We are currently living in the new age of fitness. It is now more popular than ever to grab a protein shake, go to the gym, and make sure that everyone that follows you on Instagram knows it.
Once renowned as a male dominated activity, the change is clear to see that more women than ever are using the gym. However, walk into your average gym and the divide is also very clear to see; weights versus cardio.
You will more than likely see the majority of the female members on the cardio equipment or in the lighter weights area, while the men are the ones grunting and pumping the heavy iron. The blame for this divide can ultimately fall on the plethora of myths that is peddled by magazines advertising the latest fads and fixes in women’s health and fitness.
So without further ado, we’re going to bust the most common myths out there and get you on the road to a healthier, happier you.
1. Lifting weights will make you bulky
This is probably the most common myth that you will hear about female weight lifting, and it simply is not true.
When women think of lifting heavy weights, their mind automatically goes to the most jacked up shredded bodybuilder they can think of, and then they say that they don’t want to get ‘that big’. Well ladies, let me tell you that will not happen.
First of all, getting to the size of a bodybuilder is not easy! On average, women produce around one seventh of the testosterone men do, so unless you’re eating in a huge clean calories surplus and taking anabolic steroids, you won’t be able to gain muscle mass at anywhere near the same rate.
Women are simply not able to naturally build the same muscle mass as men, even if you put in the same amount of effort. Whether this is a good or bad thing, you need to decide, but still the fact is the same.
Women often say they want a ‘toned’ look, but that toned look is actually just more muscle with a lower body fat percentage. So if you want to achieve this look you should focus on increasing your muscle mass by lifting heavier weights and burning off more calories than you consume. An added bonus to building muscle is that the more muscle you have the more calories you’ll burn!
2. You only need to focus on cardio to lose weight
As already mentioned, there is definitely a cardio versus weights divide in most commercial gyms, and it’s usually women that are the ones on the treadmill or cross-trainers trying to shed the fat.
Usually, their whole exercise regime revolves around cardio machines only. Of course cardiovascular exercise can help you lose weight but you need to decide what weight you want to lose. If you perform too much cardio, you may actually end up losing muscle which can lead to you feeling ‘skinny fat’. This is when a person is small in stature but they feel they don’t look lean or ‘toned’.
So, you would be crazy to not incorporate strength training in with your regime! Having more muscle speeds up your metabolism because muscle burns more calories than fat. To build more muscle, lift heavy weights! (see number one). Cardio, of course, should still be included but if improving your overall body composition is your goal, then weight training should be prioritized over cardio.
3. One plan works for everyone
This is often perpetuated by magazines that publish a two week diet and exercise plan that promises to help you lose 10lbs.
But the truth is, everyone, both men and women, respond to foods, diets, and training techniques differently. We are all individuals that have unique genetic traits and characteristics, so what works for your friend might not work for you!
The only way to figure out what suits your body and your lifestyle best is trial and error. You need to try out different diets and regimes, track your results, and if it’s not working for you get back to the drawing board.
It’s easy to follow a ‘quick fix’ diet fad but this will not work for you long-term. So, just give yourself time to adjust to different diets and exercises and be consistent and soon you’ll find a plan that suits you perfectly!
4. You can spot reduce fat
Everyone has, at one time or another, made the mistake of thinking that doing 1000 sit-ups a night will result in a rock hard six pack.
Unfortunately, your body just cannot reduce fat in specific body parts. Where your body stores excess fat is down to genetics. You are genetically predisposed to storing fat in specific locations in a specific order. So, when you start to lose fat, it might come off your legs first, then your arms, and then your belly, depending on your genetic makeup! No amount of crunches, curls, or squats will change that.
To lose fat you just have to eat better. You cannot out-exercise a bad diet. Combine your better eating with strength training, doing big compound movements that forces your body to build muscle and burn extra calories.
5. No carbs after 6pm
Carbs get a really hard time when it comes to diet advice and more often than not people are advised to cut them out completely! But carbohydrates are a macronutrient that your body needs and they ‘don’t make you fat’, like the celebrity on TV said they do.
What makes you fat is eating more calories than you burn. That’s it.
So, a slice of bread that contains 20 grams of carbs at 3pm will still contain 20 grams at 9pm. It won’t suddenly cause you to gain 2lbs over-night. Fat loss is ultimately down to energy balance so if you’re eating your slice of bread at 9pm, as long as you’re still in a calorie deficit, YOU WILL LOSE WEIGHT.
However, if implementing a ‘carb curfew’ for yourself will help you limit your food intake to stay in that calorie deficit, then go for it! Use little tricks like that to help you achieve your goal.