Like most people, you probably have one or two theories that hold true to your heart when it comes to exercise. Well, if anyone can make you dispel the workout misconceptions it’s fitness expert Jillian Michaels. Below, Michaels’ explains 7 fitness myths you need to get rid of.
1. Myth: You Shouldn’t Eat Before a Workout
The rationale behind this widely accepted myth is that forgoing food before exercise will force your body to burn more fat during your workout. This is a big, fat lie: Starving yourself before exercising can actually be detrimental to your body. You need sugar to exert energy — and you need energy to perform at high intensity. I suggest eating a healthy snack 45 minutes to an hour before training. Aim for something with carbohydrates and protein like a whey shake, low-fat yogurt with berries, or a banana or apple with natural almond butter.
2. Myth: Exercising Makes You Eat More
After a long, hard workout, are you one of those gym rats who immediately grab a meal or gulp down a sugary, colorful sports drink to “refuel”? The truth is that this behavior stems more from habit than from actual, legitimate hunger. In fact, studies show that exercise actually suppresses your hunger: Physical activity decreases ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates your appetite. So when you’re grabbing a bagel after your Saturday spin class or ordering a burger after a basketball game, take a second to listen to the cues of your body and figure out whether you’re actually hungry — or not.
3. Myth: Exercising Can Erase Your Bad Eating Habits
You get in five workouts each week — so that means you can eat whatever you want, right? WRONG! Weight loss is about calories in versus calories out. If your goal is to lose weight, you should be counting and logging the calories you’re consuming and the calories you’re burning on a daily basis — aiming for a calorie deficit by the end of the day. If you burn 500 calories on the treadmill, but then chow down on more than one slice of pizza — it’s a wash, buddy.
Secondly, even though working out on a regular basis has many health benefits, it can’t erase the overwhelmingly harmful effects of unhealthy foods. The most dangerous ingredients are trans fats (aka hydrogenated oils), which are found in deep-fried fast foods and processed foods made with certain kinds of margarine or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. Trans fats raise the risk of heart attacks, heart disease, and strokes, plus they contribute to increased inflammation, diabetes, and other serious health problems.
4. Myth: The Longer the Workout, the Better
When it comes to fitting exercise into your busy life — the key is just to make it happen. Does it need to be a 90-minute yoga class or a 60 to 75-minute DVD workout, like p90X or Insanity? Absolutely not — 30 to 45 minutes a day, five times a week, is a completely adequate workout schedule. Your intensity is the most important part. To burn the most calories in the least amount of time, you should practice high-intensity interval training (HIIT). This method alternates periods of short, intense anaerobic exercise with less-intense recovery periods. It’s also important to work out at 85 percent of your target heart rate.
5. Myth: Exercising at Night Keeps You Awake
This is one of those myths that have been around forever! In reality, exercise at any time of day or night will help you sleep. A recent study by the National Sleep Foundation found that those who report exercising close to bedtime do not have difficulty falling asleep (excluding insomniacs, who should restrict late evening and nighttime exercise if it is part of their treatment). A lot of people think you shouldn’t exercise at night because your adrenaline levels will go up and keep you awake. This is not true — exercise lowers the levels of those stress hormones. Instead, it stimulates the production of endorphins, which bring about feelings of relaxation and optimism.
6. Myth: Pregnant Women Shouldn’t Exercise
Let me preface this section by saying that you should always consult your physician and make sure you’re clear to exercise. I recommend most pregnant women continue to exercise. If you did yoga, spinning, boot camp, running — you can keep up with those activities. The placenta protects the baby, so you can continue your regular exercise regimen, but now is definitely not the time to pick up something strenuous like CrossFit or gymnastics.
A few caveats: You definitely want to pay attention to your heart rate and body temperature. If you’re coughing, gasping, or uncomfortable, then you definitely need to slow down or stop. Using overhead weights can raise your heart rate quickly, so do fewer repetitions of those and take deep breaths. As far as body temperature is concerned, you want to avoid overheating. The fetus can’t cool itself by sweating the way you can, so you’ll need to take measures to keep cool for both of you. Proper hydration is key, so try drinking six ounces of cold water every 15 to 20 minutes during exercise.
7. Myth: You Can’t Exercise Without a Gym Membership
There are so many ways you can stay active, burn calories, and lose weight without an expensive gym membership. You can take advantage of free classes and personal-training and gym trials in your community, school, or workplace. At home, get creative — strength train with water jugs or soup cans as free weights, use a wall for resistance to modify exercises like squats, or use your stairs! Try a few of my workout DVDs, my free app, or borrow fitness books and magazines from the library. The possibilities are endless — so think outside the gym!