Fitness Myth No. 2
“YOU HAVE TO LIFT HEAVY TO BUILD MUSCLE.”
Lifting more weight recruits more muscle fibers and results in growth, but it’s not the only means you can use to stimulate muscle gains. “Muscle can be built in a wide variety of rep ranges,” says John Meadows, C.S.C.S., a competitive bodybuilder and physique coach (mountaindogdiet .com). “The scientific research has demonstrated that overall volume of weight is what builds muscle over time, not just how heavy the weight is.”
Lighter training allows you greater volume (sets and reps) in a given workout without taxing your joints and connective tissues. It can also allow you to establish a better “mind-muscle connection,” whereby you get a better contraction in your muscles by thinking about them working while you lift. “And for muscle groups that act on smaller joints, such as arms, shoulders, and calves,” says Meadows, “lighter weights can be more effective than heavier ones, as these areas can become thrashed with heavy loading.” Think about how much you can curl—it hasn’t increased over the years like your bench press, but if you’ve been consistent, your arms are bigger. Isolation exercises work best with lighter loads.
Fitness Myth No. 3
“THE POST-WORKOUT WINDOW IS CRUCIAL FOR BUILDING MUSCLE.”
Over the past decade, the notion of nutrient timing has gained steam. The idea, despite conflicting research, is that consuming protein right after a weight workout (up to an hour, usually) will maximize the muscle-building effect of the session. While many experts believe there’s value to this “post-workout window” theory, most still acknowledge that the overall amount of food you eat has the greatest effect. As long as you hit the number of calories you need daily, along with the right combo of macronutrients, you’ll grow.
A meta-analysis of 23 studies published by the International Society of Sports Nutrition in 2013 found that research does not support the claim that protein consumption within one hour after training—or one hour before—is significantly beneficial for increasing strength or muscle mass. Furthermore, the researchers observed that cases where protein taken around workout time did yield a positive effect were due to an overall increase in protein intake—not the timing of it.