Whether it be in the work lunch room, local 24/7 gym, or at the beach, you’re bound to find someone who is dishing out falsehoods and myths about building muscle. The fitness industry is full of them, with some coming in trends and other mainstays. Moving weight and muscle building is a big part of most athletic pursuits in some form or another, so we’ve broken down five common myths about building muscle we’ve heard around the traps to keep you on track.
5 Myths About Building Muscle
1. You Must Load Up on Protein, Not Carbs
There’s no question that it’s important to feed your body enough protein to stimulate muscle growth. Research suggests that in a day, 1.4-2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight is needed for physically active people. However, protein is not the be-all and end-all of your diet. You must ensure that you are eating an adequate amount of carbs and healthy fats along with a balanced diet of micronutrients to maximize gains.
Glycogen is the major energy substrate for high-intensity exercise that includes resistance training. It also plays a vital part in protein synthesis. Research suggests that bodybuilders who are trying to gain substantial muscle growth should consume 5-6 grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight in a day.
Although this may not fit the mold for everyone, it highlights the importance of carbs in a diet for muscle growth. Furthermore, making sure that your caloric intake is on point (small surplus for weight gain, a small deficit for cutting) is vital to hitting your goals.
See “The Role of Protein and Carbohydrates in Gaining Body Mass” by Elijah Luken, May 2014
2. You Can’t Do Cardio
Not only is high- or low-intensity aerobic training not detrimental to your muscle building goals, in many cases, it can enhance and stimulate growth and lead to quicker gains. However, if your current goals are weighted heavily toward muscle growth, keep your cardio to 2-3 sessions per week, with varying levels of steady state low intensity and HIIT.
“Aerobic exercise, if done properly, can lead to as much muscle growth as you’d expect with resistance exercise,” says study author Matthew Harber, Ph.D. “Intensity is more important than duration.”
3. Building Muscle Will Make You Look Bulky
Weight training is a fantastic way to lose fat, gain flexibility, and improve strength. However, some females particularly are worried that they will get “bulky,” have big shoulders. or look “manly.”
The truth is, building muscle takes time, dedication, and perseverance. The level of training required for a man or woman to attain the “bodybuilder” physique takes years and requires specific goal setting, excellent nutrition, and often, a healthy portion of genetics. Unless you try really, really hard to get bulky, it’s more likely that the changes you see are a toned, slimmer, and firmer physique.
4. Higher Reps Get You Lean
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This myth about building muscle that higher repetition ranges will help you get shredded is still doing the rounds. Higher repetition ranges should be used as a way to increase your work capacity, improve muscle fatigue delay, and ingrain good movement patterns.
The key to losing body fat and getting shredded is eating in a calorie deficit and having a balanced training program that incorporates compound lifts, accessory work, and high- and low-intensity cardio.
5. You Can Lose Body Fat in Specific Areas
Have you ever seen a guy or girl at the gym who comes in three times a week and does an hour of biceps and abs because they want to lose and tone that baby fat around their arms and waist?
Lifting weights can help you build muscle and lose body fat. However, your body doesn’t discriminate or pick favorites when choosing where to lose body fat. There is no scientific evidence that suggests you can achieve targeted fat loss. If you are eating in a calorie deficit and have a balanced training regime, then your body will shed fat evenly.