Hey, my name is Jennifer and I have been in the fitness industry for around eight years now. During this time I have worked in many gyms and I think I have heard it all! There are so many false affirmations that fly around the gym floor, changing rooms and car parks that I think its time I put them to bed... again!
Sometimes I feel like a broken record player when it comes to some of the myths I am about to squash, but just yesterday a girl asked me what food was best for burning fat on her stomach. If only it was as easy as eating a certain food! I don’t know where these myths came from or who started it but I am going to set the record straight!
Here are four of the biggest gym myths, busted:
1. Doing weights will make you look manly
Ugh, if I had a penny for every time I heard this! I can understand where this particular myth came from. You go to the gym as a newbie with goals maybe of tightening up, toning up and losing some body fat. You walk into the gym area and before you are 10+ men lifting big heavy looking weights, sweating and grunting with big bulging arms. You make the connection right there and then that if YOU do weights YOU’LL have arms like that.
Whilst the female and male body both contain the same muscles and therefore can be trained in the same way, males possess a LOT more of hormone testosterone - around a tenth to a twentieth more. This is the male sex hormone and this hormone enables men to develop muscles at a much faster rate than females. Not only that, but our bodies contain such small amounts of testosterone that we could never achieve the size then males do. We simply don’t have enough testosterone.
2. Doing sit-ups will give you a flat stomach
Doing regular workouts of core/ab exercises WILL result in a stronger core and amazing defined abs BUT, if you have a layer of fat covering your mid-section you will not see this! And doing these exercises does NOT mean that the fat in this area will go.
If you are looking to trim the fat on your stomach you need to create a calorie deficit so that your body starts to lose fat. You can create a calorie deficit through diet, exercise or both! I would always recommend doing it with diet and exercise because it is easier to attack it from both angles and will be easier to maintain.
Your hormones and genes dictate where you store your fat and what area of your body you will lose it from first; not how many sit ups you do in the gym.
3. Doing cardio is great for fat loss
This one is so common! No particular exercise is ‘good for fat loss’ as such. Cardio is a great tool to burn calories and so is anything that gets you off the couch! But the more you do cardio, the fitter you become and as you lose weight, you burn less calories than you previously did doing the same session at the same intensity for the same duration.
What is actually good for fat loss is creating a calorie deficit! You just need to ensure you are burning more calories than you’re taking in and this will result in fat loss. You don’t need to be doing five cardio workouts a week! Try hitting weight instead, as weight training results in an ongoing additional calories burn during the days following the workout as the muscles recover.
4. Eating clean is the best way to get lean
I can genuinely say I don’t know anyone who only eats ‘clean’ and has not succumbed to cake or a drink at some point.
What’s a good way to get lean? Create a calorie deficit! You can see there is a pattern here right? If you make your diet very strict and full of ‘clean’ foods (food that hasn’t been overly processed) then you’re really setting yourself up to fail because eventually normal life sets in, it's Friday night and the girls want pizza and prosecco and you can’t have it because it isn’t ‘clean’ . This way of eating is great IF it works for you but for most it isn’t sustainable. You should eat in way that is sustainable for YOU.
The best way to eat to attain a certain level of body fat is to just create a calorie deficit. Don’t ban any foods from your diet, just log what you eat using food apps (My Fitness Pal is a great one), set your calories and stick to it. You’ll find that when nothing is off limits you are able to stick to it, as long as you are within your calories for the day/week you will lose body fat. Suddenly it isn’t a diet anymore, its just how you eat.
See Jennifer in the new series of The Challenge: War of the Worlds, which airs on MTV in the US, every Wednesday at 9pm.
A little more about Jenny West...
Jennifer West has an established international career as a fitness expert, personal trainer and athlete. She is a seasoned bodybuilding competitor, winning national titles, and promotes a healthy and positive fitness and wellbeing lifestyle.
With years of training, experience and practical knowledge, she’s passionate about helping others fall in love with being active, fit and healthy, and her motivation and enthusiasm is showcased to her fanbase across her increasingly popular social channels.
She has been sponsored by major sports nutrition brands and you may have spotted her on 8 Out of 10 Cats, BT Sport and the ITV2 series Survival of the Fittest.
Jenny also made her debut in 2019 on MTV’s The Challenge – War of the Worlds 2 – which is being shown in both the US and the UK primetime on MTV. Known for her competitive attitude and athletic focus, Jenny may be one of the biggest threats to emerge victorious on her first season.
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