There is so much written out on the internet about fitness, it’s hard to know what is true and what is not true. I try to find scientific proof of every claim, but even the scientists don’t agree. So sometimes, we just go with what works best for us. Below are some common exercise myths that I have tried to debunk. Disclaimer: This is based on my own non-scientific personal experience, with some scientific backing.
- Morning exercise is better than afternoon exercise: I am a morning person. I am up early every day, even when I don’t have anything to do or anywhere to go. I regularly went to the gym at 5:00 am every single working day, for at least 10 years. Now that I am retired, I still go to the gym early. Some people need more time to wake up and get going. If they are not morning people, a morning workout doesn’t make much sense. My husband is an afternoon exerciser. He cannot even consider going to the gym before 4:00 pm. So which is better? There are benefits and drawbacks to both. For me, the energy and adrenaline rush that I get from exercise give me energy for the entire day. It wakes me up and keeps me going. I am in a much better mood after I exercise. Testosterone levels also are higher in the morning, for all you males body builders out there. If I exercise in the afternoon, I can’t wind down and go to sleep easily. However, strength and flexibility increase as the day goes on. Strength peaks in the evening. Another argument for afternoon training is that you will already have two meals in your system, providing additional fuel for your workout. In the end, you have to do whatever works best for you. A lot depends on whether you are a morning person or a night owl. Here is an interesting study on the subject.
- More weight is better than more reps: This is a sticky one. Low reps with heavier weight build muscle, thereby helping to increase metabolism and burn fat.Higher reps with lighter weight builds strength endurance and help tone and define. In either case, you have to work the muscles to a fatigued state to get any effect. In other words, if I can do 100 reps with a 3 lb. dumbbell, but my muscles are not fatigued, what have I gained? A lot of boredom and not much else. I see women all the time in the gym doing bicep curls with 3 or 4 lb weights for 10 reps. They are not gaining anything with this. Ultimately, once your muscles have become accustomed to a certain weight or a certain number of reps, you need to increase either weight or reps. You need to work to failure of your muscles. At some point, it is impractical to continue to increase the number of reps, so you will need to increase the weight. The best bet, in my opinion, is to mix up your workout. Do some days with lots of reps, and some days with lots of weights. I prefer to do more reps with lighter weights because in the end, I am a lazy strength trainer and hate lifting heavy weights 😦
- Strength Training is better than cardio for weight loss: Everyone knows cardio is good for weight loss. It is also much better than strength training for heart health. But as a weight loss aid, in fact strength training is better. Cardio (running on a treadmill, for example) is effective if done for a long enough period of time, at a high enough intensity, over a long period of time. However, high intensity training, strength training, or lifting weights, increases your metabolism and fat-burning for up to 36 hours after a workout (known as the after burn). So even when you get home and are being a couch potato, the fat loss continues. Weight training allows you to build lean muscle mass, which serves as a constant calorie burner. Cardio burns fat and reduces muscle mass, so that you are smaller overall. Strength training is so important to your workout regimen, so even if you hate it, like I do, try to fit in at least 2-3 sessions a week to alternate with your cardio.
- Muscle weighs more than fat: A pound is a pound is a pound. A pound of muscle weighs exactly the same as a pound of fat. However, muscle is much denser and therefore takes up less space than fat under the skin and between organs. So you will look leaner, with increased muscle mass. Wouldn’t you rather have a pound of lean, smooth muscle under your skin instead of a pound of gelatinous, bulky fat? I know I would. Of course, lean muscle mass may weigh more as a cubic inch of muscle weighs more than a cubic inch of fat. So as the volume of muscle mass increases, there may be a weight gain, but it is not because muscle is heavier. The truth in the end can be seen in how your clothes fit, how many inches you lose, and how good you feel!
- Chocolate milk is a better recover drink than a protein shake: This one is easy. Hands down chocolate milk wins. Who doesn’t love chocolate milk? And who really likes those chalky protein shakes that remind me of barium (what, you’ve never had a barium shake? You don’t know what you are missing! Count yourself very, very lucky!) There have been some studies done showing that chocolate milk is the best recovery drink. It does not have nearly the protein that a whey protein shake has, but unless you are a super athlete, the chocolate milk provides all the nutrients needed for a good recovery. If you want to read the gory details, click here. But for me, chocolate milk it is!
Conclusion: Busted! (IMHO)
There are thousands of articles on the internet that agree or disagree with the above. These are observances that I have noticed in myself during my training life of fitness. I hope that you will find whatever works for you and get healthy!