The world of dieting and fat loss is littered will all sorts of nonsense, shenanigans, and fads. A great deal of the “noise” surrounding weight loss are rooted in myths that have permeated the health and fitness industry for decades.
Fall for one (or all) of these myths, and your dieting, cutting, and fat loss phases just got that more complicated, frustrating, and ineffective.
Ahead, we’ve got 9 of the most common fat loss myths you’re likely to encounter. With these tips, hopefully you’ll be able to prevent yourself from falling for the same lies and tricks that others have and lose weight faster than ever.
Let’s get started with #1…
Top 5 Fat Loss Myths
All Calories Are Created Equal
How many times have you been told “a calorie is a calorie.” This is a favorite line of the IIFYM (if it fits your macros) crowd who have taken the nutritional philosophy over the deep end.
And that crowd isn’t completely wrong.
It’s true that so long as you consume fewer calories than you burn in a day, you will lose weight. So, in this instance, a calorie is a calorie.
You can lose weight eating a diet of pure Twinkies or McDonald’s french fries; however, the “quality” of your weight loss, your resulting body composition, and overall health won’t be the best should you choose to eat nothing but hyper-processed, micronutrient-depleted, and protein-void foods.When it comes to proper dieting, fat loss, and body recomposition, we’re here to tell you that all calories are NOT created equal.
Different foods are processed via different metabolic pathways in the body. They also have different effects on satiety, blood sugar levels, and hormones. For example, if you choose to diet and consume little-to-no protein, you will lose a lot of muscle during your diet, resulting in the “skinny fat” look at the end of your diet.
On the flip side, eating more protein in place of fat and carbohydrate during fat loss phases can help boost metabolism, improve weight-governing hormone function, and decrease appetite.[1,2,3]
This is due to the fact that the body must expend greater energy to digest protein than either fat or carbohydrate. Protein also helps spare lean muscle tissue in the presence of a calorie deficit which is vital if you want to avoid the skinny fat look when you’re done cutting.
Fasted Cardio is Best for Fat Loss
This myth grows out of the fact that when in a fasted state, the body relies primarily on stored body fat for energy. As such, if you’re performing low-intensity, steady-state cardio, your body would burn body fat to power your muscles during exercise and not the food you had just eaten.
This idea holds water if you believe that exercise is the primary driver behind fat loss, which it isn’t.
Your diet is.
Exercise has relatively minimal impact on calorie expenditure during the day, that is, unless you’re training for hours on end everyday.
Noted hypertrophy researcher, Dr. Brad Schoenfeld, has even investigated the fat loss effects of fed vs fasted cardio and noted that:“These findings indicate that body composition changes associated with aerobic exercise in conjunction with a hypocaloric diet are similar regardless whether or not an individual is fasted prior to training.”
In other words, whether you are fed or fasted when performing cardio doesn’t really matter.
Again, energy balance (calories in vs calories out) ultimately determines fat loss, not whether you had food in your system or not during your 30-45 minutes on the treadmill.
This leads us to the next popular fat loss myth…
Cardio is Required to Lose Fat
We’ll go into this topic in greater depth in a future article, but if there’s one fat loss myth that needs to die, it is this one.
Cardio is absolutely NOT required for you to lose fat.
Remember, weight loss boils down to maintaining a negative energy balance. By that we mean that you must be taking in fewer calories than you are burning each day.
And just to make things crystal clear, weight loss requires that you burn more calories than you eat each day.
It really is as simple as that.
“Cardio”, as most people perform it, may burn 150-250 calories in a single session. That paltry amount of calories can easily be wiped out by having a few slices of bread, a couple protein shakes, or a single Snickers bar.Diet is the primary driver of fat loss, not exercise. As such, you do NOT need cardio to lose fat.
That being said, cardiovascular exercises can help you burn some extra calories during the day, which could reduce how big of a calorie deficit you need to create with your nutrition plan.
In the end though, you can perform cardio if you enjoy it, but the focus of any fat loss diet should be on resistance training (which helps spare muscle tissue) and maintaining a calorie deficit.
Low Carb Diets Are Better Than Low-Fat Diets for Weight Loss
Low carb proponents espouse the idea that eating low-carb forces your body to burn more fat. And, they’re not entirely wrong.
When you eat a high fat, low carb (LCHF) diet, your body will by default burn more fat since that’s where it’s primary source of energy is coming from. However, just because your body is burning more fat, does not mean you’re burning more body fat or losing weight any faster for that matter.
It is very possible to gain fat while eating a low carb diet, if you eat more calories than you burn daily.
Research backs this up too.
When protein is controlled for, low-carb diets are no better than higher carb, lower fat diets for losing weight.Eat Frequently to “Boost” the Metabolism
This is an oldie but definitely not a goodie.
For decades, dieters have been told that consuming many smaller meals throughout the day is better than eating fewer, larger ones under the guise that frequent feeding “boosts” the metabolism.
However, scientific research begs to differ.
A thorough review of the research noted that total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) was the same, regardless of the number of meals individuals consumed throughout the day.
In this meta-analysis, subjects consumed anywhere between one and seventeen “meals” per day.
Researchers noted that:
“Studies using whole-body calorimetry and doubly-labelled water to assess total 24 h energy expenditure find no difference between nibbling and gorging.”
In other words, the number of meals and snacks you have during the day, or how far those feedings are spaced apart has no significant impact on your daily energy expenditure. This further drives home the point that at the end of the day, if you want to lose weight, you need to be in a calorie deficit.It’s not the carbohydrates making you fat.
It’s not necessary for your to perform fasted cardio.
And, you definitely don’t need to eat 6 small meals throughout the day.
What you do need to do to lose weight and burn body fat is:
•Consume adequate protein (roughly 1-1.1 grams per pound of bodyweight)
•Maintain a calorie deficit
Do these three things, and you will lose weight. There’s no need to follow the latest diet fad or jump on the next weight loss bandwagon.
As for weight loss supplements (i.e. fat burners), they can help reduce appetite, increase energy levels during periods of low calorie intake, and provide a modest boost in energy expenditure. But without a calorie deficit, even the best fat burners won’t do much to eliminate the spare tire around your waist.
It’s said that “with knowledge comes power.”
Well, we’ve given you the knowledge about what to be on the lookout for when it comes to sorting out fact from myth. Use this knowledge to have a less stressful, more successful diet!References
1. Leidy HJ, Clifton PM, Astrup A, et al. The role of protein in weight loss and maintenance. Am J Clin Nutr. April 2015. doi:10.3945/ajcn.114.084038.
2. Astrup A, Raben A, Geiker N. The role of higher protein diets in weight control and obesity-related comorbidities. International Journal of Obesity (2005). 2015;39(5):721-726. doi:10.1038/ijo.2014.216.
3. Pesta DH, Samuel VT. A high-protein diet for reducing body fat: mechanisms and possible caveats. Nutrition & Metabolism. 2014;11:53. doi:10.1186/1743-7075-11-53.
4. Schoenfeld, B. J., Aragon, A. A., Wilborn, C. D., Krieger, J. W., & Sonmez, G. T. (2014). Body composition changes associated with fasted versus non-fasted aerobic exercise. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 11(1), 54.
5. Gardner CD, Trepanowski JF, Del Gobbo LC, et al. Effect of Low-Fat vs Low-Carbohydrate Diet on 12-Month Weight Loss in Overweight Adults and the Association With Genotype Pattern or Insulin Secretion. The DIETFITS Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA. 2018;319(7):667–679. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.0245
6. Bellisle F, McDevitt R, Prentice AM. Meal frequency and energy balance. Br J Nutr. 1997 Apr;77 Suppl 1:S57-70.