Fitness Fact of Fiction: 20 Myths That Need To Go Away

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The world of fitness can be a confusing maze to get around for beginners. Contradictory information exists at every corner and most people are left alone to separate the fact from fiction. Oftentimes, as long as something gets repeated enough times most people won’t really question whether it’s really true or not.

This is a big mistake because following the wrong advice will ultimately end up hurting your efforts towards attaining your dream body.

We hope this list helps correct misguided beliefs and encourages you to begin questioning conventional wisdom. It’ll be especially useful for beginners and the general population who aren’t hardcore fitness addicts.

So without further ado, let’s debunk some of the most common fitness myths!

1. Spot reduction

Common sense tells the average person that if you want to lose fat from specific part of your body you do exercises which target that area. So if you want to burn fat off your belly you do ab exercises, if you want to lose those love handles you focus on your obliques, and so on…

This unfortunately isn’t how reality works. Spot reduction (forcing your body to lose fat only from a specific area) just isn’t possible.

For the most part, your will burn fat evenly over your body and depending on your hormones at different rates for different areas. Men for example, usually have stubborn belly fat that likes to stick around even if the rest of their body is lean. Women on the other hand usually store fat in their legs and arms. Ultimately, your hormonal balance is what will determine where your body loses fat first.

2. Since fruits are healthy you can eat as many as you want

Not exactly.

Fruits ARE healthy for you but some are also high in sugar and simple carbs which make them a little less than ideal for weight loss. Even though most are filled with a variety of helpful nutrients, going overboard and eating banana after banana will make burning fat harder.

Of course if your goal is to gain weight then you won’t be as lenient but for everyone out there trying to shed some pounds, go for fruits with a higher water content like grapes and berries. These often have less sugar and are more ideal for weight loss.

3. Women will bulk up if they lift weights

As we’ve said plenty of times before: The principles of fitness are the same for both men and women.

The only difference is your end goal which means the genders will focus on different exercises to maximize their sex appeal. Lift heavy weights (relative to your strength) and do some form of cardio 2-3 times per week while eating enough food and of the right kind. You won’t get bulky. You won’t look like a man. This is how everyone builds a more attractive physique. You don’t even have enough testosterone to be able to easily put on muscle. It’s already hard enough for most guys and you’re working with less.

fit woman flexing arms
Not going to happen.

4. You can “tone” muscles

It’s become cliché by now…. Women want to get toned, men want to get big…

We’ve already tackled the whole toning issue so read up on that if you want to learn the truth on how to REALLY getting toned. To put it shortly here:

You can only build or lose muscle and/or gain or burn fat. Period. Toning (the way most people use the word) refers to having a moderate amount of muscular definition while still being at a low level of body fat. You cannot “tone” a muscle to change its shape or make it longer. That’s determined by your genetics and there’s little you can do to change your natural muscle inserts. Either build muscle or lose fat. That’s all there is to toning.

5. To get abs all you need are crunches

Believe it or not, doing crunch after crunch won’t do much if anything to help you get those 6 pack abs. There are better ways of developing your core strength (and thus making those abs pop) then doing 100+ crunches. Most compound exercises like squats and deadlifts naturally build up your core and other body weight exercises like planks are much more effective at targeting those muscles than crunches.

But unless you have your diet in check none of that will matter. Abs are made in the kitchen and 80% of your results will come as a result of eating a proper diet and keeping slim. It doesn’t matter how much you work them if you aren’t at a low enough body fat percentage (<12%) you won’t get a chance to see them.

6. Stretch before a workout to prevent injury

This myth is actually only partially true. Stretching CAN help prevent injury and help you warm up before a workout but only if you do the right kind.

Conventional wisdom tells us to strike a pose and reach for our toes to help loosen up muscles. This form of stretching called static stretching is the bad kind. A growing number of studies have shown that static stretching actually decreases physical performance. Sprinters run less quickly, jumpers jump less less height, and lifters lift less weight. And yeah, it pretty much does nothing to reduce the chance of injury.

Now the other form called dynamic stretching is the good kind. When you do dynamic stretches, you aren’t holding a position but are actively moving the muscles you’ll be using in your workout. Jumping jacks, high leg jumps, arm circles and other forms of stretching that involve motion help rush blood to your muscles and and will properly prepare you for a workout.

7. Fats will make you fat

Old school nutrition advice from decades ago blamed fats as being responsible for our expanding waistlines. The misconception that eating fats will make you fat has been debunked but unfortunately they’re still commonly associated with weight gain. If you need any evidence that people still demonize fats take a walk through your local supermarket and look at the number of products labeled “low-fat” in bold letters as a selling point trying to attract dieters.

The wording is probably what confuses people the most. If you’re eating something called “fat” it must be what’s actually making you fat, right? But it’s actually carbs which are the biggest problem for people not fats. Fats especially unsaturated fats actually help you lose weight and keep you full. If you want a better understanding of why fats aren’t actually making you fat read up on the basics of eating healthy and the proper way to diet.

8. Squats are bad for your knees

Squats CAN be bad for your knees…. if you do them the wrong way. With proper form, squats are one of the best if not the best full body compound exercises.

Watch the video below and learn proper squatting form before actually attempting the exercise yourself.

Also while we’re at it here’s another squatting myth that needs to die: going all the way down (“deep squatting”) is the worst type. Wrong! It actually might be the best since unlike parallel squats it better activates your glutes and hamstrings creating more stability and placing less pressure on the knees to do all the lifting themselves.

If you’re still concerned about safety look it’s worth looking into specialized equipment like knee wraps and squatting shoes which can also help prevent injury and improve your form.

9. Being fit requires a serious time commitment

This is a myth that stops a lot of people from even starting their journey to attaining a better body.

“I just don’t have the time.”

Most people DO have the time. Getting and staying fit takes much less time than the average beginner imagines. If you’re spending >10 hours per week in the gym… it’s very likely you’re wasting time. A good, efficient workout wouldn’t take any longer than an hour or so. That’s assuming you aren’t talking/texting/posing for pictures in between sets and doing other time wasters.

You also don’t have to workout everyday. More workouts =/= better results. If you’re actually pushing your body you’d need the rest anyways because muscles need time to recover. You can’t workout every day and grow. They grow while you rest.

4-5 hours a week is all you need to maintain a fit body. Most of your results will come from diet anyways so as long as you have that in check and you put in your 4-5 hours — you’re going to see serious improvements in the way you look.

10. A lot of exercise makes up for a poor diet

It’s easy to overeat. It’s hard to cut calories through exercise alone. Most people underestimate the amount of calories they eat and overestimate the amount of calories they burn while exercising.

It’s much easier to eat 2 slices of pizza (about 550 calories) than it is to run 4-5 miles (which would burn off those two slices if you ran at a moderate pace).

This is why you can’t rely on exercise alone especially if you’re trying to lose weight. 80% of your results with weight loss will come from your diet. Exercise is a compliment meant to encourage your body to burn fat and preserve and/or increase muscle tone. You’re fighting an uphill battle if you’re expecting to just burn off that meal you know you shouldn’t have had.

11. You can’t digest more than 20-30 g of protein in a single meal

This myth arises from a commonly cited study which found that 20g of post workout protein was optimal for building muscle in young men. In other words, eating more than 20g of protein would have no effect on stimulating muscular growth any further than 20g already did. Another study reached a similar conclusion except their “magic” number was 30g.

First of all, not everyone absorbs protein at the same rate. Numerous factors including how muscular you already are, your activity level, your age, and your hormonal balance will all contribute to how much your body needs to stimulate muscle protein synthesis. Some people (especially athletes) will need more than the 20-30g of protein promoted by the studies above.

That said, I.F. (intermittent fasting) wouldn’t otherwise work if this myth were true. Condensing your meals into a 4-8 hour feeding window means you won’t be spacing them out through the day and thus should theoretically be wasting all that extra protein. This of course isn’t true and IF remains one of the best ways to building a lean and muscular body.

Overall, your TOTAL protein intake is what really matters not the frequency. Your body will store the extra protein and use it when it needs it so don’t worry about wasting it by eating too much at once.

12. Supplements and shakes are a replacement for real food

A lot of people like to think their multivitamin and protein shake are enough to make up for a real meal. Supplements are just that… supplements. A supplement is meant to complement your diet if you’re deficient in a nutrient or aren’t getting the optimal amount through your food alone. They’re meant to fill in small gaps, not replace all of the nutrients and benefits of real foods. Real food contains fiber, carotenoids, phytochemicals and a variety of other micronutrients you won’t find in a supplement.

As for protein shakes, sure they make it easier to get your daily protein requirement but if you can manage, opt for real food instead to get the added benefits the shake or supplements won’t be able to give you. The key for long-term change is to implement healthy habits — don’t rely on these things to make up for a poor diet. Focus on getting that in check first and then work shakes and supplements in if you really need them.

13. If I follow the (celebrity name) workout program I’ll get a body just like them!

Celebrity workout programs get a lot of attention especially after a new movie release shows off an actor’s / actress’s hot body for their new role.

The problem with following these workouts programs (usually talked about in fitness magazines) is that you have a completely different body than the person they were designed for. As much as we don’t like to admit it, genetics play a large role in determining what we look like. Hormonal imbalances, muscle inserts and shape, frame, and bone structure are all different from one person to another.

You can’t expect to follow someone else’s fitness program and expect to look like them. Although that doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t try. You’ll be working the same muscles as they did but the end result — what those muscles look like and how they look on your bone structure — will be something completely unique to only you.

You can’t expect to follow someone else’s fitness program and expect to look like them. Although that doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t try. You’ll be working the same muscles as they did but the end result — what those muscles look like and how they look on your bone structure — will be something completely unique to only you.

14. If you aren’t sore you didn’t workout hard enough

Using soreness as a yardstick for a quality workouts is a bad idea. Most of the soreness people associate with exercise (especially beginners) is called delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS. DOMS is your body reacting to a stress it isn’t used to going through and it usually appears 24-48 hours after exercise. The thing is, once your body becomes accustomed to the stresses of working out regularly you’ll be experiencing soreness less and less often. Your muscles can and will grow without feeling sore after a workout!

So don’t measure your progress by how beat up you feel but by making measurable improvements. Did you drop your body fat percentage? Hit a new PR? Completed your workout in record time? Soreness is an inflammatory response and not an indicator of the progress you’re making.

15. Your weight is the most important thing

This myth, like most of the other myth on this list, does have a hint of truth in it. If you fall into the extremes of either side (too heavy or too underweight) then yes that is a sign you need to change something.

But relying on your weight or other measures like BMI to tell you whether your body is healthy is a bad idea. First off, the BMI scale which is supposed to determine a healthy weights relative to your height doesn’t do a good job of taking into account muscularity. Plenty of athletes, bodybuilders, and other everyday folk who lifts weights will likely find themselves on the high end of the scale and would technically be classified as “unhealthy”.

Also, get rid of the notion that the lower you weight the better looking you will be. A pound of muscle is significantly smaller than a pound of fat. Someone who’s 170 pounds but lean with muscle will likely have a much more attractive body than someone at 155 but skinny fat.

This is why you shouldn’t give up if you’ve started going to the gym and don’t see your weight falling. With resistance training, you’ll gain some muscle even while you’re trying to lose fat. This is a good thing. You might not weigh less but you WILL look better (and be healthier).

16. Low weight / high volume workouts are for definition & hypertrophy

The idea that lifting light weights (relative to your strength) for an endless amount of reps is the path to a lean or “toned” body is completely flawed. You won’t get that defined look unless you actually have muscle mass on you and are at a low enough body fat percentage. In order to get those muscles in the first place you need to lift heavy weights (again relative to your strength) because that’s the only way to put enough stress on them to force them to grow.

Light Weights Don't Tone
You’re Not Getting Anywhere With These

If you’re knocking down 20+ reps with a weight without breaking a sweat it’s time to start using something a little heavier otherwise you’re just wasting your time.

17. All you need for weight loss is cardio

Cardio will help you lose weight but on its own it’s not the best way to go about doing so.

Besides the fact that your diet also needs to be in check, doing some form of resistance training whether it’s calisthenics or lifting weights alongside cardio will get you better results (aka a slimmer and attractive body) much quicker than doing cardio alone.

Resistance training burns more calories in the hours after you finish a workout than cardio does. In fact, it can boost your metabolism for up to 36 hours. This means you’ll burn more calories even when you aren’t doing anything!

And it’s not just a short-term boost. The more lean muscle mass you have, the more calories your body burns while at rest. Muscle needs more energy to maintain itself and it’s why most guys can eat plenty of food and not put on any fat while women have a harder time keeping it off — guys have more muscle!

Lastly, resistance training will help reshape your body much more effectively. With cardio your weight loss will come in combination of fat and muscle (assuming you aren’t eating an optimal diet). Weightlifting encourages your body to preserve muscle even while you’re at a caloric deficit meaning you won’t get “skinny fat” and instead have a lean and toned body!

18. Carbs are evil

With the Paleo diet’s explosion in popularity and other fad diets following suit, carbs have become what fats used to be a couple decades ago — the go-to bogeyman to blame for all of our health problems and increasing waistlines.

Here’s the deal. Low carb diets really are in fact probably the BEST way to lose weight for the average, sedentary person who likely has an office job and doesn’t get to move around much. But anyone who regularly works out (we hope this is you) will need to eat carbs. Working out without carbs makes people feel more stressed and less energetic.

Furthermore, some carbs are better than others. Muffins, cake, white bread, white rice… not good. Vegetables, fruits, oats and whole grains? Much better. Complex carbs which take time to digest are better than simple carbs which immediately spike your blood sugar.

So yes, most people eat way too many carbs and can benefit from cutting back / eating more protein. But to say carbs are completely unnecessary part of a diet… is just plain wrong.

19. The more you sweat the more you gain

You might not feel satisfied with your workout until you’re completely spent, nearly throwing up, and can barely stand but is training until failure worth it? Not necessarily. Yes your workouts should be intense and actually testing your body but going all out fries your central nervous system making recovery more difficult and injuries likelier to happen.

That said, you shouldn’t gauge how hard you’re working by how much you’re sweating. Sweat is simply how the body handles heat and cools itself. It’s not a good indicator of how intense your workout actually is, how much progress you’re making, or a sign that you’re “melting away” fat (although it is a good sign for the most part).

20. Cardio kills gains

Are you afraid of doing any cardio in fear of muscle breakdown? You shouldn’t be. While too much cardio is in fact a bad thing the right amount is fine and will improve your health. Studies have found that the optimal cardio session is done after a weight lifting and lasts no longer than half an hour. When done 2-3 times per week, it will have little if any effect on your muscle building efforts. Just remember to eat more food to make up for the calories you burn. Protein and carbs are both important for preserving muscle.

Here’s our article about the proper way of incorporating cardio into a weightlifting routine.


By debunking these myths you’re going to set off on the right path to ultimately attain a fit and attractive body.

Bad fitness advice in general wastes your time and ends up doing more harm than good.

Correct your misconceptions and you’ll make faster progress because you won’t be trying things that don’t work (or avoiding things that do).

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