5 Fat-Loss Myths DEBUNKED
We all want to advance our health. Part of that goal usually includes improving our body composition by losing fat. The problem is that there is so much confusing, false information out there. This leads to a discouraging road to fitness. Lets address some of the most common myths associated with fat loss and expose them.
MYTH 1: Fasted training burns more fat
It may seem logical to think that our bodies will burn fat when it can’t burn glucose from a recent meal. This isn’t necessarily true. The main problem with this rationale is that the “weight loss” could be coming from a loss of muscle, which is counter-productive! Training fasted may actually make it difficult for your body to recover and replenish nutrients after the protein breakdown that results from exercise.
This need for amino acids, to support protein synthesis, may lead to the breakdown of muscle mass. Instead, try drinking a small protein shake before your workout. About 20 grams of protein, usually contained in one scoop, is adequate before training.
Many studies show that consuming high-quality protein increases muscle mass and fat loss. Protein digestion before a workout can limit spikes in insulin, ensuring that fat is still utilized for energy.
MYTH 2: More time doing cardio = more fat loss
This is a common misconception among women in the fitness world. Steady-state cardio has some great health benefits, including mental clarity and heart health. However, it isn’t the most effective way to reduce body fat. High-intensity interval training (H.I.I.T.) wins when it comes to efficiency and body composition improvements. H.I.I.T. will allow you to reap the same benefits as steady-state cardio, while having an even better effect on glucose metabolism, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and hormone balance. Not to mention, you burn more calories with HIIT than you do with steady-state cardio.
H.I.I.T. can be done in many ways, but it’s foundation is always built of intervals of maximum effort, with resting in-between. Pro tip: incorporate exercises that engage your entire body such as Jacob’s ladder or a rowing machine. The engagement of multiple muscle groups increase the amount of calories you’ll burn. It’s okay to take a day off if you’re feeling beat after a few days of HIIT, it’s harder on your body than steady-state cardio. Give your body ample time to recover in-between workouts!
MYTH 3: A low caloric intake is needed for fat loss
We all want results, and we want them fast. But in this case, fast results can do more harm than good. When patience is sacrificed, metabolic complications can arise. Nutrient deficiencies develop, bone mineral density decreases, and brain function deteriorates. In addition, muscle loss is bound to take place with too little intake of energy. Having too low of a caloric intake can make weight management much more difficult.
Reducing your daily caloric intake by about 300-500 calories per day below maintenance level is recommended. That translates to losing about ½ pound to 1 pound of weight loss per week. Pro tip: keep a food diary using a mobile app and modify the caloric and macronutrient goals to fit your needs. This will keep you on track, avoiding any extreme measures.
MYTH 4: You should lose fat before you start weight lifting to avoid becoming “bulky”
This myth goes right along with “lifting weights will make me bulky” and “weight lifting will make me look manly.” These are all misconceptions. While lifting heavier weights in rep ranges of 8-10 reps per set may produce some muscle growth (hypertrophy), the primary result will actually be an increase in muscle strength, not necessarily larger muscles. Not only does weight lifting improve mood, posture, and bone strength, it also helps you lose fat.
Heavy weight lifting increases your energy expenditure for up to 24 hours post-workout and the increase in muscle mass that results from lifting increases the amount of calories you burn at rest! This is because muscle costs more energy than fat to maintain.
MYTH 5: You have to eat every 2-3 hours
This myth has been around for a long time in the fitness industry, and yet, we’re still confused about the optimal meal frequency. Several studies have found that after consuming a balanced meal, rich in protein, carbohydrates, and fats, protein synthesis in the body lasted for approximately 3 hours. However, once protein synthesis levels fell back to baseline, there were still elevated levels of plasma amino acids present! In fact, our bodies still have adequate energy and protein building blocks for up to 4-5 hours after eating.
So, eat at the critical time periods: upon waking, pre-workout, and post-workout, and don’t stress too much about the rest. The quality of food you eat matters much more!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nicolet Finger, a medical student at The University of North Texas, believes in the importance of nutrition and fitness as part of a healthy lifestyle. Before medical school, she earned a B.S. in Nutritional Science from The University of Texas at Austin, conducted nutritional research at the Dell Pediatric Research Institute, and led body acceptance workshops for The National Institutes of Health. Nicolet is determined to make nutrition a larger focus in today’s health care, beginning with her personal practice as a future physician.
1. Paddon-Jones D et al. Amino acid ingestion improves muscle protein synthesis in the young and elderly. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2004. 2. Tipton KD et al. Postexercise net protein synthesis in human muscle from orally administered amino acids. Am J Physiol. 1999. 3. Alahmadi, Mohammad A. “High-intensity Interval Training and Obesity.” Journal of Novel Physiotherapies J Nov Physiother. 2014.