Busting Fitness Myths
The results you achieve in your fitness journey are ultimately down to how you train, eat and recover but there are some myths that we more often than not take at face value. But do the myths we so blindly believe have any truth to them?
Understand metabolism to understand the fitness myths.
What has metabolism got to do with myths and why is it so important? Well, a lot of the myths we’ve found are actually centred around ways that weight is lost and gained. In simplest terms, weight is lost and gained through energy balances. If you’re burning more energy than you’re consuming you will lose weight and if you’re burning less energy than you’re consuming you will gain weight. Your metabolism just happens to be your body’s processes which burn energy and calories are it’s currency. It’s made up of multiple processes, some of which contribute more energy expenditure than others. Your Base Metabolic Rate (BMR) for example expends 60-70% of your energy daily. Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) expends the next most but it’s tough to approximate exactly how much as some people move more than others. Finally, your Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (EAT) and Thermic Effect of Food (TEF) tend to burn the smallest proportion of calories. Technical names but don’t worry, there’s an explanation for each of those below.
This brings us to our first myth. If a calorie deficit, burning more calories than you are consuming, means that you’ll lose weight…
#1 You must “eat clean” to lose weight.
What is that even trying to suggest? Are some foods good for “fat burning” or “better for your metabolism”? Do you have to restrict yourself to lose weight? Eating clean has been a term that only really explains what is being excluded from a diet, be it only eating “organic” food or only eating “fresh and natural” foods so for a start, “clean” could mean anything you want it to mean. The only real truth behind “clean” eating in this sense is that by cutting out processed foods, artificial sugars and alcohol, you will likely eat more nutrient dense foods which are also higher volume and lower in calories. Those foods which are cut out are often the exact opposite, low volume and high in calories which doesn’t help your energy balances!
#2 “Carbs make you fat”
Ah, the demon macronutrient, notorious for belly fat and love handles. How many times have you heard “I’m cutting carbs to lose weight”? Hint: if you got a £1 every time you’d be rich. Granted, for some people, less carbs can be a fantastic method of losing weight because by cutting out their breads, bagels and pastas but not replacing them with another source of calories, a calorie deficit is created. The smaller food intake will shift the balance for their metabolism to expend more calories than what they’re eating so will cause weight loss. Because people then believe that cutting carbs caused weight loss, not a negative energy balance, carbs take the blame for holding onto body fat.
#3 Food late at night (especially carbs) will make you fat. Oh, and meal timing is essential.
Have you ever heard that you can’t eat meals late at night because it’ll make you fat? And that you have to eat every 2-3 hours during the day to keep your metabolism working? Considering that your body will continue to digest food whilst you sleep and other metabolic processes like the repair of muscle tissue require glucose for energy, your metabolism really never switches off. So eating late in the evening shouldn’t matter, unless you’re pretending those late night calories don’t exist and end up in a calorie surplus! In a 24 hour period, there will always be metabolic processes happening so your body is, to a certain degree, always burning energy. But eating every 2-3 hours keeps those metabolic processes running right? Not really. Meal timing doesn’t make a difference for the same reason as eating at night won’t make you fat. Calories will be burned through digestion and other processes throughout the day. The benefit of splitting your meals evenly throughout the day when in a calorie deficit is to help with feeling full so that you don’t overeat but other than that doesn’t make your metabolism faster.
#4 Eating in a big calorie deficit will send your body into survival mode
Don’t eat too little or stay in a calorie deficit for too long, your body will go into starvation mode and you’ll stop losing weight. Starvation mode will cause your metabolic rate to slow right down and as a result you’ll stop losing weight. Whilst your metabolism might slow, it isn’t about “starvation mode”. Instead, subconsciously when you are eating too little, your body is aiming to conserve energy and you will be moving less without even thinking about it and expending less energy through non exercise movement. It has a big knock on effect on your overall metabolic expenditure. Additionally, as you lose weight, your body has a lower energy requirement so requires a lower food intake especially to continue to lose weight. It’s your metabolism’s way of adapting to how you treat it but you will continue to lose weight so long as you maintain your calorie deficit.
#5 Cardio is the best way to lose weight and ab crunches will get you ripped.
Supposedly cardio, especially fasted cardio is the best way to lose fat. Thank you bodybuilders for supplying us with this although it’s not 100% accurate. It might aid weight loss but, it doesn’t in itself torch fat. No amount of cardio will help you to lose body fat unless you are in a calorie deficit and the same goes for ab crunches. Both contribute to exercise activity expenditure and will help the muscle to develop but to look ripped and defined you will need to lose body fat over time by consistently burning more energy than you consume!
#6 Lifting weights makes you bulky
Finally, one about gaining weight rather than losing it! If you’ve ever trained specifically to build muscle, you’ll know how difficult and slow of a process it is. And that’s at the best of times. Lifting heavy weights in itself won’t make you bulky but rather develop your muscle. There are multiple factors that affect this myth including hormones and genetics but, to build muscle to a point where you look “bulky” will require years of hard work as you can build as little as 2-3lbs of muscle per year. You also have to eat in a calorie surplus consistently to facilitate your body’s growth so it is very unlikely that you’ll get bulky. Instead lifting weights in a deficit will contribute towards your exercise energy expenditure and make you look leaner when your body fat is low!
What actually works then?
- 1. Understanding your calorie balances are key to your success, particularly if your aim is to lose weight. A calorie deficit will bring about fat loss and a surplus will cause weight gain. Prioritise nutrient dense food but there is no need to cut out certain food groups or view any foods as “bad”.
- 2. Keep your protein intake high to make the most of its high thermic effect of food and to feel full when in consuming less food. Aim to eat 1g of protein per lb of bodyweight as it’s optimal for you to hold onto muscle when trying to get lean. It is often a high proportion of protein so be sure to stock up on a good Whey Isolate, Whey Concentrate or even the lower calorie option of the Slender Blend.
- 3. Avoid demonising foods as the belief that “carbs are bad” for example leads to restriction followed by binge eating. Carbs are fuel, essential, and most importantly delicious. Fuel your calorie deficit full of oats or granola, delicious snacks like mug cakes or even with pizzas and still see incredible weight loss!
- 4. Slow and steady wins the race so don’t drop your food intake too low to cause extreme weight loss. You’ll feel better when you’re fueled better! Your aim for moderate weight loss should be to lose around 0.3-0.5kg per week which is equal to a calorie deficit of 500 calories per day.
- 5. Finally, exercise is only a tool to aid weight loss or gain. No amount of cardio or ab crunches will get you ripped unless you’re in a calorie deficit the same as weight training won’t make you bulky unless you’re in a calorie surplus. Choose exercise that you enjoy and that is appropriate to your goals then combine it with the appropriate calorie intake.
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