Top 5 Fat Loss Myths

Top 5 Fat Loss Myths

Top 5 Fat Loss Myths

If you are looking to shed excess body fat and look good in swimwear this summer, here are some important things to consider. Look your best by not making these five fat loss mistakes:

5. Less Meals for Less Bodyfat?

Eating less often is not the solution to lowering your bodyfat levels. The key to maintaining a lean physique is to keep your metabolism high and your insulin levels low. This will signal your body to burn up as many calories as it can, storing as few as possible. The faster your metabolism, the more calories are burned throughout the day, many of which are calories from body fat. When your metabolism slows down, your body does not burn as many calories, and the majority of what you eat is then stored, rather than used. Stored calories are almost always stored as fat. The key to keeping metabolic rate high is part-exercise and part-diet. On the diet side, by eating regular meals (4-7 per day) at 3-4 hour intervals, your body is constantly working to break down and utilise the nutrients from food and becomes efficient at this, storing as little as possible.

The key is not to eat too often, as each meal increases insulin levels (the body's storage hormone). When insulin is high and more food is taken in, the body will store it as fat. Conversely, when insulin levels are low, the body does not store, but instead uses stored fuel for energy. By spacing your meals out approximately 3-4 hours, you are allowing your insulin levels to come down to a ‘fat burning level', but keeping your metabolism high enough to keep burning calories.

4. Fat-Free Foods Will Help Me Lose Weight

Eating fat-free or low-fat foods in itself is not a bad thing. Many healthy foods such as lean meats, vegetables and fruits have little or no fat in them, and they should be eaten often. The dangers in fat-free foods are mainly found in those that are usually high in fat but come in a fat free form. Peanut butter or mayonnaise are good examples of this. Usually they are fairly high in fat, sometimes over 50%. When the fat levels are reduced in these products, they are often replaced with simple carbohydrates - like sugar. So even though you are taking in fewer calories, the sugar is damaging your insulin system and signalling your body to start storing whatever is going in your mouth. You are better off eating full-fat, natural foods, than their ‘fat-reduced' versions.

While we're on the subject of low-fat, don't forget that fat is one of the most important considerations when you're dieting for fat loss. Eating fat does not make you fat, and in many cases it does the exact opposite. Healthy fats such as CLA, olive oil and safflower oil are not easily digested by the human body, and the complex acids in them help to break down stored fats in the body. Fats will keep you full while dieting, and are necessary for joint, heart, brain and overall body health. Just be sure to stick to healthy fats from nuts, seeds, olive oil and from lean animal meats - not deep fried Mars bars.

3. Lots of Steady-State Cardio = Low Bodyfat

There are a couple of truths to this myth. First - the more cardio you do, the more weight you will lose. Generally, the more weight you lose, the more bodyfat you lose. Secondly - steady state cardio does burn a higher percentage of body fat. Here comes the ‘but'.

Firstly - while you will burn more overall calories the more cardio you do, you won't necessarily be burning more fat. After a certain period of time (the length of time depends on diet and other individual factors), the body runs out of free energy, and starts using stored energy for fuel. Long, endurance cardio signals the body to find this energy from amino acids - protein - which is mainly found in muscle tissue. As a result, the body breaks down its' muscle tissue to have enough energy to complete the gruelling 2-hour cardio session you are putting it through. This definitely results in weight loss - but not the kind you are looking for. If you are looking for a lean, athletic physique, you need low body fat levels, and some muscle which will be more defined by that lack of fat. Enduring long cardio sessions and losing muscle mass results in that ‘skinny-fat' look, where you still have that body fat but have lost weight.

Secondly - while steady state cardio burns a higher percentage of calories from fat, it burns much fewer calories overall. Depending on the intensity, you could get the same results from 20 minutes of high intensity interval training (HIIT) as 60 minutes of steady state cardio. Not only is this more efficient, but there are other benefits as well. HIIT increases your cardio fitness and your lung capacity, and since you are exerting maximum power for a short period of time, HIIT workouts can be muscle-building ones too. Think of a distance runner vs. a sprinter for the difference between steady state and HIIT cardio.

2. Weight-Training is Only for Bulking

If you're looking to move some adipose tissue you might think that cardio is the way to do it. As we've spoken about, cardio is a great way to lose weight but not necessarily fat. Losing fat weight and not muscle weight is what you want to achieve, and that's why weight training is a necessity for optimal fat loss. In fact, there's a list of reasons why you should concentrate on anaerobic training when wanting to lose fat:

  • Metabolic rate is high for as long as 24 hours after a weight training session.
  • More muscle = more calories burned = less body fat. Resistance training will help build muscle.
  • Weight training signals the body to store energy directly into the muscles and away from the fat cells.
  • An hour-long session of weight training can burn between 300 and 500 calories.
  • Muscles shrink when they aren't used. By keeping muscles full and large you accentuate the ‘lean and muscular', rather than the ‘skinny fat' look.

1. It's Better to Starve the Fat Away

When you are dieting, you should be in a state of calorie-deficit. This means that your body is using more calories than you are consuming through food, and the excess calories that are needed by the body are taken from its' fat stores. So why not just starve and watch the fat melt away? Well it's not that simple. Metabolism is the key here - you want to keep it high so your body continues to break down its' fat stores for energy. When you starve, your body goes into lockdown. You've signalled to your body that you aren't giving it any more energy and it has to make do with what it's got. So it holds onto the most valuable source of energy, which is fat, and breaks down muscle instead. The result of this is muscle loss but very little fat loss, if any. The less muscle you have, the slower your metabolism is, and the harder it becomes to burn that body fat. On the other hand, if you keep your body constantly fuelled, but with slightly less calories than it needs (a 10% deficit is a good starting point), then the regular energy intake signals that it's safe to use fat stores for energy, since more energy is coming in every few hours. You get more efficient at burning calories, and especially calories from fat.

Make sure to avoid these five key fat loss myths to maximise your chances of achieving that lean physique you're looking for!

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