10 Diet and Exercise Myths

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Popular misconceptions can damage your fitness plans. Yahoo Shine and CNN have collected some of the most pervasive and damaging fitness-related rumors. Here are some of them:

Myth – Strength training will bulk you up

In fact, researchers have found that working out with heavy weights increased exercisers’ sleeping metabolic rate (the number of calories burned overnight) by nearly 8 percent. That’s enough to lose about 5 pounds in a year right there.

Myth – All calories are equal, so it doesn’t matter what you eat

Some foods take more work to eat, and therefore burn more calories while you’re digesting them. Eating vegetables and lean cuts of meat can increase your calorie burn by up to 30 percent.

Myth – Eating fat will make you fat

Getting enough of the right kinds of fat in your diet is actually essential for good health.

Myth – Diet soda will help you lose weight

Diet soda can increase your risk of metabolic syndrome, a group of symptoms that includes high levels of belly fat, blood sugar, and cholesterol.

Myth – Your cardio machine is counting the calories you’re burning

Your elliptical trainer or treadmill cannot accurately gauge how many calories you’re burning without knowing your weight, sex and body composition.

Myth – Low-intensity exercise burns more fat

The more intensely your exercise, the more carbs you burn, and when your body has burned up all the carbs, it starts burning fat.

To see the rest of the tips, you can click on the link below.


Dr. Mercola’s Comments:

Oftentimes mainstream media “myth” lists only perpetuate misinformation (such as CNN’s 2010 list of 12 health myths), but in this case both Yahoo Shine and CNN have compiled thoughtful lists that help bust some of the most prevailing myths when it comes to diet and exercise – and needless to say there’s no shortage of these around.

I’m going to touch on some of the most important from the lists below, as well as add a few of my own, since these mistruths can, and do, have a massive impact on tens of thousands, if not millions, of people.

Myth #1: Long Cardio Workouts are the Key to Weight Loss

If you walk into any gym, you’ll see most people crowding the aerobics equipment and using the treadmill or elliptical machine for an hour or so, thinking they’re getting an excellent workout. I really don’t blame them as I was caught up in the same misinformation for over FORTY years and only recently learned that there are FAR better forms of exercise, especially for those who are older than 40.

There is a growing body of excellent scientific research showing that you can perform a significantly SHORTER workout, at a greater intensity, and get BETTER results than the usual, time-consuming cardio routines.

The reason for this is because high-intensity exercises like my Peak 8 program engage a certain group of muscle fibers that you cannot engage through aerobic cardio, and these engaging these muscle fibers cause a cascade of positive health benefits, including improved fat burning.  Peak 8 exercises will also boost your body’s natural production of human growth hormone (HGH) which is a vital hormone that is key for physical strength, health and longevity. 

During these high intensity exercises you raise your heart rate up to your anaerobic threshold for 30 seconds, followed by a 90 second recovery period. The cycle is then repeated for a total of eight repetitions – hence the term “Peak 8.”

Another boon of Peak 8 exercises is the amount of time you save. Including a three-minute warm up and two-minute cool down, your total time investment is a mere 20 minutes as opposed to your regular hour-long treadmill session, and you are really only exerting yourself for four minutes.

I’ve been doing Peak 8 exercises since April 2010 and have shed over 17 pounds of fat and three inches off my waist while gaining more than five pounds of muscle, all while dramatically reducing the time I spend in the gym. For a more in-depth explanation of the peak fitness program, which is a comprehensive exercise plan that also includes strength training, core exercises and stretching, please review this recent article.

Myth #2: Diet and Exercise are Equal When it Comes to Losing Weight

While exercise is important and crucial for weight loss, the foods you choose to eat are THREE times more important for controlling your weight than your exercise. It’s very easy to sabotage yourself with sugary foods and beverages, especially those that contain fructose. This includes so-called “healthy” beverages like “vitamin water,” energy drinks, and similar types of sports and recovery drinks.

Fructose, which is hidden in virtually every processed food, tricks your body into gaining weight by fooling your metabolism, as it turns off your body’s appetite-control system. Fructose does not appropriately stimulate insulin, which in turn does not suppress ghrelin (the “hunger hormone”) and doesn’t stimulate leptin (the “satiety hormone”), which together result in your eating more and developing insulin resistance.

Fructose also rapidly leads to weight gain and abdominal obesity (“beer belly”), decreased HDL, increased LDL, elevated triglycerides, elevated blood sugar, and high blood pressure – i.e., classic metabolic syndrome. For a nutritious diet that will help your body to naturally return to its optimal weight, without leaving you hungry, find out your nutritional type using this free assessment.

Myth #3: It Doesn’t Matter What Time of Day You Exercise

First let me make it clear that any time spent exercising is better than no exercise at all. So if you’re extremely busy and can only carve out time for exercise at a set time each day, so be it. But, if you can work it, there is reason to believe that exercising first thing in the morning may give you added benefits (and coincidentally this is also the most convenient time for many).

I’m an advocate of exercising first thing in the morning for two reasons:

  1. It gets done. Despite your best intentions, any number of things can happen in the afternoon and evening, making you skip exercise for “lack of time”
  2. There are additional health benefits to exercising before consuming your first meal of the day

For instance, one recent study found that exercising before breakfast counteracts poor diet and helps with weight loss.

One of the explanations for how exercising on an empty stomach can prevent weight gain and insulin resistance despite overindulgence is that your body’s fat burning processes are controlled by your sympathetic nervous system (SNS), and your SNS is activated by exercise and lack of food.

The combination of fasting and exercising maximizes the impact of cellular factors and catalysts (cyclic AMP and AMP Kinases), which force the breakdown of fat and glycogen for energy. This is why training on an empty stomach will effectively force your body to burn fat.

A minor refinement of this though that I have recently adopted is intermittent fasting that will help you build younger brain and muscle tissue. This calls for you to exercise in late AM or early afternoon and remain fasting until 30 minutes after your workout. You can include 20 grams of a fast-assimilating protein like a high-quality whey protein concentrate 30 minutes before if you want.

Myth #4: Diet Foods Will Help You Lose Weight

Stocking your pantry with diet foods is one of the surest ways to lose the battle of the bulge, and this is largely due to the fact that they’re loaded with artificial sweeteners. Substances like Splenda and aspartame may have zero calories, but your body isn’t fooled. When it gets a “sweet” taste, it expects calories to follow, and when this doesn’t occur it leads to distortions in your biochemistry that may actually lead to weight gain.

As far as “sweetness satisfaction” in your brain is concerned, it can tell the difference between a real sugar and an artificial one, even if your conscious mind cannot.

Artificial sweeteners tend to trigger more communication in the brain’s pleasure center, yet at the same time provide less actual satisfaction.

So when you consume artificial sweeteners, your body craves more of it and real sugar, because your brain is not satisfied at a cellular level by the sugar imposter! By the way, craving sugar is one of the surest ways to add extra calories to your diet. So avoid artificially sweetened “diet” foods if you care about keeping your weight in check.

Myth #5: You’re Destined to Gain Weight as You Get Older

Weight gain is not a rite of passage into your middle-age years, but the problem for many is that weight gain is insidious. It creeps up gradually as you become less active than you were in your 20s and 30s, and suddenly that pound a year has added up to 10, 20 or more extra pounds as you head into your 40s, 50s, 60s or beyond.

Adding to the equation, if you don’t stay physically active you will lose muscle mass as you age, starting around age 40.

This loss of muscle means you’ll burn fewer calories both when you’re active and at rest, plus your body composition will shift to less muscle and more fat. The solution is remarkably simple, however, and does not require plastic surgery like liposuction or even starving yourself on a diet of celery sticks. All you need to do to stay lean and fit well into your older years is eat healthy (see my nutrition plan for a comprehensive guide) and get moving.

As I mentioned earlier, you can virtually guarantee that you will stay slim as you age if you eat right for your nutritional type and follow my Peak Fitness Exercise Program, including Peak 8 exercises. This is your best “prescription” for avoiding middle-age spread.

Get the Truth about Food and Fitness

If you’re like most Americans you probably have between a few and several unnecessary pounds you’d prefer to not carry around every day. I’m here to tell you that not only is it possible to take off the extra weight with a little thoughtful planning, it is also possible to keep the weight off simply by following a few sensible guidelines like those noted above.

In your journey to your optimal weight, and beyond that to optimal health, please remember that you can take advantage of the wealth of free health information at Mercola.com by using the search engine above. It is a treasure-trove of valuable advice that is literally at your fingertips.

More specifically, two places to look first in your quest for weight loss and health are my comprehensive nutrition plan and Mercola Peak Fitness. Both of these resources are free and can have a powerful and dramatic influence on your ability to achieve optimal health.