When it comes to fitness and nutrition, you should always ensure you’re learning from the best.
Fitness legend Jillian Michaels is one of the longest-running personal trainers in the business. She is also one of the most outspoken people in her field.
And the 47-year-old mother of two — son Phoenix, nine, and 11-year-old daughter Lukensia — has the body of a goddess, so she’s obviously doing something right.
‘I make a sexy promise, that I have the expertise to deliver on,’ she says when I ask her how she has lasted so long in her career.
‘I’m honest and consistent with my messaging, despite trends and political correctness, so people know they can trust me — even if they don’t like the information I provide them.’
Based in Miami, Florida, the American PT started out in fitness aged just 17, and her passion for it stems from its transformative powers. The author and television personality is best known for being on NBC’s The Biggest Loser where she would regularly transform its contestants.
Then in 2017, to help the masses, she launched her health and wellbeing subscriptions app, The Fitness App by Jillian Michaels. It now boasts more than three million users worldwide.
She says: ‘I love that technology is helping to personalise people’s fitness journeys with data on their sleep, steps, heart rate, calorie burn and it also allows for greater customisation during workouts and meal plans.
‘That was never possible even a few years ago. And of course, social media is a big game changer. Back in the day you only had DVD workouts, but now you can choose from literally hundreds of workouts on demand.
‘Fitness influencers have also been defined by popular media sources. First there was the VHS with Jane Fonda, then came the infomercial with the likes of Suzanne Somers, which was followed by celebrity trainers like Gunnar Peterson in the tabloids.
‘What came next were TV trainers like myself, YouTubers like Cassey Ho and most recently are the Instagram crew like Massy Arias, Taylor Walker and Ryan Klarenbach.
‘There’s also the advancement of exercise-related science. Now AMRAPS, HIIT and Active Recovery are all common. When I incorporated those techniques into my first DVD workout 30 Day Shred, no one had heard of any of those things.’
Jillian inspires her 100 million-strong community through her social media channels and tells it straight on her Keeping It Real podcast.
‘The things I don’t love about the fitness industry are the same things I’ve always struggled with,’ she says.
‘Dangerous diet trends and/or ridiculous fitness regimes that are at best useless and at worse potentially harmful.’
With this is mind, we asked Jillian – and a few other experts in the field – to comment on some of the most common fitness myths and find out where we really stand when it comes to training.
The longer you exercise, the more you’ll get out of it
‘Absolutely not,’ says Jillian. ‘However, intensity plays a huge role. If you are doing a very low-intensity activity like walking or a leisurely hike, you can do hours at a time provided you are sleeping and stretching.
‘Intensity training, like weightlifting, HIIT and plyometrics, should not be done for over six hours a week, tops. And that’s with a heavy focus on recovery — stretching, foam rolling, muscle splits and periodised recovery.
‘Exercise is stress, and stress in moderated amounts is good because the body adapts and becomes stronger and fitter. But from a physiological perspective, constant significant physical stress can actually be counter-intuitive to fat burning, muscle building, and bone density. Hence the concept of “over-training.”’
You shouldn’t work out on a full stomach
‘You really shouldn’t. One key reason is because when we eat the blood is going to our stomach and when we train, we need the blood circulating efficiently to the muscles, which is difficult with a stomach full of food.
‘It can cause cramps, indigestion and an inefficient workout. I recommend waiting at least 60 minutes after a meal before exercising.’
Women should lift lower weights and do more repetitions than men
‘Totally untrue. Your workout has nothing to do with gender or even age for that matter. You should base your workout on your fitness goals, your fitness level, whether you have any injuries and what you actually enjoy doing.
‘I wouldn’t give someone a running programme who hated running, no matter how effective it might be for them, because if they hate it, they won’t show up for it. Consistency is the most important rule of effective fitness.’
No pain, no gain
‘This depends on your goal. Long-duration, low-intensity workouts have many benefits like calorie-burning and endurance without a risk of over-training. But if you are trying to gain muscle then yes, you definitely want to feel the burn and create micro injuries to the muscle in order to rebuild and heal.
‘Essentially, when you lift heavy your muscle tissue is placed under stress. This causes micro tears in the muscle fibres. The body responds with an inflammatory response to repair and rebuild the muscle, healing it and prepping it for future stress.’
You should wait an hour after eating to train
Dr Mike Molloy, a nutrition coach with a PhD in Molecular and Cellular Biology , shares his knowledge.
‘This is mostly dictated by the intensity of your training,’ he says.
‘Something like weightlifting with longer rest periods between sets will be minimally impacted by eating within an hour of starting your session.
‘However, if you’re going into a high-intensity CrossFit or Boot Camp training session, you probably will want at least an hour to let any full meal settle down, or you might end up seeing it a second time.’
‘This provides zero improvement towards overall calorie expenditure compared to fed cardio, assuming the rest of the days are identical in our comparison.
‘When you do fasted cardio, you do burn more body fat during that time period, however you burn less body fat the rest of the day. When you do fed cardio, the exact opposite happens. You burn less body fat during the training session, but more body fat the rest of the day.’
Sleep is important for fat loss
‘A study showed that if you sleep eight hours a night while in a calorie deficit, 80% of any weight loss will be body fat.
‘However, if you sleep closer to five hours per night, the amount of weight loss that comes from fat drops to 20 per cent. The rest is mostly muscle-mass loss.’
Training in the morning
We’ve called upon Dr Rebecca Robinson, a consultant physician in sport and exercise medicine at CHHP, a specialist centre in health and human, to share some insights into the myth that you should always train in the morning.
‘A morning session can be good after a restful sleep when your body has spent the night repairing and restoring,’ says Rebecca.
‘However, our core temperature drops slightly when we sleep and into the morning, and the response of our muscles and nervous system is slower.
‘In mature athletes, muscle stiffness may be a limiting factor earlier in the day, so even though it is tempting to have a pre-work training session, do make sure you can schedule in time for a warm-up including some neuromuscular activation, to prime muscles and avoid injury.
‘“Larks” may typically feel more energised after a morning session, but all of us can feel a little more in control of our day after a morning run, bike, swim or yoga session.
‘Training before breakfast can help to burn fat, but be cautious of fasted training if you are doing high-intensity work, as glycogen stores will be depleted. If you have a busy schedule, it can be beneficial to have even a light breakfast before exercise, to mobilise glycogen stores, protect bone health, which can be affected by fasted training, and make sure your immune system is ready to train.’
Training in the afternoon/evening
‘Some studies show training in the afternoon and evening can help us reap the best benefits for strength, with anabolic muscle-building capacity at its highest and high levels of testosterone. People are generally better fuelled later in the day, so it is easier to access carbohydrate and fat for training both aerobic and strength systems.
‘The body’s core temperature also rises during the day, which may be conducive to faster nerve conduction, better joint mobility and improved blood flow when training later.
‘In short, you can be at your most flexible and powerful then. Records in some sports such as athletics events are most often broken in the evening. Night owls should note the autonomic nervous system will take one to two hours to relax after an intense workout.’
Train optimally for you
‘Training at any time of day can be beneficial for health, but specific times of the day better suit different types of training.
‘Even if the ideal time for you to exercise is at the other end of the day from when you actually work out, if you are consistent in your exercise habits, your body’s circadian rhythm and nervous system will adapt to minimise performance losses.
‘It’s important to enjoy your training, so even if there are optimal times scientifically, choose a time when you can enjoy your activity. Just remember to schedule your training accordingly to optimise sleep and replenish protein in your post-workout meal to help your body adapt and repair, ready to go again.’
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