8 of the most common exercise and nutrition myths to avoid in 2017

‘Everyone in fitness is trying to sell you something, nobody is trying to sell you the truth,’ writes personal trainer James Hanley.

EVERYONE IN FITNESS is trying to sell you something; a product, a programme, a diet pill or a magic juice.

Nobody is trying to sell you on the truth. The truth is there are no shortcuts or magic bullets. Hard work and consistency isn’t sexy; but that’s what it takes.

So next time, before you’re taken for a fool, keep these 8 exercise and nutrition myths in mind.

Calories don’t matter

How about that for a strong lead off? If someone has ever told you to just eat meat and veg and you’ll lose weight, or that calories don’t matter, they’ve got it wrong. Kind of.

Diets like Atkins, Paleo etc work because by the nature of the food they include (and also exclude) they inhibit the over consumption of calories.

Think about it this way – which is harder to eat and has you feeling full for longer; a plate of broccoli and three chicken breasts, or a can of coke and a mars bar?

Pretty much the exact same calorie content in each of them, but one is far superior for weight loss because of it’s nature. Calories very much matter.

All the popular diets account for them, even if they lead you to believe otherwise.

In fact, if you keep calorie and protein intake constant while on a diet, you can eat carbs and fats in whatever proportion you want without effecting your results.

Heavy weights will make you big and bulky

shutterstock_238825879 Shutterstock / Syda Productions Shutterstock / Syda Productions / Syda Productions

Ask any personal trainer their least favourite phrase and it will probably be “I don’t want to get too big”.

Getting big by accident doesn’t just happen. We all have friends who’ve spent the last year or two in the gym unsuccessfully trying to ‘bulk up’.

To assume you have a magic set of genes where the muscle gods saw fit to bestow superhuman muscle growth rate and potential upon you is ambitious, at best.

There is a massive psychological component to it – you might feel bigger because you’re lifting weights, just like you start checking yourself out in the mirror more once you start dieting, but in the real world, it’s all in your head.

Protein shakes will help you get jacked

To gain significant amounts of muscle you must combine a resistance training programme with a calorie surplus.

You’re asking your body to perform a very challenging job, so you must provide the correct tools and building blocks to make it happen.

Just adding in a couple of protein shakes while doing nothing else is like spitting on a raging fire.

You might feel good for trying and you can tell your friends you gave it a go – but ultimately you will fail.

One scoop of whey protein has less than 100 calories. You’ll be a LONG time trying to gain any appreciable amount of muscle with a shake or two a day.

Light weights are best for toning

shutterstock_278388485 Shutterstock / Undrey Shutterstock / Undrey / Undrey

Remember the whole “you don’t get big by accident” thing – and maybe you’ve done light weight high rep work before to tone up, just in case.

Here’s a kicker for you – you know bodybuilders? The guys and girls who train specifically to get bigger and more muscular? Do you know how they train? It’s not always with heavy weights.

In fact, for the most part they stick to higher reps (8-15, or even 20) and use a wide variety of exercises to fully exhaust the muscles. Which is basically the exact same thing you’ve been doing in order to AVOID getting big and bulky. Funny that.

Sprinting is the best way to lose weight

shutterstock_362436515 Shutterstock / Jacob Lund Shutterstock / Jacob Lund / Jacob Lund

While it’s true that sprinting burns more calories per unit of time than slow and steady traditional cardio, the problem is you can’t sprint for very long, and sprinting is very hard on your body.

That means the total calorie burn is low and the injury risk is high. People often cite the “after burn” effect of interval training as being the reason for its superiority.

What they fail to mention is that this “after burn” is usually only worth 30-80 calories.

That means it would take approximately 65 sessions of “after burn” to lose a pound of fat.

I’m not anti-interval, I just want you to know the actual data before you get seduced by the bro-science dogma. Slow steady training and sprint intervals both have a place in a well structured training programme.


IIFYM or “if it fits your macros” is a made up diet protocol that basically says you can eat whatever you want once it fits your “macros” (macronutrient requirements – protein, carbs including fibre, and fats).

While it might be nice to believe you can eat cookies and drink protein shakes and get in shape, any kind of fad diet that promises such a result should be avoided.

That’s not to say you have to eat perfect all the time. You can absolutely eat 80% good and 20% ‘bad’ and see great results. But you still have to do the work.

Despite what Jared from Subway would have you believe, diets like that are not sustainable.

You should start your diet with a detox

shutterstock_425903008 Shutterstock / Anna Mente Shutterstock / Anna Mente / Anna Mente

No one has ever actually told me what you’re “removing” from your body during a “detox”.

They talk obliquely around the topic referencing things like “chemicals” and “toxins” that “accumulate” in your blood.

There’s a very good reason why no one ever specifically names what they claim to remove during a detox – if they pinned their flag to the mast you could do before and after measurements of blood work to see its effect.

And as everyone with half an ounce of sense and no vested interest knows – the results of scientific analysis wouldn’t back up their pseudo-scientific ramblings. By the way, you are detoxing right now. That’s what your liver, kidneys, skin and lungs do.

Personal trainers never mess up

This one’s my favourite.

For some reason people see PTs as infallible perfect salad eating, lycra wearing, burpee machines who are constantly full of energy and eager to exercise.

I’ll let you in on a dirty little secret – we’re just people too.

We have good days, we have bad days and we have days where we really couldn’t be bothered eating anything but chocolate and pizza.

Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed to tell your trainer you messed something up – chances are they did too!

I doubt this article will be popular among other trainers and fitness enthusiasts since it calls them out on a lot of the products they’ve been selling you, but my job today is not to be liked – it’s to shed some light on the seedy underbelly of the health and fitness snake oil salesman.

James Hanley is head personal trainer at Revolution Fitness in Glasnevin. A gym that specialises in getting exceptional results for real people who live high pressure lives. He can be contacted on Facebook here or through his website here.

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