It’s a lazy Sunday afternoon, and this crusader needs to pass some time between well.. doing nothing – and what better way to do it than by busting some myths? Read on for some stuff that may surprise you, and some that may seem darn right stupid..
So what are the biggest myths that present themselves when talking about weight-loss, or as I more specifically like to say – fat-loss? What mistakes do people commonly make when they are aiming to lose some weight and start dieting?
Without further ado,
5 Fat-burning myths busted;
1. Fat is the number one enemy of the weight-losee
This is my favourite thing I like to trash, and it has nothing to do with the fact that just about everyone seems to believe that eating even the tiniest bit of fat when they’re on a diet will cast all their progress into worthlessness. It’s just that fatty foods taste SO. good.
Bacon comes to mind, and steak, and sausages, and eggs, and… I digress.
Simply: The only thing that matters in fat-loss, is total calories in vs total calories out
While it’s true that fats are much more calorie dense than either carbohydrates or proteins, so it’s relatively easy to go overboard, consuming fat in itself is in no way detrimental to weight-loss. The fact of the matter is, whichever the source of macro-nutrient(read: protein, carbohydrates, or fats) that contribute to your daily calorie intake, as long as you aren’t exceeding your Maintenance Calories (the amount of calories you are burning in a day) overall – as far as losing weight is concerned, you’re all good.
in-fact; High-fat diets have been shown to be more beneficial for burning fat than low-fat diets
The mildly-complex explanation: When you are following a High Carb Low-Fat (HCLF) diet, your body converts carbohydrates into glucose and this becomes its main energy source.
A high fat diet forces the body to burn fat instead of carbohydrates for energy. When this happens, the liver begins to convert fats into fatty acids for energy, and ketones to supply the (usually glucose dependent) brain with fuel. This change causes your body to become a fat burning machine – favouring fat as it’s energy source. So when the body runs out of fats from food intake, where does it look next? that’s right, its own fat stores. Bye, bye body fat.
2. Long, steady-state workouts (like cardio) are great for fat-loss
Ok, so while this isn’t actually a lie, it’s nowhere near the truth.
Whatever kind of exercise you’re doing, you’ll burn off energy from food before your body will actually start using it’s fat stores to fuel your training.
That’s why long, single-speed workouts seem like a good idea – you work out for so long that a good part of the time you’ve been exercising has to be spent burning off body fat, right?
Well, right. But for overall fat-burning there are much better alternatives out there.
Take High-Intensity Interval Training (or HIIT) for example, these short burst workouts (maximum-effort with short rest periods) usually only take about 20 minutes and have been shown to burn up to 9x more fat than a normal steady-state cardio session (of similar magnitude) in some studies. (including a study published way back in 1994).
In fact, any high-intensity exercise (like sprinting) will always cause more fat loss compared to a low-intensity exercise (like jogging). It’s all about getting outside your comfort zone, and causing your body to adapt. Not only will you burn more fat during intense exercise, but you’ll continue to burn fat anywhere from several hours to a day (based on differing research) after you’ve finished your workout – compared to about an hour commonly associated with low-intensity training. You could be sitting on the couch, watching tv, and all the time burning fat!
3. Weights are a waste of time, I want to burn fat not gain muscle!
Research has shown time and again that weight-training isn’t just beneficial to muscular hypertrophy (building muscle), it’s also a great fat-loss tool. A brief session of weights (or longer) can have your body burning fat for many hours afterwards, while you just sit back and rest. Not only this, but weight-training is also great for body composition, and having more muscle will cause your metabolism (the amount of calories you will be burning at rest) to be higher.
– ladies, you may be reading this and thinking ‘yeh, ok, but I don’t want to train with weights in case I become hulk..ish!’ – it just won’t happen.
As plenty of women who perform in weight-lifting and strong(wo)man events the world over will tell you – you don’t have to be big to be strong. And doing weights a couple of times a week will only help you look slimmer and more toned – you definitely won’t end up looking like Arnie by accident. Women don’t have the high levels of testosterone (a vital hormone for muscle building) that men do*, and this makes building large amounts of muscle incredibly difficult for the fairer sex. Even the best, most dedicated female bodybuilders have trouble.
*there could be some pretty hairy situations if this wasn’t the case
4. Not eating for several hours will make my body store fat and go into ‘starvation mode’
If you’ve read my Intermittent Fasting article (and you should), you’ll already know this isn’t the case. But for those who haven’t or want a refresher – here’s the truth.
Starvation mode may exist, but unless you haven’t eaten for weeks, maybe even months, it’s not going to affect you.
The only people who even know what real hunger feels like, are people who haven’t eaten for a week or more. The hunger sensation we all feel when we haven’t eaten for sometime, is actually a product of a hormone called ghrellin, which shows up at times when you’re accustomed to eating meals.
People who snack regularly are always the ones who get hungry first, right?
Several studies have shown that starvation mode over short periods of fasting is completely inaccurate, non-existant.
All the research on fasting shows that the body actually adapts to burning more and more of it’s own fat stores for energy as time without food goes on, in fact the percentage of body fat burned (for energy) increases at a substantial rate all the way up to 32 hours of fasting. If a 32 hour period of no starvation mode isn’t enough for you, how about a couple of studies that found fasting for 72 hours straight had no impact on metabolism whatsoever? That’s three days without food!
Time and again it’s going to come back to elementary cave-man ideas. Neolithic man wouldn’t have been able to eat every three hours on the dot, and yet it would be vital for him to maintain his muscle mass, and keep fat to a minimum to be able to out-run danger, and overpower his prey. Yes, fat is used as an energy store by our bodies, but do you really believe that a few hours is enough time for our bodies to get terrified they haven’t been fed and store everything?
5. Eating smaller, more regular meals will ‘stoke the metabolic fire’ and make me burn more calories
This is my least favourite myth, I have a genuine hate for it – because I believed it myself for so long.
On the surface it’s easy to buy in to, especially when you hear every person in the gym spouting it with so much faith. Say anything with enough confidence, and people will believe it.
However, the lack of evidence for this claim is shocking. And I don’t mean, recently there has been a lack of evidence – I mean there never really was any.
The whole thing likely started with old school bodybuilders eating six small portions of protein, carbs, and some vegetables (next to no fat) every day. The idea behind this was that in order for muscles to repair and grow optimally, you needed to provide them with a constant stream of nutrients. This idea has been shown to be flawed in recent times, especially considering the beneficial effects on muscle growth fasting can have (look out for that article coming soon). This kind of small portioned, meal planning was followed by the theory of ‘thermic effect’.
thermic effect: in relation to food, the energy required to break-down and digest foods.
It’s a real thing! (they say every good lie has a truth at it’s centre), however in reality it is a tiny, tiny energy expenditure. To digest 25g of protein (the most energy-expensive macro-nutrient to digest) takes about 10 calories. So people who ate six meals a day would claim that this ‘thermic effect’ meant that eating more often meant they burnt more calories, it ‘stoked the metabolic fire’ and kept their metabolism at a higher rate. Meaning they would be burning more calories while resting than someone not following their eating regimen. The problem? It doesn’t work like that.
No matter how many meals you are eating in a day, if you’re still eating the same amount of food, the same amount of calories – you’re still only using the same amount of energy to digest that food! As already stated, studies have shown the metabolism is completely unaffected by 3 days of not eating! and others showed no metabolic change in people skipping breakfast. And yes, there are studies directly comparing more meals a day to less.. and yes, the results suggest no change in metabolic rate.
So there you have it…
5 fat-burning myths de-bunked/busted/shredded.
Now how am I going to fill my time between Six Nation matches?