5 Lies Fitness Magazines, Influencers, and Workout Brands Repeat Constantly

5 Lies Fitness Magazines, Influencers, and Workout Brands Repeat Constantly
And we eat it up every time.
brad borland

Brad is a university lecturer with a master’s degree in Kinesiology and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). He has competed as a drug-free bodybuilder, is a cancer survivor, and a 21 year veteran of the Air National GuardBrad has been a Primer contributor since 2011.

The fitness industry isn’t immune to fast-talking charlatans, unbelievable promises, and slick sales campaigns. From strange gadgets that claim to be all you need to reach your dream body to yet another questionable supplement backed up by zero science, the journey to a better, healthier you can be tricky and sometimes downright wrong. 

Even though everything from products to science is ever-changing and evolving, a few falsities tend to stand the test of time all in the name of gaining your attention and eventually draining your wallet. 

Below are five things that the fitness media always say but aren’t true. You’ve most likely seen many or all of these at one point or another which are designed to occupy your attention. None are based on facts but all need to be avoided at all costs. I’ll break each down, inject a little reality, and then turn the tables to garner something valuable to take home and use. Let’s dive in. 

1. Losing fat or gaining muscle can be fast and easy

We’ve heard this fast and easy slogan so many times we simply accept it as part of the fitness landscape so much so that it’s become an expected requirement. Couple that with our diminishing attention spans and reduced amount of patience, we now have a toxic cocktail complete with a disappointing hangover. If something doesn’t work fast, it’s simply not worth it, right?

The reality: Everything worth having takes hard work and time. Could you imagine your boss giving you a month-long project and expecting you to complete it in a few days or you're fired? Why would you have the least amount of patience about building muscle and losing body fat?

Contrary to many, the body isn’t a machine. You just can’t press on the gas and go faster. Burning off excess fat takes cutting out calories, staying active, and doing both day in and day out for weeks and months on end. 

Take home: By now you should know that your desire for a better physique doesn’t end with setting a goal. It has much more to do with creating daily and weekly habits carried out over an extended period. Yes, set that big lofty goal, but don’t forget to plan out your daily and weekly actions. It’s these small steps taken every day that will build substantial momentum.

And don't beat yourself up over messing up a day or two. Just get back up and press on

2. This “one thing is missing” for better results

Ah yes, the scarcity tactic that tends to get us worried that we’re missing that one thing that’ll finally put us over the edge. The one supplement, exercise, piece of equipment, or life hack that will ultimately get us the result we desire. 

The reality: Never mind the fact that you may not be training, eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, or are in a moment in life with high-stress levels and little time. The reason you’re not progressing has to be that one tiny missing ingredient that is only revealed by the influencer you follow. If it was that easy and all it took was some little hack then everyone would be doing it and we’d all have the perfect physique we’ve dreamed of all this time. 

Take home: Make sure your house is in order first. Before you sweat the small stuff be sure that you have the big stuff taken care of. Are you training most days of the week? Is your training aligned with your goals (strength, muscle size, etc.)? Is your diet sound? Are you eating natural foods with plenty of protein, complex carbs, and very little to no processed foods including fast food? Are you prioritizing your sleep habits? Are you going to bed and waking at about the same time each night and morning?

Finally, have you been consistent for at least six to eight weeks? Have you given yourself enough time to create and maintain these habits to see long-term results? 

3. Spot training is real

This old wives' tale still seems to stick around. Everything from an abdominal exercise that could rival a Cirque du Soleil contortionist to an electronic device taped to your stomach shocking you to a six-pack, spot training just keeps on making appearances. 

The reality: You can’t crunch your stomach into a six-pack. If you still have a layer of body fat covering your midsection it doesn’t matter how many leg lifts you do. You could perform hundreds of sit-ups, leg lifts, crunches, planks, and twists every day with little to show for it. Additionally, a hefty dose of ab work does little in the way of improving performance. 

Take home: Yes, perform a comprehensive abdominal routine. A good rule of thumb is to choose three sets of an upper ab-focused exercise like crunches and three sets of a lower ab-focused exercise such as leg lifts. Otherwise, divert more attention to your diet. Cut out junk food like packaged snacks, sugary foods, filler carbs like cereals, crackers, and cookies, and salty empty calories such as chips.

Once you get your body fat down to a certain level then you’ll start to see more muscularity in your midsection. Forget about spot reduction. 

illustration of a fitness influencer on a phone

4. “Never do this…”

Many in the fitness industry use absolutes like “never” and “always.” They often use such language to garner your attention and then funnel you into buying a certain supplement or program. Absolutes capture us, they make us believe that something we may be presently doing is hindering our progress. It’s more or less a scare tactic to get us to act.  

The reality: As I stated above, you need to make sure you have the big stuff taken care of. If you do, then one little thing isn’t going to derail all your efforts. Additionally, these claims often take something out of context. For example, I’ve seen many websites claim that free-weight barbell squats are bad for you. They say squats create knee, back, and hip pain. In reality, you should be skeptical of such claims since many lifters simply perform the squat incorrectly and injure themselves over time. Does that mean it’s a bad exercise or does it mean some just do it the wrong way

Take home: If some wild claim is made that seems like it might just be the one answer for all your questions then be skeptical. Fitness is about the 10,000-foot view. Yes, details do matter, but you still need to have a big-picture perspective regarding your habits week to week. Also, if someone says that they have the key to all your frustrations, I guarantee they’ve got something to sell. 

5. “This is the only diet” that works 

Possibly the hottest trend to date in the realm of fitness and health is the enormous category of diets. Years ago everyone had a somewhat agreed-upon way of thinking: balance, healthy foods, and moderation. Today, extreme doctrines have gone into their corners, swords drawn, and threats cast. Exclusive diets have taken over what used to be a sensible and practical way of thinking and now the public is as confused as ever. 

The reality: Diets will come and go, ebb and flow, and begin and end. Some will be a brand new take while others will be a rehash of an old idea relabeled and rebranded. From keto to gluten, if anything worked and had staying power would it have, well, stuck? If someone is telling you to exclude an entire food group or only eat at certain times – the more extreme it sounds the bet is that it’s most likely not practical or sustainable.

Take home: There’s an old idea that life is pretty simple, but we humans insist on making it complicated. The simple constructs of healthy eating still hold true. Moderate your portions, and eat mostly natural foods such as complex carbs with fiber, lean proteins, and a little healthy fat. Don’t overindulge, curb your intake of processed and fast food, and drink plenty of water. Additionally, get plenty of sleep, manage your stress levels, and enjoy whatever training or activity you set out to do. You don’t need to adopt some hack or exclusive diet to be successful. 

In closing

Magazines, websites, YouTube channels, and influencers will always repeat these narratives. They’ll cycle them over and over while dressing them up a little differently each time but don’t fall for it. Use common sense, and practical thinking, and keep your ears open for B.S. If it sounds extreme, excludes entire foods or ideas, or sounds too easy then there’s an ulterior motive. Be honest with yourself, and be good to yourself, you got this! 

What are some fitness promises you’ve seen that aren’t true? 

Brad Borland

Brad is the founder of BradBorland.com. He is a consultant, writer, fitness specialist, husband and father. He earned his Master's degree in Kinesiology, is a member of the Air National Guard and is a cancer survivor.