WHY are we so obsessed with our weight and diet? Maybe it’s because we live in a time when appearances matter more than ever before, and everyone is in a hurry to look good and feel better. But read this and wince: reports say 97 per cent of dieters regain everything they lost and then some within three years. So what really works? Our obsessive search continues, fuelling the multi-billion dollar weight loss and fitness industry. Each year brings new findings, each one, we’re told, is ‘the final word’ in finding our (good) form. So, cutting through the hype and brouhaha, what are the biggest myths than bog us down on the route to good health? Chatting with Namita Jain, Mumbai-based fitness and nutrition professional, I decided to make use of her 25 years of experience in the wellness industry and seek her help in busting some fitness myths. The lady, once a pro athlete and swimmer who has written 10 books on staying in shape, broke it down for me.
Myth 1: To lose weight, concentrate on cardiovascular exercise, dump the strength training.
“Sure, cardio is essential for weight loss,” says Jain. “But strength training increases muscle mass and improves your body’s metabolic rate so you burn fat faster. So add strength training at least twice weekly to your regime. You’ll burn at least 50 calories more per day.”
Myth 2: Warming up before working out is not really essential. It is waste of valuable time. Nope. Warm ups prevent injuries. “Your body literally warms up to prepare for the exercise ahead. Not warming up is kind of like putting your car straight into third gear when you drive.” Cool downs are equally important.
Myth 3: Muscle turns into fat when you stop weight training.
The body has muscles, bones and fat. All three are different. If you stop working out, you’ll lose muscle definition. That’s it. “Fat is fat, totally different from muscle, one can’t become the other,” says Jain.
Myth 4: Women who lift weights get “bulky”. So women – avoid weights!
Wrong. Women don’t have the genes or hormones to make them bulky. So strength or resistance training only tones your body, not make you into a female Schwarzenegger. “Your muscles will look defined, you’ll carry yourself better, have better posture,” says Jain.
Myth 5: Eaten too much while partying? Skip your next meal or two. It’s unwise to starve, warns Jain. “You need calories for energy, so you must eat at regular intervals – smaller meals which will boost your metabolism. If you’ve binged one day, eat regular, small meals the next day, don’t starve yourself.” A better idea would be to prepare yourself mentally or physically (a bowl of soup) so you’re not inclined to binge, she adds. Don’t mess with your metabolism.
Finally, be sensible. “Don’t act on half-baked knowledge. Find a formula that works for you.”