A gym is more than just a place to exercise. It can be a meeting place to socialize with friends and share advice — often bad advice and downright myths.
If you enjoy correcting your friends when they are completely wrong, here are a few often-heard bodybuilding myths with the real facts exposed.
You Are What You Eat
Many bodybuilding myths concern what you can and cannot eat to gain muscle mass and that “ripped” appearance so many are striving for. Or, they involve what happens if you change your routine, and so on. A few favorite bodybuilding myths are:
• Gaining fat—This is one of the kings of bodybuilding myths. It holds that you cannot obtain bulk without gaining fat. In fact, while eating healthy is needed to aid in muscle building, you only need to consume a few hundred more calories a day to achieve peak form. Depending on your body type, this could mean eating as few as 200 to 300 additional calories per day.
• Heavy vs. fat—Along those same lines, word has it that bodybuilding will cause you to gain weight or become fat. While you will be heavier as you gain muscle mass, that is because muscle is seven times heavier than fat. The heavier muscle takes up less room. This is why your clothes will be looser even as the weight scale rises. So you can be heavier than a much larger person who is carrying a load of fat.
• Vegetables—Yes, you should eat your vegetables. Despite the prevalent bodybuilding myths to the contrary, vegetables are a good source of slow-digesting carbohydrates. Building muscle requires three things: exercise to stimulate muscle creation, nutrients for muscle building and recovery, and calories. Proteins and calories will build muscle. So vegetables, combined with proteins like nuts, dairy products, or soy products, can help meet those requirements and will help you feel full, as well.
• Muscle to fat—Another king of the bodybuilding myths says that muscle will turn into fat if you stop training. The truth is, muscle and fat are two different things. However, if you do completely stop training, your metabolism will likely slow, so you can gain fat, as your muscles get smaller even if your diet never changes.
• Stay ripped—This myth actually has an element of truth to it. The myth states that you cannot be “ripped,” or have ultra low body fat and visible muscle striations, all year long. The truth is that maintaining that look inevitably requires cutting back on nutrients your body needs for optimum operation so that you can reduce body fat.
The ultra-lean look, then, can only be sustained for a couple of months out of the year before something has to give. For women, who naturally have more body fat, trying to stay extremely lean can have a bad effect on their hormones, particularly the sex hormones.
What Do Women Really Want?
The involvement of women in bodybuilding has led to a raft of myths concerning their training habits and the effects of muscle building efforts on their body and self-image. Most of these can be thoroughly debunked. Perhaps you have heard some of these bodybuilding myths concerning the female form:
• Train like men—This myth states that women should not train like men, whatever training like men means. If that means not doing dead lifts, a woman’s body goals are her own and her training should match those goals. There is no inherent danger in lifting heavier weights if she is seeking larger biceps.
• Weight danger—In the same vein, many people seem to believe that Olympic lifting is too dangerous for women to attempt. It is for anyone trying to lift a large weight without proper training and technique. There is no danger that is specific to women.
• Masculine—You have heard it: Lifting weights makes women look too masculine. Women do naturally carry more body fat and so obtaining that ripped look takes a more disciplined diet and exercise routine. Women’s physiques can be anything from slim and athletic to brawny. It depends a lot on genetics, diet, exercise intensity, and volume. They can be what they want to be, given the right set of circumstances.
• Protein powder—No, women do not need special female protein powder. No ingredients will affect their bodies any differently than a man’s, so both genders can scoop from the same jug.
Armed with this information, you can inform your friends that their solid beliefs are actually just a bunch of myths and that they can achieve any muscle building goals the old fashioned way: with exercise, a good diet, and plenty of sleep. As someone once said, they can just do it.