5 Fat Loss Myths and Mistakes
1️⃣ Supplements can make a big difference
I get asked all the time about what are the best supplements to use for fat loss are or what supplements should I be using to help lose body fat or weight? If you had to build a pyramid of success for fat loss supplements would be at the very top of the pyramid meaning they are the least important factor. Nutrition would be at the bottom of the pyramid followed by strength training and then maybe cardiovascular exercise or conditioning followed by lifestyle choices such as getting consistent and quality sleep, minimizing stress (meditation can be very helpful with this), recovery , minimizing the use of alcohol, drinking enough water and getting NEAT (non-exercise related activity). Examples of NEAT are getting a certain number of steps each day, taking the stairs at work instead of the elevator and recreational physical activity such as swimming, hiking and biking. Supplements, even when used correctly with a proper nutrition and exercise program, contribute minimally to fat loss. As Michael Jordan said “You do the work, you get rewarded. There are no short cuts in life.”
2️⃣ You need to count calories to lose body fat and weight.
Calorie counting has long been used for people looking to lose body fat or weight. It was something I used to do when I was younger and dieting down to lose body fat. I would have a certain number of calories I would eat each day based on how much I weighed. I would stick to that certain number every day even though many times I was constantly hungry throughout the day, especially at night. It was my body telling me I was starving it for food and I ignored it. I would end up looking pretty good when I lost the body fat and reached my fat loss goal but I always ended up gaining it all back and binging and eating like crazy afterwards, sometimes for weeks afterwards. Once I learned to not count calories but instead make calories count by eating the right foods, at the right times and in the right portions I lost more body fat. I actually ended up eating more food and exercising less and looking better. The best part is I felt better. I didn’t feel tired and over-trained.
It is not that calories don’t mean something. They do, and overeating even healthy food will cause someone to gain body fat. They just don’t mean everything. Every calorie is different and has different effects on the body. 150 calories in a medium chicken breast and a cup of broccoli are not the same as 150 calories in a can of soda which is pure sugar. The chicken breast and broccoli will digest slowly, stabilizing your blood sugar and slowly release insulin (the hormone that controls your blood sugar) helping you burn body fat. Since the chicken breast and broccoli are natural and not processed, they will require the body to burn calories just in the digestion process alone through a process called the thermogenic effect of food. The soda, unlike the chicken breast and broccoli, since it is pure sugar will get digested quickly causing an elevation of blood sugar and therefore causing a quick, large release of insulin. This it is what’s called an insulin spike. This will put the body in a fat storing zone. It just isn’t as simple as calories in verses calories.
For example, let’s say I weigh 200 pounds and wanted to lose a pound of body fat a week. A pound of fat is 3,500 calories. If I subtract 500 calories a day from my food intake, I would lose a pound of body fat a week (500 x 7 = 3,500). Over the course of a year (52 weeks in a year) I would lose 52 pounds. If I kept that up over the next four years that would equal 208 pounds. Does that mean I would then weigh negative 8? Of course not. The body has regulatory mechanisms and hormones and survival instincts that would make that impossible. Instead of calorie counting focus instead on eating the right foods, at the right times and in the right portions built around a balance and variety of natural foods.
3️⃣ Cardio is the best type of exercise for weight loss
For years many people have believed cardiovascular or aerobic exercise is the best type of exercise for losing body fat. If someone wants to lose body fat they feel they need to do cardio to lose it. That is simply not true. Not only is cardio not the best type of exercise for fat loss it isn’t actually needed at all to lose body fat. Can it be beneficial? Yes, and it has many great health benefits such as helping strengthen the heart and lungs, lower stress and promote better circulation. It is not necessary though and sometimes can be counter-productive. If it is done excessively, it can actually hurt your fat burning ability by elevating stress hormones like cortisol which will impair your fat burning and cause you to lose lean muscle. Strength training on the other hand is the best type of exercise for fat loss. Strength training is the perfect type of exercise to sculpt your body. It will help you build lean muscle while also losing body fat and at the same time burn more calories than cardiovascular exercise. Strength train 2 to 4 times a week and build your strength training program around the big, basic movements that burn the most calories, build the most muscle and give you the most bang for your buck. Exercises like squats, dead lifts, chin-ups, presses, rows, lunges, step-ups, etc. are all great exercises to build your program around.
4️⃣ Spot reduction training
Spot reduction training is training a certain area of the body in an attempt to lose body fat there or bring out definition or cuts in a certain area of the body. People will do endless sets, reps and exercises like crunches and sit-ups to try to lose abdominal body fat and isolation leg exercises like the hip abduction and adduction machines to try to lose body fat in their inner and outer thighs with minimal or no success. I always hear people asking me how to bring out definition or cuts in a certain area of the body or people wanting me to do certain exercises to try to lose body fat in a certain area of the body. Unfortunately, fat loss doesn’t work that way. The only way to bring out cuts or definition in your body is to lose body fat and you can’t control where your body loses body fat from. The body will lose body fat from where it is genetically programmed to lose it from. This is why if you walk out to the beach or a pool you will never see a person with fat around their arms but with ripped, six pack abs. Or while you will never see a person with a layer of fat around their upper abdominal area but none around their lower abdominal area. You will see the opposite all the time though. When you lose body fat you lose it all over but the body tends to lose body fat quicker in certain areas of the body more so than others. The body fat in the core of the body (abdominals, buttocks and thighs) seems always to get lost at a slower rate than the rest of the body and seems to always be the last bits of body fat to go. You might be able to have some control over where your body stores it though. High cortisol and high insulin levels have been linked to abdominal body fat.
5️⃣ Going by the scale or by weight loss instead of fat loss
If you go by the scale as the sole measure of your progress I can almost guarantee you will not achieve maximal fat loss and not reach your true potential. The scale has long been used by many people as the way they measure their fat loss goals. The problem is the scale doesn’t tell you where the weight loss is coming from. It could be fat, water or even lean muscle. Going by the scale can then lead you in the wrong direction and cause you to lose muscle instead of body fat. A lot of people make the mistake of having a certain weight loss goal instead of a fat loss goal. They pick a certain weight they want to get down to and do whatever it takes to get to that goal. If you are losing lean muscle while getting to that certain weight then you are not achieving and reaching your best physique. The only worthwhile weight loss is fat loss.
For example, say you weigh 200 lbs and want to get down to 170 lbs. You get your weight down to 170 lbs and realize you don’t look the way you wanted to or expected to. Because you went by the scale you may have lost lean muscle while losing the weight. You had no idea where the weight loss was coming from. If you went by fat loss instead of weight loss you may have found you look your best at 175 or 180 lbs because your weight loss was only body fat and not lean muscle. Or say over the course of 2 weeks you didn’t lose any weight but lost body fat. You gained 2 lbs of lean muscle and lost 2 lbs of body fat but because of that the scale didn’t go down. You then think you aren’t making any progress and start to cut calories and exercise more. The scale then goes down but the weight is lean muscle instead of body fat because of cutting too many calories and over-training. I always tell people no one goes out to the beach or a pool with a sign around their neck telling people how much they weigh. People go by what they see and if you look your best weighing heavier than you thought then that’s fine.
The scale can provide a general guideline to your progress. Going by the scale works best when someone has a lot of body fat to lose as the scale has to go down to lose body fat. If someone doesn’t have much body fat to lose or as someone is getting closer to their fat loss goals the scale provides less and less information as to your fat loss. The best bet is to get a good body fat test done such as a DEXA scan, Bod Pod or even underwater weighing (hydrostatic weighing) at the start of your fat loss journey and get it done every 3 months. Although no body fat test is 100 % accurate it will give you a good idea of how much lean muscle and body fat you have and where your weight loss is coming from. A simple way to gauge your fat loss progress is to go by how your clothes fit and how you look in the mirror. Since muscle is denser than body fat if you lose 2 lbs of body fat and gain 2 lbs of muscle your weight won’t go down but you will lose inches and get smaller, not bigger. Your clothes will then start fitting loser. You will also see your fat loss when you look in the mirror because the mirror doesn’t lie. You will start seeing definition and cuts where you had not seen them before. Use the scale as a general measure of your progress weighing yourself only once a week as there will be day to day fluctuations due mostly to water weight (the body is about 70% water). Don’t let it be the sole measure of your progress.
Before going on any specific diet or exercise program it is important to consult your doctor before starting.