The culture of fat loss is filled with contradictory, straight up misleading, and just plain wrong information.
It can make your endeavor into cutting extra fat extremely difficult when you don’t know what and who you can trust.
This week, I’ll take you through 4 common myths about losing fat. I’ll touch a little bit on the origin of the myth and why it’s a myth.
You need to cut carbs to lose fat
We’ve all heard it: “carbs are the enemy”.
Cutting carbs is an idea consistently perpetuated by weight loss gurus all over the world.
Why do we think we should get rid of carbs from our diet altogether?
Because of a narrow and misguided interpretation of the scientific literature. A single scientific study is not meant to stand alone. The results of one study should be interpreted in the context of everything else that is going on in the field as a whole.
Here are a few caveats to look out for when you look at research surrounding carbohydrates and fat loss.
First, the majority of studies conducted focus on sedentary, obese individuals – which may work for some people, but if you’re already moderately active and you’re just looking to shed 10 pounds or so, these results won’t be applicable to you.
Second, most studies are short term. We’re talking two weeks long for the most part. They’re not enough to determine what’s going to happen to you over the long haul.
Lastly, a lot of research relies on self-reporting. Where you use an app or a food diary of some sort and log everything you’ve eaten. These are notoriously unreliable. A lot of participants misreport making the results very difficult to interpret.
You, as a person who doesn’t have the time to become well versed on an entire field of research – because unless you’re one of the researchers in the field, no one has the time – should look for meta-analyses.
Meta-analyses are great because they combine the results of many different studies into one paper to give you a better idea of where the field is at in regards to a particular question.
A meta-analysis of the effect of low-carb and moderate carb intake diets on weight loss suggest no difference between the two diets.
To lose fat, eat lots of small meals to rev up your metabolism
Another idea you hear about a lot is the need to eat many small meals in a day to boost your metabolism and promote weight loss.
This myth likely has its origins in epidemiological studies. These are the types of studies where a scientist will look at a large group of people and try make inferences about that group and certain conditions. Like meal frequency and the rate of obesity, for example.
It was once observed that people who ate more frequently tended to weigh less.
Many people since these studies have improperly taken this relationship and thought that eating more meals would cause weight loss.
This can be extremely difficult if you’re on a low-calorie diet. Some women are recommended to go as low as 1200 calories in a day! Not saying the latter statement is correct, but let’s entertain the idea of someone trying to consume that many calories in a day with a high-frequency meal plan.
Split 1200 calories over 6 meals and you’re expected to eat 200 calories per meal. That’s only easy to stick to if you find fulfillment in a grape and a cracker for lunch.
Cardio after an overnight fast is the key to losing more fat
The origin of this myth is mainly theoretical. People thought that after a period of fasting your carbohydrate stores are lower than they would be if you weren’t fasting. So when you jump on the treadmill you’ll get to burning fat more quickly.
Even if this was true, let’s talk about the first misconception in this statement: the source of the fat.
The first fat stores used during exercise are within your muscle. Your muscles are the ones doing the work and they need energy fast, so they’re going to call upon sources that will get them needed energy as quickly as possible.
Unfortunately, fat sources like your love handles aren’t getting used during exercise. Sorry.
The second misconception is the idea that fat is burned in isolated increments. Losing weight and fat is a long-term process that happens throughout the course of the day, not just when you’re working out.
It’s true that the more well-trained you are, the quicker you will start burning fat as a source of energy during exercise. It’s also true that the majority of energy used for excess post-exercise oxygen consumption comes from fat stores. A lot happens outside the confines of your exercise session.
A 3500-calorie deficit = one pound of fat loss
This myth originates from what’s known about caloric expenditure and how many calories a pound of fat can produce (9 Cals per gram of fat).
The math, however, isn’t so straight forward.
Our body was built to survive. To do so it resists change by slowing metabolism when we are underfeeding and speeding metabolism when we overfeed.
How do you circumvent this nasty little biological mechanism?
Stick with it for the long term and shoot for slow, incremental loss. 1-2 pounds for week if you’re close to your ideal weight already. Also, maintain your metabolism by maintaining your lean muscle mass as you lose weight (i.e. lift weights and ensure adequate protein intake).
There are a lot of misinformed opinions in the fitness world. But, there are two golden rules to live by for weight loss:
- You need a caloric deficit (that means you expend more calories than you consume)
- Stick with it for the long term
Adherence is going to make all the difference. What the science tells us is that it doesn’t necessarily matter what you do, just as long as it is something you can maintain. Pick something that works best for you.
If you’d like some help and a little more guidance, give me a shout! That’s what I’m here for. And be sure to follow the blog and Healthy Wheys on social media (Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter).
Have a great week!