5 Training Myths

Carbs are the enemy
One of the biggest myths that surrounds current nutritional thinking, both in terms of sports nutrition and general dieting, is that carbs are the enemy and are responsible for the increase in body fat. This just simply is not true and is just as instrumental to your progress as protein. Sure, consuming too many carbohydrates could lead to an increase in weight gain, the same way as consuming too much fat or protein would, but this is more related to the amount excess calories rather than directly to those dastardly carbs. Consuming too few carbs could actually be more detrimental as it could greatly negatively impact exercise performance and muscle building potential. In fact, too few carbs could even hinder fat loss by putting more stress on the body leading to a greater release of cortisol, the hormone that kills gains! Carbohydrates are your body’s number one fuel source, especially if you participate in regular exercise. If your body’s levels of stored carbohydrates are not replenished adequately following exercise, your recovery and subsequent exercise bouts will be severely hampered. Focussing on consuming the majority of your carbs around your workouts is a great way to make sure you get the energy you need for your workouts without the risk of over consumption.

Soreness is a sign of an effective workout
Muscular soreness has long been used as an indication of a productive workout, but is this really the case? Simply, no not really. We’ve all been there, waking up the day after a particularly tough workout and getting enjoyment from feeling more sore than usual, but no matter how much we want it to, it’s not actually a great indication. Numerous studies have shown that muscular soreness is not directly related to hypertrophy. Those of us will a few years training experience under our belts will no doubt have learnt that things like proper nutrition, training frequency and stretching can easily reduce soreness. But by this logic using these tools to reduce soreness surely means that these workouts were not as effective right? Definitely not. In fact it’s probably actually a good sign that your recovery is far better, which will only ever lead to greater gains. DOMS tends be strongest straight after periods of inactivity, when exercise is a greater shock to the muscles requiring them re-adapt, but this doesn’t mean that these workouts were the most effective.

Weight training will make me bulky
Now this one common, and particularly frustrating, myth is more directed towards our female readers but is actually relevant to men as well. It is a common misconception among women that lifting weights will turn them into the overly masculine muscle bound monsters found in the magazines. But what these women don’t realise these are the extreme examples, and it would impossible to do this ‘naturally’. It is basically the equivalent in saying that you want to play Sunday league football but you don’t want to be as good as David Beckham. Unfortunately, it’s just not that simple or there would be many more examples like this. It is women who fear this the most, but who also stand to gain the most by lifting weights. As a guy, it is incredibly hard to naturally gain a decent amount of muscle (trust me I know), but it is many times harder for women for one simple reason, testosterone. Testosterone is the key to building and maintaining lean muscle, but women naturally have only a small percentage of the levels of testosterone that men do, greatly limiting their muscle building potential. This makes the idea of the average gym user/health enthusiast putting on vast amounts of muscle just cannot happen by lifting a few weights. In fact, weightlifting is actually the best way to achieve that healthy, strong, athletic body shape that many women would like, especially compared to cardio alone. Weightlifting can lead to firmer, more shapely and toned legs, glutes and upper bodies that cardio cannot. And if you needed any more reason to pick up that iron, muscle mass mean more calories burnt, helping to keep excess body fat away!

I just want to ‘tone’ my muscles
The term ‘toning’ is not really a real thing. When it comes to muscles they tend to only exist in two states, muscle growth or muscle loss. If you are training frequently and intelligently enough, assuming your nutrition is on point, your muscles will spend the majority of the time in growth mode. If you are not doing any of this then it is more than likely that you will be losing muscle due to inactivity, hence the old saying ‘use it or lose it’. You cannot really change the appearance of muscles to make them appear more defined, you can only make them bigger or smaller. What makes them appear more ‘toned’ is actually the loss of body fat that covers and hides the musculature. If you want to have more ‘toned’ muscles your focus should mainly be on the loss of body fat and making sure you have adequate muscle mass for your desired goal. Training specifically to ‘tone’ muscles is likely to accomplish very little.

Muscle turns to fat if you stop lifting
This one is also one of the most popular (and probably ridiculous) myths around when it comes to bodybuilding or other weightlifting sports. The idea that muscle will turn into fat once training has ceased, is as about as likely as iron turning into jelly. They are two completely different types of tissue with vastly different roles and molecular structures that are not interchangeable. In fact, increased levels of muscle mass will actually lead to a higher quantities of calories burnt, actively reducing body fat levels. The only way a cessation in strength training will result in an increase in body fat is if food consumption is not altered to reflect the reduction of energy expenditure. For example, if a bodybuilder stopped training but remained on the same diet, his calorie intake would be far greater than his calorie expenditure, resulting in an increased fat storage. But remember, this is not the same as muscle turning into fat!


Beau Scott

BSc Sports Biomedicine and Nutrition