7 Things You Think Are Good For You But Are Actually Wasting Your Time
"Pink, wimpy dumbbells," my coworker said on her turn, "usually accompanied by a smart, Lululemon-attired 20-something terrified she will become overly bulky if she lifts anything over 10 pounds."
File this under egregious-nutrition-and-fitness-trends-that-refuse-to-die, a game my colleagues and I sometimes play in my gym's break room between clients.
As a personal trainer for over two decades at some of the top gyms in Los Angeles, I've watched these trends become popular and gradually disappear. Most pass the way of leotards, acid-washed jeans and big 80s hair. But a few completely useless, sometimes harmful fads refuse to go away.
Here are seven bogus, waste-of-time trends I hope will permanently curl up and die.
1. Old-school cardio.
Spending 20 minutes in the weight room or burst training will benefit you far more than an hour on an elliptical machine or that new aerobics class with the hot instructor. According to Dr. Mark Smith, "long cardio sessions can actually work against you ... because your body basically sees exercise as stress, and stress causes the release of a hormone called cortisol, which breaks down energy stores for immediate use ... prolonged increases in cortisol eventually lead to insulin resistance, a decrease in bone density, loss of lean muscle mass, and weight gain."
2. Taking the fat-burning supplement du jour.
Burn 10 pounds in 5 days! Get Kim Kardashian's body by Monday morning!
Reality check: ineffective amounts, scientifically unsubstantiated nutrients and other factors mean you're throwing away your hard-earned money on these "miracle" supplements. The good news is your best "fix" might lie at your favorite coffee shop: studies show caffeine boosts fat burning and improves physical performance.
3. Overdoing it.
You've got a hot date on Saturday night and the perfect strapless dress waits in your closet. Slaving away daily at the gym all week will give you toned arms, right? Nope.
More does not mean better with exercise. Over-exercise will eventually cause your cortisol to crash (remember, you want balanced cortisol levels rather than too high or low) and ramps up adrenal hormones, which is a surefire recipe for equating visiting your gym with having a root canal. Taking rest days, getting sufficient sleep and not making gym time into your primary hobby are your best bets to get exercise's benefits without overdoing it.
4. Avoiding fat.
Despite the endless varieties of fat-free and "Frankenfoods" that line the aisles of the grocery store, most experts agree that dietary fat is not the enemy.
"The majority of foods that are labeled low-fat or fat-free are refined processed foods in which the fat has been replaced with more sugar," writes Jen Broyles. Avocado, olive oil and wild-caught salmon become smart choices that also supply your body and brain with the healthy fats they require.
5. Under-utilizing personal training sessions.
If I had a dollar for every client who didn't show up, follow my guidelines or otherwise threw away hard-earned personal training money ignoring my advice, I could comfortably retire in Maui. Commitment, the right mindset and self-discipline get you lean and toned. We're here to guide and challenge you, not sweat for you or magically whip you into shape.
6. Skipping out on blood work.
"Test, don't guess," is my mentor JJ Virgin's motto. Take vitamin D for example. One study found almost 42% of Americans deficient in this crucial vitamin. Among African Americans, that percentage rose to 82.
Pinpointing hormonal imbalances, metabolic dysfunctions and causes for fatigue and other symptoms are among the issues blood work can identify and guide your specialist to correct.
7. Drinking energy drinks for the "electrolytes."
Unless you're running marathons, working out intensely or exercising for longer than 90 minutes, electrolyte replenishing sports drinks will probably do more harm than good with their sugar content. If you insist on a pre-packaged beverage, look for no-sugar-added coconut water. Otherwise, plain old filtered water does the job perfectly.
I know you've got one: a refuse-to-diet diet or exercise trend that frequently rears its ugly head. Share yours below.