5 fitness myths I used to believe

Ever feel completely overwhelmed and confused when it comes to the enormous amount of information out there regarding fitness and nutrition?

There are so many people saying so many things and so many products promoting so many benefits that it just becomes a never-ending flood of questions about what to believe.

Ever since I started exercising and paying attention to my health and fitness, I’ve fallen into several “information traps.” I got sucked in to what some fitness personality said and failed to do the research myself, or in some cases, I flat-out read the research and it ended up being wrong.

Thankfully, I’ve corrected some of these mistakes — though I’m sure there are plenty more that I’ll find out about later.

However, here are 5 things that I believed at one time and actually followed in my own health and fitness journey that ended up being myths:

1. I used to believe supplements would make a huge difference

I fell into the fitness marketing trap fairly early on that told me taking supplements was the secret to achieving exponential levels of results.

I used to take BCAAs (branch chain amino acids), I used to take a pre-workout, and nearly started taking a whole host of other supplements that were marketed as the thing I needed to experience results like never before when it came to building muscle, leaning out, or how I felt during a workout.

I also took — and still do — a protein supplement and creatine.

But here’s the thing: protein and creatine are scientifically proven to work.

For nearly every other supplement out there marketed to fitness enthusiasts and weight lifters, there is little to no science to back up their effectiveness or that they make any sort of noticeable difference.

Take BCAAs, for instance, which are presented as a must-have for muscle recovery, growth, and repair, and many weight lifters take BCAAs are every, single workout.

The fact is, you have to be an extreme athlete for BCAAs to have a tangible effect, because for the vast majority of us, if your nutrition is in the right place, you’re getting all of the essential amino acids from the foods you consume. From Examine.com: “They're not only found in supplements, but also in high levels in foods such as eggs or meat, rendering supplementation unnecessary for most people.

As is the case with just about anything, the more natural route is the way to go. Instead of chemical-laden and artificially sweetened pre-workouts, drink cold brew coffee. Instead of wasting your money on amino acids, just eat lean meats and eggs.

2. I used to believe a good workout needed to get you sore

Most weight lifters wear their soreness like a badge of honor. Not being able to walk the next day after a hard leg workout is championed.

Muscle soreness is absolutely an indication of muscle breakdown, but at the most basic level, training and working out is the process of getting your body to respond to a new level of stress.

But being sore is not a requirement to experience muscle growth, and in some cases, it can actually mean the opposite.

Sal Di Stefano of Mind Pump has a great article that explains the error in training to get sore and then not training again again you’re no longer sore, calling it the “breakdown recovery trap.”

3. I used to believe body part splits were the most effective way to train

This is one of those myths where it’s not truly a myth; but instead, the answer lies somewhere in the land of “it depends.”

For beginners, body part splits often yield incredible results. It certainly was the case for me when I began lifting weights.

I did body part splits and build fantastic amounts of muscle very quickly.

However, as I got further into my fitness journey, body part splits weren’t producing the same results. Some of this had to do with the programming of my workouts — admittedly, my workouts were pretty unoriginal and didn’t push me very hard — but there’s also some science to explain why I began to plateau with my workouts.

I wrote an article on how total-body training can be more beneficial for more advanced lifters, which included references to a study in which “the findings suggest a potentially superior hypertrophic benefit to higher weekly resistance training frequencies.”

Said another way: workout the major muscle groups more often throughout the week in a total-body style.

I still do body part splits from time to time, but more often than not, I’m going through different phases of training focused on strength, muscle growth, or power and performance in a total-body style.

4. I used to believe foam rolling was necessary

When I was going through my personal training certification coursework with NASM, there was a heavy emphasis on getting clients to foam roll (aka self-myofascial release) before and/or after workouts.

The belief was that foam rolling would work out knots in the muscles and that it would get the “grains” of the muscles to realign to help reset one’s musculature.

However, more science is coming out that shows that foam rolling doesn’t do what we originally thought it did.

Foam rolling does serve a purpose: When your muscles get to a point where the muscle gets overworked, overused, or tries to take over for muscle imbalances, the central nervous system sends a constant signal to that muscle to stay tense and tight. That’s how these “knots” occur.

Foam rolling tells the central nervous system, “Hey! Ease up, will ya?!” It relaxes the tension in the targeted muscle and blunts the signal from the CNS to the muscle.

This is great, but it’s not a permanent solution. Foam rolling doesn’t address the root cause(s) of the issue, which could be muscle imbalances, poor muscle recruitment patterns, or poor exercise mechanics and form.

While foam rolling is great to release tension or stress within your muscles or to help you move in the proper way, it is more important to fix the issues causing the tension in the first place.

5. I used to believe protein intake needed to be super high to build muscle

Another fitness marketing trap.

I used to think that to rapidly build muscle, I needed to consume as much as 2 grams of protein for every pound of my targeted body weight. So if I wanted to get to 160 pounds, I believed I needed to consume at least 320 grams of protein a day.

Which, looking back now, is insane.

For most people, the only way to even come close to that many grams of protein a day is to supplement with protein powders, bars, and shakes, and guess who pushes this myth the hardest … supplement companies.

To eat 320 grams of protein a day naturally, you’d need to consume the equivalent of a little more than 7 chicken breasts. Bleh!

The reality is it’s more like 1-1.5 grams per day to build muscle, which is totally reasonable.

Far more important to building muscle is your overall nutrition — not supplementation — and the quality of your workout programming.

Michael Ashford