Unravelling the Urban Legends of Fitness Training
Eaves drop on any conversation at your neighborhood gym and you are sure to hear purported fitness “facts” that could easily rival Ripley’s “Believe it or Not” museums.
Through no fault of the messenger, people frequently believe the things they hear from others simply because they consider the source credible, which in all fairness is probably the case.
While much of the information highway begins innocently, its multiple urban (suburban and rural too) interpretations can wreak havoc on fact versus fiction, especially when it comes to health.
Complicating matters is that in many instances, these factoids start as absolute truths through the eyes of science only to be later discovered as non-truths.
If one stays with any given fitness topic long enough, they will observe those guys in white lab coats ultimately taking two very differing if not completely polarized views on a given topic; the urban legend is born.
I thought this would be a good opportunity to clarify some part truths, untruths and half-truths on fitness topics I have heard over the years as viewed by those who have shared their understandings of what they have heard, or I affectionately refer to as HAG – Heard At the Gym:
HAG: “Muscle turns to fat.”
Fact: Muscle does not “turn into” fat. True to the adage of “use it or lose it” muscle that becomes inactive, or gets smaller from a lack of stimulus (atrophy) will significantly slow metabolism down. The perfect storm of previous or increased calorie intake, coupled with less muscle by volume or activity will result in fatty weight gain.
HAG: “When you sweat hard you had a great work out”
Fact: A great workout should be determined by the extent to which your metabolism remains active after (“after” being the operative word) your work-out is over. Approximately 15% of your total calorie expenditure occurs during the work-out itself. The other 85% occurs when your metabolism is in the non-exercise state. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and resistance training are two of the best ways to keep your metabolism revved after your work-out is done. While long, medium-paced cardio might produce significant sweating, the majority of calories expended occur at the time the exercise is taking place and only for an hour or two after it is over. Interestingly, there has been recent research supporting a decreased incidence of certain cancers by women who sweat during their work-outs.
HAG: “When avoiding simple sugars, eating fruit is not a good idea.”
Fact: If this were really true, than there would be literature that supported individuals who have become overweight on a fruit-only diet. I have looked high and low and can’t find any people that became overweight eating fruit. Equally, there has been significant research on the effect fruit has on blood sugar, and the conclusion is that it does not cause significant spikes in blood sugar. In fact, one of the beauties of complex carbohydrates (fruits and vegetables) is that they are renown for steadily raising blood sugar versus spiking it and then “dumping” it causing fatigue. Lastly, the combination of phytonutrients (those powerful combinations of “good” chemicals in fruits) beat the heck of any perceived negatives of fruit consumption.
HAG: “Muscle weights more than fat.”
Fact: This is not completely wrong but needs to be modified with “when an equal volume of muscle and fat are compared, the muscle has greater density.” Using two equal sized cans as an example, the can filled to the top with muscle compared to the can filled to the top with fat, will weight more. Ultimately, it has greater density by volume.
I’m sure those of you reading this can reflect on countless heard-at-the-gym comments that have you wondering. Most important, is that your fitness training is founded on current science that is generally agreed upon by scientists and educators that represent the consensus of useful information.