There can be a lot of pressure that goes into living a healthy lifestyle, especially for someone who hasn’t started the journey yet.
With endless articles and advice on the Internet, it can be hard to know what and who to believe when it comes to the myths or statements you hear about what you “should” or “shouldn’t” be doing. I hear that, and I hope you can trust the information that you read here on Life In Leggings.
I write a healthy living blog and I share my workouts and fitness advice on my social media pages, but I only do this because I feel qualified as a NASM Certified Personal Trainer and Women’s Fitness Specialist. I’m currently in the process of becoming a Certified Nutrition Coach, so that is why you are starting to see more content on food, too. I’m learning and want to share knowledge that I think will help you!
Today we’re chatting about common statements and myths that are told in the health and fitness space. I’m answering questions, so let me know if you have any others that you’d like to address.
Eating after dinner time can cause weight gain.
When you eat is not as important as what you eat or how much you eat in a day. Now, if you find yourself in a pattern of eating most of your calories for the day before bedtime, then you probably need to reassess and intentionally eat more earlier in the day to avoid binging at night.
A good place to start is to choose whole (unprocessed) foods with a good balance of protein, carbs, fruits and vegetables. Pick foods that fuel your activities and pay attention to when your body is actually asking for food. If you’re looking for a snack at night, I say it’s okay to eat it. Three servings of ice cream isn’t as great as a cup of cottage cheese or carrots dipped in hummus, but I say eat if you’re truly hungry!
You need to take supplements for optimal health.
Can they help? Yes. But it is always best to get your nutrients from real, whole foods first.
Everyone has different needs and health goals, but in general, you shouldn’t feel like you have to stock your cabinets with a variety of supplements. I have been taking a daily multivitamin for decades and will encourage most people do the same. Other supplements are available for specific needs or to fill in the gaps of where you think you may be lacking in your diet. Some people need more help filling in those gaps than others.
I personally take a multivitamin, add collagen in my morning coffee, and turn to protein bars, protein powder and shakes when I can’t get straight to a meal or recovery snack at home. Again, nutrients from foods are best … supplements after!
Crunches are the best exercise to strengthen your core and trim your waist.
A lot of people mistake the “core” as a six pack of abs. Your core is made up of many more muscles, and they all work together to get you that trim, fit mid-section. Crunches help, but they only take you so far. Instead of just focusing on straight ab exercises, up your cardio and resistance training. Include moves that train all parts of your core like bridges, planks, plank variations, mountain climbers, standing abs and more.
Stretching is important, especially before your workout.
Ideally, you should give your body a proper warm up/cool down before and after your workout. If you had to pick one or the other, however, it’s actually more beneficial to help your body transition into recovery mode with stretches at the end of your workout. (Are you surprised to hear this? It’s true!)
Avoid skipping out on the last section of your group fitness class class or the cool down in your workouts as much as possible. Doing so will help with muscle soreness and also prevent injuries. Give your body the care it needs and deserves for optimal performance. Include foam rolling, too!
Skipping breakfast will help you lose weight.
Every person is different, and you know what your body needs and how it performs best. I have never been and I will never be a faster. It just doesn’t benefit me. I get hungry, I get irritable and cranky, and I can’t think, focus or perform at my normal level. So, I never skip my breakfast and eat at least a little something (even if it’s a banana or a slice of peanut butter toast) before an early morning workout. That’s me!
Some people do well with fasting, and it’s what works for them. That said, The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends breakfast as an effective way to obtain nutrients and manage weight. People who skip breakfast can fall into contradictory habits like compensating for the missed calories later in the day (mentioned above) or making less healthy choices when it’s time to eat. This isn’t true for everyone … but it is backed by multiple studies from multiple sources.
The most important takeaway is to be mindful of what you choose to eat and how you fuel your body!
You should eat 5-6 small meals per day to boost your metabolism.
This answer can be true or false, depending on the person. Some people thrive on consistent healthy snacking instead of fewer larger meals, and it helps them hit goals and feel good. Others do not do well with this schedule, as you’re having to think about food more often and don’t necessarily listen to your body’s natural hunger cues.
Eating smaller, healthy meals and snacks 5-6 times per day can boost your metabolism, but it also has to make sense for you and your life to work. Do you prefer to graze more often throughout the day or sit down and stick to three well-planned meals when you’re hungry? When in doubt, try both methods and see what works best for YOU.
Personally, I go through phases of both and do what is easiest for my schedule at the time.
Weight loss or weight gain is all about the calories.
Tracking calories is a great tool for managing your energy in versus energy out in order to hit your goals of losing, maintaining or gaining weight. There are different levels of doing so that range from keeping a food journal or taking pictures of your meals to measuring everything you cook or consume on a scale. There is a science behind it, and it can work really well for a lot of people.
At the same time, all calories are not created equal. Some are packed with nutrients while others are empty. I don’t like to think about it as “good calories” versus “bad calories” because I believe that you can enjoy any food you crave in moderation. So, let’s relabel those as empty calories, or calories that don’t supply nutrients or energy for your body to use.
Think about it this way … is it better to get 200 calories from a small bag of chips or a cup of Greek yogurt with a few berries and almonds? You can occasionally pick the chips, just know that you probably won’t feel as full or as satisfied as long as you would from a healthier, more nutrient-dense option.
Sports drinks are great for recovery.
This one depends what you’re doing and for how long. Are you training for a long distance run or in an extreme sport? Are you an elite athlete or taking part in a physical activity outside in the sun for an hour? If not, then you probably aren’t losing enough electrolytes to call for a sports drink during your workout. While drinking Gatorade is better than drinking soda, there are better options to choose before, during and after that replace the electrolytes and carbs that you lost like water.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are a good source of carbohydrates and an electrolyte replacement, too. Believe it or not, an ideal post-workout recovery drink is 16 ounces of chocolate milk for the protein, carbohydrates and added vitamins and minerals!
Short workouts aren’t really worth the effort.
Yes, longer workouts can be more effective, but you can totally get by with quick segments of activity when that’s all you have time for. Fifteen minutes is always better than zero. Ideally, you should have a plan that includes workouts that are anywhere from 30-45 minutes per session, but that also depends on what you’re doing, the frequency of your workouts, and the intensity of the exercises.
This answer could drag on, but the main point is that several 10-minute workouts add up to the same amount of work done in a few 30-minute sessions. It’s all relative to what’s best for you and your schedule. What you have time for is better than skipping your workouts entirely.
If you’re not sweating, you’re not working hard enough.
You do not have to be a sweaty mess to have a good workout. Trust me when I say that I am preaching to my former self here, too. I used to think that a workout had to be an hour long, had to include cardio, or had to leave me feeling drained to be effective. Friend, this is not the case. And if you are working out to your max every single workout, you are overtraining.
Sweating is not an indicator of an effective workout, but it is the way our bodies cool down and can result in losing water weight. (This is why it’s extra important to stay hydrated if we’re working hard or sweating a lot!) You will most likely sweat during your workouts, but it’s okay if you don’t. Some of my favorite workouts are low-impact formats like barre and Pilates which usually don’t result in a sweat fest. And that’s okay! The important thing to remember is to move your body on a consistent basis.
Do cardio first, then strength training if you get to it.
People tend to put cardiovascular exercises like running, spinning or doing anything that really gets your heart pumping on a superior level to strength training. If you only have thirty minutes to work out, you should just hop on the treadmill and call it a day, right? (Not necessarily.) People can also get into a habit of starting their strength workouts with intense cardio to warm up that lasts more than a few minutes. Is this the best strategy for long-term growth and results? Not really.
In an ideal world, you have a balance of cardio and strength training workouts in a frequency that is created for you, your fitness level, and your goals. Read my post on Cardio vs. Strength Training: Why You Should Do Both for more discussion there. To summarize, many fitness experts suggest doing cardio after weight training or on completely separate training days. If you do cardio first, you will use up a lot of your energy that you need for strength training and your muscles will go into (sometimes the most strenuous) circuits already tired.
It’s best to work out in the mornings.
A lot of people prefer to work out first thing in the morning for many different reasons. Some believe that this kick-starts their energy and metabolic burn for the day. Others find this is the only uninterrupted time that they will get in the day before busy to-dos and distractions hit. Whatever your reasoning is, there’s no denying that getting your workout in first does have an advantage in making sure that it gets done. This is great unless the early wakeup calls are affecting your sleep patterns, or if it becomes something that you truly dread.
It’s not about when you exercise. What matters the most is how you are using your time for exercise and that you are actually putting the work in. Morning, lunch, night, whatever. Pick the days and times that work best for your own schedule and experiment until you find the perfect routine that you like showing up for!
Is there a question or myth that I missed?
Shoot me a message or comment below and I’d be happy to talk about it!
You might also like:
- How To Stay On Track With Fitness Goals
- Tips On Finding Time To Work Out
- How To Avoid Workout Burnout and Stay Motivated
- How To Work Out Smarter, Not Harder
[Photo credit: Jason Roth Photography.]