Confessions Of An Ex-Cardio Queen: 5 Fitness Myths That Made Me Skip The Weight Section
As an avid gym-goer over the past seven years or so, I’ve noticed the same exact pattern at every gym location. There’s almost always a clear distinction between gender activity — women are on the treadmills and ellipticals, while men are pounding away in the weight section.
Once in a while, you’ll see a guy hit the bikes or do a few sprints on the treadmill; and occasionally you might see a swarm of women venture over to the dumbbell section. The vast majority of the time, however, men are doing the squats and women are doing the sprints.
I’m not just going to call out this evident stereotype and point fingers, saying that I’m any different. Almost all throughout college I was one of those girls: a cardio queen. I went on the treadmill because my eye would catch the covers of fitness magazines saying ‘you’ll burn the most calories with this treadmill workout,’ or ‘cardio will help you get lean long legs and a toned midsection.’ Therefore, I stuck with cardio for years and maintained an irrational fear of the squat rack.
Of course we all have different preferences as to what is attractive or desirable, but most girls seem to admire a similar physique: defined abs, lean legs, a curvy butt, and an itty bitty waist. After years of pedaling away on the elliptical for 40, 50, or 60 minutes a day, I finally realized there was something wrong with this routine: it wasn’t working. I wasn’t even close to the physique I was hoping for. I had almost no muscle definition, but was eating healthy and working out 5-6 days a week — what’s wrong with this picture?
After years of being disappointed with my lack of muscle definition, I finally spent a few days researching and even started browsing female trainers’ Instagram accounts. Then finally, a bunch of my guy friends bluntly said to me, “Get off the elliptical and start lifting.” Since I knew absolutely nothing about weight lifting, I started reading everything I could in my free time. My findings were the complete opposite of what I had assumed to be the ‘right’ way of attaining a lean physique. I started discovering how all these things that I read about in health and fitness magazines were total myths, and that I was working out wrong the entire time.
I was burning up muscle, not building any.
In order to save any struggling cardio queens out there, I’ve compiled a list of the myths that prevented me from lifting weights earlier. Hopefully, I can help rid your fear of the weight section.
5 Fitness Myths That Made Me Skip The Weight Section
1. Lifting is for men who want to get big. Lifting will make you bulky.
I put this one first because it is entirely the most annoying myth of them all. In movies and television shows men are always the ones lifting weights, and I think it gives women an innate fear of becoming ‘masculine.’
Women don’t produce anywhere near as much testosterone as men do, which makes it essentially impossible to attain the “bulky-heavy-lifter” physique that most women envision acquiring. Also, women would need to be eating A LOT, as in MASSIVE amounts of food, to get “big” like they are misinterpreting.
2. Lifting will make you gain weight, since muscle weighs more than fat.
Muscle doesn’t weigh more than fat. Does a dollar worth of dimes cost more than a dollar worth of pennies? No. A dollar is a dollar and a pound is a pound, but, a pound of muscle takes up less room in the body than a pound of fat does.
Essentially, a pound of fat takes up about four times the space of muscle tissue, yet muscle has much greater density.
3. Lifting can turn your fat into muscle, but once you stop, it’ll turn back into fat.
Do your kidneys ever just turn into intestines if you start eating different foods? Do your eyes turn into ears? It’s impossible for fat to turn into muscle. They are completely different tissues with separate energy stores. You can lose fat tissue or you can build muscle tissue — and your muscle will breakdown if you don’t use it — but they won’t magically convert from one to the other.
4. Cardio burns the most calories, therefore cardio is better than weight lifting.
As a society, we are bombarded with “low-calorie” foods and beverages. When it comes to exercising, calories are naturally circulating our thoughts. Although an hour of cardio often burns more calories than an hour of weight lifting can, resistance training will help you build muscle and attain a defined, lean physique.
It also increases calorie burn after-the-fact. Intense lifting, as well as HIIT, increases your metabolism and calorie burn for up to 48 hours after each workout. Your body needs to get back to its normal state, muscle cells need to be repaired after tearing, and energy stores need to be refilled. All of these processes require your body to use energy, which results in calories being burned after your workout.
5. To build muscle you should supplement with whey protein, and this could make you gain weight.
Yes, there are some powders on the market you will see labeled as “weight gainers” or “muscle mass” powders. But a normal whey protein or whey protein isolate will not make you gain weight — in fact, it’ll actually help you burn fat.
If you make a protein shake with half a jar of peanut butter, then yes, this could lead to eventual weight gain. But whey protein is actually a great aid in weight loss since it is rich in leucine (stimulates fatty acid oxidation and plays a key role in protein synthesis), helps control appetite, and stimulates the metabolism. Studies have shown that those who supplement with whey powder display decreased fat mass. Need a powder? Use our buyer’s guide with the 150 most popular protein brands.
Hopefully I saved some of you stress of gaining weight or becoming bulky from venturing into the weights section. If you’re feeling clueless about where to start, check out any of our easy-to-follow fitness lists and workout plans.
Kelcey Zacarese is a 20-something working at an advertising agency in New York City. She recently graduated from Drexel University in Philadelphia with a degree in Global Journalism and Greek Yogurt Mastery.
She's an utter gym rat and health nut, who spends her free time wandering around Whole Foods or random streets in Soho. Kelcey traveled the country playing soccer and has also published pieces for Thought Catalog in the past.
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