into the gym or starting a new fitness routine, and plenty of people seem apt to give bad advice. It can be tough, because it seems a lot of things that should make sense — like getting six-pack abs after doing hundreds and hundreds of sit-ups — should work. But it doesn’t.

We’re here to bust some of the most common fitness myths out there. Here are seven fitness myths, busted.

1. You can ‘target’ flab

man doing sit-ups

Targeted fat loss isn’t real. |

You can’t target fatty areas of your body. Sorry, it just doesn’t work like that. Most commonly, you may think you can do a thousand sit-ups per day to get a six-pack. You may be burning calories, but it’s not going to burn the fat from your stomach. Your body stores fat in its own unique way — and burns it in the same way. Losing weight, in general, will eventually lead to fat breakdown in the areas you want, so go big.

2. Starving yourself is a good idea

A man reaching for a burger instead of veggies

Don’t starve yourself. |

Think you’re going to starve yourself and put on muscle mass? You’re not, and that’s because your body needs fuel to maintain mass. And if you plan on putting additional mass on, you need to up the intake. Failing to eat enough is going to leave you feeling exhausted and cranky — the key is to eat the right things. Rethink your diet, and see where you can make changes. Failing to eat isn’t going to help you in the short or long run.

3. Rest days are for sissies

Asian man in a deep exhausted sleep

You need to get adequate rest. | Photography

No — no, they’re really not. In fact, they’re essential to the fitness process. Rest days are when your muscles go into “rebuilding mode” — your body actively does away with the broken down and useless tissue you tore through during your previous sets and uses the building blocks (from your focused, healthy diet!) to rebuild stronger and better than before. So rest. Your body requires it.

4. Sweating is the same thing as burning fat

a man sitting in a sauna

Sweating and burning calories are not the same thing. | Michael Dodge/Getty Images

Those giant Italian guys on The Sopranos — they loved to hit the steam room. And yet, they never got any smaller over the course of six seasons. That’s because sweating isn’t actually burning calories (maybe a few), it’s just your body’s natural way of cooling itself down. You may be burning through a little more energy as your body’s systems kick into gear, and if you step on a scale after the steam room, you’ll weigh less (because you’re dehydrated), but have you really made any progress? The answer is no.

5. Sleep is for the weak

man sleeping next to a ticking alarm clock

Pick a reasonable bed time and stick to it. |

Yeah, yeah — just how rest days are for sissies, so is sleep. But you need to go to bed at a reasonable time, and on a reasonable schedule. Sleeping is very important to your health, and there are numerous physical and psychological benefits. Hit the sack, and don’t let anyone make you feel small for it.

6. Big, strong, and functional are all the same thing

lifting weights at the gym

You don’t have to look like this to be strong. |

You may be jacked, but you might not be all that strong, oddly enough. Or all of that muscle may not be doing much for your functionality. Yes, you’re going to be stronger if you have bulging muscles than if you’re a walking stick figure, but there are times when strength doesn’t always accompany size. You can read more about it and adjust your goals accordingly. The goal is to be big, but also functionally strong.

7. You need a Gatorade

drinking gatorade

You don’t need a sports drink to get you through your workouts. |

Sure, Gatorade (or Powerade, etc.) is delicious, and particularly good after a hangover or when you’re sick, but it’s not as essential to your post-workout routine as the advertisements would have you believe. You can just stick to water, and save yourself some money while you’re at it. But what about those electrolytes, you say? If you’re working out for a long time, say an hour or more at an intense level, then yes, have a Gatorade on hand. But there’s sugar in there too, which can be detrimental.