I’m frustrated. Every day I hear things from women that are flat out untrue. The thing that upsets me most though is that there isn't any science to support their claims. Instead, there is science to debunk their claims. So without further rambling, I'll dive into separating fact from fiction in regards to common women’s fitness myths.

#1: Cardio is the only way to get lean.

I know you have the women at your gym who never touch a weight and believe that cardio is the Hail Mary to dropping a few pant sizes. However, here’s the thing—I bet those women look exactly the same as they did when they started their crusade for weight loss. So let’s get something clear. Cardio isn't the end-all be-all for weight loss.

Weight loss is about more than burning a few calories. Actually, your hormones are the key players when it comes to this game. Sadly, women think cardio is the way, and when weight loss stalls, they do more cardio hoping that this will break through their weight loss plateau. But like I said, cardio isn't the key. After hours spent enduring hamster-like conditions, they don’t see results. Trust me, I’ve been there. I've been on the verge of tears doing marathons of cardio without any weight loss but weight gain! Scientifically, as you add in more and more cardio, cortisol levels rise, your thyroid starts to shut down, and progesterone levels start to tank. All of this sucks for weight loss and creates an environment where your body slows its metabolism, holds on to fat, and retains mountains of water. So yeah, I know this sounds terrible and you feel like the fitness magazines have mislead you, but at least we can get cracking in the right direction to stop this.

Fix: Start lifting weights and reduce the amount of cardio you do. The weights will allow you to build lean mass, which will positively affect your metabolism, and reducing the cardio will help reduce cortisol levels and allow your body to burn fat more efficiently.

#2: Lifting heavy weights will make me bulky or turn me into a bodybuilder.

Photo courtesy of Cassidy Hilton and Harry Cleigh Photography

Wow, this one drives me nuts. First off, let’s be honest—women don’t have the hormones to build the mass that you see men building. They lack the levels of testosterone needed and have high levels of estrogen in its place, making it nearly impossible to gain the types of mass most women are worried about. Often, when you see an extremely muscular and vascular female lifter, there is probably a chance that she's taking an anabolic steroid. So for the regular woman who wants to lift heavy, this should give you comfort in the fact that unless your fish oil pills are rigged, you aren't going to build muscle mass over night.

One more thing—if you do build some mass over a long training period and also eat a huge surplus of calories, yes, you will get bigger. Remember, new muscle covered in more fat will make you look bigger. I’m guessing no one wants that though, so keep your diet in check and your chances of becoming a leaner, meaner you will become a reality.

Fix: Lift heavy and keep the reps under five if your aim is to not build muscle mass. In fact, lift heavy with full recovery between sets. From a scientific standpoint, the eight- to twelve-rep range that magazines always suggest for “toning” is bull. Eight to twelve reps is hypertrophy, which is the scientific name for muscle growth. The last time I checked, most women claim they don’t want to build too much muscle mass. So ditch the high reps, pick up the heavy weights, and get yourself some kick-ass self-confidence (and booty)!

#3: Oatmeal and fruit for breakfast is a great way to start off my weight loss day.

This ideology drives me bananas! Complex carbs and fructose in the morning are more of a recipe for weight gain than weight loss. First thing in the morning, your body is a fat burning furnace. Even though cortisol levels are high, growth hormone is also high. Without the ingestion of carbohydrates, this provides a catabolic environment that lets you burn fat efficiently. However, the second you spoon the oatmeal and blueberries into your mouth, you introduce carbohydrates, which halts the awesome fat burning environment that you just woke up to.

Fix: Stick to the proteins and healthy fats in the morning to keep the fat burning going. If you're going to eat carbs, eat them after your training when your chances of them getting stored in the muscle rather than the fat cells are greatly improved!

I hope this debunking of some common myths of women’s fitness sits OK with you. I’m sure some of you are reading this and thinking I’m full of it, but I’m not. I’m a powerlifter. I lift as heavy as my body will let me, and I still compete in the 105-pound and 97-pound weight classes. I’m also a former cardio junkie who has the blood work to prove how detrimental excess cardio can be. I really hope my trials and errors can help you achieve your goals. However, I can’t force you to believe me. I only hope I challenge you to make some changes for a few weeks and see what happens. If you don’t like the results, you can always go back to your old ways!