Myths and Misconceptions in Fitness

Before we get to today’s wellness topic I want to invite you to the Project JACKED reception on August 21st at Yellowstone Bank in Bozeman, MT, from 6:30-7:30pm. I’ll be giving a brief presentation on a few of the insights from the Project, how we made sense of the science in weight loss, fitness, health, and metabolism, and sharing some of the great results of the participants. And if you bring along your copy of Project JACKED, I’ll even sign it!


Now for this week’s message of Ultimate Wellness…we are going to take a look at several myths and misconceptions that exist in training and fitness. We are going to bust them, we are going to blow them out of the water, and we are going to call BS on them. And this is only the first edition in this category!


A long-held belief in the sporting world is that we need to practice carbohydrate loading and intensive carb feeding to fuel our training and competition endeavors. This isn’t really true and before you go ballistic let me explain. Carbohydrate is only one of the fuels our body can burn to produce energy. While we don’t really have an essential carb requirement (like we do with some fats and proteins, meaning there are essential fatty and amino acids we can’t manufacture and must consume), it is true that a small portion of our brain and our red blood cells are dependent on glucose. But this is a very small amount, approximately 5 grams, or about 1 teaspoon of sugar, in the entire circulation, that turns over roughly every hour. Our bodies easily make this amount of blood glucose as a by-product of fat and protein metabolism, and thus there is no real need for any ingested dietary carbohydrate. But hold on, I’m not taking an all-or-nothing, zero-carb stance here. I’m just saying that we can fuel most (but not all) of our athletics with less carbs than we were led to believe by conventional wisdom, antiquated government guidelines, and powerful marketing efforts by the sports “nutrition” industry. When we eat too many carbs we elevate blood glucose, insulin, inflammation, etc., and we blunt recovery and repair processes in the body. And a very high-carb diet (especially when those sugars are processed and packaged) makes the body almost completely dependent on sugar for fuel and it both disables us from accessing our stored bodyfat for fuel at the same time it stimulates more fat storage. While I don’t advocate carbo-loading, I do recommend personal experimentation with supplemental carb feedings (mostly from fruits and vegetables) around frequent, high-intensity, or long-duration workouts and competitions. Each person is a little different but if we first get metabolically fat-adapted (efficient at burning fat for fuel), and then use carbs strategically when needed for that extra boost, we often get both the best results and the most health. Sound good?


Another misunderstanding that I’ve found to be rampant is the concept that you just can’t do too much static stretching. First of all, we’ve got to hang onto our common sense and realize that you can do or be too much of anything, political or otherwise. Virtually all biologic function exists in a sweet spot, or Goldilocks position, where just right is the goal and too much or too little is both undesirable and potentially detrimental. And so it goes with static stretching. It’s not evil, it’s just a tool in our toolbox of training. Static stretching improves joint range of motion at end range by increasing the normal resting length of muscle. It is entirely indicated and useful when a person is restricted in range of motion, or hypomobile. However, most studies indicate that static stretching should be reserved for the end of a workout, and not the beginning, since it has been shown to weaken muscles by temporarily decreasing their force output capacity. Static stretching is great as part of a cooldown, but there are better ways to warm up for training or competition in most cases. For example, if you are a volleyball or basketball player doing repetitive vertical jumping, would you prefer your legs to be powerful, elastic springs…or limp, floppy noodles? And lastly, excessive static stretching can be a silent killer in the orthopedic sense for those individuals who are already hypermobile, or extremely flexible, as those people exist on the unstable side of the mean and more stretching robs them of their stability and pushes them away from their mechanical Goldilocks position. Just give consideration to the purpose of every training tool you use, that’s all I’m asking.


Finally, chronic training patterns, i.e. moderately hard workouts, day in and day out, don’t work so well. Grinding along in training has often been viewed as noble, worthy, and representative of grit and perseverance. Character traits shouldn’t always be so strongly connected with training patterns. Going moderately hard most of the time with no recovery windows tends to not promote significant increases in fitness while at the same time it inhibits training absorption and recovery. It’s the worst of both worlds. Now, I realize that many people exercise for different reasons, including stress relief, social interaction, meditative experiences, and many others in addition to just fitness. But I see many, and probably most recreational athletes (particularly those who are not coached or who lack extensive training experience) going too hard on their easy days and not hard enough on their hard days. This isn’t new science. Olympians were discovering the value of work/rest ratios and applying it successfully a century ago. And we have innumerable studies backing up the philosophy of smart training that challenges the body, lets it recover and absorb the stimulus, and then repeats in a timely fashion. The hamster wheel doesn’t cut it. I’ll end with a story. Used to know a dude who was a 10k runner. He trained at 6:29 pace on his “hard” days. He ran 6:31 pace on his “easy” days. Then he got peeved when he raced at 6:30 pace. A clear case of Captain Obvious!


So that’s all for today folks. If you’d like additional perspectives on this topic, check out this week’s brief YouTube video or have a listen to the podcast PK and I just recorded. Common sense messages that can help you 10x your training and life. If you like this content, please like, share, comment, and subscribe! See you at the gym, road, track, trail, court, park, and pool!

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