The fitness industry is always finding ways to sell their programs, or cater to certain demographics. If you want to stand out in your field, marketers realize they need to fine tune their pitch to target the audience they want. Women are a huge market for the fitness industry, and tons of lies have been put out there for the sake of grabbing money from women who are just trying to get healthier. Today I’d like to go over some of the top misconceptions about women’s fitness.
Lifting Heavy Makes You “Bulky”
This is hands down the most common misconception I hear still told to this day. With gyms on the rise, and women feeling intimidated to enter the gym, marketers decided it was a brilliant idea to create this sense that what women needed was different than what the men did. From this, gyms like Curves opened up, catering exclusively to women.
The truth is lifting heavy does not make you bulky. There is no such thing as building toned muscle. Tone muscle is just muscle you’ve built up BY lifting heavy, and then dieting down to get rid of the excess fat. When something looks too “bulky” it isn’t a matter of having too much muscle. It’s having built muscle while still holding on to the excess fat. Once a female goes on a diet and gets rid of that excess fat, that nice, toned muscle appears.
Lifting in higher reps doesn’t change what kind of muscle you build. If you want muscle or to look toned, you need the same stimulus - lifting heavy. With this comes a wide range. You can lift anywhere from as little as 3 reps all the way up to 20. Anything past 20 reps becomes more of an endurance exercise and thus, won’t build the tone look you want.
For more help on finding a proper program, check out my article on Will Lifting Weights Make Women Look Bulky?
Fat and/or Carbs are Bad For You
We are told to believe one or both of these causes immediate fat gain. “If I eat fat, I’ll get fat right?” Neither fat nor carbs are evil. They are sources of fuel. There is nothing inherently about fat or a carb that causes fat gain. If you gain weight, it is because you are eating an overall surplus of calories. Period. If all you ate was 200 calories a day of just fat and carbs, guess what? You’d lose weight. It’s the overconsumption of any macro that causes weight gain over time.
The balance is in finding what your body responds better to. I find most people with average genetics tend to do better off a higher fat, lower carb approach. But again, you need to experiment with yourself and find what works for YOU. You need your essential fatty acids and Omega 3 for optimal brain and hormone function. Under consuming fats means you are leaving your body without the proper resources to function. Carbs are important for fueling your workouts. If you are trying to have a higher performance in the gym, increasing your carb intake will help fuel that energy in the gym. Having a higher carb intake also lowers your cortisol from spiking as you now have carbs as a fuel source to lift heavy or move more.
The best thing you can do is get high quality sources from both macronutrients, and ultimately play around with a higher or lower carb approach depending on your needs. If you are an athlete, or someone who is very active throughout the day, I recommend having a higher carb intake to sustain that caloric burn. If you workout a couple times a week, but are mostly sedentary outside of the gym, a higher fat approach will still provide the fuel, but cause less crashes during the day.
You Have to do Lots of Cardio to Lose Weight
Because of the amount of calories burned within a given cardio session, we are taught to believe cardio is the key to losing weight the quickest. While yes, you burn the most calories in a 30-40 minute cardio session vs lifting weights for the same amount of time, it doesn’t go past that. Our body, over time, learns to be more efficient, especially on a deficit, to burn less and less calories with each cardio session you add on. So you’re burning LESS calories during the same amount of cardio as time goes on. Lifting weights on the other hand may burn less calories within the session, but the more muscle you have, the heavier the weight you have to push, the MORE calories you burn over time. Adding muscle increases your metabolism because it takes a lot of energy to maintain muscle.
Dieting down to the body you want, is usually a mix of lowering your calories and potentially increasing your movement. It doesn’t have to be cardio though. You can increase your step count and find ways to move more throughout your day. If you enjoy cardio, then by all means keep it in, but don’t feel like running on the treadmill is the only way to lose weight. Use cardio or increased step count throughout your day as a tool to diet down to the physique you want. Once you achieve that physique, your focus should be on tapering down that cardio, and focusing more on the lifting component to maintain the muscle you’ve built. If you spend too much time dieting down, and adding more and more cardio, your body will eat away at the muscle and hold onto fat for survival.
For more detail, check out my article on Why Every Woman Should Skip the Cardio and Begin Weight Training.