It boggles my mind really that there are so many misconceptions to working out and living a healthy life style. I don’t know why it boggles my mind really, because I too watch the infomercials and am intrigued by the buzz words they choose to use to sell their products. The uninformed public desperate to lose weight and feel good again takes these things to heart because they are bombarded by the fancy “science” and guys in lab coats. I am going to try today to dispel some of these myths by separating fact from fiction and helping people create a better understanding of how the body works and what REALLY happens when you workout.
Let’s Start very simple: 1. Fat DOES NOT turn into muscle or vise versa. Fat and muscle are two completely separate organs. They have two completely different functions in the body and it’s important not to confuse them. Fats primary roll in the body is to create a cushion and protect vital organs. It helps to transport fat soluble vitamins and is necessary for insulation and temperature control in the body. Muscle on the other hand is a support system, it helps keep your bones erect it provides your body with stability and it is actively moving and changing. Muscle uses food as fuel where fat on the other hand, just absorbs the excess causing it to expand. So you ask, what happens to fat as you get more fit? Simple, the fat cells shrink. See you are born with a set number of fat cells and depending on how active or inactive you are they either expand or contract. When you eat, two things happen. One, some of the food gets stored in the body in its most basic form and then two, the rest of it gets used up to provide you with energy. If you consume to much food your fat cells expand to accommodate the extra energy your body is not using. As you become more active your body turns to those fat stores and begins to use the reserve to fuel your body hence the fat cells shrink. As fat cells shrink, and you build the muscle that is under it, you start to see the definition of the muscle as it hypertrophies(gets bigger). Since muscle uses more energy than fat, your metabolism speeds up and you use the energy you take in more efficiently there for keeping the fat cells from expanding.
2. You CAN NOT spot reduce. Spot reduction simply means that you want to shape or mold one part of your body specifically. This is not possible. Your body moves as a unit. Some areas will change faster than others and a million crunches and biceps curls will not give you shapely arms or washboard abs on their own. A few other things have to be put into place before you start to see either change. Also as a disclaimer, genetics plays a role in this as well so you may be doing all of the things I’m about to mention and still never get a six pack….I’ll explain later. Lets start with diet. As I stated earlier, if you are consuming more energy that you need you are just going to continue to stretch your fat cells. Second remember how I said that muscles use more energy than fat, well when it comes to muscles, bigger muscles burn more overall calories that smaller ones. So If your eating is out of whack and you are blowing out biceps curls hoping for supermodel arms….it aint happen-in! Let’s think about this. Biceps are small muscles they are not going to use as much energy as say your legs for instance. Also your building your muscles that are under the fat that is laying on top of them so instead of making your arms smaller you can actually make them bigger because the fat cells are not shrinking and your building the muscle under it. Oops! not what we were going for. However, if you combine cardiovascular activity such as the walking or running or elliptical, you will be using more energy which will help to shrink the fat cells in your body there for showing off all the hard work of repping out biceps curls. Same can be said for the abs as well. If you do not incorporate cardiovascular activity and healthy food choices your abdominal’s will be ultra strong from the crunches but the fat that is on top will not go away! So add a little cardio and some fruits and veggies to your diet and you will get a leaner physique. Now going back to the genetics. Some peoples bodies are just not predisposed to having certain muscle definition. Flat abs is possible, because you are shrinking the fat cells that lay on top of the abdominal wall. However, the six pack look may vary, some may only get a four pack or some may not get any distinct definition at all… really it just depends on your body type and how your muscles respond to your weight lifting efforts.
3. Lifting heavy weights is NOT going to make you look like a man: Oh if I could collect a quarter every time I heard that, I swear I would be freaking rich! Seriously, this is a huge misconception and yes I would be rich off of collecting quarters because that is how often I hear this. I don’t know where it came from or where women get this idea, but HONESTLY, I am about to dispel this myth for you so that you too are not afraid to pick up heavy weights! First, from a hormonal stand point women, do not have the same amount of testosterone as men. Second women are not physically built the same as a man. Third, diet and sometimes, supplements are what can be attributed to large muscular physiques. Testosterone, a hormone that can be found in men and women, but more so in men. It is what gives men their masculine characteristics. It also helps with bone mass and muscle growth. Since men have more testosterone than women it plays a more primary roll in men’s muscle development, along with other male sex characteristics. Since women have less testosterone, physically, women have both a smaller bone structure and physique than a man. This smaller bone structure has a harder time handling the forces that heavy bulky muscles put on your body. While women are able to put on muscle mass and look muscular it is only in proportion to their size. I know your skeptical…hold on I know what you are thinking! “What about female body builders?” OK, I am just about to address that next. OK, your female body builder question, a women does have the ability to drastically increase their muscle mass to be similar in size to a man, however, this takes extreme dedication, strict diet adherence, and even sometimes the use of supplements. Women body builders not only lift heavy weights but they also lift very very frequently, sometimes for hours at a time. Body builders also adhere to a very strict diet. Many consuming upward of 3000 calories a day. You see, muscle thrives on fuel and it is very important that body builders keep their muscles well fed. Sometimes women who body build also use muscle enhancers such as creatine a steroid like substance that helps to promote muscle hypertrophy. Getting the body builder physique takes a lot of hard work and dedication. Many general exercisers are not consuming the amounts of food that these competitors are ingesting and they do not have the time of day or desire to be spending hours in the gym. On the same token, many average women exercisers are not taking muscle enhancers or supplements unless hopefully under the supervision of a doctor. So hopefully this helps to quell your fear of getting big and bulky.
So what have we learned today from all of this?
First, muscle and fat are not interchangeable.
Second, if you want to see changes in one area of your body you have to work the whole body.
Third, women should not fear bulking up, instead, they should feel confident that lifting heavier weights is going to make them stronger, leaner and longer.
I hope that this helps you move forward in your weight loss and weight lifting efforts. Its been a pleasure helping you dispel some of these myths! Have a happy healthy holiday!
Written By Julie S.