This is the fourth and final part of the BIG LIES series.
The following lies aren’t as directly involved in the muscle-building process as the previous 17 are. But they still cause misunderstanding that can lead to serious errors in training and recuperation, which hinder or even prohibit bodybuilding progress.
LIE #18: YOU CAN CONVERT BODY FAT INTO MUSCLE
Fat and muscle are different types of tissue, with different functions. Fat is a very simple tissue when compared with muscle. Fat cells are just storage “bags” for lipids. Muscle cells undergo extremely complex metabolic processes. Fat can’t be converted into muscle.
What you can do, of course, is trim excess body fat, and build muscle, but each is independent of the other. If you lost 10 pounds of body fat, and gained 10 pounds of muscle, you’d end up with the same bodyweight but your body composition would be changed substantially (unless you were very fat to begin with). But that doesn’t mean you converted the fat into muscle.
LIE #19: YOU CAN GET RID OF FAT BY SWEATING IT OFF
When you sweat, you lose water and a little weight. But when you properly hydrate yourself you’ll restore the water weight you lost, and return to the same weight you were before the bout of sweating.
Fat can’t be sweat off, but the exertion that yielded the sweat uses up calories, and if that caloric consumption makes a contribution to keeping you in sufficient caloric deficit for long enough to force your body to live off its body fat stores, there would be fat loss.
Efforts to exaggerate sweating while exercising—wearing excess clothing, and exercising in a hot environment—are foolish because they put an exaggerated strain on your body, which is dangerous for some people. Some people have died as a result of severe dehydration arising from intentional exaggerated sweating.
If you’re dehydrated while you exercise, you’ll mar your performance. Being properly hydrated is essential for optimum performance, including delivering sufficient intensity. Consider how much importance professional athletes place on staying hydrated when they train and compete.
Keep yourself properly hydrated when you exercise.
LIE #20: WHEN YOU STOP TRAINING, YOUR MUSCLE TURNS TO FAT
When some former premier bodybuilders gave up training, their body composition changed dramatically. Their muscles shrank, and their body fat increased, but that doesn’t mean their muscle turned to fat.
What happened was that because they no longer exercised sufficiently to maintain their muscle mass, their muscle atrophied; and because they consumed more calories than they needed now that they have become much less active, they stored the excess calories as body fat.
But had they reduced their caloric intake so that it was just sufficient to supply their reduced caloric needs, their muscle mass would still have diminished but their body fat wouldn’t have increased.
LIE #21: ON A LOW-FAT DIET YOU CAN EAT AS MUCH AS YOU WANT WITHOUT GAINING ANY BODY FAT
If you exceed your energy requirements you’ll gain body fat even if you’re on a low-fat diet. Conversely, you could eat a fat-rich diet, but provided you don’t exceed your caloric requirements you won’t gain any body fat.
Of course, it can be easier to consume excess calories from fat-rich food than low-fat food, because a gram of fat has nine calories whereas a gram of carbohydrate or protein has just four calories. But calories can still be consumed in excess even on a low-fat diet. A low-fat intake could be loaded with sugary food, and easily oversupply calories. Some weight-gain powders are low in fat, but loaded with calories due to their abundance of carbs (including sugars), and will quickly make you fat if, because of your overall intake of calories, you way exceed your energy requirements.
LIE #22: LOTS OF AB WORK DEVELOPS A SIX PACK
Common but skewed thinking imagines that doing ab work will somehow “whittle away” the midsection fat. But human physiology doesn’t work that way. (And neither can fat be reduced through sweating, massage, or friction.)
Properly done, ab work will build muscle on your six pack, but it does nothing to help reveal a six pack. You can have a well-developed six pack, but it can’t be seen if it’s hidden under a thick layer of fat. Conversely, you could have no extra ab development, but if you’re under 8% body fat you’ll have a ripped six pack.
There’s no such thing as spot-reduction other than through surgery. To lose fat from around your abs, you must lose fat from all over your physique.
LIE #23: WEIGHT LIFTING MAKES YOU MUSCLE BOUND
The notion that developing bigger muscles reduces flexibility is one of the oldest myths. Bigger muscles may accompany a reduction in flexibility, of course, but they may also accompany an increase in flexibility. It depends on how the training is carried out.
During and immediately after a hard set of a weight-lifting exercise, the involved muscles feel tight and congested, which may reduce your flexibility; but that’s just temporary. It may be from that sensation, at least to some degree, that the “muscle bound” myth originated.
For many years, weight training—also called resistance training and strength training, which is the essence of bodybuilding—wasn’t common among athletes, at least in part due to the “muscle bound” myth. But over recent decades weight training has become ever-more popular among athletes, to build muscle and improve their performance. But this wouldn’t have happened if weight training automatically made people less flexible.
If you currently have a below-average level of flexibility, and you build muscle while avoiding full ranges of motion in your exercises, and not doing any stretching, you probably will become less flexible. But that’s a bastardization of weight training.
If you use a full but safe range of motion in at least most of your exercises, and you supplement your resistance training with a good flexibility routine, you’ll increase your flexibility.
People can become more or less flexible irrespective of whether or not they do resistance training. It’s what’s happening in other areas that matters more.
LIE #24: TODAY’S GREATEST PHYSIQUES ARE HEALTHY
Due to abuse of their health, a few top physiques have died while in their prime, or had a close brush with death. It all depends on what was done while building the physique, and what’s done while maintaining it.
The bodybuilding I teach—drug-free, using sensible training routines, and while following a healthy overall lifestyle—is one of the best things you can do for your health. But some other approaches can destroy your health.
The benefits of proper bodybuilding, including a healthy lifestyle, are huge: It builds strength, develops muscle, strengthens bones, improves overall fitness, increases the body’s caloric consumption, helps control body fat, improves posture, slows the effects of aging, increases resistance to injury, and transforms physical appearance. No other single form of exercise can produce all these benefits. And when the weight training is supplemented with properly performed stretching and cardio work, you’ll have a complete program of exercise.
Your health is your most important possession, and much more important than the size of your muscles. But not only is it possible to improve your physique tremendously while following a healthy lifestyle, that strategy is the best one for keeping your health and a terrific physique over the long-term.