The No.1 reason that people start to work out and improve their eating habits is to lose fat. Sure, everyone also wants to improve his health condition and get more physically fit, but let’s be honest here: We all want to look better. Losing fat and improving your fitness level and health condition are usually all wrapped up into one. You lose fat, improve your fitness level and you will improve your overall health condition. The problem is that there is so much misinformation out there, leading to most people getting discouraged and quitting.
Let’s check out five of the most common fat loss myths, and why you need to avoid them.
2 of 6
1. You Need to Count Your Calories
No. I have never liked the concept of counting calories. It is just too much work, and usually never pans out in the end. If someone is having some extreme trouble losing weight and can’t figure things out then okay, go ahead and count a little. But the problem is that figuring out how many calories has so many variables—your age, height, weight, job, workouts, how much muscle mass you carry, how much water you drink, medications, health conditions, and more all play a part in how many calories one needs to consume. I have not met many people who were happy with their health, life, and weight that counted calories. I don’t blame them. Who wants to count every little morsel of what they consume, never really knowing how much they need to consume, only to end up discouraged and upset that they are not getting the results they want? I am sure it has worked for some, but for the majority it is quite discouraging to say the least.
Better bet: Start by eating real, whole foods. If you can grow it or kill it, you can eat it. This includes grass-fed meats, wild caught fish, organic eggs, nuts and seeds, beans and legumes, and fruits and vegetables. Eat when you are hungry, and stop when you are satisfied.
3 of 6
2. You Need to Increase Your Meal Frequency
Up until this year I have always been a proponent of eating every 2-3 hours, 5-7 times a day. I still feel that this method can work for many people. Bodybuilders and physique competitors are notorious for doing this with great success. But this doesn’t seem to work for the majority of us who just don’t have the drive make it a job to get six meals of chicken breast, sweet potatoes, and broccoli.
The research on meal frequency reveals no hard evidence proving that increased meal frequency increases the metabolism more than eating your daily three square meals. The only benefit they found was that it controlled hunger.
But is it really worth it stressing out my clients to eat 5-6 times a day? Probably not. In fact, I think by telling my clients to eat so often they were actually eating too many calories at the end of the day. Often times my clients would tell me that they just were not hungry often enough to eat so much. I would still tell them to eat, eat, and eat. It had worked for me, so why not them? For one, I was eating cleaner and more bland, and I also was younger, had more muscle tissue, and burned more calories in a day due to the fact that I worked out hard, and was training on my feet for 9-14 hours a day. So my total consumption of calories could be higher than the average.
Better bet: Don’t stress yourself out if you miss a snack or meal. Just keep drinking water to stay hydrated, and eat some whole food when you’re hungry and get a chance to. Just don’t go for junk if you’re hungry.
4 of 6
3. You Have to do Lots of Cardio
Mark Horn/ Getty Images
Jogging for an hour is a complete waste of time if you’re looking to lose fat. So is any form of cardio that forces you to do the same repetitive movement over and over. When your muscles have to continuously contract for 30, 45, or 60 minutes, that energy has to come from somewhere. The body is stubborn and doesn’t want to burn fat for energy, so it eats up your muscle instead. This immediately kills your metabolism, and it robs your body of strength and athleticism.
In order to burn body fat and raise the metabolism, you need every ounce of muscle tissue possible. If you want to burn body fat, you have to build muscle. Only high-intensity exercise and strength training can do this.
Better bet: The key to quickly getting ripped is by doing exercises that stimulate your metabolism all day long. Research by Tremblay shows that high-intensity interval cardio is significantly more effective than low-intensity cardio because it forces your body to keep burning fat and calories after you stop training. And research by Tabata proves that just a few minutes of intense cardio will boost your anaerobic and aerobic conditioning.
5 of 6
4. You Can’t Eat Any Fat
It is unfortunate that eating foods with fat got a bad rap years ago. Though fat has made a comeback to some degree, many still buy into the fact that they should eat less fat to lose fat. A gram of fat does have more calories per gram (9 calories per gram) than protein or carbohydrates (4 calories per gram), but that doesn’t make a difference in being healthy. As I mentioned, it comes down to total daily consumption, and how you moved on that day. There are so many healthy fats out their that provide so many benefits. Wild caught fish, wild game such as bison, extra-virgin coconut oil, avocados, and almonds are just a few whole food choices that are perfect to consume. These are much better choices than whole grains, breads, pastas, cereals, and other so-called grains that are good for you. As soon as everyone started to recommend whole grains and 6-11 servings of breads, pastas, and cereals, and minimal fats, look what happened. Obesity went through the roof. That has to tell you something.
Better bet: Enjoy some fat and stay satisfied. You will stay full for longer, increase brainpower, reduce inflammation, and lose body fat in the process. Just make sure your sources are healthy: nuts, seeds, fish, avocados, and olive oil form a good base.
6 of 6
5. You Need to Lift Light Weights for Higher Reps
This one always makes me laugh a little. Lifting light weights for a high amount of repetitions is similar to the long bouts of cardio at low intensity. Your body will simply not burn fat as fuel, and will not increase any of your fat-burning hormones such as growth hormone and testosterone. Only higher-intensity exercise will burn fat and increase muscle tissue (muscle tone).
In order to increase muscle tone you have to put a high demand on your muscles and nervous system. The stronger you are, the more muscle fibers you can recruit. Stimulating all your muscle fibers with each set skyrockets the metabolic cost of your workouts. Metabolic cost is a measure exercise scientists use to determine how many calories you’re burning through exercise. The higher the metabolic cost, the better.
Furthermore, recent research by McBride et al proves that getting stronger makes you run faster. And the faster you can move, the more fat you’ll burn through exercise. That’s because research by Mazetti et al shows that people who lift fastest burn the most calories.
Better bet: Make sure when lifting weights you use loads that you struggle to lift for at least four, but no more than 15 repetitions. For bodyweight exercises, move as fast as possible through the repetitions and through the circuit of exercises.
Justin Grinnell, C.S.C.S., is the owner of State of Fitness in East Lansing, MI. Grinnell received his Bachelor of Science in kinesiology from Michigan State University, specializing in exercise science, fitness leadership, athletic administration, and health promotion in 2004. He is a certified personal trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine, and the International Sports Sciences Association. He also holds a certification from the National Strength and Conditioning Association as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and is CrossFit Level I certified. For more training info from Grinnell, you can visit his gym’s website at www.mystateoffitness.com, his Facebook page, or check him out on Twitter.