Never before has there been so much information and general awareness about the infinite benefits of healthy living as there is today. With the speed of information sharing we have available, the world is currently in what I refer to as the “health renaissance”.

And how can this be a bad thing? Well the unfortunate problem is that most of our information is derived from the internet, meaning that a 15 year old chubby kid in Poland has a fancy blog and some pretty pictures – therefore an expert about whatever they are writing about.

To combat the confusion, we have put together a list of the 10 biggest fitness myths! Should you hear any of these words being uttered out of a “fitness person’s” mouth, run for the hills, sister!

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“This exercise is great for removing body fat from here…”
Oh! How many women would love to be able to wave a magic wand and get rid of flappy arms or a little extra junk in the trunk? The truth is, muscle and fat are very different matter. If you carry excess body fat, you want to use as much muscle mass as possible when training to burn through it.

Think: fat = fuel, muscle = engine

Irrespective of where the fuel (fat) is held, it needs to be burned, and it’s by using movements which utilise as much of that engine (muscle) as possible that will tap into fat stores all over the body. So you want to see more definition in your arms? SQUAT!

“Cardio is the most effective way to lose body fat.
Lies! The famous line used by fitness people who really don’t understand how fat is oxidised and will be the first to perish should the zombie apocalypse come. There is no “perfect system”, everything has a time and a place. Your objective should be to stress the body, as often as possible, in as many different ways as possible. Using weights (resistance training) is therefore far easier to change variables (weight, tempo, sets, reps etc.) and far more effective for burning fat if done correctly.

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“Protein bars are a great meal substitute!
As much as you’re probably slapping the computer screen with disgust right now, those tasty little treats aren’t as good for you as you may think. Sure, they have some protein. But even that is in its most refined state. The companies who make these are ninjas at disguising the harsh nutritional details in a sea of clever marketing, and often you will find they are the nutritional equivalent of sprinkling some protein powder on top of a Mars Bar. Sorry, girls.

“Lifting weights will make you bulky!
No, pizza and margaritas make you bulky. It’s true that lifting weights too regularly, in single-plane movements – may lead to minimal amount of muscle growth where it’s noticeable and not wanted (in extreme cases only!). But honestly, every great bikini model uses a majority of resistance training in their regime. Muscle is very difficult to build and very easy to lose, but unfortunately so many people never receive the health and body benefits by doing weights through the fear that is perpetuated. Just look around in a busy gym… fat people reading magazines on the stair master while that little Puerto Rican pocket-rocket in booty shorts is tearing up the weight room! Get involved.

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“Oh its great! It’s sugar-free, dairy-free and gluten free!
The first words to be spoken by an overweight hippie! Removing these are great, but those points alone do not make it a smart food choice if you’re trying to improve health and body composition. Think of food like tax or previous sex-life, people omit the details they don’t want you to know about. That muffin that is “free from everything” is just a healthier version of pancakes and ice cream – don’t fool yourself.

“Your diet should suck, it’s supposed to feel like death.
Unless you are a competitive physique athlete a few weeks out from a competition, this is a silly idea! You can achieve amazing health and body composition by following basic principles. Avoiding processed foods, selecting nutrient dense foods, being aware of how different nutrients affect your body and having a consistency about it. Healthy living is about using nutrition and exercise to improve your life, not detract from it.

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“Follow my new patented MPX40 Exxtreme plan. It is revolutionary and has “two x’s” in it, so you know it’s good!
Want me to summarise health? Eat a broad range of unprocessed foods, exercise hard and often, and try to stress less. Unfortunately there isn’t much money to be made by making it that simple, so everyone with Internet access can now claim they have a revolutionary new system which makes anything else redundant. Remember the ads for “ab-rollers”, that you simply rock back and forth on the carpet for 4.5 mins per day and will look like a pin-up girl in 30 days? People aren’t that gullible anymore.

“You need to cut out all carbs to lose body fat
Not true! Most people are starting to recognise the previously held views that “carbs are good, fats are bad” is wrong, on many levels. It is however true that over consumption of carbs will make you store fat, and that most people over consume. But the “all or nothing” approach is like fundamentalist religious people, it’s bound to cause problems. Most women tend to completely cut carbs (referred to as a ketogenic diet), feel like poo three days later, and then say “oh well, that doesn’t work, let’s have a carb party!”. The truth lies somewhere in the middle, and many people achieve amazing results by having a well-balanced, well-managed intake of unrefined carbohydrates. You just need to earn your carbs!

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“To look like them, do what they do
Do you follow some amazing fitness freaks on Instagram and think “wow, I should do what she does?”. Whilst I commend the flow of inspiration, it’s important to remember that some people look the way they do despite what they do, not because of it. They may have a decade of hard training and understanding how their body responds to nutrition under their belt, so they can get away with several blow-out meals per week. Or perhaps they are just genetically gifted, and they look and perform like an athlete despite atrocious diet and exercise (it’s heart-breaking, but it happens). So remember that whilst seeking advice is fantastic, ultimately it’s about spending “time in the trenches” yourself to see what works for you.

“If you didn’t vomit, bleed or collapse – it was a waste of a session
Anyone who knows me probably thinks this sounds a bit rich, and I cant emphasise the point enough that the result of any training comes from stress stimulus, which often translates to “make it hurt”. However, this is not always the case. Aimlessly throwing yourself around a gym floor like a convulsing chimpanzee might sound like a cool idea, the problem is this – does this have any direct relationship to your overall objective (unless objective was to impersonate a convulsing chimpanzee, in which case, well done)?

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There is a time and a place for brutal training, but likewise there is a time for mobility work & postural correction, slow mind-muscle connection exercises, or even just doing a low intensity walk for a breath of fresh air. Effective training is all about yin & yang, balancing the hard training with more consciously aware and softer movements.

alex de fina