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Meathead Myths

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04/02/2014

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With this thing called “the Internet,” fitness misconceptions run rampant. I’ve read articles that tell you the benefits of over-training. Seriously? There are so many myths out there that I wanted to tackle four that can be overheard in gyms and blogs everywhere. 

1. Soreness = Awesomeness

I use to love that feeling of soreness. I was one of those sick, twisted lifters that would be so happy that I couldn’t sit on the toilet without pain in my legs. I would work my abs so hard the next day I had no idea if I had a stomach ache or if it was the workout. Yes, I was a skinny meathead.

Soreness from training is not a bad thing. The idea of lifting weights is that micro-tears breakdown the muscle and as it repairs the muscle gets bigger and stronger. That does not mean, however, you need to work out so hard that getting out of bed is difficult. You don’t even need to be sore to gain muscle or burn fat. I’m not saying being sore is bad, but don’t overdo it.

There are two main reasons not to overexert yourself:

• Working out is hard on your joints and ligaments. Although your muscles might be able to handle the abuse, your joints might not. As someone who has had a few orthoscopic surgeries, my muscles can handle a tough workout, but my hip will be sore in a bad way for days if I push it too hard.

• If you push it so hard that you are sore for days, you might have to skip the next workout. That’s not a bad thing, because your muscles need to heal, but that can impede your goals if you consistently have to take extra days off.

2. More Protein Please

Trainers, including me, are generally not nutritionists. We can offer diet tips but everyone has a different belly. Some people have trouble digesting wheat, while other people have trouble digesting certain proteins. If you have GI issues, track your diet so you can discuss it with the professionals.

All that said, I love protein. I eat a lot of protein. I also enjoy carbs and fat. As someone who has helped people lose weight and gain muscle, I know protein helps with weight loss and gain. It is part of the equation. In most cases, however, portion control is the major issue. People eat too much. I recommend getting protein through multiple sources including beans, lean meats, dairy and eggs, and eating it with fruits and vegetables.

Years ago, people lost a lot of weight with the Atkins diet, which is high on protein and low on carbs. Ever since then, people have been going protein crazy. And it does not always equate to weight loss or being healthy. I had a client tell me, “I had a snack a few hours before I came: a Wendy’s bacon cheeseburger. But I skipped the bread.” You think that’s the worst part of that meal? Eating protein can help, but eat healthy and turn to a doctor and registered dietician if you are changing your diet.

3. Go Heavy or Go Home

I will play the old man card again. I love to lift heavy weights, but it usually ends badly. The adrenaline is pumping, you throw up a big bench, squat, or deadlift and you feel like Hercules for a minute. That minute ends and all the sudden your back aches, your foot hurts, and your shoulder is tweaked. Many people lift heavy with no issues. Football players especially benefit from lifting heavy, but the majority of us do not need to push a Jeep to get in good shape.

I overhear trainers telling their female clients, “Lift heavy – you won’t get bulky.” Many women might need to lift more than 2 lbs., but there are some women who put on muscle extremely easily. I have had numerous female clients for which I’ve cut down on leg exercises because they get thick quads and can’t fit into their clothes. I don’t advocate lifting light either, so my advice is listen to your body. If your joints are achy after workouts, it’s time to look for a workout that’s challenging with less weight. If you really want results, it’s the intensity that matters most, not the weight.

4. Better Results through Supplements

My boss, my wife, and my doctor have told me the same thing: SUPPLEMENTS ARE NOT FDA APPROVED. I have been a sucker and taken over 15 pills and powders at one time. I felt awful. I’m not talking about a multi-vitamin or fish oil (which recent studies show might not be as beneficial as once thought), I’m talking about powders and taking multiple pills.

Why would anyone do this? Usually, some “expert” suggested it. You would be hard pressed to find a doctor that is okay with mass supplementation. When I had my last physical the doctor told me he sees liver, kidney and other issues that disappear when clients stop taking protein powders. He said, in his Eastern European accent, “No one knows what’s really in those things.”

Additionally, we all have different guts. I’ve tried numerous protein powders and most of them upset my stomach. When I make my own shake with Greek yogurt, almond milk, peanut butter, chia seeds, and some cacao powder, I have no gut issues. My takeaway is not to scare you away from supplements, just be cautious. Look for supplements that have been USP verified (you check online, and they should have the label).

I do not want to say the name of the bar I use to love, but I found out it used ground up bones to up the percentage of protein in them. I was crushed – these bars tasted amazing. But truth is, I was better off with a handful of almonds.

Ok, I’m off my meathead soap box. If you have any questions or comments, please post them below and remember to workout smart!

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