As a personal trainer, I hear lots of misconceptions about training and fitness that can nearly put people off training or seriously hamper their results. These are some of the most common ones.
Misconception #1: 'Fat turns to muscle, muscle turns to fat'
It’s kind of like saying “my Fiat Punto will magically turn into a Rolls Royce”. It’s just not the case. The reason is, they are two different types of tissue, and one simply cannot convert or morph in to the other.
Usually what happens when you train is you begin to burn more calories therefore over time you will lose weight (which is typically fat), so you will look slimmer and leaner. When you do strength training, you target your muscles to become stronger. When you weight train, you condition the muscle and they tend to get bigger. Therefore, you can’t train your fat to be muscle, or vice versa.
Misconception #2: 'I exercise so I can eat what I like'
Oh how I wish this was true, but unfortunately, it’s not. Nutrition and diet is 90% of the results we achieve. If you exercise, that’s excellent, but if you eat the house down after, then you won’t get the results you desire. To just lose one pound of weight, you have to burn through 3,500 calories. So you can see, without focusing on your diet, it is next to impossible to burn 3,500 calories through just exercise alone. The quickest way to do this is by combining a good diet with exercise, and make sure you throw in plenty of NEAT activity.
Misconception #3. 'Crunches are the best exercise to build rock-hard abs'
WRONG. There are a hell of a lot of ab exercises out there - hundreds and hundreds of them - but isolating them is not really the way forward. Doing compound moves, and really activating the core to protect your back, will give you the strong foundation needed. Squats, for example, or deadlifts are ideal. They're exercises where the abs are the secondary muscle being worked. Combining your compound moves with your great nutrition will allow you to burn through the belly fat that's concealing your abs.
Misconception #4: 'Running and walking will burn off fat like nobody’s business'
NOT TRUE. For people looking to achieve serious weight loss, HIIT style cardio – High Intensity Interval Training - will be much more effective than steady-state running and walking. Running is a great way to exercise, especially for people looking to maintain their muscle mass, but if you're looking for big amounts of fat loss, you need to consider HIIT-style training. It revs up your metabolism and torches fat. Here at West Wood Club, we have a number of HIIT classes like our 30-minute Les Mills GRIT class. You sweat a lot and you feel great after.
Misconception #5: 'I only want to lose weight on my hips/belly' (ie spot reduction)
NOT POSSIBLE. When we lose weight, we lose it from all over the body. Toning one area won’t just burn fat from that area and reveal slimmer, sexier abs. You need to train the whole body and keep nutrition on point – lower your high-calorie foods for healthier alternatives.
Misconception #6: 'I need to cut out all carbs to lose weight'
Not true. In its simplest terms, you lose weight when you burn more calories than you take in – that's known as calorie deficit. To get this you do not need to cut out a whole food groups. This can actually lead to weight gain because your body compensates for the lack of nutrients and holds on to more fat. When you start eating your normal diet again , the weight goes back on. Make healthier choices like switching to a low-calorie spray instead of oil for example, increasing your calorie deficit per day, and the weight will fall off.
Misconception #7: 'Protein bars are healthy'
Nope, not necessarily true. Not all protein bars are the same. Protein can improve the nutritional content of a candy bar, but more often than not, there will be high levels of carbs, fat and calorie included as well. It's very easy to sabotage your workout with one bar. Check the calorie count on the back of the wrapper and choose wisely what you eat before you purchase a protein bar and make sure you’re not overestimating your calorie burn during your session.
Vickey Nolan is a Personal Trainer, General Manager, and Fitness Director at West Wood Club, Dun Laoghaire. She has a BSc (Hons) Degree in Health Promotion and Physical Activity and has been working in senior roles in the fitness and wellness industry for over 15 years. Follow Vickey on Instagram and follow West Wood Club on Instagram.