Here we are again with a new article about dumb fitness myths that need to die ASAP. In the first part of this series we talked about how sugar is not the devil in disguise, how sweating isn’t indicative of fat loss, and why fasted cardio doesn’t burn any more fat than regular cardio or even a caloric deficit. If you missed the first part, you can check it out here. Let’s start.
1- Macros are everything…
Before I elaborate on this, allow me to say that macros are of high importance. No disagreements here. However, they’re not everything. Moreover, what I mean here is the fact that many people have this misconception that they must eat an exact amount of protein, dietary fat, and carbohydrates. Macros do play a major role in recovery and body composition, but as usual, our bodies are much smarter than we are (thankfully).
I remember speaking to a good friend of mine who happens to be a competitor. I asked him whether he thinks a person must hit his exact macros and he responded affirmatively. He even went on to say that he thinks you have a grace range of about 5 grams of any macronutrient, after which things don’t go as well as you want. Well, sorry, but my friend is an idiot. I still like him though. You don’t have to consume exactly 170 grams of protein, carbs, or dietary fat. Oh, he is a competitor, so he must know what he’s doing. You’d be surprised, my friend 😉
But, but… you must eat 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. Said who? Flex magazine? Your favorite bodybuilder or fitness guru? Sorry, but they’re wrong. In fact, 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight is more than you need. To learn more, read this.
Let’s start with what really matters most: calories. Bet you saw that coming. Calories are king. No if’s, and’s, or but’s. Let’s take a look at one of my favorite diagrams by Eric Helms. The pyramid of nutrition.
As you can see, energy (calories) forms the base of the pyramid. Macronutrients come in second place.
While we do need certain amounts of the different macronutrients, we don’t necessarily need exact amounts. It’s not as if I consume 1 gram less of protein, my body will stop the process of protein synthesis. What is true though is that we need ranges of macronutrients. For instance, we need approximately 0.7 – 0.83 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight for optimal results. Let’s give a specific example. Let’s say a person weight 150 lbs. According to this protein range, this person would need to consume between 105 and 125 grams of protein every day to maximize his/her results. Anything within that range will more than enough. Would it be better to hit the upper end of that range? Perhaps. But, the difference will be microscopic at best.
In addition to the fact that we need ranges of macronutrients, we must refresh our memory with the fact that protein is the only essential macronutrient. Our bodies can synthesize carbohydrates as well as fat. So, if you decide to just consume protein, not only will your health go down the drain, but your body will convert majority of that protein to carbs and fats to cover its needs.
What does this mean in a practical setting? Let’s say a person needs between 200 and 300 grams of carbs per day. For optimal health and results, his carbohydrates intake must be anywhere within that range. However, what if this person (let’s call him Jack) consume only 50 grams on a certain day? Will his muscles ditch him and leave him with just bones and fat? No.
What will happen is that Jack’s body will begin the process of gluconeogenesis (carbs creation) to cover his needs of glucose for that day. What if Jack eats less dietary fat than he is supposed to on any given day? His body will convert some of the ingested protein/carbs to fat to cover his needs.
Verdict: No need to beat a dead corpse here. Think ranges not exacts. Your body will do just fine.
2- Using the restroom a lot doesn’t indicate a fast metabolism
Often times when I talk to people, they will casually mention that they cannot gain weight because they have a fast metabolism. And then, of course, my bullshit detector meter gets revved up and I follow through with “Oh, really? How do you know that? Did you get your metabolic rate measured?”. They usually respond with “No, but I poop like 3 times a day. I eat a meal then go to the bathroom an hour later.” That’s when I cringe and wish I was deaf before hearing that utter nonsense.
This misconception stems from the fact that most people mistakenly associate digestion and metabolic rate together. Now, if you use the restroom often, that could mean a few things:
1- Your digestive system is working well.
2- Your diet is good. You consume plenty of fiber and drink enough water.
3- You have a digestive disease like IBS, ulcer…etc. Or, hyperthyroidism. This is very unlikely though. This is only in extreme cases.
4- You ate something that you are allergic too. Which will inevitably cause diarrhea.
So, in essence, digestion is the process of processing food particles, absorbing nutrients, and excreting toxic waste.
On the other hand, metabolism is the processing of energy at a cellular level. In other words, how much energy your body burns at a cellular level to keep your organs functioning and keep you alive. Some people require slightly more or less energy than others, however, the difference is negligible in real life. The main factors that determine your metabolic rate are:
1- Weight, especially lean body mass. A person with more lean body mass will burn slightly more calories at rest.
2- NEAT – non-exercise activity thermogenesis. This includes random movements like fidgeting. Some people “can’t stay still”.
3- Age. A younger and healthier person will have a slightly faster metabolism than an older person.
4- Activity level. How active you are and how much you exercise.
5- BMR – Basal metabolic rate. This is the amount of energy your organs require to keep functioning normally without any activity.
6- Hormones. More specifically, T3 and T4.
Verdict: So, to wrap this up, metabolism deals with energy. Digestion deals with food processing.
3- You must do exercise “x”
The truth is, you don’t have to do any specific exercise! I already hear some people yelling at me: “you must squat!!!” or “you have to deadlift, or you are a wimp.”. I hear you, but sorry to burst your bubble, you don’t have to squat or deadlift. In fact, you don’t have to do anything. That said, some exercises are inherently better than others. So, for instance, squatting is a natural movement pattern that we all do on a daily, toilets, anyone? Deadlift is also a kind of natural movement pattern. I say “kind of” because in real life, no body picks up a bar that’s elevated from the ground by a few 45-lbs. plates.
What I like about working out is that it allows you to explore your own body. We are all different. One exercise that may be safe and work perfectly for me, may be the devil in disguise for you. One set of that exercise and you’ll get injured. Okay, not really, but you get the idea. Thus, it’s important to find exercises that are both safe and work for you.
Allow me to give you a personal example. I used to squat mainly because everyone says so. However, heavy ATG squatting (ass-to-grass) never felt comfortable for me because guess what? IN NATURE YOU DON’T HAVE TO SQUAT 315 LBS. ASS TO GRASS!! Realistically, for all you functional-training-zealots, you only need to squat your bodyweight to survive. You don’t have to bench press 225 lbs. or military press your bodyweight in lbs. either. So, shut up with that numeric functional training bullshit. Okay, enough with my mini rant. Now, for some odd reason, my legs never grew much from ATG squats! Most of my squat-leg gains came from partial squats. Note: partial squats do not mean quarter squats. Moreover, nothing blows my quads, glutes, and hamstrings up like sprints!
For me, I just need to sprint a few times a week and my legs and calves will be in their best shape ever! Tons of calve raises and calve jumps don’t do much for my calves either but running does. I hope this example illustrates my point. Do the exercise that works for YOU! Other factors you must take into consideration are your age, injury history, flexibility, and joint issues. If you’re in your 40’s, your body won’t be able to handle deadlifting and squatting a couple times per week. Sh*t, some young guys can’t even handle that. And if you do, you’ll feel like crap briefly till your body recovers.
If you have problems with your lower back (lumbar spine), you have no business doing any type of deadlifting from the ground. To make up for deadlifts, do my chest-supported rows, back/hyper extensions, rack pulls, pull-ups, or chin-ups. If you have knee arthritis or have any type of knee injury and squats aggravate them (given that you are squatting properly) then ditch the squat and find an exercise that stimulates your legs as effectively but doesn’t hurt. Do you have shoulder impingement? Why are you doing barbell bench then? Switch to dumbbells and tuck your elbows in. Working out is a lifestyle, thus, it requires evolving. You must adapt to your circumstances and not insist on doing the same crap that got you in your current position to begin with. Be proactive and train smart.
Your hamstrings are not flexible? Incorporate some Romanian deadlifts into your program and thank me later. Hip flexors are tight? Strengthen your glutes and do more hip extension movements like the hip thrusts.
Another point to consider is your sport’s athletic demands. That’s if you’re an athlete, of course. For instance, if you play any sport that requires you to run fast like track, soccer, and football, you should incorporate partial squats into your program. I know, I know “quarter squats” don’t count. Well, that’s because you’re basing your standard of an ideal squat on powerlifting, a completely different sport. But in reality, a partial squat is just a squat done at a different height.
In fact, partial squat would improve your vertical jump and sprinting speed much more than an ATG squat will ever do. Think about it logically, when you are about to jump as high as you can or sprint, how low do you go? You most likely lower your body to a partial squat position. Here is a picture if you are confused.
As you can see in the picture above, the gentleman lowers his body to above parallel position. This way he can generate as much power through his legs as possible. This is also why push presses help athlete tremendously as well. Now, try to jump as high as you can by starting from an ATG squat position and tell me how bad your jump was. Try the same before you sprint.
But hey, if you don’t believe me, this study backs these claims up as well. This study found quarter squats to be the most beneficial for sprinting time and vertical jumps as well. Now, before you assume that I am telling to ditch full depth squats altogether, I am NOT! A combination of both exercises will provide the best results and will keep you injury-free. Oh, and don’t do quarter squats, do pin squats. You don’t want the sheer force of the weight to destroy your joints.
You get the idea. You don’t have to do any specific exercise just because people say so. Unless your sport requires you to do certain exercises like Olympic weightlifting or Powerlifting, then you are free to do whatever you want with your program.
Verdict: Try different exercises, stick with what works best for your body and keeps your healthy, and ditch the ones that injure you or don’t give you good results. Plain and simple.