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Myth Busters

  • The Myth of Low-Kilojoule Dieting

    Though a calorie deficit is necessary for weight loss, this can lead to a vicious cycle of weight cycling. We discuss the myth of low kilojoule dieting.
  • Muscle Soreness After Exercise (DOMS) & Stretching Myths

    Muscle soreness after exercise can be quite uncomfortable (sometimes painful). What exactly does muscle soreness mean and can you really prevent muscle soreness by stretching?

    Muscle soreness is very commonly misunderstood within the health and fitness industry. It is commonplace for one to assume that muscle soreness is directly related to the effectiveness of a workout and that muscle soreness can be avoided altogether by stretching more. Both of these assumptions are incorrect.

    Let's begin with the jargon - the muscle soreness that we are discussing is called "Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness", or "DOMS" for those who like acronyms. This muscle soreness will often peak within 24-72 hours following a strenuous workout, or, following the relatively strenuous use of muscles in a new manner.

    DOMS is typically most apparent when you first initiate a new exercise regime. The next day after your first workout can be a killer! You can be aching from head to toe in muscles that you never knew you had before!

    Alternatively, if you've just taken a month long holiday, your first week of may make you extremely stiff, because you haven't used those muscles in such a manner in an extended period of time.

    The muscle soreness after exercise that you experience is not a direct function of the "effectiveness" of your workout - no matter what your goal, whether that be weight loss, gaining muscle, toning, enhancing your fitness etc. You can have a highly effective workout and not feel any muscle soreness at all. This is because DOMS is more a function of the degree of inflammatory from microscopic trauma induced as a result of a bout of physical exercise. This trauma is most prevalent when your muscles are subjected to an activity that they are not conditioned for.

    When you experience delayed onset muscle soreness, you will notice that you become tight. The flexibility of your muscles diminishes significantly. It is the reduction of flexibility that often leads to the incorrect assumption that if you were to stretch more following a workout, this would avoid any muscle soreness the following day. Not so.

    As mentioned, muscle soreness is a result of trauma induced within muscle tissue. It has nothing to do with flexibility. Following your workout, you will be very flexible because the muscles would have warmed up and thus become far more elastic. Yet as soon as they cool down and the inflammation becomes realised (ie. the pain sets in), the muscles will tighten right up.

    Does stretching assist in overcoming DOMS? No. Stretching will enhance your flexibility, but it will not speed up the rate at which your muscles are able to repair the trauma from exercise. The muscle's recovery is a physiological process that is independent from lengthening the muscle (ie. stretching).

    Muscle soreness very acute when you begin to stretch the muscle. Therefore, if you are more flexible, the muscles won't be stretched quite as much (relatively speaking). This can relieve the discomfort that you may feel in day to day activities (like walking after exercising your legs). However, good flexibility will not decrease the amount of trauma that has been induced.

    The great thing about muscle soreness after exercise is that it's a very profound reminder of the effort that you invested during your exercise session. Call me crazy, but think of this as a trophy that you can carry around with you for days after your exercise session!

    As uncomfortable as the muscle pain may be, it is something that we all have to deal with. It is usually most profound within the first week of exercise, so if you can get over that initial hump, you'll be home free!

  • Three Common Exercise Myths

    There are many myths floating around the health and fitness industry. If you've been following this blog this year, you will realise how many references to exercise myths I have published - everything from spot reduction to high repetition crunches to lose belly fat.

    So let's discuss three more common exercise myths that you may or may not be aware of.

    Exercise Myth #1: Weight loss during a workout is primarily fat loss

    Have you ever weighed your body prior to and after a strenuous workout? If you have, you may have noticed a significant body mass decrease. You may lose 1kg in the space of one hour. It is important to note that the vast majority of this weight loss is not fat, but rather fluids.

    This brings me to a good tip when focusing on your level of hydration. If you lose weight after a workout, this will most likely mean that your hydration levels have decreased. It is therefore important to drink more during your workout to ensure that your hydration remains at a healthy level.

    Conversely, if your weight increases after a workout, you are probably drinking too much.

    Exercise Myth #2: Training for a "pump" necessarily maximises muscle development

    A pump is when muscles take up blood to enlarge the total muscle volume. If you are performing higher repetitions, you may notice more of a "pump" than when training at lower repetitions. Following your workout, the "pump" will diminish - typically 20 to 30 minutes after completion.

    When you train for an increased blood supply to a muscle, you are not necessarily training for maximum muscle growth. The enlargement of the muscle is due to the uptake of blood, not:

    1. Because the muscle is growing
    2. Because the muscle is being worked in a way that is necessarily conductive of muscle growth

    You can actually get quite a good pump performing cardiovascular work.

    It may look great in the mirror, but keep in mind that a pump should not be the focus of your training if you are training for muscle development.

    Exercise Myth #3: There is one approach training that is the most effective method

    It is really common to hear someone in the health and fitness industry suggest that by following a specific set of training protocols, you will obtain maximum results for your goals. In other words, a "one-size-fits-all" approach to weight loss or muscle gain.

    Due to the variance between individuals, this is definitely not the case. Individuals respond differently to varying training approaches. There is no single study out there that has been accepted to be "the one and only way to train". Ironically, it is not uncommon for many naive gym attendees to approach other members and preach a particular way of training is "the only way to train".

    This is exactly why the personal training industry is flourishing - because optimal results require individualised attention.

  • Fitness & Exercise Blanket Statement Myths

    A short post this evening to deal with some common fitness and exercise "blanket statement" myths.

    There are many misunderstandings floating around in the health and fitness industry. Many of these come about as a result of an assumption that just because something is true in one particular circumstance, it is therefore true in all other circumstances. Because the human body is so complex, this often leads to old wives tales that are completely misunderstood.

    So, here are some common myths in this industry and a brief explanation on each:

    All sugar is bad

    Why is all sugar bad? Well, most likely because that's the general consencus going around the industry. Often this assumption is made because sugar is associated with a high glycemic index, resulting in a sudden "rush" of carbohydrate being absorbed. But this could not be farther from the truth! Many natural sources of sugar, particularly from fruits, have a low glycemic index! In fact, an apple which is full of sugar has a much lower GI than a potato filled with complex carbohydrates.

    Of course, your diet should not be overly high in sugar. But, to avoid sugar at all costs could cause an unhealthy imbalance.

    All High GI Food is Bad

    High GI foods actually have an important role in health and fitness. Following a very intense workout, a sudden surge of carbohydrate is required to facilitate recovery. Unless you ingest large amounts of a low GI food, it will be very ineffective at providing a high influx of carbohydrate needed post-workout.

    The Fitball is Useless for Muscle and Core Development

    I know I'm going to cop some heat from the bodybuilding community, but a fitball (or Swiss ball) certainly has it's place for many applications. The unstable nature of this ball creates a great environment for persons seeking to increase the awareness of their "core" muscles. It is such a versatile piece of equipment too, as you can use it to work practically all muscle groups!

    Whilst the fitball, in my opinion, isn't the most appropriate piece of "staple" equipment in a bodybuilding regime, it does have it's very effective uses. I think I'll elaborate on this more in later posts.

    Weight Training Builds Muscle Only, Cardio Burns Fat Only

    This has absolutely no scientific backing, but plagues the industry. Resistance training can have some very profound benefits for fat loss - in fact, it is far more effective to perform a combination of cardio and weight training for weight loss, than cardio in isolation.

    Meanwhile, cardio can actually enhance your muscle development results. You may be interested in reading an article I wrote, "Cardio & Bodybuilding - Good for Muscle Growth?"

  • Debunking the Fat Burning Zone Myth

    I was sifting through our website statistics today and I was really happy to see that an article I wrote entitled The Fat Burning Zone is one of the most popular pages on the entire website. This article was published in Australian Ironman Magazine and Fighting Fat Magazine. It discusses the fat burning zone myth; how it came about and why it is completely misguided.

    I have discussed this fat burning zone myth with countless clients and other individuals who are seeking to lose weight. It often comes as a surprise that this zone is a highly ineffective way to break down fat tissue. This is completely understandable, considering the amount of misguided information that is floating around the industry.

    The fat burning zone myth suggests that exercising at an intensity of between 55-65% of your maximum heart rate, you will stimulate maximal fat loss. Exercising at an easier pace will reduce the fat loss and exercising at a harder pace will also reduce fat loss, but target carbohydrate breakdown instead. This is not true.

    What is true is that fat loss is going to be a function of the intensity of your workout. The harder you exercise, the more calories you will expend and the more fat you will break down. In fact, if you exercise at a high level of intensity, you will significantly increase the amount of fat burnt AFTER your workout! Yes, you can actually turn your body into a fat burning machine.

    If you are interested in delving into this topic in more detail, then I recommend that you read my article, The Fat Burning Zone. We discuss exactly how this myth came about, why it is misunderstood and we also consider a handful of studies that have proven it to be incorrect.

    Having said all this, I am by no means implying that low to medium intensity cardiovascular work is useless. I am a firm believer that lower intensities have their place, particularly with:

    • People with injuries and/or medical concerns
    • Elderly people
    • Participants with low levels of fitness
    • People with limited exercise experience

    Whilst a lower level of exercise intensity may not maximise fat loss, there are always many other considerations to take into account apart from just "results".

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