This week’s blog post is going to be about the 5 biggest lies told by the fitness industry. These lies are being told to us by supplement, gym, diet food companies, online articles, gyms and some fitness trainers. When it comes to becoming educated fitness consumers, we need to be able to discern fact from fiction. Let us dive in with a critical mind and understand just some of the lies that are holding us back from reaching our full fitness potential and potentially misleading others from reaching their goals. From lies about fitness supplements, gym memberships, female strength training, cardio and fat loss spot reduction, this article is replacing fact with fiction so that we can reach our goals with greater clarity!
Lie #1: You need supplements to get into shape
The first lie that we are told by the fitness industry is that we need supplements to get into shape. This could not be further from the truth, food does a good job of providing the nutritional requirements that we need in order to both lose fat and gain muscle. When it comes to losing fat, we need to apply the first law of thermodynamics meaning that weight is the function of consuming calories (through food consumption) versus caloric expenditure (exercise, heat, calorie restriction). “Thermodynamics must be obeyed and so if one wishes to lose weight they must burn more calories than they consume.” Basically the more calories that we burn (through cardio or restricting calories), the more weight we can lose. No fat loss supplement, for instance, is going to create a large enough deficit if we are consuming a lot of calories.
Furthermore, another reason why supplements alone are not an effective course of action is that the results are not sustainable in the long run. “There is no magic pill, red hot chilli pepper, or special tea that will give you better health when you’re sitting on the couch. Healthy fitness and nutrition is the only hack! (Daly,2022). ” This is because the issue that led us to either gain weight or not be fit is a result of our lifestyles and can only be solved by addressing the original issue. “These options only treat the symptoms of an unhealthy lifestyle, rather than attacking the actual problem at its source: the unhealthy lifestyle (Kamb,2019).”
Another reason why supplements are not required is because they are not regulated by any legal organization like the the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This means that the likelihood that the ingredients can potentially do harm or inversely, actually deliver the promised results is unlikely as it has not been tested. “These products are not legal dietary supplements,” says Michael Levy, director of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) Division of New Drugs and Labeling Compliance. “They are actually very powerful drugs masquerading as ‘all-natural’ or ‘herbal’ supplements, and they carry significant risks to unsuspecting consumers (Kamb, 2019).”Let us not fall for generalizations and instead try to focus our efforts into understanding supplements by their function and their ability to fulfill said function.
Protein powders are not required to accumulate enough protein throughout the day, they do however help those who do not have: a) the time, b) the ingredients at home or c) the energy to cook at home. “When choosing a protein powder, make sure to look at the ingredients and find one from a reputable brand. Always do your research even if it is one the most popular brands (such as Muscle Milk). Some of these have had metals such as arsenic found in them (Kamb,2019).”The truth is that consistency with training and nutrition will take us where we need to go, supplements can only help us if the basics are in check.
Lie #2: Gym membership is required to be fit
The second lie that is told to us by the fitness industry is that we need a gym membership in order to be fit. This is simply untrue. Firstly, if one wants to lose weight, the simple equation of consuming less than one is burning daily is enough. This can be done by calorie restriction or cardiovascular exercise. Many methods of doing so exist, these include:
-using the stairs instead of the elevator
-performing bodyweight exercises (pushups, pull-ups, dips, squats, lunges, sit-ups, bridges, triceps dips)
-doing workout videos on Youtube/Instagram/Tik Tok/Pinterest
-buying fitness equipment (ie: dumbbells and resistance bands)
-using furniture as equipment
Make sure that you are consistent with your chosen exercise methods, if you are performing bodyweight exercises, keep them high rep/high set for optimal physique development. This means you want to perform 3-5 sets of 12-30 repetitions for your chosen exercises. The hypertrophic force that you can generate from doing this rep-range plus the added bonus of mind-muscle connection (make sure to think about your muscle as you train it) is as effective for muscle growth as would access to heavy weights. Obviously, a combination of heavy, moderate and light weights is optimal but that does not mean that a gym membership is actually required. If your goal is to lose fat, then make sure that you are consistent with your walking or running, performing 30-60 minutes of this method at least three times a week.
If you do choose to perform some Youtube/Instagram/Tiktok/Pinterest exercise videos, also make sure that consistency and maximal effort are put into them. The truth is that none of these methods require buying a gym membership, the secret lies in your ability to be consistent! Here are a few article on fat loss,the mind-muscle connection (one of the key drivers for hypertrophy) and the best methods of cardio for fat loss.
Lie #3: Lifting weights makes you bulky
The third lie that we are being fed by the fitness industry is that lifting weights makes us bulky. This lie is perpetuated by both direct and indirect means. One indirect way that this is being done is via advertisements. Pink, light dumbbells and a perfect face or hair after a training session are in no way representative of the actual reality. If you want to get fit, you will have to lift heavier weights which will require looking somewhat spent after the training session.
Training should be genderless, so remove any misconceptions on the basis of gender from this point on! We should see a man’s journey towards muscle gain/fat loss as similar to our own. The only difference between genders exists in the amount of testosterone that men have, they also are slightly stronger than women as a starting point (not ending). “The average man produces ten times the amount of testosterone as the average woman. To be truly bulky and “manly” you need a lot of testosterone. Without it, you cannot get bulky. So, unless you plan to inject yourself with steroids, you have very little to worry about.” Lifting weights for women results in both fat loss and the creation of muscle. “Weights actually burn fat and build muscle. Muscle weighs more than fat but takes up less space. Therefore, the lower your body fat percentage, the leaner you will appear (Dellitt,2022).”
The ones who have ruined the image of lifting weights for women are insecure men and women who have taken steroids and shown us the masculine ideal in a woman’s body. The women who do take steroids end up producing the amount of testosterone that will alter the physique in a masculine way. Masculine in this sense simply means that the muscle density, size and appearance becomes more noticeable, defined and increased. The body then loses most of its softness and femininity.
Furthermore, a healthy diet alongside strength training is also required. “I still hear people telling women to not get too big or bulky by lifting weights. Lifting weights will make you strong, not bulky. Eating poorly while lifting heavy, doing cardio, and even doing yoga can make you put on weight and look bulky. Improper nutrition will undermine any exercise regime (Dellitt,2022).”
Check out this post on the misconceptions about female weight-lifting.
Lie #4: You can spot-reduce or target fat loss
The fourth lie that is told to us by the fitness industry is that we can spot-reduce or target fat loss. This is untrue as the body does not work that way. Firstly, fat distribution remains largely genetic. Secondly, fat tends to be lost and gained in an equal fashion. This means that doing your crunches or squats in hope of losing fat in a certain area are not going to work. You will most likely remain the same or lose fat all over the body (provided that you are eating at a calorie deficit). “If someone wants to lose fat in their belly area, they tend to think that a lot of crunches will do the trick. Or if they want to lose fat around their chest, they focus on bench press variations and push-ups. It seems logical because you feel the fatigue in that area, but unfortunately, you can’t really focus on a specific area for fat loss. If you want to lose weight from any particular spot, the best exercises you can do would be total-body moves because they have the highest calorie-burning potential (Dellitt,2022).”
The truth is that if you want to lose fat quickly, you should follow both a strict diet (that you are consistent with) and utilize compound lifts like squats, deadlifts, etc to maximize fat loss/muscle gain. “To lose weight quickly, you’ll need to burn as much fuel as you can with intense exercises like squats, dips, pull downs, deadlifts and shoulder presses while following a strict diet (Gourdreau,2012).”
Lie #5: Low intensity cardio is necessary for weight loss
The fifth and the final lie told to us by the fitness industry is that low intensity cardio is necessary for weight loss. It is not the ideal method for weight loss for numerous reasons. One of which is that the body will lose both muscle and fat. Having healthy muscle in the body creates the appearance of leanness and is healthy to have on for longevity, anti-ageing and protective purposes. “If you lose fat and lose muscle along with it, you have made your future ability to keep the weight off harder (Horton,2011).” Furthermore, the effects of having less muscle impedes on our bodies’ ability to burn fat. Our metabolisms can be increased by virtue of having more muscle on.
The ideal strategy then is to maximize muscle gain and inhibit the amount of calories coming into our bodies through calorie restriction. “There is no getting around the basics of Thermodynamics. If you want to lose fat, you must eat fewer calories than you burn. Period. There is no other way unless the laws of physics don’t apply to you for some reason, in which case, you can eat whatever you want (Horton, 2011)!” In simple terms, less muscle=lower metabolism, a lower metabolism=more likelihood of weight gain or maintenance as opposed to the desired outcome which is weight loss.
In conclusion, the five lies told to us by the fitness industry are that we need fitness supplements to get into shape, that a gym membership is required to reach our goals, lifting weights makes us bulky, that we can spot-reduce or target fat loss and that low intensity cardio is necessary for weight loss. These lies inhibit us from knowing that the basics of consistency, hard work, serious training and a healthy diet are what can give us our optimal physiques. From supplement, diet food and gym companies to misinformed personal trainers and online articles/content, these sources should always be fact-checked with the aim of knowing the truth in the pursuit of optimal health and wellbeing.
I hope that you guys enjoyed this post on the 5 biggest lies told by the fitness industry, please let me know what you thought about it in the comments below!