With new years resolutions on their way out the door just in time for bikini season, these tips could help motivate you to properly begin working out- whether for summer 2018 or summer 2019 or the summer after that…
A useful hint is to be wary when listening to fitness people on Instagram, or even those in real life. These are common mistakes you assume are correct which can routinely inhibit results, their negative effects going amiss from right under your nose (and squat rack).
Most myths pertain to the physical, but some sarcastic remarks of equal value have been thrown in for your reading pleasure down below.
This post is sponsored by Just Strong (athletic wear). Discount code coming soon. Follow my fitness account @mayafitx for videos and advice.
1. ‘There’s a ‘best time’ to work out’
People think that working out in the mornings is a golden rule. The good thing is that it’ll get you out of bed early (depends on what you count as morning) and that it’ll be done and over with, freeing up the evening to your own desire.
But the most important thing isn’t the time of day, it’s the duration of the work out. Coordinating a time that fits your schedule is important, so you have time to get everything done and get out, rather than rush it.
Research shows that your body can adapt to a consistent time and that cardio workouts in the morning kick-start your metabolism whereas short burst exercises like squats may be best left for evenings. However, as long as you fit them in before 9PM (when your body begins to shut down in preparation for sleep), you should be okay and benefit from simply fitting them in.
Truth be told the best time is both always and never; you dread it but after you drag yourself there you won’t regret it.
Just listen to your natural body clock and make sure to fit the workout in. Circadian rhythm is influenced by the Earth’s daily rotation which influences bodily functions such as blood pressure, heart rate and hormone levels.
2. ‘Fat can turn into muscle through lifting’
Unfortunately for us all, fat is not magically metamorphosed into muscle. Cosmetically, the body can only undergo a few changes at a time- it can either lose and gain body fat or lose and gain muscle. You have to focus on either gaining muscle first or losing fat- and keeping protein intake up will help with both of these things. This is because to lose fat, you must deplete yourself of calories whereas gaining muscle requires an increase in calories.
Akin to a neutral engine, muscle is a tissue which actively burns calories whereas fat stores excess energy. They are not connected and, like a round in a WBA match, one must fall for the other to rise.
3. ‘Grunting and moaning loudly at the gym makes everyone respect you (and attracts ladies)’
Aristotle and his scholastics once said that everything has a purpose. Even if his scientific theory was de-bunked, I can use this theoretical maxim to ask ‘what is the purpose of grunting at the mirror in the gym’? Or eye-seducing your reflection while you do a bicep curl?
I don’t think it helps you gain anything- especially not sex appeal or phone numbers- other than judgemental glances. I get random noises escaping from your lips upon occasion, but some take it to another level. Please find other ways to de-stress. Perhaps your significant other can help with that obnoxiously loud energy release, if you catch my drift.
How has this obnoxious behaviour transformed into standardised gym etiquette?
4. ‘You NEED to take protein supplements’
The short answer is no- nobody ‘needs’ protein supplements. If you’re not getting enough protein, you shouldn’t turn artificial supplements and/or vitamins into a meal replacement. You should rather focus on formulating a more balanced diet which is rich in protein and healthy carbs.
However, whether you will benefit from protein supplements in terms of the results you’re rewarded with depends ultimately on your workout and your goals. Naturally, a diet higher in protein and lower in fat will produce leaner muscles and gains. If your workout is less than 30 minutes and based on fat-burning and cardio, you won’t need protein powder. But if you opt for high resistance, heavy weight lifting and endurance activities (such as long distance), you’re likely to need more protein than the standard sedentary person.
Of course, you can get amazing results solely by consuming more protein from food sources, but the powder will probably give you quicker results even if it isn’t exactly optimum health-wise.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance for protein is 0.8 gm/kg/day, so just make sure you’re meeting this rough requirement primarily through food sources and you’ll be okay. For example, I’m 50 kg so I aim to get at least 48 grams of protein but I almost always go over.
Non-vegan protein powders are also terrible for you, in many senses of the word. Not only are you inundating yourself with hormones which will make your skin break out profusely, but they are actively unhealthy- they have both cholesterol and saturated fats that their vegan counterparts lack. And they could cause gross indigestion.
If you do want to take protein powder, I would suggest the MyProtein vegan blend (the tasteless one is healthier but the chocolate smooth flavour is more tolerable) which combines pea protein, brown rice protein and hemp protein. It doesn’t taste amazing but it mixes quite well. Pain is gain, I suppose. Buy a shaker and mix it with water half an hour before or after a workout. But you should lower your caloric intake and not take it too much as it can cause bloating or even slight weight gain. I suggest two or three times a week.
P.S. Anyone can also benefit from taking B12 Supplements (Holland & Barret). B12 naturally occurs only in soil bacteria rather than in plants or animals, so everyone is deficient in it without a supplement (meat eaters consume it because animals are injected with it). Eliminate the middle man and take it directly so you can have control of your own body and the vitamins you consume.
5. ‘A vegan diet isn’t the most optimal option for getting the best results’
Contrary to layman and ‘roid-head’s opinions, veganism is superior to carnivorous diets for muscle-building and fat burning alike. You will consume far less fat and artery clogging matter while improving the quality of your digestive system, while your protein sources will be purer.
Just look at Sophia Miacova, Amanda Cerny and Beyoncé- a vegan diet cuts their fat very easily due to the health benefits and obvious restrictions while building their bum and making their skin glow brighter than the Canis Majoris.
Loading up on 20-30% of healthy fat sources as well as muscle building amino acids like beans will do the trick. Swap rice for quinoa and keep your protein levels high.
Just last year, Mr Universe (Barny du-Plessis) said that veganism gave him more energy and improved his recovery time. He was even planning to retire from body-building UNTIL he discovered veganism. Not only did he find it easier to gain weight (although the opposite is easy as well), but it was the best decision of his life. Go beyond the blindly outdated paradigm of the fitness industry to become the best you that you can be.
6. ‘Wearing gym shark makes you a pro’
Gym Shark is a phenomenon which has taken over the fitness industry, or at least the one that is paraded on IG. Similarly to My Protein, influencers and body builders alike promote it regularly, usually free of charge (although they’d often like you to think otherwise).
Like Regina George’s rulebook of plastic etiquette (pink on Wednesdays, jeans on Fridays, army pants and flip flops whenever), Gym Shark has been conflated with cool. It is a royal cress emblazoned on a red knight’s shoulder, a ticket to the privileged world of the gym lad and ladette elite.
However far along with your progress you are, you needn’t worry. Just a glimpse of the small gym shark logo will prove to all the strangers you’re trying to impress that you’re nothing but a certified expert worthy of sponsorship by flat tummy tea.
All you need now are resistant bands and a videographer and you’re basically Tammy Hembrow. The illusion of defined abs, pecs and a narrow torso are just a flash sale away. I’m kidding of course, they’re really not that flattering.
The leggings bless your butt though, so that justifies the price apparently. I’m not above buying and promoting a pair myself to be quite frank.
7.’You can get a six pack from sit ups and crunches’
It’s a tired saying but abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym. You know those ‘natural’ abs that some blessed golden girls and boys seem to have- they’re not simply formed, but rather hidden within yourself as well, and the way to make them appear is by scraping away all the body fat sheltering your ribcage. After you’ve lost weight, your abs will begin to show through and then you can begin to strengthen your core and develop those pesky ab muscles.
You need to make sure you strengthen your core, especially through compound exercises that require a strong core- such as squats. Your internal obliques, the erector spinae and transverse abdominal are muscles buried deep under the skin which begin to emerge after you lose the fat (through cardio and high energy exercises) and your core becomes stronger.
Sit ups and crunches will help but consistency with compound exercises and holding positions like planks will take precedence. Superficial exercises such as crunches are the least effective so should be varied and left to the end of the workout- like the cherry on top of the cake that you must avoid at all costs.
Similar to a double figure Instagram picture, make use of your legs and different angles.
8. ‘You won’t lose muscle tissue if you take a week break’
Sorry to dampen your holiday, but even a week’s worth of a gym-break will dampen your results (unless you’re some kind of genetically blessed vixen). How fast you lose muscle will depend on your physiology, age, gender, type of training and fitness level.
But, ultimately, even as long as a week may slightly impact the tautness of your body. No need to trade the beach bar for the squat rack just yet, however. The impact will be only noticeable to you unless you rest for about a month, and you can always fit in some light at home exercises to allow you to maintain your physique, putting the most important muscle of all (your heart) at ease.
I often make use of ridiculous things like thousand page uni books and suitcases to act as weights. If anyone questions you, just direct them to this article and retort with the tried and true maxim: ‘no days off, excuses are for kids’ (I joke, of course, unless you’re actually a tool).
10. ‘Having different days (split workouts) solely for certain muscle groups is enough’
Full body workouts are not necessarily always the way to go – it is difficult to focus on isolated muscle groups and the intensity may be too hard to realistically handle. They should be left to beginners and cardio fanatics, or intermittent exercisers. If you’re trying to lose weight rather than gain muscle, then full body workouts are designed for you.
However, split routines that always isolate particular muscle groups are also not enough- if you skip a workout, that muscle group won’t be maintained and it will be easier to ignore set ‘days’ until the next time comes around. Structure your workout properly so as not to overdevelop certain muscles and deny others.
Don’t just hit each muscle group only one day per week. Rather, have designated days for muscle groups such as legs, glutes and upper body in the way you would for a split routine, however also have a designated cardio/full body day.
ALSO, I personally make sure to do some leg, ab and arm exercises every day before I begin my split routine and focus on a designated muscle group. For example, I do around 5 sets of 10 reps of squats, crunches and push ups at the start of every work out and then proceed to do the heavier weight leg/ab/arm exercises for that set day. This makes sure to maintain the muscles.
Fitness models and advanced lifters should go for split routines but make sure they maintain the other body parts as mentioned above.
11. ‘Only cardio can help you lose weight; weight lifting bulks you up and doesn’t burn calories’
While cardio is a popular and more effective weight loss method for those on the heavier side, weight lifters needn’t worry- while weight lifting obviously does form muscle, it also burns fat and is great for heart health (especially squats).
It increases your heart rate and metabolism which burns calories as it is an anaerobic exercise in a longer time span; the muscle recovery causes you to burn fat even better than relying solely on aerobic exercises.
However, it is important to remember that heavy weightlifting may cause weight gain- but only if you gain muscle, which weighs more than fat. Yet it will also burn fat (which is the goal of weight loss, as opposed to simply losing mass). It is possible to lose fat without losing weight if you start training hard.
Weight loss all depends on your caloric intake- if your food consumption gives you more caloric energy than the amount of energy you burn and use up during the day, the energy will be stored as fat in the body. If it’s less, the fat will go to the liver which breaks it down in lipolysis. As the muscles use the energy of the fat when weightlifting, it is possible to lose weight this way.
12. ‘Women should be scared of putting on muscle’
This protest to lifting always baffles me; it’s not as easy as it may seem to actually gain muscle, and if you are prone to doing so, the ‘bulking’ effects can be limited with less fat and perhaps a very lean vegan diet.
Men seem to grapple at women’s bodies, trying to think of new ways to verbally denote them. Serena Williams, for example, has been called ‘too muscular’ whereas very thin women like Taylor Swift ‘lack curves’.
The sure-fire way to get back at this patriarchal idiocy is to be as healthy, fit and strong you can be, accepting your body type while working on it with health as your main goal. And also getting strong enough to beat up beta male sexists.
Images are either my own or sourced from Instagram.