There is no shortage of information when it comes to the best way to lose weight. Just walk into any gym or do a quick Google search and you’ll find a wealth of advice about what you should do. The problem is that the advice given is not always helpful. There are many different myths or misconceptions floating around the fitness industry that could actually be getting in the way of your weight loss goals. Sorting the gems from the rubbish can be challenging, so we thought we’d outline the top 6 myths that we hear on a regular basis.
Myth #1: I need to cut out carbohydrates to lose weight
There seems to be an increase in the number of ‘gurus’ supporting a low carb or no carb diet. This way of eating was first popularised by the Atkins diet, but since then, many other low carb fads have appeared on the market. Some just suggest avoiding starchier carbohydrates such as grains and potatoes. Other, more extreme diets say you should cut out all carbohydrates, including most vegetables (allowing only dark leafy greens like Kale).
I am hoping I don’t need to tell you that cutting all vegetables out of your diet is a bad idea. But what about other forms of carbohydrates like bread, pasta and potatoes? Should these foods be cut out in order to lose weight? The short answer is no. Your body uses carbohydrates as a source of fuel. In fact, carbohydrates, fat and protein all play an important part in a healthy diet. No food group should be excluded or drastically reduced but rather eaten in moderation.
Instead of trying to cut back on carbohydrates, focus on choosing mostly nutrient-dense and complex options. These include vegetables, fruit, sweet potato, wholegrain pasta, brown rice, basmati rice and quinoa. Limit foods with simple carbohydrates and sugars like white bread, pasta, white rice, cakes, biscuits and soft drinks.
Myth #2: The less I eat, the faster I will lose weight
Eating nothing but celery sticks for lunch will not help you lose weight. In fact, the more you reduce your intake of food, the higher the chance you’ll be unsuccessful. Falling off the bandwagon and binge eating is much more likely if you are constantly hungry and grouchy. Low calorie diets also make it harder to find the energy to get to the gym and exercise. Your mental energy and concentration levels will also be low as your brain doesn’t have the fuel it needs to function properly.
Drastically reducing calories is also very difficult to maintain over the long term. Many people find that when they do start eating more, a rebound effect occurs. The body can adjust to functioning of limited energy. When their diet then returns to normal, they find that the weight they lost (and often even more) piles back on as quickly as it was lost in the first place.
Myth #3: If you want to lose weight, only do cardio.
Many people assume that lifting weights is counterproductive when trying to lose weight. After all, isn’t that what people do when they want to increase their weight or “bulk up”? Cardio burns more calories than lifting, so shouldn’t we be doing that instead?
Lifting weights is really effective for weight loss. The more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism burns calories, even when your body is at rest (although not as much as much as we originally thought).
After exercise (particularly weight training), your body still needs oxygen at a higher rate as it cools down and restores itself to homeostasis (its resting state). This higher oxygen consumption is known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) or the “afterburn effect”. It is necessary to replenish your body’s energy stores, re-oxygenate the blood and decrease body temperature. As all these functions require energy, your body continues to burn energy or calories long after you leave the gym.
Myth #4: “Low Fat” or “Fat Free” products are always healthier.
Although fat has had a bad reputation in the past, research in recent years has shown it’s not the villain it is often made out to be. Yet many people still reach for the products on the shelves that are labelled as “low fat” or “fat free,” assuming that they are choosing the healthier option. Unfortunately, fat is both satiating and pleasant to taste. When it is removed from a food, sugar is often added in its place to make the product more palatable. Common culprits include many brands of yogurt, ice cream and salad dressing.
Learn how to read and understand food labels so you’re not fooled by food company’s clever marketing strategies. When shopping, check the nutritional value and ingredients in a product to see how much added sugar it has per serving.
Myth #5: It’s all about the calories in v calories out
Weight loss can appear to be quite simple. If you burn more calories in a day then you consume, your body will draw on body fat for fuel and you will lose weight. If you eat more calories in a day than you burn, your body will store what it doesn’t need for fuel as body fat. That’s all straight forward, right?
Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as it seems. Not all calories are made equal and the types of food you choose to eat is still very important. For example, you might decide to eat 400 calories of grilled chicken and vegetables for lunch. Or you could decide to skip lunch and eat 400 calories worth of chocolate instead. Both options may bring you under your calorie goal for that day but the chocolate is not going to sustain you for the rest of your day. If your tummy starts grumbling from hunger an hour later, it’s going to be much harder to stick to your calorie goal. On the other hand, the chicken and vegetables are will keep you satisfied until your next meal.
Instead of focusing on the number of calories you consume, consider instead the types of food. Making sure you have a healthy balance of fats, proteins and carbohydrates from a variety of food sources will mean you have the energy and nutrients you need to get through the day.
Myth #6: I can spot reduce fat using exercises that target that area
We all seem to have a “troublesome area” that holds onto fat more than any other body part. For some, it might be their tummy. For others, it’s the inside of their thighs or back of their arms. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to spot reduce fat by doing exercises that target the muscles in that area. There are exercises that you can do to tone, grow or strengthen particular muscles but they won’t help decrease fat.
If you want to reduce fat in a particular area, you need to decrease your overall body fat. A consistent workout routine (utilising both cardio and strength training) will help you with this. Unfortunately it is our genetics and DNA that determines where fat is burned from first. Be patient! Stick to your plan and you’ll see results eventually!