1. MYTH: Thinner people are healthy, heavier people are not.
You can’t tell how healthy someone is just by looking at them. It’s totally possible for a thin person to be completely sedentary (or a chain-smoker…or both). And it’s also possible that someone who technically has an “overweight” body mass index (BMI) to work out regularly, eat lots of healthy fruits and vegetables, and otherwise follow healthy habits. Find out more about why BMI isn’t a great way to measure health here.
2. MYTH: You need to drink eight glasses of water a day.
Nope. OK, yes, you should be drinking water throughout the day, and you’ll definitely be healthier if you drink water instead of drinks with a lot of added sugars (like soda, juices, and other sweet drinks). But everyone’s hydration needs are a bit different, and the specific number of eight glasses isn’t based on any actual research. (FiveThirtyEight goes into detail about the history of this myth, and what research does exist, if you’re interested.) General rule of thumb about staying hydrated: Drink enough water throughout the day so that your urine is pale yellow. The darker your pee, the more dehydrated you are.
3. MYTH: Natural is healthy, and chemicals are bad for you.
Cyanide is found in nature, and water is a chemical compound (H2O, anyone?). Don’t pay too much attention to buzzwords. Instead, if your goal is to eat healthily, focus on eating more vegetables and fruits, ideally ones that aren’t covered in pesticides, as well as other whole foods. Less processing is generally better, because it means you’re eating more nutrients per calories. But the occasional processed food is also totally fine as part of a balanced diet. Get great healthy cooking tips every week by signing up for the BuzzFeed Food newsletter.
4. MYTH: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
The research on this is mixed, actually. Probably a better way to look at breakfast is: Are you hungry in the morning? If not, then don’t force food into your body when you’re not feeling it. If you are hungry, then you should eat — and if you choose something healthy (with a good combination of protein, fiber, healthy fats, and some carbs), all the better. Good place to start/get some inspiration: these 29 breakfasts that will inspire you to eat healthy this year.
5. MYTH: You can “spot target” certain body parts for weight loss — like blasting your belly fat by doing crunches.
Unfortunately that’s not how it works. Working out specific muscle groups can make those muscles stronger, but doing a gajillion crunches isn’t going to do anything to your belly fat. Ditto lunges and your thighs, and tricep dips and your upper arms. And so on. That’s because muscle doesn’t turn into fat: It grows and gets stronger underneath whatever fat you have. And you also can’t do any exercises that target particular areas of fat.
This all means that if you are trying to lose weight in a particular spot, you’ll need to reduce your total body-fat percentage through a mix of exercise and a modified diet.
6. MYTH: You shouldn’t exercise if you’re pregnant.
Actually, it’s perfectly healthy (and even recommended) for pregnant people to get regular exercise throughout their pregnancies, as long as they’re not pushing themselves harder than they did before they were pregnant.
7. MYTH: Taking vitamins and supplements will make you healthier.
There’s growing evidence that you don’t need to take all the vitamins and supplements you think you need to take. You do need vitamins, but if you’re eating a balanced diet, you are likely getting what you need from your food.
8. MYTH: Doing hours of cardio — such as running — is the best exercise to do to lose weight.
Metabolic resistance training is actually a much more efficient way to burn fat than running or elliptical-ing for hours, Greg Justice, exercise physiologist and author of Mind Over Head Chatter: The Psychology of Athletic Success, told BuzzFeed Life.
Metabolic resistance training is essentially when you do traditional weight-lifting exercises (i.e., deadlifts, kettlebell swings, burpees) but you do them quickly and at near-maximum effort, and you give yourself very little rest time between sets. You make up for the fast pace by alternating exercises between major muscle groups, so one part of your body can “rest” while the other part is working. It’s incredibly intense if done right…but it also only has to last 20 to 25 minutes (or even less) rather than the 45 minutes to an hour that you’d normally spend on the dreadmill. (Here are nine total-body strength workouts that all use this same principle.)
And then there’s this: “If you get on the treadmill in a steady state, your body will get back to its normal metabolic rate within a couple hours,” Justice said. That means you’ll return to burning the normal amount of calories that you usually do. But if you do metabolic resistance training, your “after burn” lasts a lot longer — for 24 to 36 hours (or more) after you stop exercising, he says.
9. MYTH: Women who lift weights get bulky.
Everyone’s body has a different response to different types of workouts, and some people are more prone to getting bigger, more noticeable muscles than others. But you’re not going to get incredibly jacked (like, muscle-mag jacked) unless you’re actively trying to. For starters, most women don’t have enough testosterone in their bodies to produce the kind of swoll muscly effect that people tend to associate with weight lifters, Justice says. Unless you’re training at a very advanced or elite level, spending tons of time working out with heavy weights, and paying close attention to eating a LOT of calories, it’s probably just not going to happen.
Plus, see above for how metabolic resistance training with weights is actually a way more efficient way to burn fat than just doing cardio. And not to mention: Lifting weights is great for your health, for your heart, for your strength, and more.
11. MYTH: If you have a cold, you should take vitamin C to make it go away.
While regularly eating foods rich in vitamin C before you get sick might shorten the duration of your colds, taking vitamin C after you’re already sniffling won’t do a damn thing.
Check out these 14 tips that will actually help you out during cold and flu season.
12. MYTH: Detox diets or cleanses will purify your body of toxins.
Nope. That’s what your liver and kidneys are for. Read more about what a juice cleanse does to your body for some information on that. As for detox diets that involve actual food — they may force you to eat more fruits and vegetables and whole foods than you normally do (which is good for you!), but you’re not flushing impurities out of your system. You’re just adding a lot more fruits and vegetables. And potentially not enough calories, depending on the diet.
13. MYTH: Working out will make you lose weight.
Most studies show that working out alone, without dietary changes, won’t actually have any noticeable weight-loss effects. That being said, fitness + eating fewer/more nutritious calories is the healthiest and smartest way to burn fat and get in shape, if that’s something you want to do. But if you’re looking at which is more effective at losing weight — only working out or only eating less — eating less will win.
14. MYTH: Antibiotics will help a cold or the flu.
Colds and flus are caused by viruses. Antibiotics only work on bacterial illnesses, and will be completely ineffective at making you feel better or shortening the length of your cold or flu. The only reason your doctor should prescribe your antibiotics for cold or flu is if your illness has progressed to a bacterial infection (such as pneumonia, for instance).
15. MYTH: Low-fat products are better for you than full-fat products.
A lot of low-fat products might have added sugars or carbohydrates to make the food taste better (since so much of the good taste comes from the fat). Also, more and more research is finding that fat (at least the kind that isn’t trans-fat) isn’t the enemy anymore. As long as you’re not eating too much of it, a little fat in your diet can be good for you.
16. MYTH: You can’t get pregnant if you’re on your period.
Yes, you can. It’s rare, but it definitely happens. Sperm can live in your system for up to seven days, and you might ovulate only a few days after your period ends.
Take this amazing quiz to see how much you actually know about getting knocked up: These 22 Things May Or May Not Get You Pregnant.
Some commenters were asking for additional information. So we added a tip for how to tell if you’re hydrated to the eight glasses of water point, and we included a few links to studies for the point that breakfast isn’t the most important meal of the day.
You should aim to have pale yellow urine, not completely clear (which can be a sign of over-hydration).
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