These days, everyone seems to be a fitness and nutrition expert—your boss, the in-laws, your taxi driver—they all “read an article” or more likely “saw an Instagram post” about what to eat or how to train. News flash! Not everything you read on the Internet is true, so—well-intentioned as their advice might be—you should always err on the side of caution. Here, we sift out the fake news with these fitness myth busters.

Lifting weights makes you bulky

Many women are concerned that if they pick up a dumbbell they’ll wake up the next morning looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger in drag. In reality it’s much harder to gain muscle than you might think, especially for women due to their lower levels of testosterone and other muscle-building hormones. Avoiding weights in this misguided belief is a real tragedy, as there are so many massive health and aesthetic benefits to be had.
Solution: Add some strength training to your program and if you really do notice excessive muscle gain that you’re not happy with, dial it back a bit. Or, better still, embrace it.

Cardio is the best way to lose weight

Did you sign up for the Bangkok Marathon in a bid to lose weight, only to be left puzzled as to why you’re not seeing results? You may have put it down to one of those “slow metabolisms” you’re always hearing about, but what so many fail to realize is that endless cardio without corresponding diet adjustments is bound to be an uphill struggle. Recent research has shown that many people even put on weight when they exercise, as they justify big eating binges after their session. This overeating “because you’ve earned it” can undo any good work you’ve put in and sometimes even tip the scales the other way.
Solution: Do cardio for fitness, a strong and healthy heart and to aid fat loss, but see diet as the best way to manage unwanted body fat.

You can spot-reduce fat loss with diet or exercise

Fitness misconceptions and myths are often started by those looking to profit from common insecurities and the desire for a quick-fix solution. You’ve probably seen guides on “how to burn fat on your [insert body part that many people are self-conscious about]” or “one weird food that melts belly fat”. Sadly, whilst you can do exercises to build muscle in a certain area such as your butt or biceps, where you lose body fat once the weight starts coming off is largely down to genetics. It’s common for weight to come off the face first and the hips, butt or belly last. Even more tragically, the one weird food that melts belly fat isn’t Shibuya toast with vanilla ice cream—sob.
Solution: These are the cards you were dealt, so embrace the body you’ve been given and make it as strong and healthy as possible.

Squats and deadlifts are bad for your back/knees

In the event of back, knee, shoulder or pretty much any other type of pain, doctors in Bangkok usually err on the side of caution by advising you to do nothing for six to 12 months minimum. This is often coupled with a doctor’s order to avoid squats and deadlifts forever as they are “bad for your knees/back.” Although some more progressive doctors understand the importance of strength training and movement, sadly those patients who are advised not to move or lift are missing out on stronger bones, better posture, a more independent old age; plus, ironically, this lack of exercise usually leads to more pain and injuries down the line.
Solution: Do squats, deadlifts and other strength exercises safely, with the guidance of a coach if necessary, for a myriad of health benefits and a great looking body.
Navigating the minefield of fitness and healthy eating in a world of fake news can be tricky business. By taking a holistic approach to fitness that encompasses exercise and a good diet, you can avoid the pitfalls and start reaching your goals.

*Jack Thomas is the founder and CEO of BASE, voted Asia’s Gym of the Year in the Fitness Best Awards 2018.