Common Men’s Fitness Myths Busted (Part 2)

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We’re still in fitness myth busting mode and we’re going to pick up straight from where we left off in part 1. So let’s get straight in.

Detoxing Can Kickstart Weight Loss

A lot of us have been in that situation in early January where we wake up one day and reflect on the indulgence we had during the Christmas and new year period. Guilt creeps in, we feel like we’ve put on some weight and we will often feel desperate to lose it.

There’s this lurking feeling that we need to “cleanse” or “detox” to get our insides working again and lose that weight.

And that is where the “detox” diet or juice cleanse, or something similar comes in.

It’s not always a January thing but that is when it’s most common.

detox fitness myth busting

It is important to note that I think there can be a weight loss benefit to detoxing and the short-term weight loss it can cause.

And that is that sometimes it can give you the momentum you need to carry on and get longer-term and more consistent results.

But it isn’t a long-term fix. And with a generally consistent and balanced diet should mean you never really need a detox for your health or for any weight management goals.

Yes, we might have some indulgent periods like Christmas or holidays and we may want to counter those with periods of more moderation and a closer eye on nutrition.

But that doesn’t mean you need a full-scale detox or anything like that.

All of your best result for pretty much any health or fitness goal come from the small, consistent daily habits that make up your lifestyle – and not from big sweeping gestures like a detox or “cleanse”.

Burning Off Your Food

I think the most commonly used phrase is that you can’t outrun a bad diet.

First of all one thing to bear in mind is that if you are exercising or working out purely to burn off the food you are eating, that is starting to tiptoe towards disordered eating patterns, particularly bulimia.

One of the behaviours of bulimia is binge-eating and then purging, which can include long bouts of exercise to try and burn it off.

So it’s important to be very mindful that even if you’re not at the level where it’d be diagnosed as an eating disorder, your behaviour pattern if you’re exercising only because you want the burn-off food is starting to lean in that direction.

If it is something you do very occasionally and you decide you want to do it to make yourself feel better after a bit of indulgence, you’re probably fine.

cardio burn off food fitness myth busting

When it starts to become a regular or repeated behaviour, then it can be a greater cause for concern.

It’s also a slightly toxic balancing act. Food should be enjoyed – there is a social and enjoyable aspect to it. And exercise should be something that makes you feel good and helps empower you.

Eating a bit more isn’t something you should feel guilty about or that you need to absolve yourself from through exercise.

Plus if your diet is consistently low in nutritional value but high in calories, the exercise you do is likely to have a minimal impact on your health anyway.

Let me give you this example.

For someone that consistently likes binge drinking and eats fast food a few times a week, and isn’t getting much in terms of fruit or vegetables in their diet – exercise can still have some impact. But the positive impact of that exercise is unlikely to outdo the negative impact of the eating and drinking habits that person has.

ON the flip side, if you are someone who goes out drinking every couple of weeks and has fast food maybe 2 or 3 times a week but most of the rest of your diet is high in nutrition, then exercise will still likely have a more noticeable positive impact.

When I refer to your diet being high in nutrition I am talking about getting your body’s vitamins and minerals, lean proteins, good fats, fibres, complex carbohydrates and of course the right levels of hydration.

So if you are exercising purely to burn off the food you ate:

  • It’s likely you have a problematic relationship with both food, exercise, or both.
  • It is starting to lean towards eating disorder behaviour.
  • Depending on the level of your overall eating or drinking habits, it is unlikely that exercise is going to outdo all of the negative impacts that might be having on your health.

Yoga Isn’t For Men

I remember going to my first yoga class, turning up 10 minutes early and thinking I was early so I could get a spot at the back of the room.

No.

I walked into a room where I was the only male, and pretty much everyone else had already set up their mat and marked their territory, taking up their own fixed spots.

So despite being 10 minutes early, I was more or less the last one there and I ended up front and centre of the room. And I absolutely sucked at it.

I was very self-conscious, didn’t know what I was doing and had to keep stopping to watch the instructor.

But I felt good afterwards.

So I kept coming back. Again and again and again.

Almost always, I was the only guy there.

But I still stuck with it – I was happy with what I was doing and it wasn’t affecting anyone else, so why not.

And I benefitted from it massively.

I was calmer and happier. I had a period where I felt completely distraction-free with a clear mind. My thoughts were calmed and I had a better focus on everything I was doing even outside of that class.

Plus my performance in the gym improved. I was better focused, I felt stronger, I was moving better, I had a better range of motion, and my recovery was better.

I felt less stiff and less sore too.

Yoga does have a very feminine perception. But it does a hell of a lot of good for men as well.

If you are a man reading this and don’t feel 100% comfortable going in for an in-person yoga class or don’t want to, or there aren’t any near you, you’ve got some online options as well – both free and paid. I’ve listed out some of the ones I have used below

Keeping Your Knees Behind Your Toes

This is 100% specific to when you are doing squats.

But there is a myth that your knees shouldn’t go past your toes when you squat.

In reality, within a normal range of motion and with good technique, your knees going past your toes is perfectly safe and very normal.

If you ever watch your knees when you go up a flight of stairs, you will notice that your knees do go past your toes at pretty much every single step.

My understanding of where this myth originated from is that it was a safety queue for coaching people from a distance. For example, if you were a personal trainer with a client doing squats or instructing a fitness class or bootcamp, you can’t get hands-on with every client or participant to help guide their technique.

So you want to keep them safe and you want their centre of gravity to stay back so they don’t end up leaning too far forward and losing their balance.

But in most cases, if your heals are grounded and your centre of gravity is controlled, it’s not dangerous.

Health At Every Size

I guess this one isn’t really a myth or misconception, as such, but I feel like it is misunderstood. Or at least that my understanding is different to pretty much anyone else’s.

I want to choose my words very carefully, and I have written about health at every size for men before.

Health at every size is a social movement that promotes the pursuit of health and wellness regardless of body shape or size.

Studies do indicate that body weight beyond a certain level can have a negative impact on physical health. But it is also worth remembering that saying “health at every size” is not the same as saying “health at any size”.

health at every size fitness myth busting

What that means is your current size or shape shouldn’t be a limiter or a barrier to you wanting to do something for the improvement of your own wellbeing.

Also health is a very broad term that encompasses every aspect of your mind and body. Your weight and size are one marker of physical health and do have an impact on other aspects of your physical health.

But they are also not the only markers, and regardless of your shape or size, it is no one else’s place to stop you or discriminate against you for pursuing your own health or wellbeing.

Abs As A Sign Of Health

On the flipside to the above, don’t assume just because someone has abs that they are healthy.

When I first started losing weight, I wanted abs more than anything because I figured it was a sign of peak physical health and fitness in men.

Getting abs takes hard work. It takes patience, consistency, discipline, and fairly strict dieting for rather long periods of time.

But abs are not an exact indicator of you being healthy.

abs healthy fitness myth busting

Athletes in a lot of sports will naturally have abs purely as a result of the training and lifestyle they lead. It comes with the territory in their line of work.

If you look at bodybuilders on stage or on magazine covers, they have chiselled abs as well. But if you look at them in the off-season or when they’re not preparing for a photo shoot or a show, they won’t necessarily be in the same condition or with abs anywhere near as visible.

The same applies to celebrities and movie stars. Zac Efron spoke about the issues he had with getting in the shape he was in when he filmed Baywatch and explained how he doesn’t want to go to that extreme again.

Visible abs are a sign of very low body fat in the stomach area. That’s it. They’re not a specific sign of mental or physical health. I know more than one person who has said that as soon as they were done with a photoshoot that they dieted down for, they never want to go that lean again.

In my case, I have a very vague abdominal outline, which is rarely visible and never clearly defined.

But I am pretty lean and feel generally very happy with where I am both mentally and physically.

Just because someone has abs doesn’t automatically mean they’re healthy. It just means they are lean enough for those muscles to be visible.

Someone who is active and exercises and eats nutritiously is much more likely to have visible abs, but it’s not an automatic thing whereby having abs means you are definitely healthy.

The Best Time To Work Out

There is no such thing as the best time to work out.

Everyone is different. Everyone’s life is different.

And the closest you’re going to get to a specific answer is that the best time to work out is the time that you can fit into your normal day-to-day lifestyle and actually stick to it.

For some that will be early morning, for some that will be evenings, and for some (including me) that will be middle of the day, around lunchtime.

When I was studying to be a personal trainer, my tutor said that some studies suggest that testosterone is higher in men from around 8:00 AM so lifting weights should be after that time.

I haven’t found that study myself but I still suspect that the small boost that might be gained from having a slightly higher testosterone level is relatively minor compared to just training at the time that you actually can.

Walking Doesn’t Do Anything For Health or Weight Loss

People dismiss walking as a form of exercise or a tool for health a hell of a lot.

It doesn’t take a lot of strain or exertion in many cases so people think it doesn’t do anything.

But it very definitely does and has become my single number one priority when planning my workout routine. I can skip a weights workout, I can skip some cardio, I can skip some yoga. But I won’t skip walking.

I only really started walking regularly and consistently in March 2020, when lockdown happened and it just built up from there.

From September 2020 to March 2022, I hit my Fitbit step target of 12,000 steps a day every single day and the only reason that streak stopped is that I was having surgery.

But once I could walk again after that, my streak has continued each day since.

It has become a huge part of my lifestyle. It is low impact and is easy on the joints. It builds endurance and stamina. It helps with leg strength. It engages the core and can force you to work on your posture a bit.

Plus it gets you out of the house and away from screens, so gives your mind some time to clear too. Of course if it is running you can fire up something to watch on your phone or tablet and walk on a treadmill instead.

I got to the leanest I have ever been in my adult life since I started walking and has made weight management (or maintenance) a lot easier since then.

If it’s sunny outside I get to listen to a podcast or audiobook or do a walking meditation. If it’s raining then I can stream something on a treadmill.

It’s low cost, low effort, low risk of injury, and very high reward.

Smaller Meals Boosting Your Metabolism

When I first started getting into fitness, there was this idea that 6 smaller meals throughout the day would be better for weight loss than your standard 3 “big” meals because it would keep your metabolism boosted and you would burn more calories, so you would lose more weight.

I did try it and to be fair, I never really felt hungry. But I also never really felt full or satisfied. And I do like that feeling of fullness (that means full without being overstuffed) at the end of a meal. I like to feel well fed and nourished and that wasn’t happening with smaller meals.

Smaller meals can have some benefits. If weight loss is your goal, you may end up eating less. You are less likely to snack because you are having more regular meals.

And your blood sugar may stay more stable throughout the day and you’re less likely to have energy highs and lows or feel sluggish after eating.

But I haven’t found any studies to suggest that smaller meals boost your metabolism or mean you will burn more calories.

And I would also mention intermittent fasting as a counterpoint here.

intermittent fasting for binge eating disorder

With intermittent fasting, you will eat in a fixed 4 to 8-hour window normally, and fast from food outside of that time.

If fat loss is your goal, one of the reported benefits is that you end up eating less because you are eating your day’s calories in a much narrower window of time so you just feel fuller.

You might also find your energy levels improve. Digestion takes up a lot of energy so if your body has more time where it’s not digesting food, you have energy for other things.

I currently do a slightly watered-down version of intermittent fasting where I eat in a 10-hour window, usually from 10 AM to 8 PM.

My point is that your overall nutrition and food volume are more important than just meal timing.

If you are active and training then you will want to plan some of your food intake around that, but that is really the only major factor to consider and the rest is down to what suits you.

Gaining Muscle Without Lifting Weights

You don’t have to lift weights as such to gain strength and build muscle.

I always look at gymnasts or callisthenics followers for examples here. They are incredibly strong, with well-built physiques and they don’t necessarily rely on lifting barbells or dumbbells.

Weight machines and free weights are easier to track your progress with and you do have fewer limitations. I don’t think there is a bodyweight equivalent of a deadlift for example.

And to some extent, the skill level required for lifting weights is lower. An overhead shoulder press is going to take less strength and skill than an inverted handstand push-up.

So weights are more friendly for newbies.

But it is very definitely possible to build strength and muscle with bodyweight, callisthenics, and without traditional weights.

The main factor in building muscle is that your muscles are consistently overloaded (progressive overload).

When lockdowns happened in 20202 and gyms closed, all I had were a pull-up bar, TRX suspension trainer and some resistance bands. And it did the trick for me.

My pull-ups and push-ups got better and my arms and chest got a bit bigger and more defined.

I let my leg strength slip because I hate doing bodyweight leg exercises. but aside from that, it did me a lot of good. Beyond just strength and muscle, I also learned to coordinate my movements better, I know how to engage my core more, and my flexibility has gotten better.

I know exactly which muscles I am contracting and which ones I need to contract for movements.

Since then I have gone back to doing some weights, specifically the exercises I couldn’t replicate with bodyweight – deadlifts, shoulder press, and clean & press.

And bicep curls because I am vain and want bigger biceps.

Chasing Perfection

It’s important to get it in your head that there is no perfect training plan and no perfect diet.

Different things will work for different people in different ways at different times.

If you keep aiming for perfection, then yes, at some point you might reach it, and you might be able to stick to it for a long time. And that’s awesome.

Personally, I could never stay 100% perfect 100% of the time, and I did try pretty obsessively. But life happens. Things get in our way, things derail us and there are some things that we want to be able to experience.

It did for me, and I am fairly confident it does for most people too.

I always got my best and most sustained results from being less than perfect but being consistent and always turning up.

I want to enjoy my life. I want to feel fit, healthy and strong. I want to nourish my body and look after my well-being.

Sometimes I also want to dip my Oreos in peanut butter and enjoy that experience.

And I have a good balance at the minute.

I have fun. I enjoy myself. I go out regularly. I don’t miss out on things. But I still look after my health. I turn up consistently. I work hard. And have enough discipline with my nutrition to keep making progress.

This doesn’t mean you have a blank slate to excuse yourself from putting in the hard work. It’s about making sure the hard work has a purpose and you can allow yourself to have some fun along the way.

That’s what balance is.

If you are a professional athlete, you will probably need to go 100% all in for a period of time. And to be honest, if you are a professional athlete I don’t know how you ended up looking at fitness and nutrition tips on my blog because I usually appeal to a very different demographic than that.

But for most people, an imperfect diet and imperfect workout plan that are executed perfectly will be better for you than aiming for the perfect diet or perfect workout plan that you can’t stick to.

Progress is good. Improvement is good. Aiming to get a bit closer to perfection is good.

But it’s not as black and white as saying you have to be perfect to get results, or being imperfect is a failure.

Fitness Myth Busting

Between this post and part 1, that is a total of 23 fitness myths we have tried to tackle.

If you have any comments or questions, or any other myths you’d like me to look at, feel free to reach me here.

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