Fitness instructors love January. The New Year heralds in a procession of guilt-ridden, turkey-weight-carrying slobs making their annual pilgrimage to the gym to lose the winter bulge.
Sadly, there’s a lot of bullshit out there on how to sort out your body. In short, a lot of what the ‘experts’ tell you is utter toss. The simple truth is that it’s all down to you and your willpower, and unlike wind, solar power and Bruce Forsyth, willpower is a finite resource.
So if you've made New Years resolutions, make sure you're not wasting your willpower on the wrong ones. To save you the gym trip – and the cash – here’s FHM’s myth-busting guide to getting in shape for 2013...
Myth 1: Fat makes you fat
The Truth: Fat is actually vital for many body functions, including the production of testosterone. So when you thought barbecuing meat made you more of a man you were technically correct. Fat providers like coconut oil, grass-fed beef and avocados will also boost your immune system and keep your brain healthy (your brain is mostly fat). For fast fat-loss, reduce carbs instead, starting with changing from cereal to eggs for your daily breakfast.
Myth 2: Jogging is the best exercise
The Truth: Few people have the strength and muscle balance to run without getting injured – a whopping 79% of runners will pick up an injury in their first year. Instead, start training with a three-day-a-week weights and stretching program. A diet of squats, lunges, press-ups and dumbbell rows will get you started, but be sure to ask a trainer to check your technique.
Myth 3: Crunches give you abs
The Truth: You already have abs. If you eat less crap and lift weights you may actually see them some day. Crunches are the icing on the cake. Just stop eating the bloody cake. If the belly is your trouble spot, remove gluten for four weeks (Think bread, pasta, cereals and most processed foods). If your gut shrinks quickly, there’s your culprit.
Myth 4: Train for core stability
The Truth: Exercises on unstable surfaces or vibrating platforms are a waste of time. They've become trendy in recent years, but are total nonsense. That means if you do find your girlfriend lying on top of the washing machine on spin, it's not because she's trying to tone up…
Myth 5: Lift light weights to tone up
The Truth: Muscles get bigger or smaller, that's it. Any discussion of "tone" is best directed toward saxophones and obscure German Cinema. Lift as heavy as you can safely manage for 8-12 good reps. To start, pick four free-weights exercises (like the ones mentioned in number 2) and perform them in a circuit for three or four sets, always looking to keep your rest periods under 60 seconds.
Myth 6: Coffee is bad for you
The Truth: Coffee before exercise provides energy and causes you to use a greater percentage of body fat as a fuel source. Plus it smells and tastes awesome and it’s a proven scientific fact that women find men who drink espressos sexier. That said, if your java habit makes crystal meth addiction look like a take-it-or-leave-it side interest, you should probably cut back. But 2-3 cups of the brown stuff a day is A-OK.
Myth 7: Pilates and yoga give you long lean muscles
The Truth: Your muscles attach to fixed points on your bones. Making them "longer" would require a chainsaw and a lot of ibuprofen. Classes like yoga are a great addition to weight training, (plus they do tend to be populated by outlandishly hot women), but don't kid yourself that they'll turn you into Dahlsim from Street Fighter II.
Myth 8: You need to cut out salt
The Truth: Provided you eat a diet of mainly whole, fresh foods and not processed rubbish (an admittedly big "if"), there is no point cutting out salt. The best evidence against salt comes from a study on “salt sensitive” rats. However, these rats were fed 60 times more salt the average man consumes, or in layman’s terms, half of what you’d get from licking Johnny Vegas’s sweaty neck fold. If you do like things salty, that’s fine; just make sure you invest in good quality stuff like Malden's sea salt.
Myth 9: Breakfast is essential
The Truth: While brekkie is definitely an important meal, intermittent fasting can be a great way to lose weight quickly. Fasting for 16-20 hours once or twice a week will not only make you trimmer, but also improve your digestion and boost fat-burning hormones.
Myth 10: Nutrition is complicated
The Truth: To get in shape, you need to stick to one rule and one rule only. Make sure at least 80% of the food you eat either grew in the ground or used to be alive. Ever seen a pasta tree? No. So don't eat it. Fish, meat, veg, nuts and fruit are all fair game, and more than enough to give you a balanced diet.
Words by Zack Cahill (@zackcahill), FHM Personal Trainer
See what happened when FHM took on the 8-week beer belly challenge with Zack’s help in this month’s FHM!