Making a change in body composition boils down to focusing on two different areas: gaining lean body mass and losing fat mass. With obesity rates at all times in this country, it is the difficulties that many people struggle with. That’s because losing body fat is hard and requires you to maintain a tremendous disciple. So it’s only natural that people want to find some way to make it easier.
In theory, losing fat is simple: You have to be in a caloric deficit (which means eating less than your body demands, increasing your energy output, or probably both), and it will take longer than you want.
It sounds simple, but it requires a lot of hard and exhausting work. People naturally want to find a way to make it easier. That’s why there are so many fat loss myths and the entire cottage industry of products, articles, and misleading “gurus” to support them.
We want to help dispel these myths and make sure you don’t waste your time and energy. Let’s take a look at some of the worst offenders and see what the science says about them.
To lose fat, all you have to do is exercise
You can start your weight loss journey by joining a gym, which is a great start, but if you neglect your diet, it is ultimately a waste of energy .
You see, fat loss happens as a result of being in a caloric/energy deficit. That means you should eat fewer calories than your body uses . According to the Centers for Disease Control , you need to reduce your food intake by at least 500 calories a day to lose about a pound of body fat a week.
Here’s the rub: If you start ramping up your workouts at the gym, your body will instinctively want to increase your caloric intake. If you eat more calories than you burned, you’re wasting your workout.
Let’s say your body needs a 2,100-calorie diet to maintain your weight, and on a typical day, you eat 2,100 calories. Your weight won’t change much, if at all. Now let’s say you burn 300 calories from a workout; now your body needs 2,400 calories to maintain weight. If you don’t change your diet, you will have a caloric deficit of -300. But if you start increasing your caloric intake because you think “your metabolism is revving up” ( which isn’t how it works , by the way), you’ll negate whatever energy deficit you worked for, which won’t lead to fat loss.
If you eat at night, you get fat
Intuitively, this makes sense. If you eat a lot of food and then go to sleep, your body turns it into fat because you’re not moving or using it. Like a bear in winter, right?
This kind of thinking ignores a basic physiological process: your metabolism , which is more formally known as your basal metabolic rate. Tm BMR is the number of calories your body consumes during a 24-hour period at rest, and according to the CDC , it’s the number of calories you burn during a 24-hour period that affects your weight. That includes when you sleep.
Let’s say your BMR is 1,600 calories/day. That means your metabolism is burning approximately 67 calories per hour, which multiplied by 8 for 8 hours of sleep is just over 533 calories.
This means that if you eat a meal right before bed, it’s much more important to know how much you ate rather than when. If your daily caloric intake for weight maintenance is 2,100 and you decide to have a 200-300 calorie snack before bed when you’ve already eaten 2,100 calories that day, then yes, you are likely to gain weight. But if you’re watching your calorie intake and a 200-300 calorie snack is still within your limits, you’ll be fine.
You can go on a “detox”, “juice cleanse” or “juice fast” to lose fat
The myth that a juice cleanse can help you lose weight has a lot of staying power because it involves something people know they don’t do enough of: eating fruits and vegetables.
The juice cleanse promises to detoxify harmful “toxins” in your body, which are blamed for causing everything from tiredness, sluggishness, and poor health to, of course, weight gain.
Juice cleanses are incredibly expensive (one company sells a 3-day detox regimen for almost $2,000 MXN) and are incredibly ineffective at producing lasting weight loss. Additionally, there is virtually no peer-reviewed scientific literature to support the benefits of a detox. Additionally, you will also not find any established organizations like the CDC, Mayo Clinic, or the US Department of Agriculture. Instead, you will find these organizations expressly discourage them .
Why do so many people still detox with juicing?
Because of what happens when you do a 3-day fast from ANYTHING: You deprive your body of essential macronutrients, leading to a temporary caloric deficit and significantly depleting the amount of glycogen in your body. This has a significant effect on weight loss, even if it is temporary weight loss.
Glycogen is an energy molecule that your body creates primarily from carbohydrates. Your body loves glycogen, and under normal circumstances it is its preferred energy source. When you significantly cut carbohydrates from your diet, your glycogen stores are depleted. So a juice cleanse isn’t helping your body release toxins, it’s just depleting your glycogen stores. This is why people feel like they have no energy when they are fasting.
Glycogen depletion in your body has a significant effect on your weight because water binds to glycogen at a rate of about 3.5 grams per gram of glycogen. You deplete glycogen when you drink a “cleanse” juice for a couple of days and all you’ve done is lose water weight, energy, and lean body mass. Within a couple of days, you’ll regain your full body weight, along with your glycogen stores, after you finish your expensive “detox.”
You have to follow a low-fat diet to lose fat
Do you remember this photo?
This is a bit tricky because it’s technically partially true: Removing dietary fat from your diet will cause you to lose body fat if it causes you to be in a caloric deficit, but that’s only because removing some of it from your diet will also cause you to lose fat , regardless. of the nutrient source. Dietary fat alone is no more fattening than carbohydrates or protein. However, there is still a stigma against dietary fat.
This comes as a surprise to many because anyone born after 1980 has never lived in a world where the promotion of a high-carb, low-fat diet was not a standard US government dietary recommendation. A dish dominated by pasta could have been a recommended food for weight loss.
That’s because in 1977, a controversial set of well-intentioned dietary recommendations explicitly linked certain nutrients like dietary fat to a host of dangerous diseases, including heart disease, cancer, obesity, and stroke. In an effort to reduce the prevalence of these diseases, the United States Department of Agriculture officially introduced and recommended the high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet.
Americans, following the advice of their government, began to eat by replacing fats with carbohydrates in their meals. What followed was a sharp 20-plus-year rise in obesity.
In 2010, researchers in the journal Nutrients published a study lamenting the fact that some controversial positions, such as the demonetization of fat, had been allowed to persist unproven for 30 years and reappear in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
5 years later, their concerns were finally heard. When the guidelines went through their scheduled revision, the 2015 guidelines lowered the recommendations for carbohydrates and increased fats, while waiving the ban on dietary cholesterol altogether.
Does this mean you can eat as many French fries , fried foods, and any other high-fat treats and expect to avoid health problems? Of course, no. There are still good and bad types of fat. Trans fats are still super bad. But this means that removing all fat from your diet isn’t always necessary.
While cutting fat is a good way to reduce overall caloric intake (at 9 calories per gram, fat is the most calorie-dense macronutrient), what’s more important for most people is trying to stay within recommended daily caloric intake and not taking drastic dietary steps like significantly reducing or eliminating an entire group of nutrients.
Oh, and the food pyramid? Actually, it no longer exists .
You can burn fat by targeting it with exercise
The myth that you can target body fat with targeted muscle gain, despite a large body of scientific literature to the contrary, is something that many people wish could be true because it touches on a major problem that many people have: “ How do I get rid of this? belly fat ?
Much like cleanses and juice detoxes, this myth has created an endless supply of articles, like this one from Health.com , supporting the myth that area reduction through targeted strength/resistance training can burn fat in a specific area.
‘s not entirely accurate. Strength and resistance training helps build muscle, not necessarily burn fat. The more sit-ups you do, the bigger and stronger your abs will be; but you won’t get any closer to seeing abs without lowering your body fat percentage.
Does this mean that the energy you spend on building your muscles will not result in burning fat? No, actually it can, but the fat loss will not be specific to the area you worked on. Increases in lean body mass (of which your skeletal muscle is a part) influence your metabolism by increasing your BMR . This means that the number of calories you are eating also plays a role.
So in theory, if you increase the number of calories your body needs in a day because increased muscle makes you hungrier, but you don’t increase your calorie intake, you could lose fat over time, but this is going to be a long process. slower/indirect and will do nothing to attack the abdomen, arms, or any other problem areas.
Do not waste your time
Extra body fat can significantly affect your self-esteem, confidence, and health. That’s why it’s so tempting to believe one or more of these fat loss myths if they mean faster results.
Unfortunately, if you try to lose fat by following these or other myths you may have heard of, you’re going to waste time and energy and ultimately fall behind.
Don’t waste your efforts. To lose fat, stick to the basics; stick to what has been proven over and over again in the scientific literature. Proper diet and exercise may not seem like the quickest and easiest way to do it, but there’s a reason any trainer, nutritionist, or researcher worthy of their title will recommend it: because it works.