5 Common Fitness and Weight Loss Myths Debunked

Myths about exercise fitness and nutrition

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Getty Images/Eliza Snow

If you've been exercising for a while, you've probably come across tons of information about exercise and fitness. You've heard the phrase 'no pain, no gain' and you've probably tried to tighten up your abs with crunches. While many fitness myths are fading fast, there are still plenty of misconceptions running around and you may be following one without knowing it.

Myth No. 1: I need exercises to work my 'lower abs' and reduce my pot belly.

First, there is no such thing as 'lower abs.' The six-pack you're going for is actually one long muscle, called the rectus abdominis, that extends from below your chest to your pelvis.

To work your abs, you should do exercises to target all four muscles: the rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques and the transverse abdominis.

Second, doing crunches will not help you get a 'six-pack' if you have a layer of fat over your abdominal area. In other words, spot reduction just doesn't work.  In order the see the muscles, you must reduce your body fat. For more information about this and some great ab exercises, check out Flatten Your Abs.

Myth No. 2: If I'm not sore the next day, I didn't work out hard enough.

Many people use muscle soreness as a gauge of how good their workout is. However, muscle soreness is caused by tiny tears in the muscle fibers and, while some soreness is expected if you regularly change your program, being sore for days after your workout most likely means you overdid it. If you're sore after every workout, you're not allowing your body time to recover , which is when you experience the most muscle growth.

To reduce your chances of getting very sore, you should warm up before your workout and stretch before and after. You should also gradually increase your intensity rather than going all out your first day working out.  If you experience soreness, rest for a day or so and then do the same exercises that caused you to be sore in the first place, but lower the intensity.

Myth No. 3: If I can't workout often enough and hard enough, I might as well not even do it.

The general guidelines for weight loss is to do cardio 4-5 times a week for 30-60 minutes as well as weight training 2-3 times a week.

Some people simply don't have the time to workout that much and they think, since they can't do all of that, why do ANY of it?

Remember: Any exercise is better than no exercise, even if it's only a 15-minute walk. Being physically active ) is proven to reduce stress and make you healthier. So, even if you can't make it to the gym, you have no excuse not to do something active each day.  Try some of these Timesaver Workouts.

Myth No. 4: Strength training will make me "bulk up"

Some women avoid weight training because they don't want to bulk up. However, strength training is a critical element to maintain a healthy weight and strengthen your body.

What researchers know is the the average woman doesn't typically gain size from strength training because she doesn't have the amount of hormones necessary to build massive amounts of muscle.

Even men have a tough time gaining muscle and it's something you have to work very hard to achieve, male or female.

Myth No. 5: If I eat more protein, I can build big muscles.

Building muscle mass involves two things: Using enough weight to challenge muscles beyond their normal levels of resistance and eating more calories than you burn. With all the hype about high protein diets lately, it's easy to believe that protein is the best fuel for building muscle but, according to the American Dietetic Association, muscles work on calories so you need all three types of nutrients - carbs, protein and fat.

If you consume too much protein, you run the risk of creating nutrient imbalance, kidney strain, or dehydration. Plus, excess protein results in extra calories that are either burned or stored. For muscle mass, you should incorporate a healthy eating plan, as well as a workout that combines cardio exercise as well as consistent weight training.

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