Saturday, January 28, 2012

Top 10 Fitness Facts & Myths

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10 Fitness Facts


No.1 "X" is the best form of exercise

You want to know the real best form of exercise? It’s the one you love. It’s the one you are motivated to do regularly and train hard at. It’s the one you want to keep improving at. That one is best.

No.2 Running wears out your knees

This 18-year-long study compared runners with non-runners and found no difference in the development of knee osteoarthritis between groups. In reality, running provides valuable training and lubrication for various body joints to enhance cartilage health.

No.3 Getting in shape raises your metabolism

An in-depth and tightly controlled study of identical twins by renowned obesity researcher Dr. Claude Bouchard found the opposite to be true. Exercise boosts metabolism during the act of exercise. However, as you improve physical fitness, your body begins to operate more efficiently so that you burn fewer calories while at rest and during exercise. Losing fat will also contribute to burning fewer calories because fat is somewhat metabolically active and you have less body weight to cart around with you everywhere.

No.4 Exercising causes you to eat more

A pile of research fails to show that there is any such thing as “working up an appetite.” In reality, a significant amount of exercise does not contribute to increased appetite and, as mentioned in No. 9, can lead to healthier eating habits.

No.5 Walking a mile burns the same number of calories as running it does

Walking at 4 mph increases your resting metabolic rate (RMR) by a factor of five. Running at twice that speed increases RMR by 13.5 times, more than three times the metabolic increase for only double the speed.

It’s also worth noting that running has a lot more of those beneficial training effects mentioned in No. 10 than walking does.

No.6 A high-protein diet is effective for gaining muscle

At a certain point, you just don’t need it anymore. Unless you’re shooting the juice and training long hours to build muscle fast, your body can only use so much. I had some conversations with nutrition expert Alan Aragon who told me that those looking to gain weight only need about 1.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.

No.7 Low-carb diets are effective for weight loss

The only thing that matters is calories. Caloric deficits can be done in a healthy way and an unhealthy one. Many experts consider low carb to be unhealthy, and I agree with them. I know that some experience weight-loss success with this approach, but I consider this diet as a last resort for the lazy.

Yes, there is evidence that it can be good for controlling appetite because of the high protein levels and the fact that the diet restricts a bunch of bad carbs that are high in calories. However, it also restricts the good carbs that are essential for exercise performance, the ones that can be quite satiating and contain valuable nutrients.

No.8 Weightlifting is an effective fat-loss strategy

By far the most effective fat loss strategy is carefully controlling caloric intake. Sustained and intense aerobic exercise can be a valuable addition to this.

Weightlifting does burn calories, but when compared to hard aerobic training, it pales. A hard session with the iron burns only 20% more calories per hour than walking at 4 mph, according to Essentials of Strength Training and ConditionAnd I’m sorry to tell you that adding muscle does not rev up your resting metabolism.

No.9 Exercise is about burning calories

Burning calories is just about the least important thing exercise does. Far more important is what is known as a “training effect.” Exercise has the ability to make you stronger, faster, more agile, and more flexible. It can make you more skilled at various sports and enhance your cognitive capabilities. It also enhances immune function and promotes longevity.

And if fat loss is your goal, intense exercise has a tendency to transform you into a better eater.

No.10 You need to train hard to see your abs

Remember Iggy Pop and his rippling abs? Do you think after a show he was going to the gym to do abdominal crunches on a Swiss ball? No, he was heading back to his hotel room to shoot smack and bang groupies.

And what he wasn’t doing was eating that much, because heroin suppresses appetite. Being in a state of regular caloric deficit kept Iggy’s frame at a low body fat level, and the abs popped out. That’s the way it works. You can enhance the look of your abs with some focused work, but if they’re covered in flab, no one will ever know.

Top 10: Fitness Myths


No.1 Crunches are the best way to get a six-pack

Everyone, from the average civilian to elite level athletes, has been fooled by the same misconception. Doing crunches and sit-ups is not the best way to get a six-pack. Having a visible six-pack is almost entirely a function of body fat and minimally a function of abdominal development. We all know the rail-thin guys that have a shredded midsection. Contrast the overwhelming majority of powerlifters who have insanely strong core muscles but don’t sport a six-pack. Intuitively, we all know this, but when we start to feel saggy in the midsection, we go straight for the ab exercises. Contrary to popular belief, training a muscle group will not burn fat locally. This means that doing ab exercises won’t burn fat from your midsection. Save yourself the wasted time and probable back pain -- the best way to get a six-pack involves making better dietary choices and doing high-intensity interval training.

No.2 Squatting is bad for your knees

The idea that squatting is bad for your knees has a few sources. Data on patellofemoral contact (kneecap against the joint) forces during these movements can show forces in excess of nine times an individual's body weight as the knee flexes through 90 degrees. This is coupled with doctors concluding that squatting is bad from your knees after seeing men come to them in pain from squatting. From the doctor’s viewpoint, this is a logical conclusion. If you hear people say they hurt their knees from squatting again and again, squatting must be bad for your knees. 

The gap in this logic is that most people without a history of knee pain squat without ever experiencing it. Regarding the patellofemoral contact force data, a number that seems strikingly high doesn’t necessarily imply that the body is not built to sustain these forces. Most men that have squatting-related knee pain have poor technique. In an attempt to keep their torso vertical, they drive their knees excessively forward. In a good squat, the angle of the shin matches the angle of the torso. This ensures loading of the posterior hip musculature (glutes and hamstrings) and minimizes the anterior shearing forces across your knee. In people with a history of knee pain, it’s best to try to maintain a vertical shin angle throughout the motion.

No.3 Basketball Shoes Protect Against Injury

High-top basketball shoes were invented in an attempt to minimize the risk of rolling an ankle as a result of landing on someone’s foot. These shoes, which increasingly have ankle support that mirrors ski boots, effectively limit side-to-side ankle motion. This will minimize the risk of ankle sprains but causes excessive range of motion at the knee. The knee has some rotational ability, primarily flexes and extends. Unfortunately, basketball shoes also limit the ankle's range of motion in dorsiflexion (shin coming toward toes) and rotation. When these ankle movements are restricted, compensatory motion occurs at the knee. Over time, this leads to a number of knee problems. Couple this with the fact that restricted ankle motion causes a decrease in sensory and reflexive ability of lower-leg musculature and consequent impairment of balance, and basketball shoes can be viewed as both injury inflicting and performance inhibiting.

No.4 Strength isn’t important for distance running

It’s true that every distance runner doesn’t need to be and, well, shouldn’t be built like a powerlifter. With that said, every distance runner should be doing some form of resistance training. This doesn’t mean the low-weight, high-rep crap that seems to frequent endurance training; this means strength training designed to actually get you strong (like sets of 6-8 reps). Distance running events are about covering a set distance as fast as possible, meaning speed is the key. Speed is improved by putting more force into the ground in each stride. More force means more strength. 

Think of it this way: If you need to put an average of five units of force into the ground each stride to attain your time goals, and you’re maximal capacity is 10 units of force, you’re working at 50% of your maximum capacity. If you improve your capacity through quality strength training to 15 units of force, then running at five units per stride is only 33% of your capacity. More likely, you’d increase your speed to maintain your given work intensity (in this case 50%).  Strength is far from the only component of being a successful distance runner, but it’s one of the most overlooked.

No.5 More is better

In an effort to get stronger, faster or to improve athleticism, most people default to adding more volume. This is often at the expense (or neglect) of added recovery. In order for your body to adapt, it needs sufficient recovery time. While brief planned periods of volume increases can be beneficial in increasing your capacity, continually adding volume will eventually have deleterious effects on your performance. Many men have heard that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill. This may be true in some cases, but it’s important to remember that quality practice leads to quality muscle memory and that fatigue masks fitness. In other words, you need to give yourself time to recover from skill-based practices, or you’ll be teaching your body to remember garbage movement strategies. Stress is necessary to stimulate improvement; recovery is necessary to realize adaptation.

No.6 A quick jog and a few stretches is a sufficient warm-up

Not overlooking the fact that many people don’t warm up at all, the quick jog to “break a sweat” and a few stretches is the default warm-up of those that do. There are a few benefits of this type of warm-up. By going for a quick jog, you’ll increase your circulatory rate and your body temperature, which can help improve the elasticity of your muscles. But this type of warm-up does little to stimulate the nervous system (or increase the excitability of the working muscles) and doesn’t take the working joints through a full range of motion. 

Static stretching immediately before exercise has been shown to decrease performance measures like power, speed, and balance. While the deleterious effects of static stretching are datable and frequently misinterpreted, this type of warm-up can still be improved upon. A dynamic warm-up consisting of joint mobility and muscle-activation exercises will take your joints through a full range of motion, increase the neural drive to the working muscles, increase the extensibility of commonly locked-up muscles, increase your circulatory rate, and increase your internal body temperature. This type of warm-up is ideal both in terms of performance and injury prevention.

No.7 Pasta is the ultimate pre-workout meal

For endurance athletes, there may be some benefit to the idea of carb loading. With that recognition, carb loading has been misinterpreted as requiring the need for large amounts of carbohyrates in the meal eaten before exercise. Pasta is the most frequent culprit. Most men have fully depleted their body's carbohydrate stores through the foods they eat throughout the rest of the day. Overeating pasta does little in the way of providing energy and likely leads to fat storage. Carbohydrates can also cause people to feel tired. A better meal option would be a balance of lean protein (like turkey, ham, fish, chicken, and lean beef), whole-grain products (such as quinoa) and vegetables. This provides a wider range of nutrients and gives your body the fuel it needs to perform optimally.

No.8 Long-distance cardio is good for fat loss

Just about every piece of cardio equipment currently manufactured comes with a nice display of target heart rate zones for “fat burning.” The idea behind these zones is that working at the specified target heart rates will allow you to burn the largest proportion of your energy from fat. Sounds tempting. What few people realize is that you actually burn the highest proportion of fat while at rest (around 70% of your energy comes from fat). 

There is a growing body of research now supporting the use of high-intensity interval training for fat loss. This form of “cardio” takes well less than half the time (typically 12 to 20 minutes) of traditional long-distance cardio and leads to better results. The only people that should ever do long-distance cardio are endurance athletes, people who have a complete disregard for the value of their time and people who aren’t in good enough health to pursue high-intensity intervals (in which case, lower-intensity intervals would still be better).

No.9 Getting in shape is good for fat loss

Most people equate losing weight with getting in shape. By definition, getting in shape means that any given workload (for example, a three-mile run at 7 mph) will be easier to perform and less costly in terms of energy. Using jogging as an example, this means you’ll need to run longer or harder to get the same metabolic disturbance (what causes weight/fat loss). This can lead to excessively long training sessions that take a significant toll on your body. One way to minimize this adaptation is to alter your methods of conditioning, like with biking, running, slide-boarding (if possible), and resistance training circuits. This prevents your body from becoming too efficient at any one modality and therefore increases the metabolic disturbance from each.

No.10 Static stretching decreases risk of injury

If people warm-up at all, they usually static stretch. Static stretching immediately before exercise can cause performance decrements; it can also increase your risk of injury. Stretching can also cause a short-term decrease in musculotendinous stiffness. If joints are relying on this stiffness for force production or stability, this decrease can lead to undesired joint movements and eventually cause injury. This is especially true in runners who do the standard calves and hamstrings stretches outside, and go immediately into their run. 

There is research demonstrating that runners who static stretch immediately before they run actually suffer more injuries than those who don’t. Dynamic warm-ups with joint mobility and muscle activation exercises will improve your range of motion while promoting muscular control. This gives you the best chance to move efficiently and avoid injury.


1 comment:

  1. The most effective component is these exercises will have either a low impact on your body or almost no impact at all. Persons seeking to burn probably the most calories in the least amount of time often like these abdominal exercise machines.

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