Fact or Fiction in Fitness Fads
The fitness industry is just like the automobile industry, the technology industry and others, filled with fads and trends that come in and either stick around or fizzle out based upon their level of effectiveness and how they are received by their target consumer. As you would think, some ideas and products stay around, while others are modified and changed to fit needs and market and then others fizzle and die completely. All day long, on the internet, in emails, in messages, from clients, and people just looking to find an answer to a question, I hear about various products. Teas that “detox” you, wraps that make you skinny, shoes that help you lift more naturally, and so forth.
Below I have taken 5 of the most popular ones I am asked about and that you, the follower, have specifically said you wanted to hear about. I understand that, depending on how open minded you are and your background, you may or may not agree with me. The fact of the matter is, they are commonly questioned because people don’t know and, obviously, the companies marketing these items are always going to paint them in a positive light. So, without further ado, and in descending order from most to least effective (at the moment), here are what YOU have the most questions about:
5) Foam Rolling
FICTION: Foam rolling is a total waste of time and energy and yields no positive results.
FACT: Foam rolling can be effective when used correctly and in the right circumstances.
By now, unless you have been living under a rock, we have all seen foam rollers in our local gyms, health clubs, training studios, and, some of us may even have them in our own homes. Are they actually worth using, or are they just another fad designed to get us to spend money, look stupid, and regret ever using one? While the idea of the “foam roller” is debatable, science has shown the concept known as myofascial release is effective, so much so that the massage industry is probably seeing more growth and profitability than at any other time since its’ creation. Masseuses make a living, in its simplest form, by helping to improve circulation and relax tense muscle. That is why, though painful, you will feel more relaxed and “looser” after a massage than before.
It is important to note that several foam rolling manufactures like to make the claim that foam rolling will make you better at sports and other events by “improving athletic performance.” For those of you who bought into that idea, I am sorry, but you have been fooled. It cannot directly influence athletic performance, the science is against it. What it can do is indirectly influence athletic performance by helping to speed-up and aid in recovery. It’s been proven that muscle massage leads to an increase in lymph and blood circulation within the massaged muscle which leads to greater recovery. The basic principle is this: increased NUTRIENT RICH blood flowing into a muscle leads to faster recovery because the muscles are getting enough of the nutrients needed to repair themselves in a shorter amount of time.
Foam rolling is a way to self-administer myofascial release or massage and is effective but only if done correctly. Many times, however, I see people or hear people that are advising or using foam rolling completely wrong. If it doesn’t hurt, if it takes 5 minutes, if it’s sporadic (not done consistently), and if it’s just done half-heartedly then, plain and simple, you’re doing it wrong and wasting your time. Foam rolling is also not effective when you are trying to target smaller areas but can be effective on the lats (back), quads, and hamstrings. Depending on the individual, the calves may or may not be an easy and effective area to foam roll. Anything beyond that and you are going to have to resort to actual old-school finger/hand massage of the area, this is where having a masseuse can come in handy. Even with things such as lacrosse balls (which can also be applied effectively) nothing can really get into the deeper tissues and manipulate the smaller areas of the body (and larger ones) such as the fingertips. However, the foam roller is effective when used in slow, consistent, controlled manners and they are much cheaper to keep on hand than bringing a masseuse with you to the gym.
4) Kinesiology Tape
FICTION: Kinesiology Tape is effective for everyday use by the everyday individual to help improve athletic performance and treat or prevent injury.
FACT: Unless you have been properly schooled in the application of kinesiology tape you are wasting your money and time.
Flip on the television and chances are if you are looking through sports, you will see someone with brightly colored or logo stamped tape somewhere on their bodies. If you have no idea what I am talking about, look up the summer Olympics, volleyball, crossfit, or any number of sporting events. If you’ve ever been to physical therapy they may have even used it on you before (don’t worry, I’m getting to that) or you may have seen it in the first aid section of your local grocery store. Either way, the fact remains that Kinesiology tape has been around for some time now and is being used by a growing number of professionals and amateurs alike.
The main problem lies in the fact that the camps are divided. Some professionals will swear by kinesiology tape and others think it is ineffective and a waste. The scientific findings, as of this article (11/16/2015) also go back and forth on the topic. The idea is that the tape can help to facilitate movement and, therefore, have therapeutic benefits after administration. However, one fact that cannot be argued: unless you actually know what you are doing when applying the tape, you are just wasting time and money.
Whether we find out that it doesn’t do as we thought in the realm of sports performance or that it is effective to administer won’t mean a thing when you can no longer afford to buy it because you kept messing it up and wasted your inheritance. If you want to learn how to properly apply kinesiology tape for maximum effectiveness, I would suggest you learn from someone who has specialized in taping. These people pay thousands of dollars to become certified in the art of taping people. You could also just have them tape you up as well, however, unless you are a top level athlete, it’s probably not worth whatever they charge. Unless you are a tape specialist or involved in actively studying the effectiveness of kinesiology tape, I would tend to ere on the side that believes if something is so controversial, it should be left up to personal preference.
3) Elevation Masks
FICTION: They simulate breathing at high altitude and lead to increased cardiovascular results.
FACT: You’re just wasting your breath, literally.
I have tried one of these out. I may even have one lying around somewhere, and you know what? Unless I want to dress up as Bane for a costume party, the elevation mask can stay wherever it is. The idea is that if your body gets used to exercising and working in an environment such as at higher-elevations it will be more effective when brought to a lower, more oxygen rich environment. In its simplest form, the idea is, to make up for less oxygenated atmospheric conditions, your body produces more red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout your body. At lower elevations we see the opposite; we need less blood cells to carry oxygen because our cells are getting higher concentrations from the air we breathe. This is not a new concept, as the idea of hypoxic training has existed for decades. However, in order for it to be effective, hypoxic training is to be done over the course of weeks and months, not an hour here and there during exercise. Ever wonder why Olympic athletes often move to train in locations higher than where they will be competing months or even years before their competition? Now you know.
So what does this mean for all of the Darth Vader and Bane wannabes running around doing burpees and sprints till they faint? It means they are making someone's business a lot of money, while, in all actuality, working towards screwing up their respiration. Everyone has a normal, natural breathing pattern and, unless you are specifically trained on how to control it regardless of environment, you can mess it up by doing things such as weight lifting and cardio while looking like you’re searching for Han Solo on Tatooine. If you were to actually use the mask properly you would have to wear it for, roughly, 20-24 hours a day for, at least, five days a week for a month straight. Anything less than that and you are just making it hard to breathe while already performing a strenuous task.
On the plus side, you, loosely, resemble some of the most notorious villains of all time.
2) Sauna Suits
FICTION: Wearing a sauna suit will help aid in weight loss.
FACT: You temporarily lose some water weight and look utterly ridiculous.
There really isn’t much to be said for this idea at all other than, as a whole, it is utterly ridiculous. The idea that wearing a plastic bag will help to lose weight is a false assumption. You will lose “water weight” due to the fact that you are sweating more than you would during a particular activity; some of the falsehood comes from the idea that the higher your core temperature the more calories you are burning due to an increased metabolism (which is true). However, the issue comes from the simple fact that you are not at a high enough temperature long enough to see lasting results in the area your metabolism meaning, your metabolism is higher while you are in the suit (or a real sauna) but once you leave it goes back to how it was working before. You witness a weight change, mostly, due to the fact that you are sweating more profusely than normal and are losing water. That can be good if you are looking to just shed pounds for a weigh-in or something of that nature, but as soon as you replenish your liquids and aren’t wearing the suit you gain all of that back because your cells are once again saturated. Oh, and if you do it excessively or during high intensity activity, you can become dehydrated, and experience heatstroke, or even more debilitating effects.
This same idea applies to number one on our list (continue reading to find out) and is a fine idea if you need to meet a certain weight requirement like a wrestling or boxing event, but as far as using it to lose any significant body fat, it’s not going to happen. If you feel like still continuing to wear yours or want to try it out, you might as well just use a trash bag. You will still sweat and still look ridiculous but you will be doing it in a cost effective manner (I believe Glad has sales on trash bags from time to time).
FICTION: It is possible to wrap yourself each day or evening and lose quality weight.
FACT: The wrap companies on Instagram aren’t going to tell you the truth about the product.
Apply everything that I said in the Sauna Suit portion above to these “great” ideas. This is not a new concept, wrestlers (of all levels) have been using this technique for decades to shed “weight” to get into a particular weight class. However, if they are being honest with you, then they will inform you that it is water, not fat, that they are actually losing and it is literally just to weigh in at a certain weight. Afterwards they go right back to their normal weight. You aren’t making any permanent or high-quality life change by wearing any kind of body wrap (or whatever they market it as). You are going to lose water weight, if you’re lucky enough to manage that, and as soon as you take it off/start drinking more fluid again, you are going to put it all back on. In theory, if done enough and in certain conditions, the same risks also apply as far as dehydration and so forth.
The main difference between a wrap and a sauna suit? One is sold in your local store, walk down any Walmart aisle with exercise equipment and you can find them. The other one is most often sold through “distributors” on social media (if you have an Instagram account then you have seen them all over). As a company, we have an Instagram (@enhancedbodyformulations) and I personally have an Instagram (@enhancedceo) so we have seen all the same posts. You will see some “before” pic coupled with an “after X amount of wraps” which, I guess, are supposed to show the effectiveness of their product. I mean, if all you want is to shed water and that’s all you have to do to have abs, then more power to you. I would suggest manipulating your salt intake and carb intake to keep you from holding so much water, but if you prefer the quick fix of wrapping yourself in some overpriced cling-wrap and then claiming great fat loss and body recomposition, I won’t judge you. If you are so wrapped up (I know, I’m hilarious) in this quick fix, do your wallet a favor and go to Walmart, buy some cling wrap and baby oil, wrap yourself up and save yourself a ton of money.
Hopefully, this gives you more insight into these five products and a little bit of the methodology behind them and why they are marketed. With these kinds of products, as with many, if you believe that it works for you, then it works for you (enter the placebo effect). Just be aware that all of them are marketed to make you think they will work for you, and no one cares if you really get the results you want. Sorry, that’s the truth. If you utilize something such as foam rolling or kinesiology 100% correctly, they have the potential to help you in some way but, the company pushing them doesn’t honestly care if they do or not, as long as you spent your money.