Debunking Abs Workout Myths

6pack-abs

Some fitness programs and many websites claim to have the key to great abs. They will typically feature 7 plank or other core or abs-focused exercises that you can do for 21 minutes to get well-defined abs “in no time.” (http://www.shape.com/fitness/workouts/abs-workout-secret-formula-flat-stomach)

This is extremely misleading, and disheartening to people who try it and do not see immediate results. But why don’t people generally see results? A six pack will not be visible if you have virtually any excess body fat because the stomach is one of the last areas to tone down and the first to flare up.

The only way to have a flat stomach is to be fit all-around. This requires daily workouts that focus on all of your major muscle groups. It also entails a well-rounded diet that minimizes sugars and processed foods. Additionally, for a six-pack, you also need to do core and abdominal exercises at least every other day. This would be a major lifestyle change for more than 90.0% of Americans!

I’m adamant about debunking such abs workout myths because someone I know shared the link above on Pinterest recently. Seeing it, I clicked and became sick at the thought that people believe such claims and then become demotivated when they do not see results. I was that person for most of my life! I never understood why my body had so much fat on it when I was working out regularly. Now I know that it was because I wasn’t actually pushing my body to the max for long enough periods, nor was I even watching what I ate. I wouldn’t ever say that exercising is a wasted effort, but I do believe that people have to know what they’re aiming for and the average overweight American should not expect to get a flat stomach with a six pack “in no time.”

Debunking The Secret Formula

top-secret-stamp

I am proof that the secret formula to looking and feeling great does not exist. I have exercised and eaten right consistently for just under one year, and I’m still noticing gradual positive changes in my body and mind. It is challenging, but so rewarding that I am highly motivated to continue this journey.

Before last March, however, I spent two full years struggling to find time to exercise three times a week and only mostly eating “healthy foods”.  I plateaued after several months and maintained a relatively healthy lifestyle, but I did not feel spectacular. The trick that got me off of the plateau was when I began P90X, at which point I began to exercise and eat right every single day. This was when I truly began to research what foods and routines would get me results.  Although I did just 5 months of the P90X routine, I studied up in the meantime and have incorporated many different workouts into my life now. I say, “studied up” because I had to first understand how to keep building on my physical and mental strength.

I have learned every body is different. Routines that work for me fail to motivate my friends, and vice versa. Foods that I love make others queasy; I’m still not entirely sure what my personal best diet is, so I’m experimenting by omitting various potential sources of intolerance and then adding them back in to try and gauge changes in how my body functions. That said, certain rules apply to everyone. Having a deep understanding of how fitness should work will help anyone to illuminate a path toward optimal health.  Learning how your body reacts to different foods and exercises is one of the most important steps toward finding out what works best for you.

Debunking Myths about Diet Soda

diet-soda-logos
Just a few of the many diet sodas out there

If you’re planning on dieting, you may be tempted to reach for a can just because it says “diet” on it and advertises zero calories.

But does diet soda help you stick to your diet?

Many people believe that diet sodas cause weight gain. A Yale Prevention Center spokesperson claims, based on extensive research of the literature and studies done on the subject, that diet soda does not cause weight gain.[1]  But the Yale Prevention Center is funded by the Center’s for Disease Control (CDC), which in turn is influenced by lobbyist groups, including beverage producers. So although drinking diet soda and weight gain may be correlated according to some studies, the majority of scientific literature does not prove that diet soda causes weight gain.

Myth #1 debunked: Diet soda does not directly cause weight gain

Assuming that diet soda is not causing people to gain weight, will it help satisfy a sweet tooth?

Oprah says it best: “Artificial sweeteners are more than 100 times sweeter than natural table sugar. This is cause for concern since naturally sweet foods, like fruits, won’t seem as sweet to a desensitized palate.”[2][3]

Myth #2 debunked: Diet soda will not satisfy your sweet tooth

U.S. news research concluded that the effect of sweeteners on taste preference may be why studies have not been able to prove that diet soda helps consumers like you and I control our weight.[4]

In other words, when we consume sweets, including diet soda, we crave more sweets. This makes sense to me because I was shocked to see how much less I was tempted by sweets when I cut high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) from my diet… and I’m consistently surprised at how my taste preferences evolve whenever I consciously stop eating foods for more than a few days without any kind of sweeteners added. I’ll be posting more about why sugar, HFCS and other kinds of artificial sweeteners are bad for you at a later date.

In conclusion of all of this research, however, diet soda makes it easier for you to stray from your ideal diet. You have to make your own choices every day, and not drinking soda will help you be healthier, even if it does not contain calories.

Here’s a similar post that I found when doing my research, it’s written by a dietician: http://health.clevelandclinic.org/2012/08/can-i-drink-diet-soda-without-gaining-weight-diet-myth-5/

My First Change: A commitment to water

How Soft Drinks Impact Your Health

How Soft Drinks Impact Your Health
How Soft Drinks Impact Your Health

This video poignantly presents the obesity epidemic as a result of our sedentary lifestyle and calorie consumption, not because of the individual choices we make in where our calories come from. The Coca-Cola Company is right that every calorie counts, but cutting calories is not the key to reducing obesity! If you drink a soda, you’re slowing down your body’s ability to process anything else that you may ingest. Consequently, you won’t walk off the soda because your body’s reaction to it is a lot more complex.

My strategy: Cut out all drinks but water. You’ll feel a whole lot better, especially after the first two-weeks of adjusting. For the first day or so you can also put greens in water, like a cucumber slice or sprig of mint, if you strongly dislike plain water – but eventually your taste buds will adapt to its non-sweetened flavor.

Non-caloric and natural alternatives to water include tea and coffee with no additives, particularly decaffeinated versions (caffeine may negatively impact you, I’ll post more on that later). Strive to completely eliminate other drinks from your diet. Drinks you may perceive as healthy, like fruit juice, still have lots of sugar (I’ll be debunking myths about fruit juice later this week). Alcoholic beverages are not only harmful to you because they lower your inhibitions but also because your liver and pancreas have to work overtime to metabolize the alcohol. Furthermore, drinking too much can lower your immune system.[1] Also it’s good to avoid better-for-you drinks like milk, protein shakes, Kefir or Kombucha for the first two weeks because they will not fill your belly like solid food.

As The Coca-Cola Company says about the obesity epidemic, “finding a solution will take continued effort from all of us.” This simple drinking adjustment will help you reduce the number of calories you consume daily without the negative effects of drinking soda. Keep in mind, though, that this is just one part of being healthy.

As a side note:

The Atlantic published an article this week about American’s beverage choices and the chart below, it’s nice to see that people are increasingly choosing to drink water over other drinks. (click on the chart for the full article)