The topic of health and fitness is very important to me and is something that I have had a keen interest in for over 14 years now. After picking up various diplomas and certificates related to fitness training in college I started to become interested in bodybuilding and the gym became my football pitch.
You may think that writing an article about health and fitness on a blog that discusses how to stop doing what you hate and to live the life you want is a little out of place but my reasoning is sound.
There are many areas of our life that we might be unhappy with, not just our job or life situation. Our health, our self-image, who we spend our time with, our beliefs and even our general ignorance can all be improved upon and challenged for the better.
This is why I created this article. To broaden the topic range of this site and to talk about some of common myths associated with health and fitness.
So here are 5 health and fitness myths that you ‘probably’ believe.
1. You must eat a low fat diet to lose weight
This is perhaps the single biggest reason why many dieters fail in losing weight. It’s not their fault I suppose, especially when they are faced with countless products in the supermarket with highly misleading labels claiming to be low in fat or 33% less fat.
For starters it’s meaningless.
33% less fat compared to what? Its standard brand or the competition?
A lot of people are easily duped into thinking that just because something claims to be low fat it must therefore be healthy.
I’ve even seen people who are hell bent on losing weight drink copious amounts of Diet Coke just because it has the word ‘diet’ on the side. It’s madness.
This is even before we get into the actual science of it. You see, it’s commonly believed that to lose fat you must eat a diet that is low in fat. It seems logical doesn’t it? If you don’t want to get wet then you don’t go out in the rain so surely the same principle applies here?
Not all. Not even close.
For fat to be stored on the body there has to be insulin present, and insulin is commonly released via carbohydrates. It can also be released when eating very large quantities of protein (such as 1.5g per lb of bodyweight) but we won’t go into that here.
Basically if you completely eliminate carbs from your diet then it won’t matter how much fat you eat because the body cannot store it.
This is best explained when using a Ketogenic diet.
A Keto diet is very similar in principle to the famous Atkins diet and is perhaps the best overall choice to lose body fat quickly whilst keeping energy levels high. It works by taking in moderate protein and high fat without eating any carbs and after a few days your body will have used up all of its glycogen stores.
Once this happens your body will turn to its stored fat as the main energy source and it will do this by converting the fat cells into ketones ready to be used as fuel.
You may be wondering why the need to eat a large amount of fat if this is already happening. Well if we didn’t receive most of our calories from fat then your body would turn to protein as its main energy source and this would mean you would lose some of your hard earned muscle. Even if you don’t have much muscle anyway, it’s still undesirable because your body wouldn’t be burning much fat.
So to summerise;
Low fat foods can still be high in carbohydrates and it is these carbs which release the insulin that your body needs to store fat.
No carbs = no insulin release = no fat storage.
2. You must eat 5 portions of fruit and veg every day
Another one of the great health cons of recent times has to be the idea that you MUST eat 5 portions of fruit and veg every day to ward off cancer and other bad things.
In 1990 the World health organisation created the idea that you must eat 5 portions every day but the problem is that there is no proof that this has any real benefit at all.
Studies have shown that only 2.5% of cancers could be averted by increasing intake. Where this could be dangerous is that people could be duped into thinking that just eating fruit and vegetables is enough to live a long and healthy life, possibly ignoring the health benefits of regular exercise and other types of healthy foods.
Initially this figure was claimed to be a lot higher at 50% which does substantiate the original claims but when we drop this down to 2.5%, thus potentially ignoring the other 97.5% we can see how the argument begins to fall apart.
In the UK, The Department of Health has spent at least £4million on its ‘five a day’ advertising campaign since it was launched in 2003.
You can also see how this ‘five a day’ amount is a little vague. Would eating 3 portions of potatoes and 2 portions of broccoli be as good as eating 3 bananas, a peach and a turnip?
You might also like to know how and why 5 portions is the optimal number. Well there is no real reason, it is completely arbitrary. In contrast, the French are told to eat ten portions a day, the Canadians between five and ten, and the Japanese 13 portions of vegetables and four pieces of fruit.
Seventeen portions of fruit and veg a day!
The UK settled on 5 simply because our government didn’t believe that we could actually eat any more than that. Thanks for the vote of confidence there!
While the amount of fruit and veg we should eat is open to debate and the long term health benefits are still being decided, there is no doubt that eating a varied diet containing at least some form of daily vegetable is optimum for good health.
3. There are ‘good’ foods and ‘bad’ foods
“You shouldn’t eat that, it’s bad for you.”
It’s annoying when people, usually without any nutritional knowledge whatsoever, take great joy in passing on this very ‘helpful’ advice.
There is no such thing as a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ food. Whether a food is worth eating totally depends on who is eating it. It’s completely relative.
For example, if someone is an ectomorph and they are struggling to gain muscle then it is fine to get some additional calories from some fast food. Whereas if someone is trying to lower their body fat percentage then eating fast food is probably going to be detrimental to their success.
The humble pizza is a food that is full of contradictions. On one hand a good sized pizza could have as many as 2000 calories and a high amount of saturated fat, salt and sugar. But where it gets interesting is if you judge it one just one slice. Providing the topping contains a good mixture of dairy, fruit/veg and meat, one slice is an excellent choice of snack.
Not to mention one of your five a… no I’m not even going there!
Actually speaking of fruit again, if you’re trying to lose weight then eating fruit is a very bad choice as many popular varieties contain a lot of sugar. Again it’s fine if you’re just looking to eat healthy but it shows that whether a food is a good or bad choice is relative to your goals.
4. Steroids are bad for you
Ask anyone about steroids and 99% will immediately tell you that they are bad news and to stay away. Ask them why exactly and you’ll be met with a blank stare.
The confusion arises because in many western countries they are a controlled substance and banned in professional sports. We would then assume that this means they are automatically bad for you and that’s that.
In fact until the late 80’s steroids were classed in the same category as supplements, in that they weren’t illegal (but banned in sports) and were freely distributed by physicians. This changed when the US government, who were concerned with the high number of Baseball players that had recently tested positive and the increased use in high schools, passed a bill in congress making them illegal.
What followed was a huge campaign that focused on informing the general public how steroids caused cancer and heart disease among other health risks. You could say this campaign was successful as to this day, the media still reports these same ‘facts’.
The truth is anabolic steroids are created from testosterone, which itself is one of the strongest steroids.
Actually when people use the phrase ‘anabolic steroids’, most of the time they are referring to testosterone supplementation.
This is a hormone that is inside all of us right now. Obviously more so in men than women but still, it is a naturally occurring substance that is very important to our health and well-being.
When men receive testosterone replacement therapy (TRT), their doctors inject them weekly or fortnightly in the exact same way that athletes do when looking to improve performance.
It’s not just testosterone that has use in the medical world as the popular steroids Dianabol, Anavar and Anadrol were all created for medical reasons too. Anavar for example was initially used to aid recovery in burn victims and later to stop muscle wasting in AIDS patients. Nandrolone is also used to treat joint pain and acute tendinitis.
Steroids and testosterone work by stimulating the androgen receptors in the muscle, and increasing the rate of which consumed protein is used by the body. This nutrient partitioning and protein synthesis vastly improves recovery and aids in muscle growth. The strength increases initially come from water retention and increased glycogen storage in the muscle.
Now you could be forgiven for thinking that I’m telling you that it’s fine to supplement and that nothing bad will happen. Well that isn’t the case at all.
While a lot of the side effects that the media loves to tell us about are total myths, (heart disease, cancer, penis shrinkage, changes in behaviour etc), there are still side effects worth noting.
Supplementing with any exogenous androgen will cause partial or even total shutdown of your natural testosterone production. While this is usually temporary and will be reversed with correct post cycle therapy, it can become permanent with continued or long term use.
Meanwhile steroids in pill form are taxing on your liver and kidneys whilst increasing your cholesterol levels. There are measures to counteract this but it does mean taking more supplements, which would be papering over the cracks anyway.
As with any drug, abusing it will cause long term damage in various forms but when taken correctly, testosterone supplementation, as when used alongside a medical professional can increase your libido, lower body fat, increase muscle size and lower the chances of depression.
5. Weight training is just for men looking to get big
Go down the gym, what do you see?
Usually you’ll find the men over in the free weight section and the women using the cardio machines. Of course you will get the odd woman using weights and the odd guy on the cross trainer but the majority seem to be split this way.
What is odd is that there is no logical reason for this to be the case.
Men get duped into believing that they need to be bigger and stronger, often as a way to become more attractive to the opposite sex, in turn focusing too much on muscle and not enough on keeping the waist line trim.
Most women have a similar mind set but this time they see low body fat as the goal hence why they spend hours on the treadmill.
Why don’t we see many women using the weight machines, and even less over in the free weight area? The main excuse I hear when I ask people this question is that they don’t want to grow muscle, or get bigger.
There is one major reason why this excuse makes no sense and that is because women don’t make enough testosterone to actually grow significant muscle mass, at least not easily. Would you call Jessica Ennis big? This is realistically as muscular as an average drug free woman will ever get to, and she’s had a lifetime of intense training.
Regardless of whether you are male or female, weight training is a fantastic way to improve your health and fitness. There are numerous benefits including;
- Increased strength and energy
- Stronger bones
- Increased fat loss
- Higher base metabolism
- Reduce the risk of injury, illness and disease
Something else to remember is that the ability to grow muscle comes down to two factors. First is that to gain weight you must be eating more calories per day than your body burns. Secondly the number of reps you choose to do per exercise will dictate whether you are likely to grow new muscle or not.
Keeping under 10-12 reps will help to stimulate new growth while higher reps of 15+ is likely to condition your muscles and increase their stamina and endurance.
There are many more myths and little known facts about this topic that I have left out for now so if you have any that you would like to share then please add them in the comment section.