12 Myths About Nutrition And Exercise That Might Surprise You

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Food fuels your body, and exercise keeps it fit, firm and ready. It's obvious to say nutrition and fitness are important, but the real goal is to nourish and challenge your body efficiently and appropriately. Avoid wasting time in the gym and in your pantry by sidestepping these 12 common myths.

Myth #1: You should eat carbohydrates before you exercise.
The thought here is to provide your body with fuel to burn prior to your workout. The problem is that carbs break down into sugar, causing the hormones insulin and cortisol to spike in your body. This pair of stress hormones promotes fat storage and can hinder your post-exercise recovery. Instead, try getting your sweat on after eating only a light snack—or nothing, if possible—to prevent hunger pangs.

Myth #2: You should focus on cardio for maximum caloric burn.
Running, cycling and stair-stepping increase your heart rate and make you sweat, but they don't initiate excess post oxygen consumption—the afterburn effect— which can boost your metabolism for up to 36 hours after your workout. High intensity, short duration exercise causes your metabolic rate to hit a higher ceiling than traditional cardio, and it takes much longer for your metabolic rate to taper back down.

Skip the treadmill and try running in place (stay on the balls of your feet). Go hard for 20 seconds, then rest for 20 seconds. Repeat this three times and evaluate your condition. You will feel your heart thumping.

Myth #3: You should always rest between exercises.
Too much rest between sets can sabotage your results. Exercise is designed to fatigue you. Take breaths as necessary, but don't gravitate to the water fountain for chit-chat. The aerobic benefits of weight training are undervalued. Try lifting a weight for time rather than repetitions. Don't sacrifice your form, but lessen the down time between sets to feel the cardiovascular effect.

Myth #4: You can eat anything if you exercise.
Not even close. A medium Burger King Whopper value meal with fries and a Coke contains 1,370 calories. It takes less than 15 minutes to eat. According to Harvard Health publications, that's the equivalent of almost 3.5 hours on an elliptical for a 185 lb. person, or more than five hours for a 125-lb. person.

Poor dietary choices, as well as drinking alcohol and smoking, can offset and even derail strong exercise habits. Exercise stimulates your metabolism, and the extra energy output stimulates your appetite. Effective and efficient exercise must be fueled with the correct nutrients to yield the best results.

Myth #5: There is no best time of day to exercise.
All exercise is helpful, but you will notice the greatest gains if you kick-start your day with a morning workout. Human growth hormone (HGh), a muscle building and fat-burning hormone that occurs naturally in the body, has been shown to spike from 5-8AM. Working out as this hormone peaks can maximize your ability to build lean muscle and metabolize fat. Despite the bad press for synthetic HGh, naturally occurring HGh is good to have on your side.

Myth #6: You need a gym membership to get fit.
The only resources needed to get fit are motivation and a little know-how. Research has shown that at-home workouts are easier to start—and stick to—than going to a gym. Find a few basic items—dumbbells, resistance bands, balance disc, etc.—and get to work in your garage or your backyard. If you’re lacking motivation or your routine is getting stale, find a workout partner to hold you accountable and inject some life into your workout.

Remember, the best fitness program is the one they use on a regular basis. If the gym is your motivator, stick with it.

Myth #7: You should not exercise once you hit 65.
It is true that many individuals lose muscular strength as they age, but that is most commonly caused by lack of activity. Exercise can help with common health problems that arise later in life.

Bone density is a direct response to the amount of stress one places on the bones. An individual is more likely to suffer from osteoporosis (thin bones) if they do not exercise. Similarly, high blood pressure—a common stress response—can be improved with exercise. Individuals lacking mobility can prevent muscle loss by exercising. Of course, check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program.

Myth #8: Your post-workout meal should be whatever fills you up.
We've already discussed how poor nutritional choices can undo a workout's benefits, but your post-exercise meal is your greatest opportunity to do the right thing. Consuming high-quality proteins within 30 minutes of completing your workout accelerates your body’s ability to build muscle and burn fat. Eggs, whey protein, and lean chicken and beef are all considered high-quality proteins that will help your tired muscles recover and rebuild more quickly.

Myth #9: You should exercise sparingly if you are obese.
Get moving, no matter who you are. There's a difference between training for a triathlon and improving your total health. Men and women of all sizes, shapes and fitness levels can improve their health with modest increases in activity and exercise.

Studies show that obese people who participate in a regular exercise program have a lower risk of mortality compared to all sizes of sedentary individuals.  Low-impact exercises, like riding a recumbent stationary bike, are easier on your joints than walking. Again, check with your doctor before you start.

Myth #10: Yoga is the safest and easiest way to begin your path to fitness.
Yoga, originally a Hindu practice, has been growing in popularity worldwide because of it benefits both mind and body. Although yoga can help increase flexibility, balance, coordination, posture and strength, as well has help with stress management, there are also dangers.

Certain types of yoga such as Bikkrum yoga can be quite rigorous and demanding. Careful instruction from a qualified exercise professional is necessary for a safe, effective workout.  To avoid injury, recognize your limitations and know what to expect before signing up. 

Myth #11: Your planned exercise routine is the only way to improve your overall health
The little things matter when it comes to achieving your health potential. Low intensity exercises, such as walking or gardening, have been shown to reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke. If you're taking the time to choose wisely at the gym or in the pantry, make the effort to get it right the rest of the time. Take the stairs instead of the elevator or walk a brisk lap during your lunch break. These choices will help prevent hormonal imbalances, chronic disease and the weakening of muscles and bones as you age.

Myth #12: You should look to mirror to find the results of your exercise.
The primary purpose of exercise is to create excellent health—not super-model material. Your genetics will play an important role in the results you see and feel. Active, slightly overweight people can be perfectly healthy, too.

Your development of strength, fitness level and weight loss potential may be very different from that of other people you know.  However, the common outcome is that everyone is healthier. Focus on excellent health and your body will respond to exercise in the most favorable way.