Myth 1: To burn more fat, exercise on an empty stomach.
Truth: Many people think if they exercise on an empty stomach they will, in turn, burn more fat. However, research has shown that the body burns approximately the same amount of fat regardless of whether or not you eat before a workout.
The truth is that after a night’s sleep, the muscles are depleted of glycogen, the stored form of glucose. Your muscles need glycogen to work harder and for longer, and your brain needs it for proper function. Because of this, without proper fueling, you may actually exercise less intensely, which could decrease the total number of calories you burn during your workout.
What Can You Do: To avoid this, for early morning workouts, try eating a small amount of rapidly digestible carbohydrates – such as a banana or slice of bread — about 30 minutes or so before you exercise. This will help give you the fuel you need to make the most out of your workout session.
Myth 2: The type of sports bra I wear doesn’t really matter.
Truth: When it comes to fitness apparel for women, sports bras are extremely important! They help minimize breast discomfort while exercising and reduce the risk of breast sagging, which can be caused by damage to the ligaments, tissue and other supporting structures of the breasts.
What You Can Do: There are generally two types of sports bras to consider and your physique will help dictate which one may be best for you.
For smaller-busted women, compression bras are a great option because they flatten the breasts against the chest. Larger-busted women should opt for encapsulation bras as the molded cup design tends to provide more support given their heavy duty construction.
Remember that fit is also an extremely important factor, so be sure to try it on to make sure the bra fits comfortably and be sure to consider the fabric type of the bra — proper ventilation will help to keep skin cool and dry thereby reducing chaffing. In addition, keep in mind that bras do have a shelf-life as the elasticity will diminish over time, so plan on replacing sports bras every six to nine months, depending on the amount of usage and your particular activity.
Myth 3: Sitting for long periods of time isn’t bad for your health as long as you exercise.
Truth: Preliminary evidence through several research studies has begun to emerge suggesting that long, uninterrupted periods of sedentary behavior (i.e. sitting for hours watching TV) may be bad for people’s heath even if they engage in regular, structured physical activity. Australian researchers at the Heart and Diabetes Institute at the University of Queensland determined that longer than average bouts of sitting and lying down are associated with a higher percentage of body fat in women.
What You Can Do: While more research is needed in this area, the take-home message is to try to be as active as possible whenever you can — in addition to your regularly scheduled workouts. Some examples of easy ways to add more movement to your day include taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking further away from the entrance to the grocery store, walking instead of driving whenever possible, taking a 10 minute stretching break at work, and playing with your kids in the yard. As you go through your day, keep in mind that every step really does count.
Myth 4: The old saying, “no pain, no gain” is true.
When people start to exercise, it is normal to experience some muscle aches and soreness. However, training to the point of pain (such as joint pain, muscle strain, and ligament or tendon strains, etc.) is not normal, nor recommended, so the old “no pain, no gain” mantra is false.
The whole idea behind adopting a healthy, active lifestyle — both during your workouts and in your everyday life — is to make a true behavior change and adhere to exercisinglong term whilebecoming happier, healthier, and more functional in performing your activities of daily living (ADLs).
If you train to the point of pain, you will more likely experience overuse injuries (physiological) and/or burnout (psychological). These injuries may ultimately derail your fitness plans and your ability to reach your health and fitness goals.
What You Can Do: Train smarter. This starts with setting S.M.A.R.T goals as well as identifying ways to be physically active in areas YOU enjoy — whether it’s mountain biking, practicing yoga, lifting weights at the gym, or walking with your family after dinner.
Realistic goals and activities you enjoy combined with gradual progressions in intensity and duration will help ensure your approach to physical activity is not only safe and effective, but also one which you can adhere to long-term, helping you to lead a healthier, happier, more active life.
Read Part 2 of this series, which was published on December 14.
Jessica Matthews, MS, E-RYTContributor
Jessica Matthews, M.S., E-RYT is assistant professor of exercise science at Miramar College. As a leading fitness expert, writer and educator Jessica is a regular contributor to numerous publications, including Shape and Oprah.com. She holds a B.S. in physical education teacher education from Coastal Carolina University and M.S. in physical education from Canisius College. She is a certified Personal Trainer, Group Fitness Instructor and Health Coach through the American Council on Exercise (ACE) as well as an Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher (E-RYT) through Yoga Alliance and trained stand-up paddleboard (SUP) yoga instructor. Prior to teaching at Miramar, Jessica worked full-time ACE, serving in a number of key roles including exercise physiologist, certification director and senior health and fitness editor. Her past work also includes serving as aquatics director at Conway Medical Wellness and Fitness Center and designing health and physical education curriculum for grades K-12. Full Bio Jessica Matthews »