“If It’s Fat Free It’s Good for You” and Other Fitness Fallacies Debunked

A good dose of fitness information is vital, especially for a body that may feel personally attacked by finals. Yet as Fit Rec Managers Michael Lagomarsine and Rick DiScipio stressed in their latest Fall Fitness Workshop, the quality of your fitness information is just as important as the quantity. Throughout their free, hour-long session, Lagomarsine and DiScipio explained why so many fallacies pervade the fitness industry and dispelled three major ones.

The US has an odd and paradoxical relationship with weight-loss and fitness. While DiScipio noted that its citizens, as a whole, spend over $40 billion on weight-loss programs and products, it still has one of the highest obesity rates in the world.

This contradiction arises in part from a watered down fitness industry. Rather than learning facts from health experts or reputable journals, most people get their fitness news from Cosmopolitan, GQ, Men’s Health, Self, or an equally fluffy magazine publication. These articles may guarantee flat abs, offer a fool-proof list of acne-busting food, or tout the life changing benefits of acai berries, but they are probably written by an author with no legitimate credentials. The information of celebrity “experts” such as Jillian Michaels or Insanity’s Shaun T, may not be credible either; they may have few credentials or ulterior motives.

Acai berries may not lead to immediate health, but they look tasty| courtesy of Decio Horita Yokota via wikicommons
Acai berries may not lead to immediate health, but they definitely look tasty.  |  Photo courtesy of Decio Horita Yokota via WikiCommons.

In reality, the intent of much of the health information out there is capitalistic, not altruistic. Many articles and products claiming to help an individual make the best health choices possible, really want to sell products. Fad diets, all-in-one workout machines, and TV infomercials, DiScipio and Lagomarsine creatively termed “marketing scams,” rarely lead to effective fitness or health.

As a general rule of thumb, DiScipio and Lagomarsine stressed the importance of taking initiative and checking your fitness sources.

They then talked about three fitness fallacies that often derail the best of workout  intentions:

Fitness Fallacy #1: Fat Free Foods Rule!

While fat free foods can be useful, especially when trying to lose weight, they are not immediately better than their “real food” counterparts. Fat free and low fat do no mean calorie free. Furthermore, once fat is eliminated from a food, refined sugar or salt is typically added to enhance flavor.

DiSCipio and Lagomarsine gave the example of Bellissimo Italian salad dressing. In its regular form, the dressing packs 150 calories per 2 tablespoons, 140 of those calories are from fat. It has 1 gram of sugar and 200 mg of sodium. The fat-free version has 15 calories and 0 of them are from fat. Yet it has 2 grams of sugar and a whopping 490 mg of sodium.

The fat-free version is not better, per say. There are positive and negatives to both dressings.

Fitness Fallacy #2: Cardio + Starvation = Weight Loss and Improved Fitness

This common misconception leads to lots of time spent at the gym with few results.  Simply eating less and exercising more is not enough to help most people remove excess body fat and keep it off.

In a study from Strength and Conditioning Journal, 97 % of subjects who performed resistance training achieved weight loss, as compared to 78% who focused on endurance training and 70% who made only dietary changes. A comprehensive program that involves weight training and cardio, as well as changes to diet, will lead to the most effective weight loss, which leads to…

Fitness Fallacy #3: Muscle Weighs More Than Fat

Actually, DiScipio said, both way 1 lb, but they process calories differently.  Muscle cells burn 10 calories per pound whereas fat cells burn 2 calories per pound. This is why it is important to keep both in mind during a workout.

courtesy of www.spreadfilms.de via wikicommons
An important part of any workout.  |  Photo courtesy of www.spreadfilms.de via WikiCommons.

As finals begin, working out is an awesome way to sweat out stress and improve brain function. Just make sure, as DiScipio and Lagomarsine taught, to research thoroughly before adding a crazy weight lifting move to your workout or picking up the paleo-diet. Ask for the background of your personal trainer. Take most “revolutionary” workout moves and diets with a grain of salt.

And, in perhaps the most important lesson DiScipio and Lagomarsine shared, remember that fitness is an individual journey and you are your own best data point.

The Fall Fitness Workshop Series started this year at Fit Rec. The program will continue next semester. All workshops will be free and open to members of the Fit Rec community and to non-members.  For more information, keep an eye out for fliers or contact Fit Rec.

Corinne Keer

Corinne Keer (CAS '15) has a dual major in English and underwater basket weaving. Ideally, she will put her knowledge of heroic couplets to good use and, starting from the bottom, become a bonafide rap star. She may also settle for a casual day job as a petroleum engineer, computer programmer, or VC.

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