The modern world is so full of lies, pushy marketing and false claims, that it’s exhausting to break through all the misleading information every single day. It’s so comforting to know that at least fitness industry is full of perfectly honest people – after all, their ultimate goal is to make everyone healthier, right?..

Unfortunately, wrong. Just like any other industry, fitness is a big business, with big money involved – and sadly, what you see elsewhere, you’ll see here too. Many programs and solutions out there are outright frauds, sucking out your money and energy with very little results achieved.

Just like cosmetic salons or shops, gyms want you to come back, otherwise they don’t get any funds to operate! This is understandable, but reality is way too many fitness ‘professionals’ knowingly make false claims so that you keep coming back.

Another problem is the overwhelming number of options that someone encounters when entering the fitness world. Crossfit? HIIT? Pilates? Weight lifting? And what are all these fancy machines at the gym for?

Trying to pick an option or getting burnt out due to bouncing between everything is very stressful on its own, becoming a prevalent reason for quitting before good habits get a chance to form.

In this article, we are going to fight against misleading marketing and help you navigate the endless sea of options, helping you to make an informed, evidence-based decisions.

Everyone seems to be an expert

When processing the information about a product, program or anything else fitness-related, please remember: looks can be deceiving. Somehow, when it comes to this industry, it’s extremely easy to fall into a trap by switching critical thinking off and validating something basing solely on claimer’s appearance, e.g. “This guy is really muscular, he’s definitely an expert!”.

Reality is much trickier: a claim does not magically become valid just because someone making it looks fit. For instance, Ronnie Coleman says that 25 sets of curls per workout is ideal – does it mean it’s true just because he looks the way he does?

Of course not, and this claim is not scientifically supported; and Ronnie looks the way he does largely because of genetics, use of certain substances (we won’t name them, hope it’s ok with you!), and extreme dedication.

Likewise, if some skinny lady tells you all she does is brisk walking once a month, often with a doughnut in one hand and a large frappe in another, it doesn’t mean this is enough for everyone to stay in shape. Maybe she has extremely fast metabolism – good on her!

But this lovely woman is not qualified to give out expert advice, nor she is able to evaluate your circumstances professionally.

Only professional trainers with appropriate education are qualified to provide fitness related recommendations – looking good, or even being an athlete, is not enough. What works for someone, won’t necessarily work for you, and ignoring this simple truth in fitness may lead to bad stuff, period.

 

Contradicting advice

Fitness industry is swamped with conflicting information. Pick any claim – and you will find endless opinions for and against it. So how to choose a side? Keep calm and do your research!

Below, we will debunk some of the most popular myths and you’ll see for yourself how much truth can differ from ‘popular’ claims.

Should you work out on an empty stomach?  This one is a super-hit, particularly among those who have fat loss in mind.

Both beginners and experienced fitness junkies skip breakfast and engage in vigorous cardio, inspired by the theory of increased fat burn in absence of glycogen [1]. Turns out, however, that having fuel in the system has much more benefits, preventing muscle repletion and facilitating post-exercise fat burning [1].

Hit the gym or the sack when sick? Many people out there will tell you to “push it through“ and “sweat out the cold” – but science is not entirely on their side. Exercising when sick interferes with fighting the disease, and your workout will likely do more harm than good [2].

Will marathon running wreck your body? “Marathon running will destroy your body” is one of the most popular online attention grabbing claims. In fact, the damage is temporary and lasts for about 24 hours, provided you are otherwise healthy and fit [3].

Cardio vs. weights: Which is better? The never-ending war between cardio and weights is not likely to end anytime soon, but we still feel obliged to say that none is inherently better. Both are important, and a professional personal trainer will help you find a perfect balance for your goals and concerns.

Can you spot reduce fat? There are still too many people out there doing crunches to get a six pack or running to make legs thinner. If you are among them – stop right now, as you absolutely can’t spot reduce bodyfat; it melts gradually and somewhat evenly across the body regardless of exercises you do, if you create energy deficit [4].

Consumers are always looking for the next best thing.

“But what about that super popular program?”, you’re asking. Well, as we’ve mentioned before, the fitness industry relies on those fad regimens to make some extra dollars by selling ordinary stuff under miraculous claims. And it works! Let’s have a look at just some of the prior crazes…

TAE BO – this oldie is still popular, claiming that incorporating martial arts inspired moves is just so much more effective than anything else. In fact, doing star jumps and burpees for the same amount of time would work just as well. There is nothing special – all it does is makes you move. You don’t need to buy expensive videos to do that.

VIBRATING BELT – although it’s very appealing to stand around while some awesome machine exercises your muscles, there is no evidence whatsoever that such devices help even a tiny bit [5]. Also, remember what we said before about spot fat reduction? Fraud, fraud, fraud.

THIGHMASTER – similar to vibrating belts, this awkward device won’t specifically target any areas. High impact full body exercises are a much better time investment…

8-MINUTE ABS – while you may develop some basic core strength with this one, especially as a beginner, it won’t give you a six pack. In fact, nothing but having a very low body fat percentage will [6]. Abs are made in the kitchen.

Diet Pills – those are truly a nightmare. Best case scenario – the pills don’t work. Often, however, much worse happens. Developing serious, sometimes fatal, health conditions after ingesting diet pills is not at all rare [7] – please be wise and don’t even enter this territory, ever.

AB ROLLER – this one is actually pretty dangerous, especially for beginners! Slipping awkwardly and falling on it is no fun. And much like 8-minute abs, this one won’t give you a flat stomach, for all the same reasons [6].

To stop feeding the trolls and take control over our bodies, we need to learn to stop falling into these traps. Before committing to a program, do your thorough research – or better still, ask a personal trainer if it’s worth your time and money. In 99% cases, the answer will be NO.

The basic truths

So does anything out there work? Fortunately, there are a lot of basic truths that do the trick just fine. Print this list out and stick it on your fridge:

Shortcuts don’t exist. Hard work and dedication will give you long-term results, but you may have to wait a bit to see dramatic changes.

You can’t change your genetics. Some people naturally have thin builds and fast metabolism, some put muscles on really quickly…and it doesn’t matter if it’s not you. It’s not about trying to look like “her”; it’s about being the best version of yourself.

Detoxes, cleanses & strict diets are not sustainable long-term. You’ll probably drop a little bit of weight (mostly water), and then put it back on, possibly some extra on top. Don’t waste your time.

Exercise is not punishment. You just need to find an activity that works for you. Dancing, weight lifting, running – anything that motivates you and makes you smile.

Gimmick products prey on your insecurities. Real stuff uses your strengths and works from there.

There is no magical pill, powder, or supplement. If there was such a miraculous solution, it would not need annoying ads. Everyone would know!

You don’t have to be miserable or deprived. Take your time and don’t be a perfectionist – every little step counts. You’ll reap far greater results doing the good things consistently than haphazardly doing something deemed perfect.

Stick to the basics: eat well and perform appropriate workout to see results, that’s really all you need.

Conclusion

The main take home message is simple: be smart, do your research and don’t let marketing tricks throw you off track. Instead, work with a qualified personal trainer to design an effective, evidence-based program that works for you and stick to it – and you’ll get amazing, consistent results in no time.

References

1.         Longazel, B., Fuel To Burn: Why Only Fat-Loss Fools Train On An Empty Stomach. Bodybuilding.com, 2012.

2.         Primos Jr, W.A. and J.R. Wappes, Exercising—or Not—When You Are Sick. The Physician and sportsmedicine, 1996. 24(1): p. 55-55.

3.         Lippi, G., et al., Acute variation of biochemical markers of muscle damage following a 21‐km, half‐marathon run. Scandinavian journal of clinical and laboratory investigation, 2008. 68(7): p. 667-672.

4.         Schade, M., et al., Spot reducing in overweight college women: its influence on fat distribution as determined by photography. Research Quarterly. American Association for Health, Physical Education and Recreation, 1962. 33(3): p. 461-471.

5.         Kaban, L., Does a Vibrating Belt Reduce Belly Fat? Livestrong.com, 2015.

6.         Del Monte, V., How To Get A Six-Pack – Complete Ab Program! Bodybuilding.com, 2016.

7.         Swenson, R.D., T.A. Golper, and W.M. Bennett, Acute renal failure and rhabdomyolysis after ingestion of phenylpropanolamine-containing diet pills. JAMA, 1982. 248(10): p. 1216-1216.