Cardio workouts aren't the only way you can lose weight. (Photo: Jupiterimages, Getty Images)
Even though we know fad diets and fitness trends come and go, it’s hard not to get swept up in the idea that they could be true, especially when there are so many crazes hitting you from every which way.
One day protein shakes are the answer to everything. The next, there’s a blogger telling us a mere 10 squats a day will give us better butts.
Rather than rely on wishful thinking, we asked dietitians and trainers to weigh in on five common fitness beliefs. Spoiler alert: they’re mostly myths.
1. You need a protein shake to build muscle
Protein shakes are touted as a be-all-end-all solution. They’re advertised as meal replacements and as a way to grow and maintain lean muscle.
Turns out, you don’t actually need to take protein supplements if you’re getting adequate protein from food. Kelli McGrane, registered dietitian for Lose It, says although protein shakes can be convenient, you have to be cautious about which ones you pick because they could have added sugars and can cause bloating.
“There are many excellent high-protein foods that can help you build muscle, such as plain Greek yogurt, chicken, lean beef, fish, eggs and tofu,” McGrane says. “Plus, in addition to providing protein, these foods also supply additional vitamins and minerals that are important for metabolism and cell growth.”
2. Ab workouts will give you abs
If you’re after that chiseled stomach, doing 100 crunches a day won’t help you get there any faster.
“Abs are made through nutrition,” Austin Dotson, personal trainer, says. “You can do billions of abs exercises, but if you do not consume the proper diet, Jesus will come back before your abs do.”
You have to lose body fat to see your abs. To do that, you have to mix proper nutrition with both cardio exercises (like running on a treadmill, jump rope or high-intensity interval training) and weight training.
In short, you can’t crunch your way to abs.
3. Cardio is the only way to lose weight
Yes, cardio can help you shed some pounds, but it’s not the only way to do so. In fact, you don’t have to do any cardio at all if you only want to lose weight.
It all comes down to the calories you’re consuming, says James Smith, personal trainer and owner of James Smith Academy.
“Put it this way, Ross Edgley swam around the U.K. for five months, he swam 12 hours a day and came back 5 kilograms heavier. Alternatively, a housewife could manage her intake of calories and lose 5 kilograms in five months without going to the gym or doing any cardio.”
Although cardio can be effective in helping burn fat, make sure you’re not doing too much of it, Dotson added.
“We need muscle to burn fat, so too much cardio is the fastest way to plateau and actually retain more fat,” he says. “You need to switch up your methods of cardio and add some type of strength/resistance training in your regimen.”
4. Squats are the most effective butt-building exercise
Yes, squats can help you grow your gluteus muscles, but there are other exercises that are better suited for targeting that area.
Celebrity trainer, Eric Fleishman says exercises like walking lunges and fire hydrants can transform your glutes faster than squats. They’re less dangerous too.
To add some volume to your backside, make sure you’re focusing on all parts of the butt, Dotson says.
“You have to focus on all areas of the glutes: Maximus, medius, minimus. So squats just won’t do the trick, you need to add in hip abduction, and abductors as well as glute bridges, lunges and deadlifts,” he says.
You also have to eat enough to grow your butt, Dotson says. Make sure you’re getting enough carbs and protein for those muscle gains.
5. You can’t turn fat into muscle
Fat and muscle are two different things and you can’t magically transform one into the other. However, lifting weights will help you build muscle and lose fat at the same time.
“Lifting weights can promote muscle growth, which in turn can increase your metabolism,” McGrane says. “This metabolism boost, in addition to cardio workouts and a healthy diet, can help you burn more fat.”
You can do this by adding cardio and resistance training into your gym routine. Make sure to strike a balance, as too much cardio can end up burning your lean muscle, Dotson says.
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