I love it when women ask me questions about their exercise habits! One of the most common questions you all ask me goes something like this: “Rachael, how can I slim down my legs? I eat well and I exercise, but they just keep getting bigger!”
When a girl asks me this, I empathize with her! She’s probably really doing her best to be healthy. Most likely, however, she’s doing the wrong type of training to meet her fitness goals.
And this, ladies, is one of the biggest myths I hear again and again. Contrary to what you may have heard, women can bulk up, even if they aren’t eating crazy amounts of protein.
This isn’t the only fitness misconception I hear. The fitness industry and pop culture often misunderstand women’s exercise goals, and they share all sorts of myths about muscles and fat. Let’s look at a few fitness “facts” that are actually myths.
Women can’t get bulky
Because this myth is so common, I want to explore it a bit more. This belief might come down to a definition of bulky. To some people, “bulky” only means looking like an Olympic powerlifter. Obviously, achieving this look is far from easy.
However, being bulky to you might mean that you are seeing your legs or other parts of your body get bigger. Even if you aren’t ripped with a bodybuilder’s muscles, parts of your body can grow depending on the types of workouts you do and your body type.
For a woman with an ectomorph build, getting any sort of muscle definition can be tricky. These ladies have trouble gaining any sort of weight. However, girls with the other body types often gain weight faster, and can bulky easier.
If you’re not sure on your body type, you can take my free body type quiz here to find out.
Remember, there’s beauty in every build. Just look at Jessica Biel and Jessica Alba. Both of these celebrities are obviously gorgeous, but they have different builds. Everybody has different fitness goals, and everybody has different ways that they want to look. Your “too much” muscle might seem too little to somebody else.
One fitness plan works for everybody
All across social media, I see people raving about their favourite workout program. I love seeing women getting excited about fitness. However, I know how easy it is to be discouraged when the fitness program that transformed your friend didn’t work for you.
This is why I never tell all women to stick to one specific plan. Our bodies and lifestyle needs are far too different for this. Instead, I encourage women to exercise for their body types and their goals, and eat in a healthy way that makes them feel good.
There’s no perfect plan for everyone.
Additionally, I get so many questions from you all about your different workout and dietary needs. If you have a question, ask me in the comments or browse my blog to learn more about fitness! I love trying to help solve your problems!
Eating fat makes you fat.
Actually, eating too many calories (combined with some genetic and hormonal imbalances) causes weight problems. Fat is one of three macronutrients, the others being proteins and carbohydrates. Fats contain more calories than either protein or carbohydrates (per gram), so this is why people tend to think that high-fat foods make you fat. This isn’t the case – high-calorie diets will make you fat.
There are healthy and unhealthy fats. I try to limit fat found in beef, french fries, and other junk food. Instead, I recommend trying to get fat from healthy sources, like:
- walnuts (and other nuts)
- natural peanut butter
- chia seeds
- salmon, tuna and oily fish
Don’t work out on an empty stomach!
Sure, getting through an intense workout when you’re starving doesn’t feel very good. But sometimes exercising first thing in the morning or several hours after a meal can be good for you.
When you exercise, your body typically uses up the food you have just eaten first. Then it moves to your stored carbohydrates. After a while, your body will use up the excess fat your body has stored.
So when you exercise on an empty stomach, your body has to use stored carbohydrates and fat right away. To reduce your stored carbohydrates and get your body to burn fat quicker, eat a low carb dinner and exercise before breakfast in the morning. Learn more about fasted cardio here.
Did you know that sometimes taking a break from eating can help kickstart your metabolism? This process is called intermittent fasting, and people who follow it say they sleep better, lose weight faster, and have more energy. I have tried it and definitely noticed a big difference! :)
Working out takes too much time
Maybe you’re a student in the midst of exams, maybe you work very long days, or maybe you’re preoccupied chasing your little ones around the house. I understand that sometimes we have busy times in life.
Don’t let this stop you from working out! Give it what you can, and your body will thank you later on. A fifteen-minute workout is better than no workout at all, and can still make a huge difference. And try to get incidental exercise by walking as much as you can, cleaning, using the stairs, etc. Be proud of what you can do!
One extra bonus is that sometimes a nice workout is a great way to care for yourself in the midst of a crazy schedule. Exercising will help you think better, reduce your stress levels, and help you sleep!
Inactive Muscles Turn into Fat
Some people avoid using their muscles because they’re worried it will turn into fat eventually. I promise you: this isn’t true. If you don’t use your muscles, they might get weaker and atrophy (waste away), but they cannot turn into fat.
Muscles and fat are two different things. This is kind of like saying your hair will turn into skin. Hair and skin are similar, but they’re different.
So what happens? When you stop exercising, your muscles will atrophy and get smaller in size. They might not be as noticeable. And you will notice a decrease in strength. When people stop exercising, they often (but not always) gain fat. Having muscle helps keep your body fat low, because muscle increases your metabolism and how many calories you burn. This is why you will notice less muscle and maybe more fat, if you stop exercising. But I must stress again, muscle will not turn into fat.
You can spot reduce!
Many of us wish this fitness myth were true. Being able to pick exactly where our bodies slim down would be so easy. Unfortunately, your genetics dictate most of where you lose weight from first.
In general, losing weight from all over your body will help you slim down all over. However, for especially stubborn areas (like the inner thighs, stomach, and the back of your arms), this can take a while. Check out my blog post for ways to reduce fat in those stubborn areas of the body!
Also, I wanted to quickly mention legs here. You all know I’m a huge advocate for walking to slim down legs. And it does work. But the thing is, you can’t choose where your legs will slim down. Some people have saddle bags, inner thigh fat, wider calves or fat knees. You can’t target each of these areas specifically – you can only work your entire leg area. Your genetics will determine where your legs slim down the easiest (for me it’s inner thighs and knees!).
Have you ever believed any of these fitness myths and misconceptions? Let me know in the comments if you have any other questions about your body fat, muscles, or general exercise routine!