6 General Fitness Myths

bodybuilding.jpgThere are many myths about fitness and weight loss out there that many exercise enthusiasts out there still believe. Some of these myths might actually be quite detrimental to whatever your goals may be pertaining to weight loss, getting stronger, or just getting healthier. Have you or someone you know ever said, “I don’t want to lift weights because I don’t want to bulk up or look like a body builder.” The truth is, lifting weights is one of the most effective ways to lose weight and trim fat, and it is almost impossible to look like a bodybuilder unless that is what you are training for. Below are some common fitness myths and the truth behind them.

Myth #1: My metabolism is higher/lower/different than other people.

The short answer is yes. Metabolic rate, the amount of calories burnt a day, does vary between people. However, the difference between metabolic rates, which is usually between 200-300 calories a day, is so minimal that it is doesn’t cause obesity. To give a sense of how much calories that is, 200kcal is approximately equivalent to two tablespoons of peanut butter, a single Pop-Tart, or half of a large slice of pizza. An oreo is about 70kcal, and a chocolate bar is in the rage of 150-270kcal depending on the brand (1).  It is true some people have it easier than others when it comes to weight loss and metabolism. However, the key factor to losing weight is still burning more calories, through physical activity, than the amount of calories you consume.

Myth #2: Doing high reps of lighter weights will help me get toned.

Being “toned” is a subjective idea. When people think of toned, they think low body fat with lean muscles. However, the definition of “muscule tone” is the amount of tension a muscle maintains when it’s at rest. What most people mean when they say “toned” is certain level of muscular definition. Being “toned” is simply a matter of having enough muscle mass and low enough body fat.

Additionally, working high repetitions of exercises at low weights will increase muscular endurance more than anything else. If your goal is strength, you should be working high weight for low repetitions. If your goal is size and definition, you should be working medium weights for medium repetitions (2).

Myth #3: Ab exercises can make you lose stomach fat.

“Spot reduction” in weight loss is the idea that you can target a specific area of fat on your body by only doing exercises pertaining to that area. For example, doing ab workouts like sit-ups, crunches, and leg raises to lose your belly fat. Unfortunately, your body does not work this way. Muscle growth in the abdominal region does not reduce fat in that region. Your genes are responsible for where your body stores fat, and it’s the same thing for losing fat. It’s pretty much a “first on, last off” type situation, so if the first place you get fat is your belly, it’s probably going to be the last place to lose it (3).

Myth #4: Women will get bulky if they lift heavy things.

There are many differences between men and women when it comes to body composition, such as where your body tends to store fat, how quickly you’ll lose body fat, and how quickly you’ll add muscle. Many women fear the idea of lifting because they are afraid that they will “bulk up” or “look like a man”. However, most women will never get as bulky as guys because they lack sufficient testosterone. A good example would be to see male and female athletes of the same sport. The female professional athletes still maintain a lot of strength while not appearing as bulky as their male counterparts.

Myth #5: Lifting weights is going to make me huge like a bodybuilder

Putting on muscle is not easy. It takes years of dedicated work and maintaining a strict exercise regiment and diet. Unless you are training to pack on a lot of muscle, it is highly unlikely you will ever “accidentally” look like a bodybuilder.

Myth #6: Lifting weights makes you inflexible

The ACSM finds that full length strength training actually improves flexibility. Additionally, top weightlifters, bodybuilders, and gymnasts regularly demonstrate advanced levels of flexibility while being exceedingly strong (4). Moreover, in one of their studies, results showed that stretching before and after a series of exercises showed no statistically significant advantage over resistance exercise when it came to flexibility.

Sources

1. http://examine.com/faq/does-metabolism-vary-between-two-people.html
2. http://www.reddit.com/help/faqs/Fitness#GeneralFitnessMythsandMysteries
3. http://www.exrx.net/WeightTraining/Myths.html
4. http://www.acsm.org/about-acsm/media-room/acsm-in-the-news/2011/08/01/study-strength-training-improves-flexibility-too

Give Thanks to Yourself by Eating Well this Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving is a perfect time to celebrate with your loved ones and remember to give thanks. It’s also the perfect time to enjoy a bountiful feast filled with beautiful traditional family recipes. It may be a near-impossible task to not indulge in a mouth-watering buffet of buttered, sweetened, and stuffed delicacies, especially when everyone else at the table is gorging themselves too.

It’s okay to relax and loosen up your diet once in a while. Holidays are a time of celebration and enjoyment. People usually set themselves up for failure when they make goals to lose a significant amount of weight around the holiday season. A helpful tip to stay positive and motivated on your journey towards a healthier life is to make more realistic goals. During this season, people should change their mindset towards weight maintenance instead of weight loss. Make keeping the same weight over the next few weeks a success of its own.

Below are some delicious and health-conscious Thanksgiving recipes. (More recipes can be found at EatingWell.com)

Maple-Roasted Sweet Potatoes

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces (about 8 cups)
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste

PREPARATION

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Arrange sweet potatoes in an even layer in a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish. Combine maple syrup, butter, lemon juice, salt and pepper in small bowl. Pour the mixture over the sweet potatoes; toss to coat.
  3. Cover and bake the sweet potatoes for 15 minutes. Uncover, stir and cook, stirring every 15 minutes, until tender and starting to brown, for 45 minutes.

TIPS & NOTES

  • Make Ahead Tip: Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day. Just before serving, reheat at 350°F until hot, for about 15 minutes.

Pear Crumble

INGREDIENTS

Topping

  • 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup whole-wheat or all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 5 tablespoons canola oil
  • 3 1/2 pounds ripe but firm Anjou pears, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons minced crystallized ginger

FILLING

PREPARATION

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. To prepare topping: Combine oats, walnuts, brown sugar, flour and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Drizzle with oil and stir until evenly moist.
  3. To prepare filling: Combine pears, maple syrup, raisins, flour, lemon juice and ginger in a large bowl and mix well. Transfer the mixture to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle the topping over the pears.
  4. Bake the crumble until the pears are tender and the topping is golden, 45 to 50 minutes. Let stand for at least 10 minutes before serving.

TIPS & NOTES

  • Make Ahead Tip: Prepare the topping (Step 2) and filling (Step 3), cover and refrigerate separately for up to 1 day. Bring to room temperature before assembling and baking.

Here are some other helpful suggestions to make your Thanksgiving Day a little healthier:

  1. Use fat-free chicken broth to baste the turkey and make the gravy.
  2. Reduce oil and butter use wherever you can.
  3. Try plain yogurt or fat-free sour cream in creamy dips, mashed potatoes, and casseroles.  
  4. Eat a healthy and filling breakfast. It will help you maintain and curb your appetite during the big feast.
  5. Participate in some physical activities with friends and family before and after the meal. Whether it’s football or just walking, always exercise more than you eat.
  6. Avoid seconds and overstuffing yourself. You can also have leftovers as a meal the next day.
  7. Ease up on the alcohol. Calories from alcohol add up quickly.
  8. Savor every bite of food. Really enjoy the wonderful food that you’ve worked so hard for. The slower you chew, the less you will eventually eat. 
  9. Remember to give thanks to yourself. You’ve worked hard and you should appreciate it. 

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Diet Soft Drinks: Free of Calories but Not of Consequences

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With all the variety of “zero to low” calorie diet drinks being marketed by most of the soft drink companies around the world, one would think that there is finally a feasible solution to getting your daily soda fix while staying health-conscious and losing weight. However, below are some interesting facts about these so-called “diet” drinks that might make you think twice about heading to that soda fountain.

Vascular Health

People who drink diet soft drinks on a daily basis may be at increased risk of suffering vascular events such as stroke, heart attack, and vascular death (1). In a new study by Hannah Gardener and her colleagues from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and at Columbia University Medical Center, Gardener examined data designed to determine stroke incidence, risk factors and prognosis in a multi-ethnic urban population. Data was drawn from among 2,564 participants within a ten year period. Participants included individuals that drank regular soft drinks and diet soft drinks. Research found that those who drank diet soft drinks daily were 43 percent more likely to have suffered a vascular event than those who drank none. It may also be interesting to note that light soft drink consumers, such as individuals that drank once a month, or even individuals that drank regular soft drinks were not more likely to suffer vascular events.

Weight Gain

In another study done by Dr. Helen Hazuda, a professor of medicine at University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, researchers followed 474 diet soda drinkers, 65 to 74 years of age, for almost 10 years. They found that diet soda drinkers’ waists grew 70 percent more than non-drinkers (2). In another study, one group of mice was fed chow laced with aspartame, a popular artificial sweetener found in most diet soft drinks. After three months, the group of mice fed the aspartame-laced food had higher blood sugar levels than the mice eating normal food.

“Artificial sweeteners could have the effect of triggering appetite but unlike regular sugars they don’t deliver something that will squelch the appetite,” said Sharon Fowler, obesity researcher at UT Health Science Center at San Diego and co-author on both of the studies. Artificial sweeteners may trick the brain and inhibit brain signals that cause us to feel full. “Some studies suggest that when our taste buds sense sweetness, the body expects a calorie load to accompany it…When that doesn’t happen, it may cause us to overeat because we crave the energy rush our body was expecting,” said Cheryl Forberg R.D., author of Flavor First (3).

Teeth and Bone Loss

Diet soda, just like regular soda, usually contains phosphoric or citric acid, which is extremely harmful for your teeth. Phosphoric acid also causes calcium to be excreted from the body at an accelerated rate. This means your body loses dietary calcium at a faster rate while not being able to replenish it with something more nutritious and calcium-enriched, like milk or yogurt.

Dehydration

Most soft drinks are diuretic because of the caffeine they contain, which means more urine is excreted from the body. To make matters worse, some people drink soft drinks in lieu of water, which adds to the dehydration.

With the esclating epidemic of obesity rates around the world, soft drink companies have been marketing newer and better “diet” drinks every few months as a quick and easy solution to curb sugar cravings. However, as more and more studies are being released, new research has been suggesting that “diet” soft drinks may actually be causing the opposite effect of what they are intended to do, which is to help you lose weight. If you must have a soda, drink it sparingly. However, when it comes to beverages, water is always the safest and healthiest choice.

References

1. Gardener H et al (2012). Diet soft drink consumption is associated with an increased risk of vascular events in the Northern Manhattan Study. Journal of General Internal Medicine. DOI 10.1007/s11606-011-1968-2

2. Jaslow, Ryan. “CBS News.” CBS News. (2011): n. page. Web. 11 Nov. 2012.

3. Lieberman, Bari. “The Truth about Diet Soda.” Men’s Health. 07 2011: n. page. Web. 11 Nov. 2012.

Recommit To Yourself

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The holidays are right around the corner, and things on your plate may be piling up, literally. Job demand is usually the highest around this time, and on top of that, you may have to start making family arrangements, go shopping for gifts, and begin preparing family recipes.

Moreover, the temptation to just stuff yourself and splurge until the next year is present everywhere. There is the wonderful stuffed turkey, honey-glazed ham, mac ‘n’ cheese, and candied yams, just to name a few (my mouth is already watering just thinking about these). It’s a difficult time to have to worry about keeping your diet and staying on track with all the healthy habits you’ve already worked so hard maintaining.

When there is so much stress going on in your life, it may sometimes be difficult to make YOURSELF a priority. You may be thinking to yourself, “Well, New Year’s is right around the corner… I’ll just make the same resolutions… AGAIN,” or, “It’s the holidays, it’d be wrong not to splurge.”  

Now is a better time than any other to make the commitment to yourself to live a healthier and happier life. You owe it to no one other than yourself. There does not have to be a specific day or time, like New Year’s, where you make the conscious decision to be healthy. Making resolutions for an entire year may be a stretch, and is near impossible for many to keep. Instead, try making resolutions for the day.

Every morning, when you wake up, tell yourself, “Today is the day I’m going to change.” Allot just three minutes for my basic workout of Plank and Wall Sit. Eat one healthy, nutritious meal with no sugars or processed foods. In no time, the day will be over, and you can be proud of yourself. You made a commitment to yourself to get healthier, you fulfilled it, and it probably wasn’t even that difficult. In fact, you can probably do it again tomorrow, and maybe even add another healthy choice to make. These simple, but effective, resolutions are not only easier to keep and achieve, they become less consequential when you slip up. It’s okay if you fell off the wagon for the day, just get back on tomorrow!

“Recommitting yourself starts with putting things in perspective. So what if you stopped strength training? Half of people who start a new fitness plan… stop within the first six months. You’re normal. So what if you drank too much wine, martinis, margaritas, or beer last night, the night before and the night before that? It happens. So what if you ate way too much cake, pie, or cookies over the holidays. Who doesn’t? … You know what? You have the solutions to these problems.” Chapter 6, The 90-Second Fitness Solution