By Joe Wilkes
Can you turn fat into muscle? Is the morning the best time to exercise? Will you get cramps if you drink too much water when you exercise? Can those ab machines on TV get rid of your pot belly? Spend time surfing the Internet for fitness information and, pretty soon, your head will explode from reading all the contradictions and misinformation about the best strategies to get fit. Here are some of the more popular myths and old wives' tales that have been propagated over the years.
You can turn fat into muscle. This is completely false. Muscle and fat are two entirely different substances. Muscle is a fibrous, contractible tissue that can only be built through exercise—via a break-down-and-rebuild process. Fat is adipose tissue that can be converted into energy in the service of building muscle, but the tissue itself can't be transformed into muscle tissue. So if you are an out-of-shape 200 pounds, you're not going to look like a young Schwarzenegger just by lifting weights. You'll have to do a lot of Turbo Jam®-style cardio to burn the fat off before anyone can see how ripped you've gotten. Which leads us to . . .
You can turn a pot belly into a six-pack just by doing crunches. Any insomniac has seen those late-night commercials that guarantee miracles with rollers, chairs, crunchers, and various other contraptions. They all promise a Brad Pitt six-pack in just minutes a day. But if you're starting with a Homer Simpson beer gut, it's going to take more than rocking back and forth a few minutes in a modified lawn chair every day to see any results. No matter how steely your ab muscles are, if they're covered in inches of fat, no one is going to be able to appreciate them. That's why programs like Hip Hop Abs™ combine a healthy amount of cardio with the ab work. You can read more on this in "Getting to the Core of Your Ab Routine." If you don't burn the fat, you'll never see the muscle.
You can lose weight just by dieting. This is technically true. If you don't eat or eat less, you will lose weight—initially. But you will plateau quickly, and your body will readjust its metabolism to survive on fewer calories, making it even more difficult to lose weight. If you really want to move the needle on the bathroom scale in a meaningful way, it's going to take diet and exercise. Even light to moderate levels of exercise on a regular basis help a lot. Physical activity not only burns calories, it also helps build muscle and increase your metabolism, both of which turn your body into a more efficient calorie-burning machine, even while at rest. Plus, there are numerous other health benefits, from cardiovascular improvement to mood elevation. And in-shape people look a lot hotter than sallow, starved people do.
WalkingIf you don't exercise every day, you might as well not exercise at all. This comes from the same flawed, excuse-driven logic dieters use when they decide that because they cheated at lunch, they might as well order a pizza for dinner. While some form of daily exercise is ideal, studies have shown tremendous benefits even with as little exercise as a 30-minute brisk walk three times a week. Even if you fall off the wagon, put in that Beachbody video or walk around the block a few times. Before too long, you'll be craving exercise more than that burrito you thought you wanted.
No pain, no gain. This is a popular one uttered by almost every high school gym teacher and coach that I've ever met. And it's not only utterly wrong, it's potentially dangerous. This may seem obvious, but when you feel physical pain, it's your body's way of telling you, "Hey, you're hurting me!" And instead of trying to push through the pain, you should take a step back and see what kind of damage you're doing to your body. It's natural to feel fatigue during and after a workout, but if you're feeling actual physical pain, you're doing something wrong, and you could potentially permanently damage yourself. Maybe it would be better to say, "No exercise, no gain." But exercise and pain should never go hand in hand.
More sweat, more weight loss. Most good workouts will make you sweat, but the amount you sweat isn't necessarily the test of a good workout. Everyone sweats differently. And all sweat does is cool your body off with water (see "The Sweatiest Thing" for more on perspiring). What you get from sweating isn't fat dripping off your body. If it were, you'd be leaving a big oil stain on the floor after you worked out. Sweating just causes you to lose water weight. It's the activity itself that causes your body to burn stored fat for energy.
Drinking water during exercise can cause cramping. In fact, the opposite is true. You're much more likely to cramp if you're underhydrated, so for the best results when exercising, it's a good idea to drink water before you start your workout so you're beginning your workout with a full tank. As you work out, you should keep a bottle of water handy, particularly if it's a long or especially rigorous workout. After working out, you should treat your body to a big glass of water to replenish your fluids, and if you've been extra good, maybe some P90X® Peak Recovery Formula for maximum replenishment.
The best time to exercise is in the morning. A lot of people find that they prefer getting their workout out of the way first thing in the morning, and often feel that it gives them an energy boost for the rest of the day. But a good workout any time of day is just as good for you, although you may not get the best results if you're overly tired. So if you're someone who likes to burn the midnight oil, you can burn fat just as effectively then as you can at sunrise.
Lifting weights will create bulky muscles. This is a half-truth. Lifting heavy weights can create large, bulky muscles, but lifting light weights will self-regulate their ability to grow and, therefore, will create a leaner look. So if you want the Vin Diesel look, with your guns pumped, you can lift heavier weights with fewer reps. But if you want a more slender look (for example, many women don't believe that Vin Diesel's arms perfectly accessorize a Chanel cocktail dress), you can do more reps with lighter weights or resistance bands to get that slender, toned "swimmer's" build. And speaking of swimming . . .
Swimming is effective for weight loss. This is another half-truth. Swimming is great for building lean muscle and increasing cardiovascular endurance, which do lead to weight loss. But because the water supports so much of your body weight, swimming has been found to be less effective than land-based aerobic activity for weight loss, since the effort it takes to haul your carcass around does a lot more for fat burning. Swimming's still a great thing to add to your fitness regimen though. Having a variety of exercises, like Slim in 6® and Power 90®, will decrease your boredom and increase your overall results.
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