Watch Out For These WORDS!

Watch Out For These WORDS!

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The truth behind the language used to sell health products

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Companies in the fitness and nutrition industry are not always interested in your health, but instead, in relieving you of your hard-earned money.

Everyone wants to lose fat; get a six pack; have more energy; look younger, and live longer. The fitness and nutrition industries are keenly aware of this human angst, and so they advertise their products or services with words and phrases that get our attention. More often than not, these words or phrases do not mean anything; they are either hollow, or are irrelevant to the product being sold to us.

The top five most meaningless words and phrases which companies use to convince us to hand over our money:

  1. LONG, LEAN, TONED MUSCLES

    Everyone wants long, lean, and toned muscles. Few people want to be short and bulky. Companies that sell services in yoga, Pilates, or dance often dangle the promise of “long, lean, and toned muscles,” to convince people to spend money on their programs. People can definitely derive health benefits from any of these programs. However, the unfortunate reality is that if you have the genetics for short thick legs, there is nothing you can do to lengthen them.

    When such promises are made, the term “long” is often interpreted by the consumer to mean an actual lengthening of the extremity. Companies’ claims about these services actually mean that the flexibility or range of motion may increase around a particular joint. Muscle length will not change, but there may be change in the amount of joint movement. However, the message, “Come to our Pilates class and increase the range of motion in your hip flexors,” does not have quite the same ring, or selling attraction.

    The term “lean” refers to the amount of body fat. The most effective treatment for fat loss is to follow a nutritious diet, comprised mainly of plant-based sources, with the calories not exceeding the energy you expend daily. Exercise, though helpful, plays a small role in fat loss, as compared to diet. It takes five minutes to eat an 800 calorie piece of cheesecake, and up to two hours of intense exercise to burn it off.

    When people hear the term “toned,” they think “lean with muscle definition, but not bulk.” Tone simply describes the state of your muscles; specifically, the state of tension in the muscle. “Normal muscle tone” means that there is a right amount of tension in the muscle at rest, and that the muscle is inherently able to contract when commanded to do so. “High muscle tone” means the muscle is tense and tight, even though it is not doing anything. When high muscle tone is present, arms and legs become tightly contorted, as in the case of patients with cerebral palsy. “Low muscle tone,” on the other hand, means muscles at rest do not have enough tension, and consequently have a mushy, slightly sloppy feel to them.

    Thus, the tone of your muscles is involuntary, so you cannot change it by lifting weights. However, you can shed the layer of fat covering your muscles, and with strength training, give your body more definition, thereby achieving a “toned” look.

  2. INCREASED ENERGY

    Companies that sell vitamin-rich energy drinks and supplements often advertise their products by promising you will be less fatigued and more invigorated by the consumption of these drinks. In reality, vitamins do not give you energy, because they contain no calories. Energy drinks contain some calories in the form of sugar which are quickly absorbed and used up by the body. The stimulants in the drinks, such as caffeine, have more of an effect on your nervous system. After consuming one of these drinks, you may feel more alert temporarily, but this effect soon fades. Moreover, side effects, such as an increased heart rate, blood pressure, and adrenalin—attributable to the stimulants in these drinks—can have a long term negative impact on your body, if consumed in large quantities.

    Rather than relying on energy drinks, you can increase your energy in these three ways:

    Sleep eight hours plus, per night, to allow your body to recover and de-stress from daytime activity. Proper sleep allows you to recharge for the following day by balancing hormonal levels.


    Improve your cardio-fitness and muscular strength through exercise, so that regular every day activity and sport feels easier to perform.


    Eat a diet which contains healthy carbohydrates, so that you have the calories necessary to fuel long, hard, intense work.

    “Exercise, though helpful, plays a small role in fat loss, as compared to diet.”
  3. DETOXIFY/CLEANSE

    “Detoxify” and “cleanse” are probably the two most common words used today to sell you useless products. You can find books and goods selling month-long cleanses, 14-day detoxes, 7-day cleanses, and even one or two-day programs—if you are in a real hurry. Companies which sell detoxes and cleanses usually focus on juicing, fasting methods, and/or drinking concoctions such as distilled water with lemon juice and cayenne pepper. Supposedly, this will help clean out your organs. Currently, no research exists to support any program, drink, or fast that detoxifies or cleanses your body. Nor are experts able to identify any specific toxins that are removed through these cleanses. The human body has organs—mainly the liver, kidneys and intestines—that do the job for us. If you eat a mostly plant-based diet (75% of your entire food intake); drink water; sleep well, and go to the bathroom regularly, you are as clean and toxin-free as you can be.

  4. VITALITY

    The word “vitality” is used to sell numerous products, mostly in the form of supplements. Products that claim they can help delay the aging process use this word. Many people have no idea what vitality means, but they want it anyway. It generally relates to having more strength, energy, a feeling of being healthy, and a zest for life. Hearing the word vitality in the context of supplements leads people to believe that these goods can replace healthful living. Hope in the possibility of a product which is a panacea consumes us all, and makes us gullible to the dubious claims of advertisers. Good genes; not smoking; sleeping well; regular exercise; eating a healthy diet, and being around people you love will give you all the vitality you need.

  5. BOOST METABOLISM

    Your “basal metabolic rate” refers to the calories you expend at rest. Many people, products, and even respected TV programs and hosts try to sell you the promise of leanness by boosting metabolism. Products such as green tea, spices, and coffee beans have all been touted to boost metabolism. At this time, other than products containing ephedrine and caffeine, there exists no research that reveals a direct correlation between a product and a significant boost in metabolism that would have a long term effect on fat loss. While pills containing ephedrine and caffeine do work, their use is accompanied by dangerous consequences, such as increased heart rate; increased blood pressure; irritability; anxiety; stress on adrenal glands; stroke, and possibly, death. And, once you stop taking these pills, your metabolism reverts back to your norm.

    Effective ways to increase your metabolic rate without exposing yourself to the risk of death are to:

    Add muscle through weight training— about 6-8 calories per day for every pound of lean tissue added. Results can be significant when 5-10 pounds of lean mass are added over time.


    Engage in high-intensity exercise. You get a temporary metabolic boost for 1-2 hours post-exercise, (not 36 hours, like some fitness scam-artists claim).


    Eat a bit more protein. You expend more energy digesting protein than by eating fats or carbohydrates.

    Most of us desire to lose weight, slow the aging process, increase energy, and acquire long-term health. We so want to believe that there is a special pill, workout program, or drink that will make this dream of a younger, slimmer, fitter body a reality for us, that North Americans will spend over 100 billion dollars this year trying to achieve these objectives. History tells us that, so far, pills and potions do not work. We are an increasingly overweight society depending on medicine to keep our sickly bodies alive. Instead of wasting money on the magic bean, spend your dollar wisely on healthy food you cook yourself, fitness and active vacations with your family, and do not feel bad about enjoying the occasional treat.

    “‘Detoxify’ and ‘cleanse’ are probably the two most common words used today to sell you useless products.”
Paul Plakas
Paul Plakas is a well-known fitness expert and personal trainer for more than 20 years. Paul has also been featured on Slice TV network shows "Taking it Off" and "X-Weighted."

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