After a few years of being in the fitness industry, I’ve realized that there are some myths that just…never fade.
They creep up in healthy restaurants, in gym locker rooms, on fitness-focused message boards… everywhere. And part of the reason these myths keep cropping up is because everyone’s listening to bodybuilding competitors. Bikini competitions, figure competitions, whatever the case may be, these folks are considered to be the (Capital E) Experts because of what they do.
Alas, it’s not that easy.
One of the biggest best-kept secrets of the competition industry is the way these “experts” live after the competition is all over. Countless competitors “rebound” from hyper-strict diets, ultimately gaining anywhere from ten to thirty—yes, thirty—pounds after the competition, because finally they can eat like a “normal human being.” We often don’t notice, because we also see reposted photos, or photos taken right before competition, or professional photos taken during competition prep which showcases their modeling talent. We don’t see the yo-yo weight gain—and why would we? why would they show us?—and it colors our perspective of how weight loss works.
These are people who didn’t lose the body fat in a sustainable way, a way that would not only help them lose it but keep it off. What make them Experts (Capital E) again?
Fat loss has to be done in a sustainable manner. And, when you think about the long term and sustainable part of creating your fat loss plan, it becomes a bit easier to separate the sense from the, well, nonsense. You cannot starve yourself into fat loss. You cannot cardio yourself to death for fat loss. You cannot only eat chicken breasts for the rest of your life. And that’s just the start of it.
Here are three major myths of fat loss, and why you should stop believing them:
Myth #1: Basic cardio, like treadmilling, is best for sustainable fat loss.
It’s not. It really isn’t.
Here’s the thing—most people believe this for good reason. Go to the gym, get on the treadmill, do it consistently for six weeks or so, and you will likely see a poundage difference. The key word, here, is consistently, and that’s the part most people struggle with. Suppose you experience the six-week success, then start to slip. Guess what? That rebound will be swift, and you might even find yourself gaining more than you originally lost, only to feel despondent and unwilling to go at it again.
Most people will experience fat loss success with strictly cardio, but the problem is that most people don’t enjoy it. Very few people enjoy running, or the elliptical, or the gym environment. It’s difficult to maintain commitment to something you don’t enjoy and, because of this, even more so difficult to maintain success.
Treadmills, ellipticals, and the like are great ways to maximize the time spent during your exercise hour, but that’s not the best way to help maximize and increase the benefits experienced during the hours outside of the gym.
You have the ability to burn fat twenty-four hours a day, and you do that with strength training—turn it into high intensity strength training, and you increase the calorie burn during your gym hour.
However, because muscle rebuilding is a process that increases your metabolism outside of your gym hour as well as inside, not to mention the permanent increase to your metabolism that comes from increasing lean muscle mass, high intensity interval training is hands-down the best way to ensure sustainable fat loss.
Myth #2: Light weights with a high number of reps is the best way to burn fat.
This is a method encouraged by certain fitness professionals who have the backing of certain celebrities—the idea being that super-light weights done with reps of 40 and 50 are the best way to burn fat.
The reality is, this is not only a waste of time, but it’s also a great way to ensure that you never actually achieve success.
This kind of method is encouraged by women who are already super thin, but not particularly lean, meaning there’s very little muscle to work with. For them, light weights is doing a lot. For many of us, especially for the average American woman, you’re going to need more than this. Often, way more.
There’s no doubting the overall benefits of strength training, none at all, but the training part comes from challenging your muscles, something you likely cannot do using smaller-weighted dumbbells.*
The benefits of strength training—improved quality of life, increased metabolism, fat burning, being able to lift cars in a single squat and have the booty to show for it—come from adding resistance to the movements you’re doing. It makes you stronger, more powerful, and more agile, two things you cheat yourself out of when you lower the weights.
Now, I know what some people say—telling people to use lower weights and higher reps encourages people who otherwise wouldn’t touch a weight to lift them consistently, mainly because they’re afraid of “bulking up.”
Not only is it impossible to “bulk up” overnight, there’s virtually no chance that the average woman can achieve what many of us consider to be “bulking up” anyway.
Many people believe that the “cuts” they see in their arms after a month of dedicated training is a signal that they’re “bulking,” but the biology doesn’t actually support that. If anything, it’s merely the loss of body fat, allowing the muscle you already have to shine.
The best thing to do is to do dedicated lifting that challenges your muscle groups, gets your heart going, and enriches your life.
Myth #3: You can choose where your body burns fat.
Part of what contributes to this myth continuing on is the people who are wrapping their stomachs in saran wrap after rubbing a special cream on it, on some “it rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the saran wrap again” type stuff.
People watch these women do this, rubbing cream on precision-toned tummies, with the belief that the cream is how the tummy got to slim.
This is further solidified by the fact that people who dramatically reduce the amount of carbs or sugar in their diet find themselves losing belly fat quickly. The assumption being that this is the same as “spot reducing” body fat—not quite. It’s just that everyone reeeeeeeeeally wants to lose belly fat.
Let me tell ya. This is not possible. Not even with prescription strength medication.
You have to understand how fat burning works.
Pardon me, as I put my Nerd Hat for a moment:
The process of fat burning is, quite literally, a function of your body trying to cool itself and adjust to the intensity of the activity in which you’re engaged. Fat is burned all throughout the body when the body heats up from activity, which then creates the carbon atoms your body breaks down from the fat and carries it out of your body with the carbon you exhale, as well as a little bit in your urine, sweat, and tears. It’s not something you can trigger to any specific part of the body. It’s literally all throughout your body.
There are companies that claim special creams can trigger this kind of fat burning wherever you rub the cream, but as you can see, that’s literally impossible. There are creams that can cause swelling that otherwise makes a body part look more even and, thereby, less “chubby,” but that’s not “fat burning.” And there are contraptions that claim to induce fat burning, but… well, we know how that goes.
What myths have you heard that you’d like me to tackle? Let’s hear ’em!