As a whole, the world of fitness is filled with some amazing resources and folks who do nothing but deliver value to hundreds of thousands of people.
These days, we can enjoy some awesome youtube channels, blogs, and research reviews that deliver science-based and practical information regularly.
But, on the other side of the coin, we’ve also got a lot of misinformation out there. Granted, some folks don’t know better. But we’ve also got our fair share of charlatans and gurus that push certain agenda, so they can bring in clients or sell their products.
To that end, we’ve put together a list of the six biggest female fitness myths to avoid. Know them, stay clear of them, and you will save yourself a lot of time and frustration.
Myth 1: Weights Make You Bulky
Ah, a myth as old as the internet.
I’m not too sure where it first came from, but it’s everywhere – in blogs, magazines, videos, and books.
One guess is that this myth first showed up in the late 70s and early 80s when female bodybuilding began gaining some popularity. For the first time, the world saw some incredibly muscular women, and someone thought, “Well, look at how lifting weights impacts women.”
Fair point, to an extent.
But what many people fail to realize is that none of these women became as muscular as they did naturally. All of them used performance-enhancing drugs (steroids), which make a night and day difference when it comes to muscle growth.
What’s more, these women consumed incredibly large amounts of food, so the body has enough energy to build all of that tissue. They also followed some ridiculous training programs where they trained upward of three hours every day.
In other words, they had a specific goal (get as muscular and then as lean as possible) and followed some insane steps to get there.
Ever since then, the myth of weight training has been everywhere, and lots of girls today still believe it, afraid to touch a barbell for fear of getting muscular.
As a normal girl who is only looking to tone up and maybe lose a bit of weight, you shouldn’t be afraid of lifting weights – you will not, in any capacity, become bulky or man-like. Muscle growth is a slow and meticulous progress. It takes careful planning, lots of training, lots of food, and the use of steroids for weight training to ever have such an effect on you.
Being afraid to lift weights for fear of getting ‘too big’ is similar to being afraid of ever playing chess because you may accidentally become a world champion.
Myth 2: Cardio Is The Best Form of Exercise for Weight Loss
Cardio is indeed an excellent form of exercise for general endurance and good health. Plus, it also burns a good deal of calories, so it can be a valuable tool when trying to lose some fat.
Have you ever walked into a commercial gym, only to see the cardio section swarmed by girls looking to get fit for summer? Exactly.
But, the idea that cardio is the end all be all for weight loss is quite misguided, yet totally relevant even today. Here’s the thing:
If you start eating less food and start doing cardio, you will lose weight. But there’s an issue with that: weight loss. Your goal should be fat loss.
You see, unless you also do some form of resistance training while dieting, you will lose a significant amount of muscle mass. This is because your body needs a reason to keep muscle around when calories are restricted. And weight training sends a signal that, “Hey, we need this tissue around. Don’t burn it off for energy.”
Big whoop, right? Why would that matter?
Well, having more muscle on your frame allows you to maintain a higher metabolic rate, and, thus, eat more calories as you get leaner. This is because muscle is a metabolically-costly tissue, and the body expends calories to keep it around.
The other thing is, the more muscle you manage to retain while losing weight, the more actual fat you will lose. In essence, that would make the whole process of getting lean much more efficient.
And, finally, muscle provides contour for the body. As you shed fat, you achieve the lean and athletic look (commonly referred to as ‘tone’). A common side-effect of rapid weight loss without the inclusion of resistance training is becoming skinny-fat (i.e., you appear thin, but still have a layer of fat covering your body).
So, yes, cardio can be beneficial, but you also need some resistance training within each week to give your body a reason to keep muscle around.
Myth 3: Avoid Carbohydrates At All Cost
To be sure, how you exercise will undoubtedly play a big role in the results you’ll achieve. But nutrition matters even more because the number of calories you eat every day will determine how your body weight changes (if at all). And your nutrient balance (protein, carb, and fat intake) will determine how your body composition (muscle to fat ratio) changes.
Carbohydrates, in particular, are generally known as the ‘bulking up’ nutrient, especially among men, and a lot of women today are afraid of eating carbs because they think that it will make them fat. But, the fact is, carbohydrates are equally important for men looking to get bigger and women looking to shed fat.
Carbs are the primary source of energy for the body. The nutrient plays a crucial role in our metabolism, development, cognition, hormonal balance, and athletic performance.
The idea that carbs, somehow, make us fat is misleading at best and dangerous at worst.
This is even more accurate if you’re active because your body needs carbohydrates to replenish its glycogen stores, provide the brain with glucose, and spare protein from getting burned off for energy.
As a general rule, carbohydrates should make up between 40 and 55 percent of your caloric intake. For example, if you’re currently eating about 1600 calories per day, that would equate to 160 to 220 grams of carbs per day. Why? A gram of carbs has four calories, so 160 grams are 640 calories (or 40 percent), and 220 grams are 880 calories (or 55 percent).
Put simply, if you want to feel good, stay mentally-sharp, perform well in your workouts (and everyday life), and maintain good health, you need to consume enough carbs.
Myth 4: Not Feeling Sore and Exhausted After a Workout? You’ve Wasted Your Time.
Have you ever found yourself thinking, “Wait! I don’t even feel sore from yesterday’s workout! I’ve wasted my time.” If you have, then you’ve fallen victim to the age-old myth, which states that muscle soreness is a sign of a productive workout.
It’s not clear where this myth first came from, but it’s every bit as relevant today, and lots of girls out there feel like they’ve wasted a workout if they don’t feel sore afterward.
Here’s the thing about this myth:
Muscle soreness is not a sign of a good workout. It’s not a sign of muscle growth, and it’s not a sign of fat loss. Muscle soreness is simply a stress-response from your body, suggesting that you’ve caused muscle damage and disruptions at a cellular level.
But muscle damage itself doesn’t indicate fitness progress. In fact, too much of it can have the opposite effect – hormonal disruption, fatigue, and muscle loss. In other words, overtraining and regression.
Plus, muscle soreness tends to decline as you become consistent with a given exercise program. So, does it mean that only the first couple of weeks (when you feel the sorest) deliver results? No, it doesn’t. A fitness program can deliver results for a long time, so long as you apply yourself.
And on that note, it’s become a common belief that you should crawl out of a workout, rather than walk out.
“Feeling cute and energetic after a workout? Well, you’ve not done enough then.”
I can agree here, but only to a degree. Yes, your workouts should feel challenging, and you should feel a degree of discomfort while exercising – that’s how you push your body to improve. But, it shouldn’t get to a point where you feel completely exhausted.
It’s all about balance – not too much, yet not too little. Just the right amount will allow you to progress, stay healthy, happy, and injury-free. How much that is for you is up to you to find out on an individual level because we are all different, and no single recommendation can work for everyone.
Myth 5: Want Better Results? Exercise More.
If you spend a bit of time online, you’ll be sure to find dozens if not hundreds of content creators, online coaches, and fitness enthusiasts who spread the idea of “more is better.”
Want good results? Exercise more. Want better results? Exercise more. Are you not losing weight? Exercise more. Can’t sleep at night? Exercise more. Are you experiencing an existential crisis? Exercise more.
Well, maybe not the last one, but you get my idea. It’s always that – no matter what the problem is, the solution is to always pile on more training stress. Plus, it makes sense. More exercise, more calories burned, a greater stimulus to your muscles, more results.
After all, aren’t we always told, “You get what you put in.”?
But, here’s the thing about fitness:
It’s a stressor to the body. So, we need to be careful about how we use it to our benefit because we don’t want to over-do it. Yes, training volume (the amount of work we do within a given week) is imperative for progress. But research has found that there eventually comes the point where doing more doesn’t deliver better results but instead hinders our recovery.
In essence, the process by which fitness affects the body is as follows:
You cause stress to your body (exercise) => You then take some time to recover (sleep, relaxation, proper nutrition, and hydration) => Your body recovers and develops so it can better handle that same level of stress the next time around (muscle growth, strength, endurance, etc.)
This is how the process looks when you introduce an appropriate amount of stress. But, if you always do too much, the pendulum swings in the opposite direction:
You cause too much stress to your body => You then can’t recover properly before the next workout => Your body adapts to some degree, but not enough
Do that long enough, and you reach a state of overtraining where your progress declines, your joints begin to ache, you don’t have motivation, you can’t sleep well, and your visual progress goes backward.
So, it’s not just about exercising more. It’s about finding a balance of doing just enough work to push the needle forward, but not too much that you feel under-recovered all the time.
Myth 6: Strength Training Is a Men’s Activity
Let me start by saying that, among the many macho statements out there, this one has to take the cake.
“Strength training is a men’s activity.” Seriously? Who came up with that idea?
“Don’t lift weights. You look like a man!”
This is a statement I’ve personally heard in a gym, and I can’t begin to describe how livid I got. Similarly, some folks out there spread the idea that strength training is inherently dangerous for women and can lead to injuries. Apparently, men are made of steel, and women are made of cotton.
Here’s the thing with these, ahem, not-too-bright ideas:
Strength training is incredibly beneficial for everyone – men, women, old, and young. It delivers so many benefits (that reach far past the visual changes) and takes so little time that it would be a crime not to do it, especially if you’re looking for a time-effective way to exercise.
So, if you want to do strength training, go ahead and do it. It’s an amazing form of exercise, it’s far safer than most options out there, and it brings about amazing physical and psychological benefits.