May 18, 2015
6 Training & Nutrition Myths Every Woman Should Know
By Lauryn Lax
May 7, 2016
1. Lifting heavy weights will make you bulky.
Women typically fear bulking up and that they may put on ‘big’ muscles if they use heavy weights. While you can certainly make your muscles bigger from weightlifting, getting ‘bulky’ takes effort. Women have testosterone levels that are about 15 to 20 times lower than those of men—hormonally speaking, we are just not likely to get jacked. The bulky look is most often the result of adding muscle without being mindful of your nutrition. In other words: Nutrition is the main ‘culprit’ in what many women claim is a result of lifting heavy weights. Even if you eat healthy, a minor change in your diet (even more water, aiding in enhanced digestion; more fat and less carbs; or vice versa) could make all the difference in how your body best operates for building a nice lean shape—not the bulk you fear.
Steering clear of lifting anything heavier than your straightening or curling iron is a big mistake. Lifting weights is imperative for improving bone density, joint mobility, and body composition—particularly weights that are more challenging than those 5-10 lb dumbbells you’ll find in a globo gym. If you are ‘prone to bulk’, take a look at your nutrition, and consider consulting with a nutrition therapist or knowledgeable coach you trust for some direction.
2. A calorie is a calorie. If you want to lose weight, just eat less.
The calorie myth is so 1990. According to conventional wisdom, the fewer calories you eat in a day, the more weight you will lose. Calories in versus calories out, right? This dietary philosophy has led women to focus on logging, weighing and measuring their intake to cut calories and lose weight—usually with poor results. While a crash diet or extreme calorie restriction may work in the short term, there are usually consequences such as hormonal imbalance, eating disorders, binge eating, feelings of deprivation, hypothyroidism, blood sugar dysfunction and more. If your goal is weight loss or body fat loss, you actually need to consume more quality calories—not less. For most women, a baseline of 1800 calories is the minimum amount they should be consuming if they want to see any movement with regards to their body fat percentage and even the scale (although we are firm believers in throwing out scales because they don’t tell the whole story of your fitness, leanness and body composition). The only way to produce sustainable results for fat and weight loss is to heal your metabolism—and that requires eating enough quality foods—you know the prescription: meat, veggies, and healthy fats with every meal, little starch, no sugar, some fruit, and LOTS OF WATER.
4. If I work out harder, then I will shed more fat and tone up.
Ultimately, when it comes to losing body fat the most important thing is your nutrition. In fact, nutrition is 80% of your results—leaving exercise and lifestyle for the other 20%. So if you’re looking to shed body fat, then you need to pay attention, first and foremost, to what goes into your mouth. (Disclaimer: That does not mean starving yourself either—see myth 2).
3. The treadmill is your friend.
Walk into any globo gym at ‘rush hour’ and you will be sure to find the majority of treadmills, ellipticals and stairmasters occupied by women—running mindlessly like hamsters on wheels. Even if you’re now a member of an affiliate, you may fall into the trap of believing that the more met-cons you do, the better—the longer the better, right? While met-cons and AMRAPS are great—it’s not necessarily the length of time or the strict time set aside for 30-60 minutes of cardio each day that is going to get you fitter. In actuality, your fitness and the results you want are related to both the intensity of your workouts and the variation of your training (i.e. not cardio/chronic cardio every day). When we push ‘too hard’ or do the same cardio work day in and day out in the gym (i.e. 30-minutes on the Stairmaster, or running 3-miles every day), our bodies not only grow complacent, but our hormones and metabolism take a shot as well. Not to mention the fact that weight training and lifting can actually help speed your resting metabolic rate well after your workout has finished.
4. Eating fat will make me fat.
For years, we’ve been told that the best way to control calories and shed fat is to cut fat from our diets. Today, we know that is not the case. Eating fat—the right fat (such as Omega-3s and monounsaturated fats)—will actually help you burn fat, as the more healthy fatty acids we consume, the ‘stronger’ our fat-based-membrane cells in our bodies become. This in turn helps protect them from letting outside invaders, toxins and fat storage into our cells. Eating more carbs than our bodies need is where the majority of fat storage in our bodies comes from. While we do need carbs, many people have conditioned their bodies to become sugar-burners rather than fat-burners through the overconsumption of carbs (breads, cereals, pastas, rice, potatoes, fruit, sweets, and treats). YES, you do need carbs, but you also need fats. Make more room for healthy fats in your diet, and aim to get the majority of your carbs from a variety of vegetable sources and 1-2 servings of fresh fruit at most during the day. Starches like potatoes, sweet potatoes, even some properly prepared (pre-soaked) rice and steel cut oats can also find their place in a healthy diet, particularly after a workout when your glycogen stores are low.
5. Carbs are the enemy.
I’ll say it once more: We do need carbs, as they provide us with energy—not to mention important vitamins, minerals and fiber (which is especially important for digestion). Like eating enough calories (point 2), eating enough carbs is a signal to your body that it is ‘well’ and balanced. For women specifically, insulin (a hormone made by the pancreas that allows your body to use sugar (glucose) from carbohydrates in the food that you eat for energy) sends a message to the reproductive system that you are ok. Low-carb or zero-carb diets may cause a hormonal “famine response”—similar to that of calorie restriction, sending your body into a state of panic and leading to a host of problems (missed cycles, stress, fatigue, etc.). So what does a healthy intake of carbs look like? For example: a bison, sweet potato and kale hash cooked in coconut oil for breakfast; a big hearty salad with chicken, avocado and an assortment of colorful veggies drizzled with olive oil and vinegar at lunch; and grilled salmon, butternut squash and broccoli for dinner. Carbs come in all shapes and colors, and the most optimal ones are those that look like the rainbow. Think: rich green chard and spinach, ruby red strawberries and raspberries, sunlight yellow summer squash, and bright orange sweet potatoes. Aim for more real-food carb sources, and fill half of your plate with lots of veggies throughout the day.
Photo courtesy of pfazzone/CC-BY-NC-SA-2.0/