There is a lot of conflicting information about the best workouts for weight loss, the amount of time a person needs to work out and what food they should eat. Here is the truth about the top 10 workout myths that you should consider as you develop your plan:
Myth 1: Stick solely to cardio for weight loss. While it's true that you should include 20 to 30 minutes of cardio in your workout routine, focusing solely on cardio will not transform your body as quickly or as dramatically as you might think. You need to incorporate both cardio and strength training into your workout. Strength training builds muscles and maximizes your cardio routine. The more muscle you have, the more calories your body will burn, especially during cardio.
Myth 2: Heavy weights will bulk you up. Some people are concerned that adding strength training will build muscle bulk to the point that they will look like a bodybuilder. This is not true. Start slow and add weight to build muscle, which will maximize the calories your body will burn.
Myth 3: If you work out, you can be lax in your diet. You can't work off a bad diet. If you want to lose weight, your calorie output needs to be higher than your calorie input.
Myth 4: Stretching helps prevent injuries. While stretching is beneficial because it prepares the muscles for movement and eases your workout recovery, there is no proven research that it will reduce your chances of getting an injury. That's entirely based on your form and movements during a workout. Use functional, dynamic stretches like lunges and leg swings to help muscle movement during workouts.
Myth 5: If the number on the scale isn't going down, you're not losing weight. The number on the scale is a factor of many things, including how much water you've consumed, what you ate and when you're weighing in. If you want to accurately track your weight loss and muscle development, record measurements of your arms, waist and thighs. And if you're going to use the scale, weigh yourself at the same time every day.
Myth 6: Cardio machines count burned calories with 100% accuracy.
Some people depend on the treadmill to tell them the exact number of calories burned during a workout. But it doesn't work that way. The factors that determine how many calories your body burns include your sex, age and weight. Some machines allow you to enter personalized data in one or two of these factors, but rarely all three.
Myth 7: Sticking to ab workouts will give you a six-pack. Abdominal workouts are great for developing core muscles, but a person's overall body fat prevents abs from being seen. If you want six-pack abs, you have to dramatically decrease your body fat, to 10-12% for men or 11-13% for women. This requires strict dedication to eating a healthy diet and exercising.
Myth 8: Supplements and protein shakes are necessary after workouts. You don't need supplements and shakes to get proper nutrients. You can get all those nutrients from other food sources. If you consume protein-rich foods after a workout, do so within 30 minutes. That's when your muscles absorb that energy.
Myth 9: If you're not working up a sweat, you're not working hard enough. Many factors besides how hard you're working go into the amount you sweat, such as the temperature, humidity and hydration levels.
Myth 10: No pain, no gain. Pain is the way your body tells you that something is wrong. If you start to feel pain during a workout, stop immediately. If you continue to push through it, you could end up with a serious injury.
David Webster, athletic trainer, Mayo Clinic Health System