It has been close to 5 years since I first stepped foot in a gym and the most shocking thing is just how much fitness misinformation there is out there.
The fitness industry looks glamorous and flourishing on the outside but in reality, is one of the darkest industries out there — it practically thrives because of the misinformation.
I sat down to write this article after a lot of hesitation but these ugly truths need to be said and everyone needs to hear them.
Had I known these earlier, I would’ve saved myself a lot of effort, time, mental anguish, and money as well. I learned them the hard way but you don’t have to.
#1 — Having a Shredded Six-Pack Is Extremely Unhealthy
When I first got serious about fitness, I embarked on a fat loss journey and almost killed myself in the process.
Dudes with paper-thin skin, washboard abs, rippling muscle fibers, and veinous roadmaps all over social media. So it’s natural to want to look the same way.
I achieved a shredded six-pack but at the cost of muscle, strength, and my physical and mental wellbeing.
I became anorexic and looked like a zombie —with sunken cheekbones, sickly pallor, deep bags under my eyes, and zero sex drive. I developed an unhealthy relationship with food and obsessively counted every single calorie I ate.
Those smiling shredded fitness models aren’t healthy at all. Research has shown that extremely low body fat is extremely dangerous for your health with effects such as —low testosterone, extreme hunger, depression, heart risk, and even death.
Add in the fact that more than 99% of them are on steroids, diuretics, or some kind of PEDs as well and you’ve got a slew of other health effects such as — heart risk, organ damage, hormone disruption, brain fog, impotence, etc. to deal with.
#2 — Steroid Use Is Much More Common than You Think
Building off the earlier point, most including my past self believe that steroids and other PEDs are limited to the upper echelons of bodybuilding but in reality — they’re used almost everywhere.
Walk into practically any gym on earth and you’ll run into at least one steroid user. Almost every single fitness model on Instagram is on steroids. Your favorite actor’s body transformation? Steroids again.
“What I am against is the unreal standards they generate by concealing the fact that they aren’t natural.”
Now, before you think I’m a jealous anti-steroid flagbearer, let me tell you — I have nothing against them. In fact, if used carefully and responsibly, I believe they can be helpful to achieve your goals. I have been natural so far but if I see the need, I wouldn’t hesitate to consider using them.
What I am against is the unreal standards they generate by concealing the fact that they aren’t natural — be it someone bench pressing your deadlift 1 rep max as his warmup or a hulking dude with veins the size of your arms.
Steroid use is rampant and most steroid users won’t admit their usage. Don’t let this skew your standards.
“Walk into practically any gym on earth and you’ll run into at least one steroid user.”
You can still achieve a great enough physique naturally, it will just take an awful lot of time and effort. Close to 5 years in and I’m just beginning to like my physique. To get an idea, I’d suggest watching this video.
#3 — Your Favorite Influencer’s Workout Program Is Absolute Bullsh*t
Almost every single fitness “influencer” is busy inventing new gimmicky useless exercises and selling his/her workout programs. But most of them are bullsh*t for two main reasons:
- They don’t follow their own workout programs. They have their own coaches, often secret. A friend of mine who happens to be a famous strength coach says — “I train quite a few famous influencers bro but none of them reveal it as otherwise, it’ll affect their own coaching business.”
- The “influencers” aren’t experienced or knowledgeable enough. Despite working out for 5 years, I still don’t consider myself experienced enough to design effective workout plans. So it’s beyond me how an “influencer” — most often a juiced-up kid that started working out a year or two ago can do so.
Sure, there are influencers that are actually knowledgeable but there’s still no need to turn to paid workout programs as — the best workout programs are available for free on the internet.
These are ones created by famous coaches or experienced trainees, time tested and built on the fundamentals. Here are the best muscle and strength-building programs.
Another common misconception is — you need to change your workout program from time to time to “trick” your body and not plateau. I’ve been using the same workout program (An altered version of this) for more than 2 years now and I continue to make excellent progress.
As long as you are making good progress and enjoying your workout program, there’s no need to change it.
#4 — Lasting Fitness Transformations Take an Awful Amount of Time and Effort
As someone that’s gone through multiple body transformations, it frustrates me to no end when — fitness “coaches” advertise unreal body transformations in super-short time frames while putting in barely any effort. These are extremely misleading for two main reasons.
- Factors like the lighting, pump, flexing, food intake, angle, etc. can make a huge difference in how someone looks. Often, in the after photos, these things are optimized to make the person look more impressive than they actually are. To truly grasp this, give the below video a watch.
- They are lying. The lie is either about the time frame, the workout plan, or the fact that the transformation was achieved naturally. It’s the last one that most celebrities lie about.
The reality is that lasting fitness transformations take a painful amount of time and effort. The first time I lost weight and got lean, it took me 6 months of strict dieting and working out. And maintaining the new physique involved making fundamental lifestyle changes.
When I cut the second time, it took 4 weeks of meticulous adherence to achieve a slight drop in body fat and negligible visible difference.
“The reality is that lasting fitness transformations take a painful amount of time and effort.”
Also, most actors’ transformations are temporary ones, most often for a particular movie role, and are accompanied by the use of a generous amount of steroids.
For a lasting fitness transformation, it’s not only enough to achieve the transformation but also you need to make lifestyle changes to maintain it.
#5 — Almost All Supplements Are Worthless
Supplements are purported as magical substances that can greatly improve your results — fat burners to torch fat, mass gainers to put on weight, tablets to boost your hormones, whey protein to put on slabs of muscle, and so on.
But most of them are absolutely worthless. Yes, more than 99% of them I dare say. Except for pseudoscience and unreliable anecdotes, most don’t have any scientific backing whatsoever.
Back when I didn’t know any better, I wasted a lot of money on worthless supplements. There are only three supplements as far as I know that have substantial research backing their efficacy and benefits:
- Creatine Monohydrate is a natural substance found in red meats and research shows that it can improve strength, size, and athletic performance. The potential downside: Creatine has been shown to increase DHT and DHT has been linked to hair fall. But whether or not creatine directly causes hair fall is inconclusive as of now.
- Caffeine. This stimulant present in coffee has been shown to improve athletic performance and energy. A dosage of 200–400 mg per day is optimal for most people. Higher doses can cause dangerous side effects such as anxiety, dizziness, tremors, and in rare cases of extremely high doses, even death.
- Whey Protein and Other Protein Powders. Consuming an adequate amount of protein is sometimes hard to do and this is where protein powders come in. A scoop of whey isolate protein powder can provide around 25g of high-quality protein. If you are vegan or lactose intolerant, you can check out vegan protein powders.
Bonus — You Won’t Lose Belly Fat by Doing Ab Exercises
I want to cap this article off with a truth that isn’t as obscure as the others are but something that most still don’t know — spot fat reduction is a myth. Research shows the same.
“There’s only one way to lose fat — creating a calorie deficit.”
Intuitively, it makes sense to think that when you work a certain body part, you burn the fat in it. I thought so too and wasted hours doing side crunches and sit-ups.
But unfortunately, that’s not how the body works. There’s only one way to lose fat — creating a calorie deficit or burning more calories than you consume.
This can be achieved in two ways — either increase the calories you burn or decrease the calories you consume. Exercise, mainly cardio can be used to achieve the former and a diet to achieve the latter.
The problem is that it’s much easier to decrease your calorie intake by say 200 calories than burning the same amount through exercise. To give you perspective — it’s around 30 minutes of jogging vs not eating one burrito.
So, if you want to lose fat, primarily focus on your diet. You can still do side crunches and ab exercises, but understand that — they’ll only build your core muscles and not burn the fat surrounding them.
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