Fallacies in Exercise and Diet
by Scott Chadwick, Rio Personal Trainer
Have you ever heard your mother say “Hey, come in from the cold; you are going to get sick!” This and many other fallacies exist in everyday life and have found their way into training and exercise as well. While it makes sense (on the surface) that being out in cold temperatures would make you sick, this is not the case. Bacteria and viruses are what make people sick, not cold weather. Correlation is not causation, and while there are some factors that would lead us to believe that extreme temperatures might make us ill, this little chestnut is pure “wives’ tale” and the origin of the idea may never be found. Similar misconceptions have found their way into training and diet.
Myth: Lactic acid is what causes muscle soreness.
There is a no bigger culprit than this common fallacy. In the simplest description, lactic acid (lactate) buildup is the result of a lack of oxygen during exercise (anaerobic.) Under normal conditions, oxygen is supplied to muscles at a rate that depends on activity, and glucose is converted to pyruvate for further processing in energy production. However, when we start to push our muscles beyond the ability of the body to supply oxygen to assist this process, we have a buildup of pyruvate, which is converted to lactate so that glucose can continue to be used as fuel. This buildup causes an acidic environment in the muscle and is responsible for the burn we all experience when going to failure during that last overhead squat. Once we slow down, oxygen has the opportunity to move back into the muscle and conditions return to normal (until the next set!). The muscle soreness we experience is the result of microtrauma induced during training and it is the repair of muscle tissue that results in increased size and most importantly, strength.
Myth: You can target weight loss.
We’ve all seen the advertisements (you know the ones): Bare-bellied models, male and female alike. showing off their carved abs. By using the ab–carver pro-2000 you can have the six-pack stomach in time for summer, get rid of those flabby arms with the latest gadget, or tighten those buns with our new product. Spot reduction claims have fooled many out of their hard-earned money. You cannot target weight loss! Reduction in fat mass happens when we burn more calories than we ingest. Simple mathematics. Enough said.
Myth: Strength training will make women look bulky.
BEEEEEEEP! Wrong! Zena the Warrior Princess-type builds are the result of steroid use. The female body (in the vast majority of cases) does not produce enough testosterone and growth hormone to make for bulky and overly masculine physiques. A sensible strength training program is a vital part of a complete fitness program, especially for women as they reach menopause. Estrogen is bone-sparing and after menopause females see a rapid loss in bone mass. Healthy eating combined with weight training will offset this loss; strength training has been shown to have more benefits than cardio, particularly for seniors, both male and female.
Myth: “Sugar is sugar; your body can’t tell the difference.”
Here’s one that the National Corn Growers Association loves to throw around when referring to high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Not just false, but spectacularly false. Simply, HFCS is absorbed into the body faster. Unlike sucrose, which is bound to glucose and fructose, HFCS is absorbed much more rapidly and goes straight to the liver where the majority of it is stored as fat. HFCS has been found to have trace amounts of mercury, which is especially worrying when we consider how much soda is being consumed by young children. Much of the crop is genetically modified. No, sugar is not just sugar.
Myth: Cardio training is more conducive to fat loss than strength training.
One could completely understand the misconception that cardio training is more conducive to fat loss than strength training. After all, just take a look at triathletes and endurance runners. Fat loss occurs mainly in the aerobic energy systems, true, and the vast majority of our time is spent in this condition as we go about our daily activities. Training of any kind can occupy only a small amount of time in a given day; the rest of the day is spent in… Well, rest. Here’s the kicker: muscle burns more than twice as many calories just to sustain itself. That is, as we are going about our day, muscle needs more calories just to stay alive than fat does, so the fatter you get — the fatter you’ll get.