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The 10 biggest fitness mistakes

by Josephine Andrews
Published: Last Updated on 401 views

Sore muscles are good, fitness drinks make you fit, fat deposits can be trained off in a targeted manner – is that true? There are many persistent myths surrounding sports and fitness. Here’s what’s really behind the biggest fitness misconceptions .

Fitness Mistake #1: Sore muscles are caused by “sour” muscles

If you can feel every muscle the day after your workout, you haven’t just put in enough effort, you’ve simply overtaxed your body. Hard, sore muscles are a sign of tiny injuries to muscle fibers. They develop when muscle cells are overstrained by unusual stress. They tire as a result and are then no longer able to adequately cushion rapid braking movements – micro-traumas occur.

Sore muscles have nothing to do with an excess of lactic acid (lactate) – as was previously assumed. Lactate does build up in the muscles when you exert yourself. However, this will decompose within a few hours. The actual pain is probably caused by inflammatory processes in the maltreated area. The debris from the injured cells is dissolved and carried away, causing the muscle to swell.

People suffering from sore muscles should therefore not train against the pain in order to break down the supposed lactic acid. That only makes things worse. Instead, gentle movements that promote blood circulation and thus accelerate the regeneration processes, as well as heat from the sauna or bathtub, help.

Fitness Mistake #2: Stretching protects against sore muscles

The idea dates back to the 1960s, when researchers still suspected that sore muscles were caused by cramped muscles. In the meantime, however, microscopic injuries to the muscle cells have been identified as the cause of the pain after training. The theory that stretching prevents muscle soreness is therefore invalid. Why should the torn fibers heal better when you tug on them?

Rather the opposite is the case. Scientists from the University of Sydney have compiled the meager data on this topic and evaluated ten studies that examined the connection between stretching and muscle soreness. The result: Neither before nor after training do stretching exercises prevent muscle soreness. In addition, there is no scientific evidence that stretching protects against injuries.

Nevertheless, stretching the muscles can make sense: if you are stiff and immobile, you are more likely to injure yourself. In addition, movement is created by the interaction of two muscles that act as opponents – one stretches and the other contracts at the same time. Only if the muscle is sufficiently stretchable can it develop its full strength.

Fitness Misconception #3: Muscle growth needs protein powder

Muscle mass consists primarily of protein . So if you want to have more muscles, you need sufficient building material – so far so good. However, the hope of making the muscles grow simply by diligently swallowing protein supplements is a fallacy: Only muscles that work, grow and thrive.

Protein powder or drinks are not necessary at all. According to the German Society for Nutrition (DGE), adults under the age of 65 should consume 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight every day. For example, if you weigh 70 kg, you should consume 56 grams of protein per day.

This amount is reached quickly: A piece of cooked pork (150 g) already provides 42 grams of protein. A portion of peas (150 g) adds another 10.5 grams of protein. For example, if the person concerned eats a boiled egg, a small amount of yoghurt and two slices of Emmental cheese on the same day, that amounts to more than 30 grams of protein.

With a balanced mixed diet, the daily protein requirement can be easily covered. In fact, on average, we take in a little more protein every day than we actually need. Our body receives enough protein – for everyday life as well as for sports and muscle building.

The additional intake of protein powder is not only unnecessary, but sometimes even dangerous: Too much protein can cause kidney problems. The quality of the products – at least the cheap ones – often leaves a lot to be desired: Many preparations consist of collagen protein, which is obtained from cartilage, rinds and other animal slaughterhouse waste.

Fitness misconception #4: Fitness drinks make you fit

For sporting activities of less than an hour, water is completely sufficient as a thirst quencher. But most fitness drinks promise even more: power, energy and performance. Added nutrient salts are supposed to replace the electrolytes excreted through sweating, magnesium is supposed to prevent cramps, caffeine is supposed to increase performance and sugar is supposed to increase energy reserves. However, many of the added ingredients are completely superfluous. Only sodium and carbohydrates can be useful for longer endurance sports.

However, the energy boost from the bottle is extremely counterproductive for people who want to use the training to lose weight: just a few sips are enough to replace the energy (calories) used up after half an hour of sweating.

Fitness Mistake #5: Fat burning starts after 30 minutes

According to a persistent myth, fat burning only starts 30 minutes after the start of the workout. In fact, the body burns both glucose and fat from the very first step .

However, there is a grain of truth in the myth: Since the glucose stores become increasingly empty during the course of training, fat burning increases to compensate – and after 20 to 30 minutes it runs at full speed.

Fitness Misconception #6: Exercising too much burns less fat

Another rumor: If you exercise too hard, you burn less fat than someone who takes it easy. It is true that the percentage of fat burned during light endurance training is particularly high: If you train in the aerobic area, you get 80 percent of the energy you need from your fat reserves, and the remaining 20 percent from carbohydrates. This should be the case with a heart rate of around 130 (“fat burner” range), although there are individual differences here.

If the load (and thus the heart rate) is higher, this ratio changes: Up to 80 percent of the energy then comes from burned carbohydrates and only 20 percent from fat. However, since the higher load also consumes a lot more energy overall, the total amount of fat consumed can still be significantly higher than with light training in the fat burner area.

If you want to lose weight, the fat burner area is secondary anyway. What is more important here is the negative balance of energy consumed versus energy consumed, which means: In order for the pounds to tumble, the body has to use up more calories than it takes in through food.

For endurance athletes such as marathon runners, on the other hand, the fat burner area does play a role: only those who train their bodies to tap into the fat reserves effectively can survive a marathon. But this requires a lot more training than the usual recreational athlete can do.

Fitness Mistake No. 7: Targeted fat burning in problem areas is possible

The so-called problem zone gymnastics for stomach, legs and buttocks is particularly popular with women . It is correct: tight muscles in the critical areas also tighten the figure – a muscular stomach, for example, sags less and is therefore flatter.

A targeted fat loss in the problem areas can hardly be achieved with certain exercises. The training can boost the metabolism in the hips or abdomen. The muscles located there do not get the lion’s share of the energy they need from the fat deposits on site, but from stores where it is available more quickly – this is the case, for example, in the face and décolleté. On the other hand, fat is particularly stubborn on the hips and thighs, which is why problem areas arise here in the first place.

Fitness Mistake No. 8: Strength training makes you fit

If you have a lot of muscles, you look fit. Nevertheless, many a muscle man quickly runs out of breath. Because when lifting dumbbells and the like, it is important to use a lot of force, but only for a short time. And this hardly demands the cardiovascular system.

However, weight training is an important supplement to endurance training. In the process, muscles are specifically built up, which support the spine, for example, which avoids incorrect posture that is prone to wear and tear.

Fitness Misconception #9: Swimming is good for your back

That’s only partly true: Swimming strengthens the back muscles, which relieves painful tension and prevents bad posture.

However, water sports can even harm people who already have problems with their spine. Inexperienced swimmers, in particular, who stretch their necks out to keep their mouths and noses above the water when swimming breaststroke, put enormous strain on their cervical vertebrae and muscles. Cramps and tension are the possible consequences.

On the other hand, front crawl and backstroke are ideal for the back: When practiced correctly, the body lies horizontally in the water.

Fitness misconception number 10: Nordic walking is only for grandmas

Admittedly, what many do, who shuffle through the landscape armed with sticks, has little to do with endurance sports. But things are completely different when Nordic Walking is practiced correctly – i.e. using about 70 percent of the entire musculature.

Although the calorie consumption is not quite as high as with sweaty jogging , it is nevertheless considerable. However, the right technique requires some practice. After all, Nordic Walking was originally developed for training top athletes. The best way to learn the sport is with the help of a trainer, who will correct incorrect movements before they become a habit.

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