Top 10 Bogus Fitness Claims: Have You Heard Them Before?


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We all have seen bogus fitness claims and many of us have considered buying products that make these types of claims.

I compiled a list and analyzed the Top 10 Bogus Fitness Claims that are used to appeal to our emotions and woo us into a state of fixation on a product that can solve our deepest, most personal, most challenging problems.

The following claims are (1) factually incorrect, (2) blatantly misleading, (3) involve the notion that fitness goals can be reached without diet, or exercise modifications and/or (4) claim body change in a way that does not make physiological sense.

1. Build Muscle and Lose Fat at the Same Time!

Building muscle is an anabolic process and losing fat is a catabolic process, so it’s not possible for both processes to work simultaneously. It is possible to gain muscle and lose fat over a given time period, but these results are atypical. It’s far more effective to focus on muscle gain, or fat loss, not both at the same time. For more detail, check out this post: Can You Lose Fat & Build Muscle at the Same Time?

2. Lose 30 Pounds in 30 Days!

The top natural bodybuilders and fitness models whose livelihood depends on their ability to lose fat never try to lose more than 1% of their body weight in fat per week. Why? Because if they lose much more than 1% of their body weight, they are most likely losing muscle. Needless to say, it’s not healthy, nor desirable to lose 30 pounds in 30 days, or attempt to lose weight very quickly which even if successful will be mostly water weight, a lot of muscle, and some fat.

3. This Product Makes Losing Weight Easy!

If there was a product, exercise, or nutrition method that made losing weight “easy”, would 60% of Americans be overweight and 30% be obese? Enough said! Our bodies are homeostatic organisms that are resistant to change. In combination with environmental, social, technological, political, and economic factors that encourage us to eat more calories and exercise less, the cards are stacked against us. The good news is that if you are following the advice on BuiltLean.com, the cards will be stacked in your favor!

4. The Best Way to Lose Weight!

We are all unique; we have unique genetics, tastes, interests, challenges, and desires. There is no “best” way to lose weight. There may be exercise methods that are more efficient than others at losing fat, or that are more challenging. The best way to lose weight, as I described in The Best Workout Routine for You is the one that motivates you to exercise and is sustainable for the long haul.

5. Lengthen Your Muscles!

This claim is used all the time to lure women as if a certain exercise method will magically “lengthen” a woman’s muscles so she can finally look like a ballerina. The reason why ballerinas look like they do is (1) genetics, and (2) they are very lean. Our muscle length is genetic and once we stop growing in height, so does the length of our muscles. In addition, the length of our muscle and the place of insertion onto the bone impacts how much weight we can lift. For example, a man with short biceps will have more leverage to lift a weight than a man of equal size that has a longer biceps muscle.

6. Get Lean, Not Bulky!

This claim is used to lure women and men all the time. Should we fear that one day we’ll wake up as the incredible hulk after lifting heavy weights for a few workouts? I’ve never seen someone who was bulky and lean, unless he or she (1) trained for 5+ years to build a lot of muscle, (2) took steroids, or (3) had 1 in a 1000 genetics. Bulky = Excess Fat. There is little chance of a bulky appearance on a naturally lean physique. Even natural bodybuilders who try to gain as much muscle as possible aren’t that bulky (See: How Much Muscle Can You Gain Naturally?). Finally, it is very unlikely for someone who is in a calorie deficit to add “bulk” no matter how heavy, or how much that person lifts weights.

7. This is a Great Toning Exercise!

In short, there is no such thing as a “toning” exercise. There are exercises that stimulate muscle fibers more than others, but “toning” implies the removal of fat off a particular body part. “Spot reduction” as this concept is called is a myth. We can’t take fat off just one body part unless by undergoing liposuction, which obviously is not very healthy.

8. Get Rock Hard Abs With No Sweat!

This exact claim is used by marketers of electronic abdominal exercise belts…you know, those vibrating belts worn by fitness models on infomercials who themselves have never used the product before? My guess is 95% of people who have a six pack put at a lot of effort into their exercise and nutrition regimen.

9. Eat Your Favorite Foods & Watch The Pounds Melt Away!

This is the typical pitch used for fat burning, or appetite suppressant supplements that promise fast weight loss without any diet modification. The pitch will continue something like, “Just take 2 capsules before each meal. The safe, all natural ingredients bind with food to block absorption of fat, carbs, AND calories. Lose up to 10lb per week, no sweat. No starvation!”

10. Target the Stubborn Fat on Your Belly, Hips, & Thighs!

Similar to the claim that a certain exercise is great for “toning”, the idea that we can target fat on a particular body part with a certain exercise, nutrition, or supplement strategy is factually incorrect (rare exceptions exist for hormonal imbalances). In fact, where and how we lose fat (or gain fat) is genetically predetermined. Typically, where we want to lose fat the most is the last place where it comes off, but the good news is that the “stubborn” fat can be burned off eventually by eating better and exercising with a focus on losing fat without losing muscle.

Unfortunately, these types of claims will probably be successful at attracting attention and selling products until the end of time. I’m trying to do my part to make you aware that they are not only misleading, but just plain factually incorrect. If you ever see a fitness claim on this website that you think is misleading, please let me know.

Next time you’re watching that late night infomercial (come on, I know you watch them everyone once in a while), you’ll now be able to pick apart some of the bogus claims you hear.

If I missed any bogus fitness claims, or you have anything else to add, leave a comment below!

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9 Comments on “Top 10 Bogus Fitness Claims: Have You Heard Them Before?

  1. Carolyn
    October 21, 2011 #

    Ha number 8 is my favorite!! If you are that lazy, you will NOT have those abs. Ever.

  2. Joyce
    October 21, 2011 #

    Hi Marc, excellent article. There are so many of these types of claims made, even in so called reputable men’s magazines that I myself subscribe to, and the female counterpart of these magazines. There’s no magic bullet, ever. Fortunately, there are some articles that are worth reading, ie. yours, but I suppose not everyone is yet ready to do what it takes to get what they want. When the pupil is ready the teacher will appear (something like that anyhow). Thank you !

  3. October 21, 2011 #

    Everyone is looking for that quick fix. It just amazes me on how many worthless devices continue to show up claiming quick results. Sorry but the shake weight just isn’t going to do it!

  4. November 8, 2011 #

    I have to agree with all the points you made except one – get lean not bulky. I personally have see tons of women who trained naturally look way too bulky for my taste. I guess I am not that into girls with big biceps and 8 packs cubes on their stomachs, to me that is bulky. I prefer the lean look all over instead.

  5. January 24, 2012 #

    Hey Marc,

    I know how you feel, but it seems that no amount of explaining will do. People just want low effort results.

    1. Marc Perry
      January 24, 2012 #

      @Jonathan – Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I think you are definitely right. Also, the marketing power of these claims can overpower a person’s reason.

  6. January 25, 2012 #

    Marc,

    The big problem is that these marketers know how to dance around “science” and use imagery to make their claims without saying them outright (which would be illegal).

    For instance, the FTC cracked down on electric ab belts a few years ago, saying that they can’t be used to get a six pack or lose inches. Now the ads don’t say anything of the sort. They use simulation images of people with toned bodies to create the same impression.

    Perfectly legal and terribly smart.

  7. dean
    February 8, 2012 #

    Marc you’re so right! all of your points are valid. society today is so lazy that they (i work very hard in the gym and my career) want this image of lean perfection but instead of hard work and a $700 or so gym membership would rather spend $$100s on bogus equipment and placebo tablets!
    hard work, blood, sweat and plenty of tears is the way to go!

    1. February 13, 2012 #

      @dean – it’s sadly true. Hopefully one day we all will be Built Lean using natural methods!

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