Posts Tagged ‘fitness myths’

Why Calorie Calculators Aren’t Always Accurate

September 24th, 2010 No comments

Be skeptical of online health and fitness tests (or, Don't Count on Calorie Counters)
When browsing through most health and fitness websites, you’re sure to come across a variety of calculator tools that will determine everything from your body mass index, to ideal body weight and caloric needs. It’s fun to input your stats and see what comes out.

But if you’re relying on these calculators for anything more than an anecdotal number, you might end up following some very bad advice.

Not all calculator tools are the same
Not all calorie, BMI or ideal body weight calculators use the same formula to come up with their numbers, so one can be very different from the next. As well, some calculators take more variables into account than others. But just because a website’s calculator is more in-depth doesn’t make it any more accurate.

Don’t blindly trust the results
Know your body. If something that’s recommended sounds too extreme get a second opinion from your doctor, which you should be doing anyways if you’re starting a weight loss program. At the very least you should see what other calculators come up with, because as I’ve found firsthand no two will be the same.

The advice you get can vary widely
I checked out a few calculators to find out my BMI and my daily caloric needs to maintain my current weight. It’s a good thing I didn’t seek out this kind of advice when I was starting my fitness journey.

In order to maintain my current weight with my moderate activity level (I can’t be considered very active because of my sedentary job and the fact that I don’t exercise every day) they tell me I need to consume either 1,300, 1,815 or 1,909 calories per day. That’s a pretty big difference. Trying to maintain my weight by following the lower guideline and I would end up losing about a pound of week (if the higher one was actually correct).

What makes it worse is I doubt my calorie intake falls anywhere within that range. If I do a quick total of what I eat in one day I come up with a number closer to 2,000. Only one calorie calculator I used hit that target.

As for my basal metabolic rate (BMR) the number that comes up most often is around 1,300, which means I need to consume that many calories just so my vital organs can function. The Discovery Health site’s calculator agrees so I assume it’s a safe number.

Some results can be dangerous
Now here’s where it gets sketchy. Many of these calculators are used for the purpose of deciding how many calories you need to eat to lose weight. But since they can’t even get the numbers right when it comes to maintaining weight, imagine how far off they could be when it comes to losing weight. When I put in the weight I was at a year ago they calculated that I’d need to eat between 1,100 and 1,466 to lose weight. Plus a number of them mentioned adding exercise without changing caloric intake.

Well, I did lose weight, and I did it by eating better, doing cardio and strength training but there’s no way I would have starved myself like these tools suggested. My one pound or less a week came off the healthy way, which is why I’m feeling pretty good about my chances of maintaining it. Listening to bad advice could cause your body to work against you and conserve instead of expend calories, making the weight loss process more difficult than it has to be.

Splurge and Steal Strength Training Equipment

July 12th, 2010 No comments

How to invest wisely or save pennies as you tone your body

If you want to get buff, or already are and want to maintain it, strength training is the only answer. When you’re at the gym there are endless possibilities for challenging the muscles, including cable and weight stack machines, free weights, isolation stations and more. At home you probably long for the same variety. The good news is it’s easy to get everything you need if you know the price you’re willing to pay.

Life Fitness home gym - If you’ve got about $3,000 kicking around you might be tempted by the Life Fitness G7, which includes a chin-up bar, adjustable cables with quick-lock attachments, dual weight stacks and a mounted exercise book. This home gym is about the best you can get. It allows the user to perform moves on a bench, standing, or using an exercise ball. Search our store to find a variety of home gyms for women.
Vibration platform- Some say a vibrating platform is simply an unstable surface, much like a stability ball, but others, including many professional athletes and trainers believe it offers much more including increased muscle gains when used as part of a strength training program. Workouts done on a vibration platform are said to require only a few minutes, three to five times a week. Many of these machines cost around $1,000, but Gaiam makes its own version, called the Chi Vibe, which is relatively cheap at between $400 and $500.

Grab the advice below then surf our store to see find great deals on strength training equipment.

Pilates bodybands - These kits include an instructional DVD and a set of two or more resistance bands for overall body toning and strengthening. Not only are they about as cheap a strength training system as you can get, at about $30, but they’re extremely portable and easy to store. Just because bands are light in terms of weight, doesn’t mean they can’t put the same force on your muscles as a 10 lb. dumbbell. Besides, you wouldn’t be able to pack your vibration platform in your suitcase and take with you on holiday.
Stability ball - Sounds too good to be true, but it’s not. Stability balls can be a very useful part of your strength training program. To get the most out of your ball, use it in place of a weight bench. Not only is it a heck of a lot cheaper (about $10 to $20), but it will engage more of your muscles because it’s an unstable surface. You can also use the stability ball to make weight bearing exercises more difficult. Prop it under your hands for push-ups, push your feet into it for pelvic thrusts, place it between your back and the wall when performing squats…the possibilities are endless.

The Spot Reduction Myth

October 12th, 2009 No comments

It’s impossible to target just one area

Have you seen one of those countless new ab (lounger, rocker, blaster) machines that promise to help you tone your midsection? Do you believe they will do everything promised, from flattening your tummy to helping you lose weight? If you believe the hype it’s time for a spot reduction intervention.

Working only one part of your body, be it your arms, thighs, abs or butt, won’t get you the results you crave. And no, buying a several hundred dollar machine to target that area won’t make a bit of difference.

Why women want spot reduction
Every one of us has a body part we loathe. Even women who are generally happy with the way they look can pinpoint at least one body part they wish was a little smaller, firmer or more defined.

In an ideal world we could decide to work just that one area until it suits us. You’re satisfied with your weight overall but wish you could remove some of the fat on your thighs? Go out and purchase a thigh machine and use it everyday religiously until the fat starts melting off your legs.

You know as well as I do (probably from experience) that it’s never going to happen, but when you’re unhappy with the way your body looks it’s easy to get caught up in a product that promises easy solutions.

Why is spot reduction impossible?
Fat can’t turn into muscle - The idea behind some of these spot reduction promises seems to be that training one body part will transform the fat in that area to muscle. Muscle and fat are two completely different things, one can’t turn into the other.
Ab exercises don’t burn calories - After my last point you may be thinking, “It shouldn’t matter if fat can’t be transformed into muscle. If I work my abs shouldn’t I be losing fat in that area while also building muscle?” The answer is no. Losing weight (fat) requires expending more calories than you take in. About 3,500 less calories a week will result in one pound lost. Ab exercises (or most other isolation exercises) done alone burn a very small amount of calories, meaning no weight loss. So although you may be building ab muscles, they’ll likely be hidden beneath layers of fat
You can’t choose where your body will gain or lose fat - Look around your group of girlfriends the next time you’re all together. Chances are you all have very different shapes. Even women who are the same height and weight carry their pounds differently. Some (apple shapes) store fat in the middle, while other (pear shapes) have small waists and larger hips and thighs. You can’t control where your body stores fat, so there’s no use trying.

A complete approach to fitness, which includes aerobic exercise and total body strength training is the only way to lose weight and reveal a toned body. Don’t be surprised if you find your body has its own ideas about where the weight will come off first.

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