8 Ways Women's Magazines Got Fitness All Wrong

Brad Borland
Written By: Brad Borland
January 27th, 2016
Updated: June 13th, 2020
Categories: Articles For Women
22.2K Reads
8 Ways Women's Magazines Got Fitness All Wrong
Women's magazines are known for their sensational headlines and quick-fix promises. Learn how they got it all wrong when it comes to women's fitness.

“The One Trick to Improve Your Workouts Right Now!”

“The Secret to an Instantly Flat Belly!”

There’s good reason people roll their eyes at fitness magazines. They make outlandish promises claiming to have all the answers to your most pressing problems.

Women’s magazines are notorious for eye-catching headlines and attractive sounding ways to solve your woes. Yes, I am well aware that men’s magazines are guilty too, but let’s clear up a few things regarding how the average women’s mag distorts the truth about fitness, health, and eating properly to fit their marketing plan.

Although there is some valid information, there are plenty of falsehoods that need a little clearing up. Below are 8 ways women’s magazines got it wrong.

1. Lift Light

Women have been bashed over the head with this one for decades. “You’ll get too big and bulky,” they say. “You don’t want to look like a man, do you?” and “Lift light to get long, sexy muscles,” they will posture. Nonsense.

Muscle is muscle. Whether it's on a man or woman, it’s all muscle tissue. The difference? Women have only a tenth of the testosterone of men, so building unsightly, manly muscle is difficult to begin with.

The fact is that women should lift and they should lift challenging amounts of weights. That is the only way you will change the look and health of your physique. Performing the boring 3 sets of 10 and quitting your sets when you feel a slight burn will get you nowhere fast.

2. Eat Only Salads

Women eat salads and men eat steak, right? Well, it goes something like that, but generally speaking, women are thought to eat lighter, leaner, and less meat. Why?

Women's Fitness: There's more to life than salads

If you enjoy your salads this much, dive right on in for seconds....

Sure, women normally don’t require as many calories as men do due to several factors like testosterone levels, metabolisms, total body mass, but that doesn’t mean women need different food.

Eat protein in all its forms: beef, chicken, fish, turkey, whole eggs, protein powders, and dairy. You still need quality protein sources to support hard training plus plenty of veggies and some complex starchy carbs as well.

Related: 43 Easy High Protein Recipes

3. Don't Eat Carbs

Piggybacking off the last statement, yes, you need carbs too. These trendy, cool-sounding, zero-carb diets are popular and market all kinds of promises.

Remember all that hard training you’ve been conquering in the gym? You need carbs to help replenish energy stores, repair tissues, and for overall wellness, brain, and organ function. Don’t shy away from oats, rice, potatoes, and other non-traditional sources like quinoa and buckwheat.

I know many will tout the fact that carbs aren’t technically necessary for survival, but you’re trying to succeed, not just survive. Make sure you plan your carbs mainly around your workouts and fill your plate with plenty of colorful veggies too.

4. Focus on Cardio

Cardiovascular exercise is wonderful. It revs your metabolism, burns calories, and improves your cardiovascular and circulatory systems, but it shouldn’t be your only form of exercise. Go to any gym and see where the lean, muscular people are – in the weight area. Very few jump on a treadmill, set the speed at “walk to my car”, and begin to delve into a trance staring at a TV screen.

Related: Strength Secrets for Cardio Bunnies

Find a balance. Cardio can help train your metabolism to work better at burning fat. Resistance training builds muscle and strength and helps train your muscles to burn fat longer and better. Focus on both for the best results.

5. Stay Away from the Big Lifts

Women's Fitness: Try the big compound lifts

What do the fitness mags always have women doing? Triceps kickbacks, abductions with bands, and concentration curls. Isolation lifts have their place, but so do the big lifts. Bench presses, shoulder presses, rows, squats, and even deadlifts all have merit in a training program for women.

No, kickbacks won’t make your triceps leaner, but squats will. The big lifts will build muscle all over the body, stoke your fat-burning furnace, and build full-body strength. Plus, they’re time savers. It would take you all day to work your entire body with isolation lifts. The big, compound lifts work more muscle faster and more efficiently.

6. Eat Soy and Tofu

Okay, some will say that soy suppresses testosterone in men and that it’s fine for women to scarf it down as they please. Eat these foods if you want, but don’t feel obligated to eat them. More than likely the magazine is getting money to write about certain foods.

Have you seen a lot of articles on pistachios? What about almonds, alternative milks, and kale? Yep, more times than not there was money exchanged. Judge for yourself, and then decide what health foods are right for you.

7. Fitness Should be Pretty

Most magazines display pictures of women void of sweat, perfectly made up, and smiling. The reality is that your training shouldn’t be “pretty.” Going to the gym and training with a purpose shouldn’t include staged selfies and the need to stay sweat-free at all costs.

You can train just as hard, if not harder and more intense than men. There is absolutely no rule prohibiting this. This perspective has shifted a little due to the advent of Crossfit and images of women kicking butt in the gym. Don’t listen to the magazine, get busy and don’t be afraid to kick a little butt too.

Women's Fitness: Push through it

8. If It's Too Hard, It's OK to Quit

We live in a very sensitive world full of feel-good quotes and imaginary safety nets in case we fall. The prevailing attitude is that if you fail or falter, it’ll be okay; maybe you weren’t made for this.

I say, screw that.

The can-do attitude needs to come back. Women’s magazines are constantly trying to validate shortcomings to an exhaustive extent. No, you don’t need to beat yourself up over every little thing, but there is also a time when you need to be tough with yourself, get up, go to the gym, and train – even when you don’t feel like it.

As humans we weren’t designed to constantly seek comfort in order to succeed. Get out of your comfort zone and conquer your tendencies to skip your workout to build a better you.

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Posted on: Wed, 01/27/2016 - 18:48

What was some of the worst fitness advice you ever received?

Posted on: Thu, 01/28/2016 - 13:24

When I first began lifting I was told I have to change my routine exercises every three weeks or I'll "plateau". It took me 6 months to figure out that was complete B.S., thankfully though it led to me finding what exercises really work the best for me.

Laura D.
Posted on: Wed, 11/23/2016 - 16:36

You need to be doing cardio and not lifting weights! I have heard that my entire life and in this day and age, A 'Trainer" shouldn't spout that. No Cookie Cutters work on me! Great Article!

Posted on: Sat, 02/23/2019 - 17:17

you eat chocolate bars with auto glycemic index no problem