Updated: May 28
A multi-billion dollar industry has been built around loosing weight, burning fat... but there are a few MYTHS that you need to know about.
1) You Must Diet... Popular definition of the word "diet" is a dietary plan that limits the amount of food one consumes daily. However, this definition creates a platform for failure. A top this platform dieting becomes something that is started and stopped, usually in the short term. Therefore, in order to achieve successful limitation of a so-called "diet," one must choose to make modifications to their lifestyle. Lifestyle modifications include looking at healthier foods and beverages as regular foods, not diet foods; understanding how to properly define the term diet; correctly educating oneself on the various groups and types of healthier foods; and understanding how to properly vary and balance your meals.
"First, define the word "diet" correctly. A diet, by definition, is the food or beverage that an individual normally consumes on a daily basis."
First, define the word "diet" correctly. A diet, by definition, is the food or beverage that an individual normally consumes on a daily basis. According to fad dieters, the definition of a diet is a reduction in calories and/or a limitation of select foods and beverages. Thus, proper levels of fat loss depend on whether or not the term diet is properly defined. One must realize, through education, that "a diet" leads to failure where as "ones diet" leads to successful fat loss.
Second, develop a foundation of knowledge for the numerous types of foods and beverages. Develop this foundation of knowledge through various research and readings on the numerous types of healthy food and beverages. Individuals with an understanding of foods will generate a more subconscious effort to make healthier choices. Healthy options start with choosing whole grains versus white flour; limiting sodium levels by avoiding added salt or condiments; choosing to consume carbohydrates over numerous meals instead of one large meal; and various other tips that will be discovered through proper education.
Lastly, constantly varying daily food choices is essential to proper fat loss and health. Eating the same foods over and over again is "a diet" and will lead to failure. Try switching up your foods and beverages with other healthier foods with similar macronutrient values. Constant variation is often the greatest way to achieve plentiful nutritional benefits and increase fat loss. However, it is imperative to have a few stable foods in your arsenal to fall back on daily. For example, choosing oatmeal for breakfast provides sustainable energy and resistant starches; choosing low sodium lunch meat (turkey or chicken) saves money and fat; digesting mixed leafy greens adds vital nutrients and leads to enhanced health; and constantly drinking water throughout the day maintains proper bodily function and fat loss. Studies have shown that individuals who consume water regularly often have a lower body fat percentage (in combination with healthy eating) than those who do not.
2) Eat less, not more... modern day dieting merely consists of calorie counting. Limiting your caloric intake results in weight loss, as long as you are expending more calories than you consume. If you burn 2000 calories in a single day while eating less than 2000 calories in that same day, then you are in a caloric deficit. Caloric deficits results in body weight reduction. On the other hand, individuals merely count calories and often decide to limit themselves to two meals per day, sometimes even one. Although this may result in body weight reduction, it often results in lean muscle loss and body fat gains.
The human body adapts to its environment extremely efficiently. During long periods of starvation, the human body attempts to store up any calories consumed as fat. Every time your body is fed, regardless if it is once or twice per day, these fat stores are added to. In times of desperation the human body knows it must have sufficient energy to perform required tasks. In order to perform these tasks, the human body must be able to call on calories for energy. Fat, regardless of where it is derived, has nine calories per gram. The human body understands this energy conversion and knows it must save these calories in order to call on them during times of starvation. Therefore, eating fewer meals will result in increased fat storage and decreased lean muscle. So the question becomes, what is the optimal amount of food one should eat to reduce body fat?
In order to achieve optimal fat loss one must limit the size of their snacks and meals. Along with limiting snacks and meal size, eat 5-7 times per day. Constantly eating trains your body to utilize calories as they are consumed. By utilizing these calories frequently ones metabolic rate stays elevated, may even increase, while maintaining a state of constant fat burning. Additionally, eating 5-7 small meals that are spaced out 2-3 hours apart provides more sustainable energy.
3) Cardio is the best way to burn fat... popular culture tells us that cardio is the greatest way to burn fat and lose weight. Unfortunately pop culture is wrong again. Think about it this way, lifting weights elevates ones metabolic rate and therefore burns calories throughout the day. On the other hand, cardio burns calories from the moment you start until the moment you are finished. Cardio does not continue to burn calories when you are not performing the activity. However, lifting weights and/or performing complex body weight movements results in reduced fat levels and increased lean mass levels. Persons with higher lean muscle generally have a higher metabolic rate, lower body fat percentage, and a higher daily caloric expenditure.
It is not that cardio doesn't burn calories, although certain methods are preferred, but rather that lifting weights are more efficient at it. In fact, lifting heavier weights with shorter rest periods leads to nearly double the caloric expenditure of a typical cardio session. This is before factoring in the elevated calorie burn post-exercise as a result of weight lifting. Elevated caloric burn post-exercise, better known as post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), can result in numerous additional calories burned.
Tip for you cardio-holics... perform High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) to achieve higher levels of fat loss. HIIT means constant variation between sprints, increased resistance, faster pace, slower pace, maximum exertion, etc...
4) Do not eat Carbohydrates... this might just be the most mind blowing myth of all time. Even nutritionists and doctors are now prescribing zero carbohydrate diets because of the expedited results and greed for money. Influenced by pop culture, individuals are now following zero carbohydrate diet plans in order to shed excessive weight. However, they do not factor in the negative side effects and lack of efficiency / longevity. Nearly all persons who start a zero carbohydrate diet eventually "fall off" the diet and watch that weight pile back on.
Break the word carbohydrate apart (carbo-hydrate) and you will realize "hydrate" is directly correlated with water. Professionals often tell their athletes or clients to stay hydrated. This means an adequate amount of water should be consumed daily. Cutting carbohydrates results in a reduction of water weight, not fat. In a sense, every time you cut out a carb you cut out a hydrate. Although it is more complicated than that, it helps illustrate carbohydrate free diets lack of efficiency.
The human body is made up of two masses, lean mass and fat mass (water, bones, and others too). In order to achieve greater lean mass (muscle) while lowering fat mass one must consume carbohydrates. The primary role of carbohydrates is to serve as a primary energy source for activity less than 3 minutes in duration. Thus, carbohydrates have an ergogenic effect by increasing muscle glycogen, which allows for greater work output and lean muscle retention. If an individual's intake of carbohydrates is too low, then a significant work output will be impossible to produce or the body will have to look elsewhere for the energy. Amino Acids (the fundamental building blocks of muscle) are usually called upon, thus decreasing your lean muscle mass.
As a general rule of thumb, with other factors not considered, individuals who do not exercise extensively should ingest a 2:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein. For those same individuals, they may consume as little as 1-1.5 grams of carbs to 1 gram of protein. However, a 1:1 ratio is very limited and can result in feeling lethargic. If you are a more active individual, choose a diet with a 2.5-3:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein. This ratio will provide you with more energy and greater results in lean mass. Elite endurance athletes can go up to ratios of 5 grams of carbs to 1 gram of protein.
Lastly, choose carbohydrates that are whole foods. Sticking to low glycemic foods will limit blood sugar elevation and keep your body in fat burning mode. Low glycemic carbohydrates include sweet potatoes, whole grains, cherries, apples, legumes, and many other food items...
5) Fat Free is the way to be... studies have shown that healthy fats (monounsaturated) derived from sources like olive oil can help you lose weight while burning fat. Healthy fats have numerous hormonal and fat loss benefits. Monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to improved skin, fat loss, low LDL cholesterol levels, higher HDL cholesterol levels, optimal production of testosterone, hair health, and numerous other health benefits. Simply stated, fat leads to fat burn and enhanced health.
It is imperative not too neglect saturated fats all together. Limit your saturated fat intake to 20 grams or under daily. Choosing saturated fats from lean red meat, dairy, eggs, coconut, and various other sources can be advantageous. Whole foods that are not processed are the most nutritious sources and can provide various healthful benefits.
To ingest omega-3 fatty acids choose foods like fish, salmon, wheat germ, walnuts, etc... To ingest healthy monounsaturated fats choose olive oil, avocados, etc...
1. The Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning (3rd edition).
By, National Strength and Conditioning Association
Editors: Thomas R. Baechle and Roger W. Earle
©2008, 2000, 1994