Exercise and nutrition myths are some of the worst and most pervasive of just about any industry. Unfortunately, it’s often difficult to know which pieces of information regarding health and fitness are true and which are myths.
In this article, I touch on 5 of the most pervasive myths in the fitness industry and then provide alternative information that you can actually use to your advantage.
Myth #1: Light Weight & High Reps Are Best For Fat Loss
Without fail, one of the first steps many take when attempting to lose weight is to begin working out. Additionally, this workout often includes lifting lightweight for a high amount of repetitions to burn fat.
Unfortunately, that’s not always the most optimal route to take, especially if you’re hoping to keep muscle and strength. The body is quite interesting in that it grows when it needs to and then stops when it doesn’t. In the case of muscle while dieting, this could not be any truer.
See, when you’re dieting, the body adapts by reducing your bodyweight, which of course needs to come from somewhere. While most of us hope this weight comes from body fat, it doesn’t always pan out that way.
When you diet and begin to lose weight, one of the first places that weight comes from is muscle. Muscle is energy-costly to maintain, which means in times when calories are restricted, the body switches to survival rather than how defined your glutes are.
This is, of course, unless you provide the body with a reason to maintain your muscle.
Rather than using your resistance training workouts to burn calories, I suggest allowing your calorie deficit to come from food. Then when you train, consider using many different weight and rep ranges for a wide range of effect.
Surely you can incorporate higher repetition sessions in, but overall you still should be doing heavier lifting. By doing so, you’ll give your body a reason to keep muscle rather than burning it off the first time you reduce calories.
I suggest providing each workout with a specific purpose, using multiple rep ranges, with some high and some low, for a combination of strength-based training as well as the more metabolically demanding workouts.
Myth #2: You Need Lots Of Cardio For Weight Loss
If high rep workouts are often the first step of many, then jumping on the treadmill to do cardio is the second. While cardio does provide advantages for burning fat, many people have a misconception of what that actually means.
Studies show that even though during your workout you may see an increase of calorie burn specifically from fat, the body actually reduces energy expenditure later on in the day to compensate.
In essence, the body does what it can to reduce the impact of your calorie deficit. One of those mechanisms is to reduce calorie expenditure at other times of the day, in effect rendering the cardio almost worthless.
Additionally, this myth goes even a bit further in that exercise itself isn’t really a requirement for weight loss. You could easily reduce the same amount of calories that you’re burning from the cardio from your diet, thus allowing for weight loss.
Rather than spending hours on the treadmill, I suggest sticking with resistance training while reducing calories through your food. Then, once weight loss plateaus, you can incorporate cardio into your routine if you desire.
Myth #3: Carbs Make You Fat
One of the biggest myths in the health and fitness industry is that carbohydrates make you fat. In fact, using this myth has literally made and broken many people’s careers.
The truth is, carbohydrates are quite important and fortunately don’t directly contribute to weight and fat gain. Surely they can, but the process is rather more complicated than many think.
When carbohydrates are ingested, they’re metabolized and broken down to the simplest form of sugar (yes, carbs are sugar) known as glucose. Upon entering the blood, this glucose can be used immediately, stored in muscle and the liver as glycogen or, lastly, stored and converted to triglyceride.
That last part is the most important. Through a process known as De Novo Lipogenesis, this is one of the last potential fates of carbohydrates, once ingested, despite the fact that many assume it is the first.
See, this process of storing glucose and converting to fat really only occurs if you consume carbohydrates to a greater extent than you actually need. This requirement, of course, is determined based on the intensity and duration of your activity.
Thus, it stands to reason that you should let your activity level dictate your carb intake.
If you’re extremely active, chances are you’ll be able to consume a large amount of carbohydrates and see virtually no change of body weight and composition. If, on the other hand, you are sedentary and don’t move much, consuming carbohydrate in excess may become an issue.
I suggest practicing what is known as carb cycling, where you manipulate the amount of carbohydrates (and even calories if you desire) you consume on a daily basis, relative to your activity. More information on how to use this technique can be found here.
Myth #4: You Have To Remove Sugar From Your Diet
The ideas behind sugar are some of the largest points of contention currently in the fitness and health industry. Many people believe sugar is the reason behind obesity, while others think there’s nothing to worry about.
Personally, I fall somewhere in the middle, but I don’t believe that you need to remove sugar entirely from your diet; at least not to the extent many believe.
When I hear that someone has removed sugar from their diet, I usually assume they mean highly processed sugars like that found in soda or candy. As I mentioned earlier however, carbohydrates themselves are actually sugar in some form or another.
For example, the carbohydrates in starburst and the sugar found in an apple are technically both sugars. It’s only that one of these “sugars” has a longer chemical structure than the other. Once metabolized however, they both become their simplest form, known as glucose.
Essentially, it’s important to realize that carbohydrates themselves are sugars, so saying you’ve eliminated sugar isn’t exactly true if you’re still consuming carbohydrates in some fashion.
Surely, eliminating processed sugar products is appropriate for weight loss since they provide almost zero benefit for your goals. However, it’s important to remember that even if you’ve “removed sugar,” if you’re eating carbohydrates, you may have just reduced your sugar intake, but it is certainly acceptable for weight loss.
I suggest avoiding removing all sugar and thus carbohydrates unless you decide to practice a ketogenic diet. In that case, you would in fact remove most sugar from your diet. Just remember, removing sugar or carbohydrate isn’t necessary for weight loss but could be a good strategy if it works well for you.
Myth #5: You Can’t Spot Reduce Body Fat
As one of the more surprising topics on this list, you’ve probably heard that it’s impossible to spot reduce body fat, or essentially pick and choose where you lose fat from. Well, recent research suggests that it might actually be possible (1).
Typically when losing weight, you just lose fat systemically and it just sort of comes from wherever on the body. However, one group of researchers devised a technique that might actually let you spot reduce.
What they did is have subjects use resistance training for upper body or lower body. Afterwards, they had these participants complete steady state cardio. The results indicated that when they lifted legs and then cardio, they lost fat in the legs. When they lifted upper body and then cardio, they lost fat in the upper body.
Essentially, they successfully spot reduced fat.
The reason this potentially works is because of the order of exercise. In addition to other benefits, resistance training helps to release fatty acids from tissue around where the muscle is contracting. The cardio is then optimized for burning those fatty acids as energy.
So essentially, the process goes like this: you lift a target area using resistance and then afterwards, do some cardio. The lifting releases the fatty acids and the cardio burns them off.
Keep in mind, however, that this information is in its infancy and is not 100% confirmed. It is at least a very interesting finding that stands in the face of what most people consider to be truth.
I suggest trying this method out on your own because it really wouldn’t hurt and it might actually work.
5 Pervasive Fat Loss Myths & The Actual Truths
With the endless sea of information available, it’s often difficult to determine the correct path for you and which pieces of information are actually true.
The myths mentioned in this article are among some of the most pervasive and seemingly incorrect myths floating around. With this information you should be able to see past the myths and determine an effective strategy for reaching the goals you desire.
- Scotto, D. P. A., Guerra, E., Orlandi, C., Bazzucchi, I., & Sacchetti, M. (2017). Effect of combined resistance and endurance exercise training on regional fat loss. The Journal of sports medicine and physical fitness, 57(6), 794.