Common Gym Misconceptions - Part 2

“Muscle tone”- The word “tone” is one of the most abused fitness industry expressions. We have all heard it at one point or another, “I want to be tone”. As a result, the word “tone” now represents something that it is not. Industry enthusiasts incorrectly associate muscle tone with visible muscle mass.  Truth is, however, that muscle tone is not muscle mass. Those long, lean, and muscularly defined arms that most consider “tone” are exactly that- long, lean, and muscularly defined, not visibly “tone”. In layman’s terms, tone is the minimum electrical stimulus required by our muscles to maintain posture at rest at any given time. That is, muscle tone is not something that you concretely see or feel. With that in mind, we are all very tone. Next time you find yourself staring at your arms in the gym mirror, use other common bodybuilding jargons like “ripped” and “defined” to describe what you see. 

 “Anabolic”- Through mainstream propaganda, the word “anabolic” has earned a bad reputation. Recent news linking anabolic steroids to sports performance has created a blunt misconception of the meaning of the word “anabolic” amongst the general population. News watchers hear “anabolic” and “steroids” used together in a sentence and assume that both words must exist in unison. Anabolism, defined as the building up of structures (muscle, hair, finger nails, etc.), occurs within our bodies without a need for exogenous steroidal supplementation. With that said, we are all very anabolic. Our bodies are constantly building up new structures to reinforce those damaged through normal aging processes. Knowledgeable fitness enthusiasts train and eat to increase muscle mass through anabolism. Although steroids do enhance anabolism to God-like levels, we must learn to disassociate the two words. Incredible size, strength, and power feats are attainable naturally and without drug abuse over time, as is evident in today’s industry through bodybuilding, strongman, and weightlifting. 

 “The fat burning zone”- The “fat burning zone” myth gained popularity in the fitness industry through its marketability years ago. Aerobic exercise and fat loss research suggests that low intensity exercise burns a larger percentage of fat as opposed to high intensity exercise. Large companies caught on and manipulated the concept for mass appeal. As a result, uninformed gym goers bought into the notion of “working smarter, not harder” and ran with it. The theory itself seemed too good to be true, and it was. Over time, “fat burning zone” pitfalls came to light and misguided cardio bunnies dropped out, here is why.  The idea of there being an optimal “fat burning zone” is deceptive as such percentages are masked by total caloric expenditure. The following chart tracks data amongst two male athletes over a 30 minute run. Note that total caloric expenditure is relative to exercise intensity and duration. With that said, runner B expended more total calories because he exercised at a higher intensity (marked by his elevated heart rate). Further, runner B expended more fat calories than runner A despite a slower rate of fat usage because he burned more total calories, making fat utilization percentages irrelevant. Low intensity exercise will not stimulate adaptation and change, regardless of any “fat burning zone”. Train harder and smarter. Substitute traditional “fat burning” conditioning methods with high intensity interval training for superior body composition results. Raise your heart rate and feel the burn!