In last week’s column, I presented the first part of the list of “Bad Advice” that my friends, clients and colleagues have encountered over their lives and health and fitness journeys. Here is Part 2:
1 — A vegan client of mine has been told repeatedly, “You have to eat meat to build muscle.” Earlier this year, I presented research findings from a study that compared groups of exercisers who ate an omnivore diet with a vegan group. Both groups supplemented with protein powder and had results that were virtually identical at the end of the study. The results showed that it was more important to consume adequate protein in any form than whether the protein came from animal or plant sources.
2 — A friend who eats a more traditional diet that includes animal products has been told, “You have to cut all animal products out if you want to be healthy.” While there are many eating styles that can lead to good health, there does not appear to be one “healthiest” diet. Additionally, there is overwhelming evidence, both anecdotal and scientific, that animal products can be part of a vibrant, healthy nutrition plan. Regardless of whether someone eats animal products or not, it seems that the bigger variable when considering what to eat is the amount of processed, refined, sugar and sodium loaded food that one consumes. Cooking from scratch with fresh, whole ingredients is the bigger driver of healthy eating than being vegan or an omnivore.
3 — “You can only lose weight if you run!” There are just too many success stories of people losing weight through diet and any number of exercise options to imagine that it can only happen with running. I also know many exercise runners adults who might be classified as “overweight” as well as many lean, fit who have never run as a part of their daily. It is a great activity, but, high risk for some and definitely not for everyone. Additionally, expert opinion is that dietary intervention and healthy eating is responsible for as much as 80 per cent of sustainable weight loss. The remaining 20 per cent can come from all different kinds of exercise of which running could be one.
4 — Seniors should not lift weights and should walk for exercise. Walking should be a part of everyone’s healthy living plan, seniors included. For older adults, however, there are large amounts of evidence that strength training is even more important for maintaining an independent lifestyle and for managing or warding off progressive diseases like diabetes and hypertension. Seniors should walk as much as possible, but, they should also lift weights and/or perform strength exercises several times per week.
5 — Women should only lift light weights to avoid getting bulky. This is another antiquated bit of “advice” that has been hard to die. In my personal and professional experience, most women with whom I work are stronger than they think they are when we start. They could often lift heavier weights than what they default to in their training. 2-3 lb weights just aren’t going to do much of anything for an adult who wants to build functional strength and lean muscle. I believe that the reluctance to pick up 10 to 20 lb weights (or even heavier) can be traced back to the misinformed idea that a woman lifting weights will become muscle bound and look “like a man.” The reality is that women have to train incredibly hard and frequent while consuming muscle building supplements to build significant muscle in such a way as to become “muscle bound.” To maintain lean muscle tissue, bone strength and functional ability, women should lift weights. And probably more than they “think” they can.
6 — Don’t exercise so that you won’t use up your finite “battery life force.” Perhaps the worst fitness advice that I have ever heard. The idea of a finite store of energy that can be drained by exercising can be traced back to a number of theories throughout history; Especially the “evidence” based ideas that surfaced during the Victorian era intending to keep women “fertile” and keep factory workers profitable. Since then, science has continually debunked this idea and actually proven that more exercise leads to more energy throughout one’s life cycle. In recent years, the theory has resurfaced as Donald Trump has defended his reluctance to engage in physical activity while referring to the idea of a finite battery life force. While it might provide a convenient excuse for those who prefer a sedentary lifestyle, it’s worthwhile to remember Newton’s First Law; A body at rest will remain at rest, and a body in motion will remain in motion.”
When considering advice, consider the source and if it seems too good to be true, it usually is.