Trimming up and losing fat can be done in a number of different ways. From a 30,000 foot view, if you burn more calories than you take in, you will lose weight. It’s not always that easy though, particularly when you are trying to get to an unusually low body fat percentage. Your body will fight you, kicking and screaming to hold onto the last bits of fat. It thinks, as it has learned through evolution, that it is starving, and it’s going to try to survive. With that said, we can take steps to counteract this reluctance of our body to lose fat and in a sense, work with it instead of against it. Understanding how the body works, what will trigger our body to store and hold fat and what will enable it to release fat are key to a successful and healthy fat loss program. Below are five myths about losing fat that will hurt your cause:
Intense workouts burn more fat – This is not necessarily true. Intense workouts burn more calories, but those calories do not necessarily come from fat. Our body can only pull from fat for energy at a limited rate. Meaning, if our energy requirements exceed the rate at which we can support them through the breakdown and utilization of fats, we will turn to other sources. Muscle glycogen is our bodies go to for energy. It will always primarily pull from glycogen (carb) stores as a first line of fuel. When these stores are depleted or not available however, (like in the case of a restricted diet) the body will target other sources, like body fat and muscle. Since we can only pull from fat so much and so fast, by having a very intense workout in a carb depleted state, our body will target not only stored body fat, but also the protein and amino acids in muscles to sustain the workout, which we don’t want. With that said, it is often best to either eat some carbs before an intense workout or lower the intensity to prevent muscle breakdown. The rate of fat burning is limited and doesn’t increase with more intense workouts.
Too much carbs/too much fat makes us store fat – This is true but not exactly. Too many CALORIES make us store fat. Even if we eat zero fat but an unlimited amount of carbs or vice versa, we are still in a position to store fat. Our body is capable of converting fat to carbs and carbs to fat, so by limiting one we don’t necessarily help ourselves. It’s generally best to get a balance of each while creating an overall caloric deficit to facilitate fat loss. Diets very low in carbs or very low in fats will ultimately leave you feeling drained and performing poorly.
Cardio is the first step to losing fat – Fat loss is done by creating a calorie deficit. Cardio is one way to increase the usage of calories to achieve this deficit. It is, however, not always the best way to go, particularly right off the bat. What needs to be understood about cardio is it is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Those with slow metabolisms or very high body fat will benefit from a lot of cardio as this will be the metabolic spike they need and at the same time they have plenty of fat stores to draw from to fuel the added work load. However, for those with speedy metabolisms, introducing cardio alongside a restricted diet may create too much of a deficit and the body will turn to using muscle to fuel these sessions. It is often best to introduce cardio slowly and as needed to trim off fat. Diet first, then cardio.
Eat every 2-3 hours to spike your metabolism – This is a good strategy and should be done, but not for the reason you think. Our body can’t store protein and amino acids well, so a regular intake of these is vital to preserve and grow muscle. However, there is a misconception that eating often will increase your metabolism, which isn’t true. Research has shown that 3 larger meals have just as much effect on metabolism and 6 smaller meals. The key variable is total calories eaten, not how often you eat them.
Eat carbs early and don’t eat carbs at night – The idea that we should eat a lot of carbs at breakfast is perfectly untrue. When we awake, our body is fasted and is burning fat very effectively. By eating carbs, we effectively put a halt to that fat burning. Instead, eat just protein to prevent muscle breakdown, then delay your carbs until your second meal. This way you will add a couple more hours of fat burning every day. That’s 14 hours per week!
Overall, fat loss can be achieved in a lot of different ways. Everyone should experiment for the best strategy for them personally, but a few long held beliefs about fat loss have since been disproved and should be disregarded. Keep your glycogen stores low and create a slight calorie deficit to burn fat efficiently and effectively.