Fact Or Fiction?

I thought I’d do a little post detailing some common statements about health and exercise that you hear from the Internet and womens “fitness” magazines.

1. Women shouldn’t lift heavy weights because they will get bulky – FICTION:

What a load of crap. It is near impossible for a woman who lifts heavy weights to get bulky without taking some sort of performance enhancing drug (read: steroids). Women just do not have enough testosterone. A woman’s normal testosterone range is between 15-70 ng/dl, whilst the normal male range is usually 260-1000 ng/dl. So even at a males lowest range, it is still nearly 4 times higher than a womans highest range, while the highest amount for a male is nearly 15 times as much.

What you will gain by lifting heavy, however, is lean and sculpted muscles. You will also create something called “afterburn” – this is where the body continues to burn calories for some time after your workout due to protein turnover. Muscle burns 6 calories per pound, whilst fat burns 2 calories per pound. This might not seem a lot, but its 3 times as much as fat, and you will certainly have more than 1lb of muscle in your body! So, the more lbs of lean muscle you gain, the better. Studies show that the more muscle you have, the more calories you will burn after a workout as the muscles require more energy (calories) to repair muscles and recover. Which helps burn more fat.

2. Women should lift light weights with low reps to “tone” – FICTION

When I see this in a magazine, or hear women giving each other “advice”, it really grates my cheese. Yes, by all means, read a female fitness magazine but don’t take what they say as fact. Do your own research, and when you’ve got all the facts, then make your decision. Some people would argue that even lifting low weights hundreds of times is better than not doing anything at all. And yes, it might be because you’re actually doing something but I honestly believe that if you aren’t going to lift heavy the majority of the time, then just don’t bother! In general, lifting low weights at high reps will usually cause you to reduce both muscle strength and mass, which as we found out before helps you to burn more calories and fat. So, it’s a lose-lose situation.

By all means, switch up your routine with some low weights, high reps for endurance and conditioning (this is good for developing “slow twitch” muscle fibres). But if you spend the majority of your workout doing this, you will not see the weight loss results you are hoping for.

3. If you want to lose fat, you should do hours of cardio – BOTH

Of course you will lose fat if you did hours of cardio, why waste all that time? Numerous studies have shown that if you supplement your low intensity steady state cardio with High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), this will increase both aerobic and anaerobic fitness, as well as losing fat. HIIT is also effective in cross training, for example, a long distance runner will still benefit from adding a couple of HIIT sessions to their training.

One study into HIIT has spawned Tabata Training. The principle of this is that you spend 20 seconds doing all out, lung-pain, dry throat effort, followed by 10 seconds of light movement/rest then repeat the whole thing a further 7 times. This gives you a total of 4 minutes of cardio. The test group in this study did this for 4 minutes a day, 5 days a week on a stationary bike, and it was found that not only did they have significant aerobic increases, but also anaerobic. The control group saw an increase in aerobic but not anaerobic fitness, and the increase was not as large as the test group, even thought they were on the stationary bike for an hour a day. Because Tabata is so intense, it is recommended that you do NOT do it on consecutive days, so you could do it 3 days per week. Still, that’s only 12 minutes a week, or 48 minutes per month. Sounds good to me!

If this lung searing pain doesn’t appeal to you, there are other methods. You will have to perform these for slightly longer, the recommended amount of time is between 10-20 minutes. But it can be adjusted for your level of fitness. For example, a complete beginner to interval training on a stationary bike could do 10 seconds of cycling as fast as possible, followed by 50 seconds of low intensity cycling. As they get fitter, this could increase to 20:40, then to 30:30, and so on. Until you work up the courage to feel like you’re inhaling fire!

This sort of brings me onto my next point.

4. If you want to lose weight, you should only do cardio – FICTION

Like the above point, you will certainly lose weight from only doing cardio. However, not only will you lose fat (good) but you also lose muscle (bad), leading to the phenomenon that is ‘skinny fat’, where you’ll be skinny with no definition. You’ll still have lots of subcutaneous fat, therefore still jiggly – we don’t want to be skinny fat.

The other problem with losing muscle, as you know from point 2, is that this slows down metabolism. This is definitely not good.

5. Abs are made in the kitchen – FACT

Think of this scenario (I’m sure many people have been in it before and can relate):

You’re going to the gym 5 days a week, you’re mixing it up between weight training, low intensity cardio and HIIT to try and get the best results possible. You’ve cut calories, you’re eating 3 square meals a day, but you’re still eating fries, cakes and crisps. But as long as you stay within your calorie range, you should lose the weight, right? Wrong.

Calories are not created equally. Example: in a small portion (71g) of McDonalds fries, there are 230 calories, 11g fat, 29g carbs, 0% Vitamin A, 8% Vitamin C, 2% calcium, 4% iron. If we took 71g of spinach for example, there would be 21 calories, 1g fat, 1g carbs, 43% Vitamin A, 24% Vitamin C, 7% Calcium and 15% Iron. To consume 230 calories from spinach, you would have to eat 1kg of spinach – there is no way in hell you could eat 1kg of spinach without feeling so stuffed! Even a 200g jacket potato would have less calories.

That’s because natural, unprocessed fruit and veg is nutrient dense, so they fill you up better than something that is calorie dense, nutrient lacking.

Always go for natural, unprocessed foods. If it comes in a can, could still be edible after you die, or has an ingredients list that reads more like a book then put it back. It’s time to treat your body with more respect.

This is an article I read recently on unequal calories – it’s written well, links to lots of journal articles and is an interesting read!

6. I want to reduce the fat on my belly, so I’ll do lots of crunches and sit ups to get rid of it – FICTION

You can’t spot reduce. That is, you can’t whittle fat away from one body area just by working out that area. To lose fat, you need to work out your entire body. Yes, some areas may lose more fat than others, but that isn’t because you’re working those areas harder, it’s because the fat there is just less stubborn. Prime example, I do a lot of lower body workouts, not because I’m trying to spot reduce, but because the quads, hams and glutes are the largest muscles on the body, therefore burn more calories. However, I have noticed that my arms and love handles have reduced most drastically compared to other areas in my body. That’s just the way it is.

If you can think of any other myths you’ve heard, or any good facts that you know, please leave a comment below!



  1. I love your blog.. very nice colors & theme. Did you create this website yourself
    or did you hire someone to do it for you? Plz reply as I’m looking to construct my own blog and would like to find out where u got this from. thanks

  2. I usually do not write a ton of remarks, but i did some searching and wound up here
    Fact Or Fiction? Holly Does Healthy. And I actually do have a few
    questions for you if it’s allright. Is it just me or does it appear like some of these remarks come across like they are coming from brain dead visitors? 😛 And, if you are posting on other places, I’d
    like to follow anything fresh you have to post.
    Could you make a list of the complete urls of your shared pages like your Facebook page, twitter feed,
    or linkedin profile?

    1. Hi Butanecello3,

      Usually people get their information from what they consider to be trusted sources i.e. magazines, and they assume that they have done enough research when most are distoring the truth. If you don’t know much about a given topic, such as fitness, you would assume health and fitness magazines post facts, when sometimes this isn’t the case. Which is why I always suggest doing you’re own research on anything you read.
      As for social media, I’m only really using Twitter at the moment (@HollyHealthy), if anything new comes up I’ll be sure to post that!

      Thank you for your comments,


  3. Reblogged this on calmyourbeans.

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