Even athletes and coaches aren’t immune to popular myths when it comes to physical fitness, exercise, and what they should or shouldn’t eat, including dietary supplements and the use of branched-chain amino acids.
In most cases, these myths and ideas based on pseudo-science have evolved and are heavily promoted by the fitness and health food industries. Thousands of brands, evangelists, adverts, and now influencers are busy persuading millions of people what to eat and not eat and which supplements and exercises are the most effective.
Gymgoers, fitness fanatics, fad dieters, and weekend warriors are most susceptible to these myths and “research”-backed ideas. However, that doesn’t stop coaches and athletes — professionals with more training, knowledge, and experience — from being taken in by these ideas.
That’s why this article is about overturning and shedding some light on 9 myths that waste time, energy, and money for coaches, athletes, and teams.
Let’s dive in . . .
#1: Cut out carbohydrates and sugars to lose weight
Carbohydrates and sugars have a bad reputation with anyone promoting ways to lose weight.
Although there are negatives associated with both, it’s not true that this is essential for those wanting to lose weight. The only way to lose weight is to consume fewer calories than you burn.
A calorie deficit is the most effective way to lose weight. You can still have carbs and sugars as part of a weight loss diet, in moderation, of course.
#2: Athletes need branched-chain amino acids (BCAA)
Training for almost every sport involves building muscles. Naturally, protein is an essential part of that. However, branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) are not.
All you need are protein supplements (1.4 to 2 grams for every kg of body weight; unless a dietician or fitness professional has told you otherwise) or getting enough protein from meat, fish, and vegetables.
#3: Athletes need an annual “detox”
Detox diets — to clear out toxins — aren’t good for anyone, especially athletes. You might lose weight in the short term, but then you’ll gain weight as the body goes into survival mode. The same goes for fasting, juice diets, and other types of extreme restrictions.
As many commentators have said: “The idea that these diets remove toxins from your body doesn’t have any grounding in science. Your liver and kidneys filter blood and do this job for you, regardless of what you’re eating.”
#4: Athletes shouldn’t eat fast food
Fast food — convenient, tempting, calorie and sugar-rich foods and drinks — aren’t the only cause of obesity, as many claim. They’re definitely not good for you, especially athletes.
But providing you’re eating a healthy, balanced diet and exercising regularly (as all athletes do), then the odd Big Mac and Coke isn’t going to kill your chances of winning medals this year.
#5: Pre-workout stretches are essential to prevent injuries
It’s another myth that static pre-workout stretches will reduce the risk of injury or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). Stretch whenever you can, of course, or when a coach wants players to get ready. But it’s not actually essential, according to several studies (Alizadeh S, et all).
#6: “Spot reduction” exercises, like situps, reduce fat mass in specific areas
Spot reduction is an exercise designed to reduce fat and increase muscle in specific areas. Such as trying to develop a six-pack using abdominal exercises.
Professor Brad Schoenfeld, amongst numerous others, has said: “It’s a physiologic impossibility. All the sit-ups in the world won’t give you a flat stomach.”
#7: Increased meal frequency improves your metabolic rate
Another diet fad is to eat frequently and often, as long as you’re eating healthy food. The idea is that this increases your metabolic rate, so you burn more fat and lose weight. That’s not true, either. It’s more accurate to say that the micronutrient type and portion size play a role in weight loss rather than how often and when you eat.
#8: The “anabolic window” is narrow after exercise for protein consumption
Following on from that, there’s a common myth that you’ve only got a 60-minute “anabolic window” to eat or drink protein after exercising. In reality, that window is broader, up to 90 minutes either before or after exercise will improve the absorption and benefit of proteins.
#9: Muscle hypertrophy is only achieved with 8 to 12 reps
Muscle hypertrophy — whereby a positive net protein balance is achieved over cumulative periods — isn’t only achieved after 8 to 12 reps. Athletes can achieve the same or better results across a much wider range of rep counts when this is the goal.
Key Takeaways for Athletes & Coaches on Physical Fitness
Here is a quick recap of 9 myths that athletes and coaches need to know:
- Cut out carbohydrates and sugars to lose weight
- Athletes need branched-chain amino acids (BCAA)
- Athletes need an annual “detox”
- Athletes shouldn’t eat fast food
- Pre-workout stretches are essential for preventing injuries
- “Spot reduction” exercises, like situps, reduce fat mass in specific areas
- Increased meal frequency improves your metabolic rate
- The “anabolic window” is narrow after exercise for protein consumption
- Muscle hypertrophy is only achieved with 8 to 12 reps