Summer body myths dispelled
Listen. Can you hear that thundering over the horizon? That’s the stampede of the last-minute beach body latecomers feverishly racing to the gym to try and perform miracles never seen by mortal eyes, in order to completely overhaul their physique in a matter of weeks.
Well, we hate to be the bearers of bad news, but it’s better you heard it directly.
There is no reliable method for going from 0-60 and achieving a heroic physique overnight. Everyone can get the body of their dreams – but it’ll take some time and commitment – not just a desperate fortnight spent doing crunches.
Here are a few summer body myths debunked.
You can gain weight fast (but it’s mostly not muscle)
One of the most important distinctions that every new lifter in the gym needs to cotton on to sooner or later is that weight gain isn’t the same thing as muscle gain. It’s for that reason that an over-the-top “bulk” cycle is especially risky for anyone desperate to pack on slabs of muscle.
You’ll gain plenty of weight by eating 1,000 calories over your daily maintenance level. You’ll look bigger. But the vast majority of it will be a combination of water weight and fat. Keep on that path and you’ll eventually have to come to terms with the fact that you’re gaining more on the waist than the biceps.
There’s a healthy debate in the fitness community around just how much lean body mass an individual can gain over a set period of time, and there’s evidence that some people gain muscle much faster than others due to genetic factors.
Nonetheless, a 1994 Dutch study found that, over 12 weeks of consistent training, the most gifted muscle builders sampled only managed to gain 1.6kg of lean mass.
Setting your expectations much higher is likely to be a recipe for frustration.
You can lose weight fast (but you’ll lose muscle too)
Shedding a few pounds of fat can be done much more quickly than putting on a few pounds of muscle, so if you’re just around the corner from being in your ideal shape for the summer, by all means, success may well be yours.
If, however, you’ve got a significant amount of weight to shift to meet your goal, trying to do it in a hurry will likely only cost you your muscle tone as well.
The primary requirement behind fat loss is staying in a state of reasonable caloric deficit, so that your body is forced to metabolise your fat stores for energy.
There are certain tricks which can help you accelerate the process (such as doing HIIT) and certain tricks which will help to minimise muscle loss (such as keeping your protein intake high). The bottom line, however, is this: to lose fat significantly faster, you’ll need to be in a significantly greater caloric deficit.
And the greater the caloric deficit you’re in, the more your body perceives itself to be in crisis, and begins breaking down your muscle as emergency fuel.
A super-intense program can (not) work miracles
There are a lot of “super intensity” workout programs out there -- usually on offer for the low price of £200 for the full set of 18 DVDs and companion booklet. These inevitably promise to help you achieve results far above what any mere mortal could imagine during a normal gym session, “as long as you’re willing to give it 100%!”
Here’s the thing about that; high intensity training can help you achieve some great fitness milestones if done in a reasonable, structured manner. Fitness gimmicks and pushing yourself above and beyond the point of overtraining? Not so much.
No matter the type of workout you do, fat loss still comes down to maintaining a caloric deficit in the “sweet spot”, and muscle building comes down to fatiguing a muscle and allowing it adequate recovery time.
Injuring yourself won’t help you get around the fact that substantial changes to your body composition will take time, consistency, and patience to achieve.