Red Flags of Fitness and Fad Diets

Watch out for these four false industry claims


By Maddy Bond


The fitness industry is full of opinions. Some are right, some are wrong, and many depend on the individual. In general all of the different methods and tips can be helpful, but at the end of the day finding a workout program and nutrition plan that works for you is key.

The important things to remember are to give each program time (around four weeks should be enough to know whether it’s working) and pay more attention to how your body feels than what the scale says! If you don’t see results after a month or so, then try something new. However, not all fitness programs are as helpful as they seem. Here are some red flags to look out for as you try and navigate the fitness world and find what program works best for your goals!

Rest is for the weak

Rest is not for the weak. Avoiding it is. While that may sound harsh, avoiding rest can result in low motivation, generally feeling down, and even weight gain. Rest allows your muscles to rebuild themselves so you can continue to lift weights and grow! If you avoid rest, this process will not happen as efficiently — or at all. A body that is not rested is a body that can’t function, so listen to what it’s telling you.

If your back hurts during a workout and further exercise makes it worse, then rest up! A light walk or some simple yoga can be an excellent way to get some movement in on a rest day. For more information check out our article on the importance of recovery. Whatever happens, don’t let anyone tell you that rest is pointless.

Pain is gain

There are different types of pain. There’s muscle burn (which we all know and have a love-hate relationship with), and then there’s bad, sharp pain that can occur during a workout. This can be caused by different things; poor form, too heavy weights, and even stretching incorrectly can set it off. Pain is our body's way of telling us that something bad is going on, like a signal warning us to relax. This is important. If you keep pushing through, you’re more likely to injure yourself further. For example, during a deadlift, if you ever feel a sharp pain, set the weight down and feel it out. Try using a foam roller to ease the pain and massage it a little, then try to lift the weight again. If the pain continues, move on to a different exercise or lower the weight. If your personal trainer tells you to push through a sharp pain because pain is gain, fire them.

Lifting can be bad for your joints

Many people just starting to workout are scared of squatting because they’ve been told it’s bad for the knees. This is incorrect. Lifting shouldn’t cause pain; squatting is actually excellent for your knees. Weightlifting will increase your bone density and joint strength, which will help reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis and other skeletal issues that come with age.

Poor form is typically the culprit for pain and can cause more damage than good. If your form is incorrect, the wrong muscles will engage. This pulls the joints in a way that, when loaded with weights, may cause damage or strain. If a program says to avoid certain exercises, then do some research and start small. If squats scare you, start building the correct muscular strength and balance by doing hip bridges. Then you can move up to bodyweight squats and eventually add light dumbbells.

Eat less than 1500 calories

This is one of the biggest red flags in fad dieting. Unless a registered dietitian has told you to, never eat less than 1500 calories a day. Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the number of calories the body needs to perform basic survival functions like digestion, recovery, and breathing. If you don’t reach that BMR, your body will struggle with performing these functions efficiently. You won’t die, but you’re not going to feel great if you limit yourself to so few calories, especially over a long period of time. Yes, you may initially lose weight, but eventually your body will enter a starvation mode, where instead of burning stored fat due to low sustenance, it will actually store more fat. It’s a built-in safety mechanism that slows down the metabolism so we can survive on less. But a slowed down metabolism means if you revert to eating a healthy level of calories, you’ll most likely gain that weight back again. Then the cycle continues. If your meal plan calls for 1500 calories or less, find a better one.

Maddy has worked in the health and fitness industry for 5 years. She has a bachelors in Exercise Science and has recently received her Masters in Exercise Physiology. She has worked with a wide demographic of clients as a Personal Trainer and loves helping people reach their goals and continue to grow.  She is an outdoor enthusiast and dedicates her workouts to rock climbing, hiking and whatever new experiences may come her way.

Main Photo Credit: wavebreakmedia/; Second Photo Credit: SFIO CRACHO/; Third Photo Credit: Flamingo Images/