By Jessica Smith for SHAPE.com
We rounded up some of the most prevalent health and fitness myths we see and read about in the healthy living sphere and went to the experts to separate fact from fiction, once and for all.
How much water should you drink per day?
You've heard: You should drink a gallon of water every day .
The truth:"There is no one right answer to how much water you need, as it depends on each person and their lifestyle-you may need to modify your fluid intake depending on how active you are, where you live, your health, and if you are pregnant and/or breastfeeding ," says Jari Love, a certified personal trainer and creator of the Get RIPPED! Workout.
While we've all heard the eight glasses a day recommendation, your body may need more or less water than this, especially if you are exercising more often or ingesting more water elsewhere (water-rich foods like fruit and veggies and even beverages like skim milk and juice all count towards your hydration).
Bottom line: "As a general rule of thumb, your fluid intake is probably okay if you are drinking enough each day that you rarely feel thirst and your urine is light yellow or colorless," Love says. "If you have specific concerns or questions about how much fluid you need, check with your doctor."
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2. Does more sweat mean a better workout?
You've heard: Heated workouts are better for you because you burn more calories .
The truth: "This is just an illusion. You burn more calories when you work harder," says Liz Neporent, a health and fitness expert and national spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise. Sweating more might make you think you're working harder, but in order to burn more calories, your muscles have to put out more effort, your heart has to beat faster, and your breathing rate has to increase too, Neporent says.
What about when the scale says you've dropped a few pounds after a serious sweat session? "You will initially lose more weight when you sweat more," Neporent says, "but as soon as you drink something, you replace the water weight."
As for claims that the heat will give you a better stretch? That might not be such a good thing, says Amy Dixon, a celebrity trainer and exercise physiologist. "Not only can exercising in the heat be dangerous, it could cause you to get so deep into certain [yoga] poses that you might have to call a friend to help you get out of them!" Yikes!
Bottom line: It's one thing to get hot and sweaty because of the intensity of your workout, but there is no need to seek out extra, external heat sources in order to burn more calories or get a deeper stretch.
3. Is the "fat-burning zone" the best for weight loss?
You've heard: To burn the most fat, you should do your cardio in the 'fat-burning zone.'
The truth: "This is fuzzy math," Holland says. While you do burn a higher percentage of calories from fat at lower intensities, you burn more more calories overall by exercising harder.
Endurance exercise has its place in a balanced training routine, but it shouldn't be the only type of cardio you do. That's why we love Tabata training and HIIT (high intensity interval training) for super-effective and efficient cardio sessions.
Bottom line: To burn the most fat, create a well-rounded workout schedule that mixes strength training, high-intensity cardio, and lower-intensity sessions if you want an extra hit of cardio. And of course, supplement your training with a healthy diet .
4. Should you work your abs every day?
You've heard: For flat abs, you should work them every day.
The truth: Like every other muscle group in your body, your abs need time to rest and recover. "Training a muscle causes the muscle to break down, and it is during rest that it is allowed to repair and rebuild itself," says Tom Holland, an exercise physiologist and author of Beat the Gym.
While crunches, planks, and other abs exercises have their benefits, there is no need to do hundreds of reps or perform them every single day. If you really want to do something positive for your abs every day, focus on your eating habits. "Abs are made in the kitchen, not by crunches," Holland says.
Bottom line: Train your abs like every other muscle group, allowing time for recovery. And be sure to follow a diet that will help you see the results of all your hard work.
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5. Does sweating really eliminate toxins?
You've heard: Sweating detoxes your body.
The truth: While it is true that a small amount of toxins leave our body through our sweat glands, it's only about one percent of the total amount, Love says. "The main role of sweating is to regulate the temperature of the body; the main organs responsible for excreting waste are actually the gastrointestinal tract-the liver, kidneys, immune systems, and lungs."
Bottom line: Working up a good sweat is beneficial for your body, but do it to feel better and be healthier, not for the purpose of 'detoxifying' your system.
To see more health and fitness myths debunked once and for all, click here!