When you’re new to the gym (or to anything for that matter), it’s not uncommon to be quite impressionable at first.
This is a whole new world, and if the nice person in the Gold’s Gym stringer tank top is taking time between their sets of hammer curls to espouse their wisdom, it must be worth listening to, right?
Over the last 17 years, I’ve gotten some invaluable advice about nutrition, strength training, and overall longevity just by having some really intelligent and generous mentors as training partners.
I’ve also heard — and at times, listened — to advice that was quite exaggerated at best and complete BS at worst.
This is by no means an all-encompassing list (we’d be here for quite a bit longer than a “four-minute read” if it were), but these are four examples of said “advice” that immediately come to mind.
Carbs can certainly be the easiest to overindulge on; for example, it’s relatively easy to kill a 2 liter of soda in a day (or an hour .. or a few minutes) — but an equal amount of calories from a lean protein source like chicken breast would leave you feeling stuffed.
So seeing as they’re not very satiating, it’s probably a good idea to keep your refined carbohydrate intake to a minimum if fat loss if your goal. But that doesn’t mean you can’t fit a sweet treat in your diet if you’ve got room for it in your caloric “budget.”
Overall, a net caloric surplus or deficit is going to dictate your weight gain or loss — not a short-term insulin spike from a chocolate chip cookie.
2. You need to do 4+ exercises for the same muscle group in a single workout
On “chest day,” I used to train flat barbell bench, incline barbell bench, flat dumbbell bench, dumbbell flyes, and finally cable crossovers in a single workout to make sure I was hitting “all angles of the chest” as fully as possible.
This is simply unnecessary.
You don’t need to hit 10 different exercises at 10 different angles for the same muscle group — especially in a single workout. Picking 1 or 2 exercises and putting 100% effort into them will be plenty to stimulate progress in a single training session.
If you want to do four different exercises for a single muscle, split them up between two separate days. Going back to the chest as an example; you could do flat barbell bench and cable flyes on Monday, then come back and do incline dumbbell bench and a pushup variation on Thursday.
You’re still hitting four exercises — but because you’re only doing two per session, you’ll be less fatigued and, therefore able to perform much higher quality repetitions than if you were to cram all of those movements into a single workout.
3. You MUST eat every 2 hours
It used to be all the rage in bodybuilding circles that eating a standard six meals per day would “keep the metabolism stoked” and therefore burn more calories than normal. Recent evidence has shown otherwise.
“Some experts claim that if you eat 6 to 9 meals a day and stick to your daily calorie intake, your metabolism will be dramatically improved and your muscle will grow quicker.
This hypothesis was well disregarded when studies found that the rate of metabolism is still the same if you eat 9 times a day or 3 times a day.” — Fast Fuel Meals
What matters most when it comes to body composition is the total amount of calories consumed per day. To optimize muscle building, it probably is best to evenly distribute your protein intake throughout the day (to keep muscle protein synthesis elevated) as opposed to trying to eat an entire day’s worth in a single setting.
But there is no magic switch that switches your metabolism to “off” once you hit the two-hour and one-minute mark between meals.
4. Deadlifts and squats are bad for your back
My lower back feels the best it has in years. Ironically, I’m also doing more barbell squatting and deadlifting than I have in years.
These things aren’t inherently “bad for your back” — they’re actually really good at helping you build a stronger back. Doing these things with shoddy technique and/or with more weight than you can handle can be bad for your back, which is where the reputation of them being “bad for our back/knees/hips” mostly comes from to begin with.
Einstein said that once you stop learning, you start dying.
This is good news for fitness fanatics; there seems to be a never-ending supply of myths and bodybuilding lore that we learn to be gospel one day and learn to refute as hyperbole the next.
At least we’re always learning something new!