In the world of health and fitness there are so many voices, it’s hard to know who to listen to.
The good news is over the last several years, new research has taught us much about exercise and nutrition, and we can now debunk some of the old ways of thinking. That bad news is many of these myths are still out there and could be setting you back.
Let’s call them out and correct them.
Mistake #1: Doing long sessions of steady-state cardio.
Each week at the gym you see the same people spending an hour or more grinding it out on the treadmill or elliptical. Ever wonder why their bodies never change? While cardiovascular activity at the same intensity is good for your heart and your endurance, it does little for your metabolism. While you will lose weight at first, your body will quickly plateau.
The Fix: High Intensity Interval Training.
Alternating periods of high and low intensity is known as HIIT. It is scientifically proven to have more effect on metabolism than steady-state cardio. HIIT also raises something called your “EPOC” or excess post-exercise oxygen consumption so you continue to burn more calories after you are done working out. HIIT also works more efficiently in a shorter amount of time, so all you need is 20-30 minutes 2-3 days a week.
Mistake #2: Not lifting weights.
This is a common mistake many women make because they are either intimidated by the weight room or they worry they will bulk up. They stick to cardio and group exercise classes but never pick up anything heavy.
The fix: Include 2-3 strength training sessions a week.
Strength training builds your muscular strength and endurance which makes activities of every day living easier. It also promotes bone health which is especially important as you age because you lose bone density each year after the age of 30. Also muscle helps your body burn more calories so strength training boosts your metabolism. It is a myth that strength training will bulk you up. Muscle is actually smaller and tighter than fat so it will make you smaller and tighter. Bodybuilders work very hard at building that kind of size and unless you train very deliberately it will not happen.
Mistake #3: Not eating the right things before/after working out.
Exercise requires fuel and that means food. If you don’t eat before a workout you could get dizzy, feel weak or even pass out. You need the proper nutrition to keep your body energized and performing. Also, don’t be fooled into thinking you shouldn’t eat after a workout because it will make you lose weight faster. Your body needs proper nutrition for repair and recovery so it can be stronger and more efficient. This actually helps with weight loss.
The fix: Plan your pre and post workout meals to include some protein and carbohydrate.
Both your pre and post workout meals should contain a good amount of carbohydrate, something like fruit, brown rice, oats or sweet potato along with a moderate amount of protein. Eat your last meal 2-4 hours before a workout depending on the size of the meal. If you haven’t eaten in 4 hours, have a small snack like a banana within an hour of your workout. When you’re done, try to eat within an hour. But be careful not to overeat after a workout thinking you’ve “earned it.”
Mistake #4: Not eating enough.
I don’t care what size you are 1200 calories a day is probably not enough food to properly fuel your body. Your body burns calories even while you sleep. It needs fuel to function. Think of calories as gas in the tank. If you don’t have enough the body is forced to try to expend as little energy as possible. This can slow your metabolism. Drastically low calorie diets do work at first, but they are not sustainable long term and because they slow your metabolism you will likely regain the weight and more quickly.
The fix: Estimate your daily caloric needs and cut back a small amount for weight loss.
Work with a personal trainer or registered dietician to calculate your RMR and determine how much you intake needs are. This is very specific to an individual but can be estimated to give you a good guide. From there work to cut down no more than 200 calories per day for weight loss. Use a food tracker to find out exactly how much you’re eating and be sure not to go too low.
Mistake #5: Focusing too much on calories.
The old idea of calories in versus calories out is so 1990! The fact is there is so much more too it than that. Yes we want to use calories as a guide to know how much to eat, but where those calories come from is equally if not more important than how many of them there are.
The fix: Be sure to eat a balanced diet from a variety of food groups.
Calories are only one factor in the equation. It is also important to eat a good balance of carbs, fats and protein, as well as many micro nutrients. If you only count calories and 95% come from processed foods which are mostly carbs and lack nutrients, you will likely be nutrient deficient. Be sure you are eating a balanced diet with foods from a variety of sources or work with a registered dietician to figure out how much of each macro and micro nutrient you need in your diet.