Have you ever watched the show “MythBusters”? The basic premise is a group of people goes around testing out urban legends and myths, proving them to be true or false. Well, they should do that in the health and wellness world as well. There is so much conflicting information out there that it makes it challenging for the general health seeker. More often than not, they read an article that has no scientific backing and follow the lead. Or worse, they are so paralyzed by the amount of information on a subject, that they forget about it altogether.
It’s time to debunk some myths in the health and wellness world. Below are some of the most common questions I see every day that will help you separate fact from fiction. Noah and I discussed this on our Wellness Wednesday Facebook Live so check that out too!
Can I target one area of my body to lose fat?
There is no such thing as spot reduction fat loss. You can do as many sit-ups as you want (although I advise against sit-ups) to try to lose belly fat or have a whole training session dedicated to triceps and losing the fat on the backs of the upper arms. Stop doing it because it doesn’t work that way. You cannot tell your body to just take fat off your midsection or triceps or thighs. It’s not possible so stop doing it. If you see a product on the market saying it can spot reduce fat, run away. To lose body fat, it takes an approach that covers the entire spectrum. Consistent strength training, consistent cardio training, consistent recovery, consistent sleep and consistent healthy nutrition. If you can do all of these CONSISTENTLY, your body composition will change and you will become healthier and leaner.
What’s better for me: Cardio or Strength training?
Both are great for you. Depending on what your primary goal is will dictate which you will want to do more of. If you are a powerlifter, clearly cardio is not a concern and if you are a marathon runner, cardio is more of a priority. For most people that are looking to maybe shed a few pounds and become a healthier version of themselves, you need both. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate cardiovascular exercise per week as well as 2-3 days of strength training. By doing both, you help create a body has a strong muscular foundation and one that has a strong cardiovascular system. Keep moving and keep lifting!
Do women get bulky from weight training?
No. If more women performed consistent strength training and moved up on their weights, their body composition would change drastically. Women do not possess the testosterone required to “bulk up” so forget about it. To create lean muscle, a diet of just cardio training is not going to cut it. Strength training is the key to building a stronger body. Remember, strength training can come in a few different varieties. Bodyweight moves such as push-ups and squats, weighted moves such as bench press and deadlifts, kettlebell moves such as swings all are strength training. Next time you’re in the gym ladies, add a little more weight to the bar or hammer out an extra set of push-ups. Your body will thank you!
Are alcohol and coffee bad for you?
This is a common question asked by many because most of you enjoy a glass of wine or beer after a long day and coffee is your go-to fuel source in the morning. This question has a lot of variables so let’s break down alcohol first.
Alcohol has been shown to “possibly” have a few benefits if drank in moderation. According to a study performed by the Mayo Clinic, a glass of wine or a beer could possibly reduce the risk of heart disease. This doesn’t mean if you are not drinking to take it up by any means. If you enjoy a drink in the evening, that’s fine. Here are a few rules though:
Always in moderation.
Drinking your calories is never a great idea and wine and beer can rack up the calories in a hurry. Did you know a large glass of red wine is about 120 calories? A 12-oz. Bud Light has 110 calories in it. That can add up in a hurry. Not to mention, too much alcohol can result in a hangover and I don’t have to go into the consequences from that.
No drinks at least three hours before bed.
While many believe alcohol can help you get to sleep, the quality of sleep suffers. Alcohol has been shown to interrupt your REM sleep which can prevent your body and brain from recovering and will leave you feeling tired in the morning.
Next, let’s move on to coffee. The recommended dosage is up to four cups per day and coffee has many healthy benefits including:
Improving focus and mental clarity
Improving athletic performance
Providing essential nutrients and antioxidants
MAKING YOU FEEL ALIVE!
That is if you don’t abuse coffee. For some coffee is your lifeline and keeps you going throughout the day. That’s not good. I enjoy a cup or two of coffee but you shouldn’t have to rely on coffee to get you through your day. Here are some rules to follow when drinking your coffee:
Watch what you put in it.
The biggest problem today with coffee though is the artificial sweeteners and sugars. Anytime you walk into a Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts, you probably see someone with an extra-large coffee with whipped cream, extra sugar, and some sort of flavoring. That is not coffee. That is called dessert or sugar with a splash of coffee.
For example, a Caramel Frappuccino with Milk and Whipped Cream, Grande Size, at Starbucks is 390 calories with 64 grams of sugar! At Dunkin Donuts, a Coffee Coolatta with cream can run up to 600 calories and 65 grams of sugar. You could eat eight large eggs and still not be at 600 calories! Those numbers should frighten you. Drink your coffee black or try adding some coconut or almond milk for some flavor.
Have a coffee curfew.
Much like alcohol, too much caffeine can mess with your sleep. It is a good idea to avoid that evening coffee as caffeine can keep your brain fired up throughout the night. Caffeine is a stimulant so having coffee just a few hours before bed can negatively impact your sleep quality. Stick to an early afternoon coffee curfew and you will be fine.
Is it okay to do a cheat meal?
Restrictive diets do not work so of course it’s okay to have a cheat meal. Only one thing though. Let’s call it a reward meal. If you did the work during the week, reward yourself on the weekend with a dinner out and dessert. Want to have a beer or glass of wine? Go for it. You deserve it and earned it. One reward meal is not going to push you over the edge. Instead, it is going to reiterate the need for healthy eating, get your mind in a healthy place and keep you from resenting eating healthy and going back to your old, unhealthy habits.
Should I look for fat-free items at the grocery store?
Fat-free is just another catch phrase used by marketers to push their product as healthier than others. In reality, it’s not any healthier, but it has helped some companies make enormous profits off of just adding this one phrase to their item. If an item is fat-free, the calories have to come from somewhere else. Check out your nutrition label. For example, on Coffee-Mate Fat-Free French Vanilla Coffee Creamer, there are 5 grams of sugar even though it is fat-free. More often than not, people are consuming unhealthy calories filled with added sugars because they are fooled and automatically believe that fat-free means healthy. Check your nutrition label!
What are some of the best exercises to get stronger?
If you are looking to build full-body strength, start with the basics. There are always new exercise videos floating around the internet or new pieces of equipment that hit the market and people flock to them because it’s something new and something different. If you want to get stronger though, it comes down to performing the basics and doing it well. Master moves such as push-ups, squats, lunges, planks, and deadlifts. These are compound movements and target multiple muscle groups and joints and give you the most “bang for your buck.”
Can I work out every day?
Your body needs recovery time. Plan recovery days in your training schedule to avoid overtraining. If you operate at a high intensity all the time, it will sabotage your efforts and can lead to muscle loss, increased risk of injury, increased blood pressure, irritability, and poor sleep quality. Great options to get in some active rest days include going for a walk or another form of light cardio, stretching and foam rolling, and yoga. Remember, if you don’t take care of your body with proper recovery, eventually you will break down.
How do I get fit the quickest?
There is no quick fix when it comes to fitness. If you create a mindset of getting fit quickly, you are only thinking long-term and it will be a habit that most likely does not stick. If you shift your mindset and think long term and set goals, you are on the path to success. If you are a beginner to fitness, it’s essential to ease yourself in. Just because you see this cool workout online that involves 500 reps, if you haven’t worked out in months, that’s probably not a great idea. You will be sore and it will be tough to get back in the gym for at least 3-4 days. Instead, start small with some light cardio and strength training. From there, each week forward aim to challenge yourself further and progress your workouts. Follow the progression principle using the FITT acronym. To progress things you can increase the frequency, intensity, time and/or type.
Should I eat carbs?
When it comes to nutrition, carbohydrates get a bad rep. Of course, you should eat carbs but understand there is a distinct difference between good ones and bad ones. For example, fruits are high in carbs but have so many benefits. Blueberries are loaded with antioxidants. Think of antioxidants as the police of your bloodstream as they are patrolling and preventing cell damage. Bananas are high in potassium. Watermelon is loaded with vitamins A, B6, and C. All of these fruits are high in carb count. On the other end of the spectrum, many processed foods are loaded with carbohydrates and more importantly, added sugar. Avoid foods with added sugar. Actually, a good rule of thumb is to stay away from foods that are in a box or packaged. These generally have a higher carbohydrate count. Carbohydrates are beneficial if you eat the right ones. They not only provide you with essential nutrients, but they also help fuel your body, providing the body with the fuel to make glucose. Don’t eliminate this entire food group. It’s not smart and it’s not practical. Instead, make things simple and opt for healthy carbs.