When it comes to our well-being, not much pricks up our ears like the word miracle. But when referring to health and fitness, the word miracle is generally synonymous with the word scam. That is unless finding yourself suddenly motivated to exercise and eat better is something you would consider a miracle. Other than that, miracles don’t exist.
At Beachbody, we’re always on the lookout for the next great thing. We analyze every diet, every workout, and every medical breakthrough that promises to reverse the obesity epidemic and make the real world look like, well, the set of The Real World.
1. You can get thin with a supplement. One of the most common questions we get is whether or not our programs will work without the supplements. Given how many claims there are about miracle cures involving a pill, this question makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is that when we tell people that diet and exercise are the major components of our programs, they often become skeptical. We’ve been led to believe by advertisers that the reason we’re overweight or out of shape is because there’s a secret ingredient in some supplement that we’ve been missing. This, to put it a noninflammatory way, is not how it works. The obesity epidemic is the result of two rather simple numbers: we eat about 5 percent more calories than we once did, and we exercise about 20 percent less.This in no way means that supplements are worthless. While there are many shady supplement manufacturers in the marketplace, the reason that we have supplements at all is because they can be effective in keeping us healthy. The use of supplements goes back thousands of years. Traditional medicines were the original supplements. There have been many advancements in the modern world, but basically, those same herbs and nutrients that aided people’s health once upon a time have the same effects today. But they weren’t miracle cures in the old days, and they still aren’t. This is the reason we refer to our programs as being supplement-assisted exercises.
2. Medicine can make you healthy. Medicine can make you not sick, but it can’t make you healthy. Along with curing us from diseases and injuries, doctors now inject, alter, and prescribe us into becoming healthier-appearing beings. Cosmetic medical advancements are indeed impressive, but let’s not lose sight of the facts. The human body needs exercise and nutrients to run smoothly. There is no way to chemically change this. There are certainly medical alterations that can be done to change our bodies once they’ve been misused and started to fall apart. And there are drugs and other chemical alterations that can reverse certain conditions. But try as they might, scientists have still yet to come up with a way for us not to need to exercise and eat properly so that we can perform to the best of our abilities. We may be able to increase our natural abilities using medicine, but without the fundamental groundwork that is exercise and what we eat, no amount of medical help will allow us to live long and vibrant lives.
3. You can get ripped with the right diet. With the “Flat Belly Diet” on the bestseller list and the “Abs Diet” on the cover of Men’s Health, it may be hard to believe that no diet alone is going to land you on the cover of a Joe Weider publication. Dieting can help you lose weight and greatly improve your health. But since that isn’t what marketers like to spin, it’s generally not what they pitch. The only diet that will give you ripped abs is a starvation diet. And that one comes with a lot of undesirable side effects.Many of these diets, including the two referenced above, are basically very healthy. But if you want your body to look ripped, you need to exercise and diet in combination. A healthy body can look lean but rarely ripped. A muscular body with too much fat won’t look ripped, either. Only a healthy and muscular body can allow you to both look ripped and perform well. A starved body will be both lean and ripped in appearance, but this is not due to your body being healthy—rather, it’s due to the catabolic state you enter as your body feeds on its muscle for survival.
4. You can have a six-pack by only working out your abs. Ab work will make your abdominal muscles strong, but you won’t be able to see them unless your diet is in line with your exercise expenditure. The easiest and quickest way to see your abs is to work your entire body intensely and eat well. The more muscle you add to your frame—your entire frame—the more your metabolism will increase, the more fat your body will burn at rest, and the sooner your ab muscles will appear. And, of course, the cleaner you eat, the faster you will make this happen.Six-pack abs—like most things used to gauge fitness—are a function of one’s overall health and condition. They won’t pop up on their own.¹ But you’re also not wasting your time working on them. Your core, which is in part your abs, is the foundation that all of your movements are based on. Having a strong core is the single most important aspect to being physically fit.
5. One supplement can make up for a bad diet. We love miracles, especially when they don’t require much work on our part. That’s why we’re always looking for a pill we can take that will make up for our bad habits. Supposed muscle-enhancing supplements have been available since Jack LaLanne invented the Universal Gym, but in the last decade, we’ve also been bombarded with things promising the opposite. Fat blockers, carb blockers, diet pills, cleansing pills, and so on all promise to rid us of something we wished we hadn’t eaten in the first place. This, unfortunately, can’t be done.There are many good dietary supplements, but heed the word “dietary.” Supplements work along with the other factors of your diet. Nothing can even hint at offsetting a poor diet. In fact, one of the main advantages of supplements is exactly the opposite: they make the biggest difference when you’re dieting already. Supplements are, basically, condensed nutrients. When you’re exercising and also attempting to lose weight, it becomes difficult to get all of the nutrients that your body requires to recover from exercise. This is the realm of the highly effective supplement. Proper supplementation can allow you to eat fewer calories than you normally could and still allow you to recover from hard workouts, which greatly enhances your results. Beachbody’s ActiVit Multivitamin is a great way to make sure you get the nutrients you need each day to get the most out of your fitness program.
6. Cardio is the only exercise you need. Cardio isn’t even a scientific term for a type of exercise, yet it’s still often trumpeted as the be-all and end-all for exercise effectiveness. This, in my experience, is often a cop-out by medical practitioners who feel the need to recommend exercise but don’t want to risk being specific. Cardio as a general term means anything affecting the heart. The problem with interpreting the term is that everything you do has an effect on your heart. And although intense exercise works the heart much more than easy aerobic exercise does, it seems that most people define cardio as aerobic, meaning low-level movement. And low-level movement is not the only exercise you need, unless your physical state inhibits you from doing something more intense.The key to changing your body composition, staying young, and remaining healthy is to do short bouts of high-intensity exercise. If done correctly, this is all the “cardio” you need. It also promotes muscle breakdown and hormonal releases that have a pronounced effect on your health. All “cardio” training is good, including low-level aerobic training. It just should, however, not be the only exercise you do.
7. You can plug in and get ripped. Remember the old exercise machine that had a strap you placed around your butt that would vibrate like a washing machine? Back in the 60s, this odd contraption filled fitness centers worldwide and, undoubtedly, made someone a lot of money. It also never shed a pound off of anyone. And even though it’s used in many gimmick jokes, we just can’t stop trying to replicate it. If you ever see an advertisement for something that does all the work for you and claims you’ll look better because of it, start searching for the remote. The calories you burn looking for it will exceed any amount you’ll burn using the device.As is the case with most gimmicks, there is a scientific example at their root somewhere. Most of these modern contraptions are some type of electronic muscle stimulation (EMS) device. These machines use electrodes to contract your muscles while you do nothing. They were designed for physical therapy and work well within this application of keeping your muscle tissue from atrophying when you can’t work your muscles naturally. So, yes, these machines do build muscle. But they lack the ability to stimulate anything near what you would do naturally. To keep the type of physique you would acquire in a round of P90X would require you to be plugged in for most of any given 24-hour period. And if you’re going to go to this much trouble, you’ll save yourself a lot of effort by doing any 30-minute exercise video—shoot, one 10-Minute Trainer workout will do a lot more for you than a full night on an EMS machine!
8. A single type of workout will make you fit. Beware of exercise that promises to be “the only workout you’ll ever need.” Even if one workout did cover all of your energy systems using each workout modality, it still would not be all you need. The reasons are many, but, primarily, it’s because your body adapts over time to any exercise regimen. To achieve continued progress, you need to alter what you do from time to time. The more planned out this is the better.There is a reason that Beachbody designs fitness programs. For best results, you should train your body progressively and periodizationally. That is to say that you need to progressively overload your system as it becomes used to any one thing. Then, you should change the focus of your program to target various energy systems. By doing this, you keep your body stimulated and your progress curve will continually ascend.