Many that start their journey of trying to embark on a new, healthier and more active lifestyle often find themselves drowning in advice, from a fitness industry overflowing with complicated, confusing and often contradictory information.
So here are four major ways the fitness industry is keeping us confused and tips to help navigate the waters as you embark on your new fitness journey.
It’s almost impossible to pick up a fitness magazine or read a blog post about working out, without being bombarded with the word protein. We need protein to survive but the recommended level of dietary protein is only about 10% of our total calories. About 1-1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight is generally considered enough to build muscle. So, the reality is that it isn’t as gargantuan a task as it is sometimes made out to be to take in reasonable levels of protein. But what about when I consume protein, it’s gotta be right after my workout, right? Wrong. Studies show that muscles replenish glycogen just fine regardless of when you consume protein, so giving yourself indigestion for the sake of ‘gains’ is not a smart move. This doesn’t mean we should just give up on protein, but obsessing over how much protein you’re eating everyday, and rushing home from the gym to gulp down that shake of yours, is not only boring, but probably isn’t helping your progress all that much.
You’d be hard pressed in this day and age to find someone who hasn’t heard through the grapevine that carbs are bad. This is perhaps one of the biggest nutritional myths of all time. Carbohydrates are one of the macronutrients that the body needs every day for energy.
However, not all carbs are created equal. Refined carbohydrates such as sugars and syrups are high in calories but provide little in the way of nutrients and should be eaten only in moderation. Whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables on the other hand, are brilliant carbohydrate foods that should be celebrated rather than demonised. These carbohydrates are amazing sources of fibre, vitamins and minerals, that are a vital part of any healthy diet. Don’t believe us? Take a look at the Okinawan diet centred on sweet potatoes and rice, or in other words, carbs. Okinawa has some of the lowest mortality rates and one of the longest life expectancies in the world.
Carbohydrates should not be seen as the enemy, like any major food group they can be one part amongst many of a healthy balanced diet. As a rule of thumb anything you read that demonises an entire food group is, for the most part, probably an exaggeration. So give up your carbo-phobia and eat your fruits and vegetables.
Unfortunately today, aesthetics regularly comes before function or health in most people’s reasons for hitting the gym. For the average gym goer, how you look in comparison to models and movie stars has taken priority over living a healthy lifestyle. With the sheer saturation of fitness influencers and brands presenting the image of human perfection and impossible standards, it’s no wonder we are made to constantly feel inadequate. It might surprise you then to hear that muscle mass, strength and potential muscle growth are “highly heritable traits”, with 30-80% of muscular potential being genetic (NCBI). The reason your friend may have a more muscular stomach or bigger biceps than you may not be solely because she’s more “dedicated” in the gym (despite what every instagram post or fitness influencer might tell you). It’s possible genetics are at play as well.
So what does this mean? Should I give up trying? Am I doomed to a mediocre physique for the rest of my days? Definitely not, anyone can get in shape and drastically improve their health and appearance, but constantly comparing yourself to friends, family or even worse, your favourite fitness personalities (who have almost certainly won the genetic lottery and also have being fit as their primary occupation) is not the answer.
Your fitness journey is yours. Doing the best you can do is all anyone can ask for. So, you might never have a six-pack, or 20 inch biceps, and this is not a bad thing. It’s important to remember that being healthy is not the same as looking good. If we all strive to live as healthy as we can and stop comparing ourselves to others, then our fitness journeys and the results we see from them will only improve.
Time is not the enemy. Who doesn’t want to get in shape overnight? To show up to work with your newly crafted physique and wow all your colleagues, is something we’ve all fantasised about. Unfortunately, changing how we look and feel takes time. There is no quick fix. It comes as no surprise then, that 50% of all new gym members quit within 6 months (IHRSA). Why? Because working out is hard that’s why, and a lack of progress can demotivate us. Especially when so many workout plans promise unrealistic results in short amounts of time…think ’28 days to your perfect summer body’, it is no wonder people get disheartened.
The truth is, there is no magic supplement or ab routine that can give you that beach body in a matter of days. But don’t let that demoralise you, your hard work is paying off. It just might take a little longer to see results. And when the results do show themselves, the feeling will be all the sweeter.
Fitness is great. We should all strive to be fitter, healthier and happier beings. Some people may use the fitness industry as a source of guidance, and if that’s what you need to give you that little bit of encouragement to get moving, then go for it. But remember, the fitness industry is just that, an industry. Like most industry it is driven by profit, and that can sometimes lead to consumers falling victim to temporary fads and dodgy advice.
Good luck on your fitness journey, don’t forget that the journey is ‘yours’, no-one else’s, and what you read in magazines or see on the tv may not be as real, or indeed healthy as it might seem.
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