Friday, January 19, 2007

Top 10 Fitness Myths

fitness and body-building myths

#1: You can get a six-pack if you do a thousand crunches a day
The one thing every guy wants from his workout is a nice defined six-pack. Guys will do crunch upon crunch in their quest for perfect abs, but the reality is that if they have a layer of fat covering their muscles, definition will never come.

Their time would be much better spent doing some quality cardio sessions and making sure they are eating well, which would help them lose body fat -- the key to unveiling remarkable abs.

#2: Each workout should be devoted to one specific muscle group
Are you devoting an entire day of your workout program to biceps and triceps? Do you have a separate day for hamstrings and quads? What some guys don't realize is that compound lifts work many muscles indirectly.

Take the bench press: If you perform this exercise on your "chest day," you will also stimulate your triceps fairly heavily. This means that by carefully choosing your exercises, you can incorporate more muscle groups into every workout, which will provide better results in less time.

Keep in mind that you don't always have to do very specific exercises to target certain smaller muscles; by simply working them indirectly, you will see improvements in your strength and size.

#3: Stretching is not really necessary
The component that is most often left out of a fitness program is stretching. If you are like most men, you probably think that right after you are finished your last set, you should head for the showers. However, you should really finish off with some stretching, as it will increase the range of motion in your muscles and joints, which will thus allow you to perform your weightlifting exercises over a greater range of motion, as well as target more muscle fibers throughout the lift. Stretching also helps you to become more limber and allows you to better maneuver around opponents when you are out playing football or basketball with the guys.

Finally, when you finish off your workout with some stretching, you reduce the severity of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), which you will most likely greatly appreciate the next morning.

#4: Taking supplements will make you look monstrous in no time
We are constantly bombarded with ads for a wide variety of supplements. Some promise you a tight, ripped middle, while others ensure that you can pack on pounds of new muscle over the course of just a few weeks. There may be some benefits to a few of these supplements, but more often than not, your results won't be much better than those you would get from a good training program combined with a well-planned out diet.

These are truly the two factors that lead to the greatest gains, so you should focus most of your energy on them rather than on finding the latest magic pill. Also, some supplements can have very harmful side effects (such as infertility, increased heart rate and nervous system problems) that should not be taken lightly. You are far better off achieving your results naturally; remember that your long-term health is not something you should risk.

#5: Food eaten after 8 p.m. will turn into body fat
Do you think your metabolism knows what time it is? While your body does run according to a circadian rhythm, your metabolism does not shut down at night. You still need to provide your body with fuel to repair and rebuild while you sleep, and to prevent it from going into a catabolic state brought on by a long period of fasting. This is especially important if you work out later in the day.

After a workout, your body is crying for a good source of carbohydrates, so don't skimp because you think eating at this time will make you gain fat.

It is important to make sure you are eating healthy foods later in the day -- such as lean meat, healthy fats, plenty of vegetables, and even some complex carbohydrates if you are really active later in the day -- to reduce your risk of adding unwanted body fat, but there is no need to avoid eating altogether.

#6: Your buddy's program will give you the same results
This is a very common notion among bodybuilders, who constantly ask fellow gym partners what kind of program and diet tricks they use, thinking that if they do the same, they will see the same results.

This couldn't be further from the truth.

Granted, it may be a very good program and you may see some results with it, but remember that you have a different physiological makeup than every other guy in the gym, and your body will respond to various training protocols in a different manner. So your best bet is to incorporate some aspects of this "workout God"'s regimen into your program, but play around with the techniques and figure out what works best for you.

You may simply need to reduce the number of reps or substitute one exercise for another in the program. The important thing is to come up with the plan that works best for you.

#7: You don't need to work out your legs if you jog
It seems like when you walk through a gym these days, everyone is huddled around the free weights doing arms, while there is no one to be seen at the squat rack. Men often decide to forgo any leg training and just concentrate on their upper bodies. They figure that since they went for a run that morning or did some interval training on the bike the day before, they have already worked their legs enough.

The truth is that working your legs will indirectly help your upper body grow. Your leg muscles are incredibly large; when stimulated, they release a large amount of testosterone -- the primary anabolic hormone responsible for muscle growth -- throughout the body. Thus, you will benefit your upper body on days you don't even work it out.

Also, having a strong lower body is the best basis for the rest of your training. Otherwise, it is like trying to build a house without a foundation -- not very effective. So be sure you don't pass up your leg training sessions any longer.

#8: Doing moderate-intensity cardio for one hour is the best way to burn fat
Many people still believe that since you burn more fat calories during a moderate-intensity session, this is the best way to burn body fat. While it is true that working at a moderate heart rate will make your body burn more calories from fat, the more important thing to look at is the total number of calories you burn.

When you perform high-intensity interval workouts, you burn more calories per minute than when you work out at a lower intensity. Granted, you may not be able to last as long, but the number of calories you burn during both sessions is actually quite similar. But the advantage of interval training is that it causes your body to burn a significant amount of calories after you have finished your workout. This means that you will continue burning calories at a higher rate for numerous hours afterward, thus causing the total number of calories burned throughout the day to be higher, translating into a greater fat loss.

High-intensity interval training also tends to help preserve muscle tissue, whereas long moderate-intensity workouts can become catabolic in nature (breaking down muscle).

However, an important point to keep in mind is that you cannot perform high-intensity cardio every day; either alternate high- and moderate-intensity sessions or space out your high-intensity workouts within the week. If you do wish to perform some moderate-intensity sessions, they should last at least 20 minutes so that your body can get into its fat stores; for the first 20 minutes or so, you will most likely just be burning carbohydrates that you have consumed in recent hours. For your intense workouts, you can see benefits -- both from a fat-burning and a health benefit standpoint -- from doing short 6- to 10-minute workouts.

#9: You need to eat lots of protein to build muscle
The more protein you eat, the more muscle you will build, right? Wrong.

The body only needs so much protein every day; when you surpass its requirements, it simply processes the extra calories the same way it would excess carbohydrate or fat calories. The protein is broken down, and some of it is excreted while some is stored as body fat or used as energy. The requirements for protein are 1.2 to 1.5 grams per kilogram of bodyweight; this amount will ensure that your body is getting enough of the building blocks it requires to create new muscle.

Rather than ingesting too much protein, a better option would be to supplement your diet with good sources of carbohydrates, as they are the body's preferred source of energy to create the muscle tissue from the protein you took in.

#10: In order to see results, you must push yourself to your limit during every workout
One of the key factors to getting stronger is rest. If you are going to the gym day in and day out, and pushing yourself to the max, you are likely not recovering from your workouts and not getting any stronger. It is when the body is resting that it can repair itself and rebuild so that it is stronger the next time around. If you work out again before your body has recovered, you will only break the muscle down further, causing you to become weaker rather than stronger.

Incorporating some easy or "off" days into your workout plan will give your body the time it needs to recover and will give you a psychological break. You will find that you are better able to stay motivated and you will greatly reduce your chances of overtraining and injury.

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