african american woman exercise

The fun thing about writing about fitness and nutrition on the web, is there’s always a myth to debunk.

Without fail, whenever someone’s talking about their workouts or fitness goals, someone always chimes in with information that is not only patently false, but – in a lot of cases – dangerous.

Luckily for you, you’ve got me on your side.

More often than not, fitness and nutrition myths arise from an innocent game of telephone – something as innocuous as “drink plenty of water each day” turns into “you should always carry a gallon jug of water around with you at all times and you should be chugging it, even if you’re only 5’ tall” and before you know it, you’ve got people fighting for their lives in the hospital.

Oftentimes, myths arise simply from people desiring to appear smart. Each time I’ve heard someone talk about how they’re using X Plan to “wittle their middle,” or “lose fat in their inner thighs,” I whimper-whine on the inside. People are out here selling bills of goods every day, and I don’t want you to get caught up in all that.

That being said, here are three massive fitness myths that I wish would die a speedy death:

-That water myth? It needs to die. Sure, drinking lots of water has its benefits, but there is no set quantity. If there were, it’d be based on height, weight, activity level, body fat percentage, and the health of your internal organs. A gallon of water for a person on the shorter side, depending on how fast they drink it, could send them right into the hospital.

Water has tons of benefits – the potential for appetite suppression being a nice one – but the most important benefit of frequent water drinking is quite possibly the fact that drinking lots of water prevents you from drinking lots of other thingslike soda. We’re not here for drinking sugar. And water helps with that. Just don’t get sucked into thinking you have to drink a certain amount. It’s different for every body.

-Eating multiple meals a day “stokes your metabolic fire.” No, actually, it doesn’t. From the New York Times:

One study that carefully demonstrated this, published in 2009 in The British Journal of Nutrition, involved groups of overweight men and women who were randomly assigned to very strict low-calorie diets and followed for eight weeks. Each subject consumed the same number of calories per day, but one group took in three meals a day and the other six.

Both groups lost significant and equivalent amounts of weight. There was no difference between them in fat loss, appetite control or measurements of hormones that signal hunger and satiety. Other studies have had similar results.

What really happens, in practice, is that people who wind up eating multiple meals a day actually wind up sticking to their meal plans as opposed to skipping meals, presuming there’s a hidden benefit to starving themselves from a meal. People who intend to eat multiple meals a day usually do so with a plan, and the routine helps them stick to said plan, resulting in them experiencing way more progress than they otherwise might’ve.

Don’t believe the hype – meal count doesn’t matter, as long as the caloric and macronutrient (protein, fat, carbohydrate) balance is there, then your number of meals shouldn’t need to change beyond what works for your lifestyle.

-“Oh, I just want to burn fat in my tummy/in my thighs/chest/arms/booty.” So, here’s the thing: the body actually has no choice in where the fat burns. The phenomenon known as “spot training” isn’t what you want to bet on, because it isn’t real.

You can certainly build muscle in certain areas to re-shape what it’ll look like once the fat actually does begin to burn from the area, and you can absolutely change your diet to reflect certain positive changes in specific areas (like how cutting processed foods and/or sugar can affect the tummy area), but beyond that? Your best bet is to train hard, set all-over-physical goals, and don’t stop until you hit them all. Like I always say, your body will thank you for it!

Erika Nicole Kendall is the writer behind the award-winning blog, A Black Girl’s Guide to Weight Loss. Ask her your health and fitness-related questions on twitter at @bgg2wl.