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Top 10 Fitness Myths You’re Falling For

woman doing wall splits while holding kettlebellFitness myths are everywhere. They are started by the mainstream media, and then perpetuated by common people without even stopping and thinking about if they are true or not. Here are the top 10 fitness myths I hear over and over again. Have you heard them?

Women Shouldn’t Lift Weights Because They’ll Bulk Up

This is a very real fear for most women. They fear that lifting weights will bulk them up and make them look manly. Fortunately, these fears are unfounded.

Women lack comparable amounts of the important muscle building hormone – testosterone. Because of this, it makes it more difficult to put on muscle. The pictures you see of women that are starting to take on the characteristics of men are usually on hormones. For the average female, lifting weights does a body good.

You Burn the Most Fat in the Fat Burning Zone

This fitness myth is finally dying a slow death. There was always so much confusion with this because you do in fact burn more fat in the fat burning zone. However, this is only one piece of the puzzle. You burn a higher percentage of fat in the fat burning zone, but you burn more total fat as you work out past that zone.

Take a look at the following chart. You will see that during exercise it is possible to burn a higher percentage of calories from fat in the fat burning zone, but actually burn more fat. Focus more on total calories burned.

The Fat Burning Zone Myth

You Can Target Fat Loss

I see workouts posted all over the internet for firmer arms or for a toned butt. Six pack abs workouts are everywhere. Unfortunately, you cannot target fat loss. Fatty acid mobilization is systemic – not localized.

This means that as soon as you start working out a muscle, any muscle, your body sends out fat mobilizing hormones that are dispersed throughout your entire body. In just a couple of heart beats fat is pulled from all over your body to fuel that particular activity.

I heard a great way of explaining it so that it makes sense to most people (Thanks Jason) – you don’t get to choose where the fat goes on, why do you think you get to choose where it comes off?

Losing Weight is a Physical Challenge

Hang on a second now. Of course losing weight is a physical challenge. You bust your butt in the gym several times a week. It’s not easy. However, the hardest aspect of losing weight is the mental part.

The real challenge lies in the mental challenges. Do you give in to that pizza? Do you eat those donuts someone brought into the office? Do you skip lunch with your coworkers at the risk of being a social outcast? What’s one day of missing the gym really going to do to you?

These are the real challenges of losing weight. The mind has a powerful influence over the body. If you take control of your mind, the weight loss will follow.

Products/Supplements Can Help You Lose Weight Fast or Easily

Run far and fast from any fitness claims that you can lose weight fast or easily. There is nothing fast or easy about losing weight. It will be one of the hardest things you’ll ever do in your life.

Be careful of the claims made on fitness products. Do they seem realistic? Are the claims funded by the company that produces the product? Getting fit is not as easy as swallowing a pill or purchasing equipment. You have to work for it – work hard.

You Burn the Most Calories During Your Workout

You might burn 200-500 calories or so during your workout, but you burn thousands, yes thousands of calories the rest of the day. I highly urge you to stop worrying about the amount of fat you’re burning during your workout, and instead focus on having the best workout you can.

Use your workouts to build that valuable muscle that will in turn continue burning fat for you at all hours of the day – even in your sleep. If you aren’t strength training yet, you should be.

You Need to do Cardio If You Want to Lose Fat

Are you one of those people who is slaving away on the cardio equipment trying to lose weight? If you are, you might want to reassess your fitness program. Don’t get me wrong, cardio is a great addition to a well rounded fitness program; however, it’s not necessary to lose weight. It is a tool to create a calorie deficit.

Your heart does not know the difference between the treadmill or weight training. It only knows perceived stress. In essence, any workout can be considered cardio, it’s just a matter of how hard you push yourself. The key components to effective fat loss are strength training, a great diet, and a calorie deficit.

Zero Grams of Trans Fat Means There’s No Trans Fat

Did you know that just because a product says that there’s zero grams of trans fat that it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s actually zero grams? You see, the FDA allows all food products that have less that .5 grams of fat to be expressed as zero grams.

This means that a product that has 6 servings could potentially have 3 grams of trans fat. Not exactly zero grams, now is it. Always make sure you flip the product over and read the ingredients.

Muscle Weighs More Than Fat

Maybe you’ve heard this one before. People try to explain why they weigh as much as another person yet look so much more fit. They say that it’s because muscle weighs more than fat. I understand their intentions, and they are almost right.

In reality, what they are trying to explain is that muscle is denser than fat. One pound of muscle weighs the same as one pound of fat. Muscle does weigh more than fat – when comparing similar sizes, which is essentially density. That will make you heavier at a smaller size.

Do Sets With Higher Reps if Your Goal is to Burn Fat

How many times have you heard the advice that if you want to lose fat you should use high reps, and if you want to build muscle, you should use low reps? The ultimate goal of our strength training workout is to get stronger and build muscle.

Incorporate varying rep ranges into your exercise program, but ensure that your program is structured in a way that you continually get stronger. If you suddenly do higher reps when you want to burn fat, you’ll have to drop the amount of weight you use. This can result in a loss of strength and muscle, which in return will slow down your metabolism and fat loss.

  • Emily

    I knew muscle was what burned fat but I always thought higher reps would create more muscle.

    • Coach Calorie

      Emily, there’s certainly a place for higher reps. The point I was trying to make is that higher reps don’t burn any more fat than lower reps. If your goal is to build muscle, you should have some sort of periodization in place.

      If you’re going to go high reps to build muscle, I wouldn’t go much higher than 12 reps per set, and I would make sure that the 12th rep was as many as I could do. If you finish that 12th rep but could have done 5 more, you’re not really accomplishing much.

  • Brigitte

    I’m going to ask you about Protein….is there such a thing as eating too much protein?

    I get so many different stories about Protein building too much muscle mass and stuff…
    What/who do I listen to??

    You see I LOVE protein!!! I get most of them from egg whites and edemame and beans and so on…so what amd I doing wrong?
    Still have those 10 plus pounds to lose….HELP?

    • Coach Calorie

      Hey Brigitte, yes there is a such thing as eating too much protein.

      Protein doesn’t build muscle mass in and of itself. You need a stimulus (exercise). Your protein intake will help determine if you will keep a positive nitrogen balance.

      I aim for 1 gram per pound, but that is dependent on carbohydrate intake too. Carbohydrates are protein sparing, so if you’re eating a lot of them, then your protein demands are lower.

      You say you’re doing something wrong. What do you think that is?

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  • gabi

    I completely disagree with “you need cardio to burn fat” myth. if you are getting your heart rate up with weight lifting as if you are full sprinting on a treadmill, there’s something wrong with your weight lifting routine. yes, your heart only understands stress, but people need high intensity interval training cardio, which also helps burn the fat. if you are only telling people to lift weights, they start getting bigger or look the same. i understand this is where a pair of calipers come in, however, cardio leans the muscle out. yes, a diet is the majority, but lifting weights and dieting the right way isn’t enough. you don’t need weights to burn fat. i am also a HUGE advocate for lifting weights, but i know to see definition and lean out my body i need cardio.

    • Coach Calorie

      Hi Gabi, people don’t need high intensity interval training to burn fat. Fat is always being burned by the body. You’re burning fat right now reading this comment. Cardio is just one way to burn extra calories.

      I disagree with your comment about if you’re getting your heart rate up as if you’re sprinting on the treadmill, something is wrong with your routine. I think it’s just the opposite actually. If you’re not winded after a set of squats like you just got done sprinting, you aren’t working out with the intensity you should be.

      Lifting weights and dieting is absolutely enough to get lean. Will cardio help get you there? Of course. Is it necessary? No.

      What is it about cardio that you think makes it the key to losing fat?

      • Hollie

        Coach Calorie:

        First I apologise, I didn’t notice this was an old post.

        What about heart and lung health? Do we not need cardio for that? I quit smoking about a year and a half ago, haven’t worked out much since but I’m finding it’s taken a long time to “get my lungs back”. In some ways I feel like I had a higher lung capacity / endurance then than I do now. I was thinking I needed to start cardio to improve my heart and lung health, things like running or aerobics that would have me breathing deeply and heart beating etc. Is that a misconception?

        Thank you.

        • Coach Calorie

          That is not a misconception, you do need some form of cardiovascular training if you want good heart and lungs. The misconception is that you have to separate strength training from “cardio”. If you are pushing yourself during your strength training, you should have no problem getting your heart rate up and beyond what you would get from doing steady state cardio.

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  • Chris

    Would you say compound exercises would be best for overall muscle gain (fat burn)? Which ones would you suggest?

    I’ve also heard if you do an intense (80%+) cardio workout, after your regular workout, for about 10 minutes, it increases how long you burn calories for throughout the day. In essence, increasing your metabolism. Is this true? If not, what are some tricks to increasing the rate at which your body breaks down fat? Is there a way similar to this?


    • Coach Calorie

      Hey Chris, yes I do think that compound exercises are the best for putting on muscle. I just wrote a post about that. You can read it here – Compound Exercises are the Key to Building Muscle

      As to your cardio question, what you are referring to is EPOC – Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption. I also wrote about that recently, and you can read that here – Harnessing the Afterburn Effect with EPOC Training. Having an intense cardio session (think HIIT) will provide you with the increased calorie burn throughout the day. However, if your weight training is high intensity, it will provide the same effect.

  • Tom Parker

    Love the “What Women Think They Will Look Like When They Lift Weights Vs What Actually Happens”. Most girls I know are convinced that this is true and they won’t accept otherwise, no matter what you tell them.


    • janita

      i have been a victim of this myth and finally had to realize two thngs: first, i WAS overbuilding my traps but it was purely bad form….every upper body and even arm exercise i did went straight to my traps because i was letting it. and second, having excess fat on top of toned muscles makes you feel like theyre bulking up when really, i just had more fat to lose. love that pic!

    • Sandy Ellis

      too bad for them, I love lifting weights

  • Marc Rosenberg

    I just wanted to say that I really enjoy your newsletters and I look forward to seeing what information you put out next. It keeps me motivated and reinforces what I try to pass on to my followers, friends and clients.
    Keep up the good work and thank you!

    • Coach Calorie

      I appreciate it Marc, and thanks for reading!

  • Haya

    hey coach
    next month I’ll comolete 2 years with dieting
    when i started i was 130 kg and now it’s 97
    but my body is resisting me alrhough I took many breaks through these two years and now I started to lose faith in my self.. I want to be skinny & healthy this is my dream since I was little girl an now I’m 28 .. I got bored from diet and gym and eveeything

    • Coach Calorie

      Congrats on the weight loss so far! No need to lose faith. It’s just going to take a little more focus on the details of your diet and exercise program to get your results. Let me see your daily diet and what you do for exercise.

    • Adam

      I hate the word diet, it conjures up thoughts of fads and counter productive food deprevation regimes when all that is needed is sensible eating which also makes allowances for treats. The first thing i would ask is what type of diet are you following since some folk do things like starve themselves or tell themselves if they drink skinny lattes and diet cola its ok. depriving yourself is counter productive to healthy fat loss and mentally destined to failure and could likely explain your getting bored with your diet. All these fly by night gimmick diets annoy the hell out of me such as slimfast, atkins, weight watchers and so unecessary. By utilising days of lower carb intake combined with 1 hour of low to moderate cardio is the ticket. Also most of your carb sources should be low glycemic. For example fruit (especially green fruits), vegetables (especially green veggies), oats, etc. On low to no carb days keep protein high and you must be taking omega 3 with your meals. Substitute some drinks for green tea. After excercise consume protein and oats and within 1 hour eat a meal. If you go below 15 calories per pound of body weight you will fail so do not deprive food. Along with this have one day a week of high carb intake, scoff some cake or a burger, maybe a pizza. Sounds crazy to do this for fat loss hey? well no because the days that you deprive carbs means your body needs tricking and to nderstand that you are not being deprived so that it goes into hibernation mode lol. Now to address the issue of bored with the gym. Heres some tips to stop that.

      1. Mix it up. Don’t keep doing the same old routine, be creative. I do weights and change my programme every six weeks. I also do treadmill but then i will also go swimming, a job on the beach a romantic walk, or boxing. You get the idea all that is limiting you is the depth of your creativity

      2. go with a friend, to lose motivation is natural and that is where your friend comes in….feed off each other

      3. set yourself reasonable, realistic goals. By achieving these incremental steps can psh your motivation through the roof.

      4.If you are going to train alone listen to your own music and use uptempo songs to boost your spirit.

      5. take photos of yourself in your underwear every two month and physically see yourself transform.

      6.Believe in yourself, you are worth it.

      Good luck!

      • Ali

        @ Adam:

        Thank you for the info on what types of things to eat and when as well as keeping motivation for working out; extremely helpful. I have heard similar- and incomplete- tips from other sources, and I am looking forward to seeing how it works for me. I noticed that some things work differently for me than most people, but I think that tweaking this for my body’s specifications will greatly improve my results. I have already lost 30+ pounds in the last 6 months, and I hope to loose another 30 in the next 6 months to come.

        Happy Fitness,

  • Aleksandra

    Hi Coach,
    could you advise – if Im not burning my calories from fat where am I burning them from?


    • Coach Calorie

      Glucose from carbohydrates, or glucose from protein via gluconeogenesis.

  • Shellie


    I started following you on Facebook. I really like your articles. They are very helpful and informative. Reading them reminds me that losing weight and getting healthy is not easy and that it’s really one day at a time. Thanks for sharing your healthful wisdom!

  • Ali

    I knew most of these tips to some extent, but I like how you compiled the information. I have a friend that I try to help with fitness tips, but if I don’t explain WHY a tip is a good one he does not take it seriously. This is a good practise and I commend him for it, but it makes it hard for me to help him sometimes. This article has given me a way to word some of the things I was trying to tell him without sounding like I’m a know-it-all. It also gives me a greater understanding of why these things are true, which solidifies the information in my mind and makes it easier to apply to myself.

  • Deb

    hi, i had an hysterectomy I dont have the female or the male hormone in me. How can i lose weight and build muscle, without taking a hormone therapy replacement?

    • Coach Calorie

      Deb, the same rules apply. It might be harder for you, but certainly not impossible. You are going to need to be even more vigilant when it comes to nutrition, exercise, and especially recovery.

  • Karri

    I was also going to agree with the weights over cardio myth.. I used to base most of my exercise routine around walks that lasted 10 kms… when I was younger, my routine focused exclusively (save 20 minutes or so) on weight training… results speak volumes and my results for weight management were always better with lifting.

  • Theresa

    You stated that you burn thousands of calories the rest of the day after workout; did i misunderstand that? how is that possible?

    I love your articles, btw. I’m studying to be a personal trainer and everything you say is right on track with what i’m learning…thanks

    • Coach Calorie

      Hi Theresa, you read that correctly. Whether you work out or not, you’re still going to burn thousands of calories. You’ll burn a few hundred calories during your workout, but thousands the rest of the day. The point is that while it’s still effective to burn calories during exercise, it’s even more effective to lose weight through proper nutrition.

  • Karri

    What is your opinion of Ketogenic diet plans… I’ve got a wonky metabolism (PCOS) and am finding I feel way better going on fewer than 20 grams of carb per day.

    • Coach Calorie

      I don’t think they are necessary, but they can work. If you feel good on lower carbs, have you considered timing your carb intake? Maybe only have carbs post-workout, or possibly even try some carb cycling between low and high days.

      • Karri

        Haven’t tried cycling them yet… staying away from the high GI starches has really been good for moderating my appetite.. if I get even 6 servings of starchy carbs spread through the day (while on Metformin) I find myself wanting to snack between meals.. but if I have a good sized green salad or other low GI veggies with protein my energy level has been much better as has my eye sight and mood and I’m seldom hungry. I think once I give my pancreas a bit of a rest.. I’d like to try incorporating them around my work outs. Any days that I have eaten a lot of carbs my words begin slurring, I am dog tired and don’t function while as well so I’m leary of trying high days and low days. But, having the boost to be able to do exercise.. for sure I’d love to try that.

  • Melanie

    Can you explain why I weigh more when I am sore? I teach fitness classes and am a firm believer in weight training! I have noticed when I change things up or have a particularly intense class, I am sore the next day and my weight goes up a few pounds. It does come right off when I am not sore anymore so I am just wondering what exactly is going on in my body and how can I counter it? Is that where protein helps? Thanks!

    • Coach Calorie

      I can’t explain that Melanie other than it’s probably just a fluctuation of water weight. If your weight is fluctuating several pounds from one day to the next, it’s not the kind of weight I’d be concerned about (fat). The only way I know how to help your issue is to stay off the scale ;)

      • Chrissy

        more water is retained after a hard work out or a different work out cause your body is repairing itself its normal to gain 2-4lbs after a workout

    • Heather

      My jeans are tighter the day after a good run.

      • Kristen

        You tend yo bloat a bit after workouts. I’m doing Insanity, and I have the same problem. It’s normal.

  • Karen

    I love the all the balanced information. I’ve been an avid exerciser for 35 or so years, but my body doesn’t necessarily reflect that. (My face must because few people believe I’m the age I am!). I grew up in the late ’70’s and 80’s when aerobic exercise was THE workout. And that was wa-a-ay before the information age! As a result, I have great cardiovascular capabilities! A cardiologist told me a few years ago that I have the heart of a 20 year old. Unfortunately, I have poor muscle definition. Thankfully, it hasn’t taken all that long to begin to see some definition since I began using weights in place of so much cardio. Tweaking my diet has been an important step as well.

  • Nayive

    I would like to know your opinion about P90X

  • Bob

    Does clenbuterol work for fat loss?

  • Qwerty

    My arms have become flabby and I’m scared of doing weights as I don’t want to end up with too much muscle

    • Rene Freeman

      Read the article above. Only weights will firm up the arms. Or you can use your own body by doing tricep dips etc. Look up workouts for the arms and you will find many.

  • Sandy Ellis

    I was never naive to believ that bs

  • Coach Calorie

    Anything that stimulates the central nervous system has the potential to aid in fat loss IF everything else (diet and exercise) is optimal. I don’t recommend clenbuterol though. It’s unnecessary.

  • Heather

    Thank you very much for this informative post!! I have read that our bodies burn a lot of cals just internally functioning. So I started focusing on weights, because the muscle burns fat. Now I feel I have been doing the right thing!