In this week’s blog I’ll share 5 of the most common fallacies I come across when it comes to diet and fat loss. These ideas or pre-conceptions bias our opinions and give us a reduced sense of confidence in actually being able to make a change in our body. Normally we latch onto extreme ideas which are hard to shake off and these misconceptions can cause our efforts to be focused in the wrong areas or set us up with poor expectations on what we can or should achieve. Some of these have been around for years, have been continually debunked but yet still stick around. It just serves to highlight that you should question what you believe, try to figure out why you believe it or where the original idea came from. Hopefully dispelling some of these myths will help make things a bit clearer and make the path to your success a little easier.
#1 - Spot Reduction
Spot Reduction is the idea that you can tone up or lose fat from a specific area or body part with targeted work. The most common example of this is doing lot of sit-ups to firm up the stomach. Your body stores fat all around your body and there will be areas that hold this much easier than others. You might end up with a fairly lean lower body while still feeling a bit fluffy up top, generally there is little you can do about this (in a targeted effort) as it comes down to genetics and hormones. As you lift weights, elevate your heart rate and control your diet, you will lose body fat from all over and eventually it will come off those ‘trouble’ areas. There is however probably some benefit to doing exercises like plank to ‘shrink’ your waistline or perhaps doing some targeting tricep work to firm up the back of your arms. While this may firm it up or make it appear more toned, it isn’t having the effect you think it is of blasting body fat from that area.
#2 - Wholesale Diet Exclusions
To lose fat people often think of what they must exclude from their diet. Common examples are excluding entire macronutrient groups like Carbohydrates or excluding entire food groups relying solely on protein (meats, fish etc.). While this isn’t necessary, we must exercise some level of restriction and control if we want to turn our current habits around and get on the path to a leaner more confident self. Fat loss diets work because we end up in a calorie deficit at the end of the day (and each week). This means that we burn off more energy than we eat or drink through our diet. What we do must also be sustainable so that we can continue to create the deficit to shed those extra pounds. Yes, limiting bread for example might be a good idea to maintain the deficit. Likewise, swapping out fizzy juice for the sugar free versions can go a long way to keeping us in a negative calorie balance. Our favourite foods should be included sparingly and at the right time. Plan a ‘treat’ meal straight after your biggest workout for the week and stay consistent the rest of the time and the results will come.
#3 - Endless Cardio
Diet really is the biggest player in any fat loss routine. The old saying that you can’t out train a poor diet is particularly true when it comes to shedding body-fat. Cardio is an effective way to boost health, fitness and to increase our daily energy expenditure but for most, more is not always better. Past the minimum dose needed to boost health, the rewards of cardio start to diminish especially for those with busy lifestyles and are short on time to dedicate to their fitness. Use strength training and weights to keep your heart rate elevated when you work out while reaping the other benefits associated with resistance training such as increased lean body mass (burn more calories at rest) and improved confidence and you’ll get the biggest bang for your buck. If cardio is your preferred mode of exercise then I’m not advising that you should drop it and take up weights. Consider why you enjoy it and if it extends beyond the notion that you think it will help you lose weight then carry on and do what gives you the most enjoyment.
#4 - Eat Small + More Frequently
Another common myth when it comes to weight control is that eating smaller and more frequent meals will boost your metabolism aiding with burning fat. Research has shown that how many meals or how often you eat has little effect on the outcome of your overall diet when calories are matched. That means that as long as the food you have consumed tallies up at the end of the day, it matters little at what time you ate them or across how many meals they were spread. You have to find an approach that works for you. Most people will get some time at lunch for food and then will have a large evening meal which will make up the bulk of their daily food intake so for those it may make sense to have those 2 large meals with a couple of smaller snack type meals throughout the morning and afternoon to keep the body fuelled. If it suits your schedule to have 4 evenly sized and spread meals throughout the day then go for it but don’t stress if you don’t have time to sit down and eat all those times. It’s how much you have eaten in total at the end of the day that matters.
#5 - Superfood / Health Foods
Don’t be fooled by so called superfood or health foods that you can eat as much of as you like. It’s easy to get sucked in to the supposed health properties of certain foods but they still have to conform to the same diet principles as all other foods. That means there is no such thing as free calories and even the healthiest of food choices count towards your overall daily energy intake. Recently you might have heard that coconut oil was the best choice for cooking and over other oils and while there may be some benefits, you have to remember that coconut oil is 100% fat which is the most calorific macronutrient. It may be very good for you but it still get converted to energy like everything else you consume and will rapidly come out of your calorie allowance for that day. Similarly, sweet potatoes are often touted as being better than regular potatoes and although they may be very tasty and high in other vitamins and minerals, it doesn’t mean you can consume them in unlimited amounts. The message here is that we must apply balance and some level of control to achieve fat loss success no matter how ‘healthy’ you think your choices are.
Hopefully this blog has shed some light on some of those areas that we focus on for fat loss but actually make very little difference to the outcome. If you'd like some tips for Fat Loss that will actually make a difference then why not check out my blog post: 5 Diet Tips for Fat Loss?
Here is a quick summary of those Fat Loss Myths again:
If you'd like to work under the guidance of a coach to finally get the results from your diet and exercise exploits that you deserve then send me a message now to find out more about how to get started. Click here to contact Strength Coach Glasgow now!
Allan Young is a Personal Trainer and coach educator in Glasgow who operates Strength Coach Glasgow and is a 4x Scottish Champion Olympic Weightlifter.