Luckily in our modern world, the answer to every question we could ever think to ask is only a quick search away on our phones and laptops. But many myths and false truths still exist in the realm of exercise and nutrition.
Usually perpetuated by one guy in the gym (who happens to be the biggest and leanest), who tells some false advice to everybody he knows that are just starting out. And before you know it everybody is drinking cayenne pepper and lemon water as their only hydration source because that one guy said he got down to 5% body fat with that same technique!
The common theme for these myths prey on individuals who are new to proper exercise/nutrition, and through a vicious cycle known as word of mouth are almost impossible to get rid of. In this article I will be discussing and explaining why 3 common weight loss myths are inaccurate, as well as what you should be doing instead.
The 3 Myths
Myth 1: Carbs After Dark Go To Fat Storage
We’ve all heard this before. The rationale makes sense, carbs get broken down into glucose in our body and when our glycogen stores are full, the excess blood sugar that
isn’t used for energy goes into fat storage. But one problem with this exists, if you are eating in a calorie deficit (which you should be to lose weight, no questions asked), your glycogen stores will most likely never be full.
When it comes to fat loss, the amount of food you consume is everything, while the timing of when you eat your food has been proven to have almost no impact on fat loss/gain. In fact, for those of you who lift weights or do cardio in the morning will actually benefit from late night carbs.
Being in a calorie deficit means a carb heavy meal to be digested throughout the night will actually fill those glycogen stores (even if just partially) to help fuel your workout the next day. Now you might be thinking this is counter-intuitive as another myth exists that fasted cardio burns more fat because your glycogen stores are empty (I will talk more about this later).
While you might burn slightly more fat when your glycogen is depleted, you will also burn just as much muscle, something we definitely do not want. What full glycogen stores do for a morning workout is give you more energy to push that extra mile, effectively burning more calories while preserving muscle mass as glycogen is the main energy fuel for your body. While you won’t be burning as much fat during your workout, the larger calorie deficit will most definitely lead to better fat loss results over time.
Myth 2: You Need To Eat Clean 100% Of The Time
It seems like two sides of the spectrum exist when it comes to dieting, either you have to eat nothing but brown or green complex carbs, skinless chicken, no saturated fats, no artificial sweeteners, no gluten, non-GMO etc.… While the rest seem to be eating whatever they’d like as long as it fits into their macros (requirements for fats, carbohydrates and protein), including ice cream, candy, pop tarts, pizza and any other junk food as long as they hit their daily goals… And still lose just as much fat as the clean eating group!
While some would say drugs, I would say simple calories in vs. calories out. This phenomena is best demonstrated by a professor of human nutrition, Mark Haub who ate nothing but Twinkies, a multivitamin and a protein shake every day and because he was in a calorie deficit, he lost 27 pounds over the course of 10 weeks. Now while this experiment proved you can lose weight eating nothing but junk food and look good on the outside, it doesn’t account for the many vitamin and mineral deficiencies he would’ve had in the long term.
The best solution for this is known as ‘flexible dieting’, or the 80/20 rule, where 80% of your daily calories are from healthy, nutritious sources while the other 20% can be ice cream, pizza or whatever suits your fancy. What this means for us is that we are still getting all our macro and micronutrients in, indulging our need for sweets without overdoing it, and still losing weight as fast as those who don’t allow themselves any wiggle room in their diets! Of course this technique will only work if you are or start counting your calories (something we should all do stringent at least once in our lives for an entire diet).
Myth 3: You Need To Add Cardio To Burn More Fat
Let’s say you have been bulking for the past six months and were able to successfully gain 30 pounds, at least half of which is muscle. Eager to start your fat loss phase to show all your new gains what do you do? Start eating in a 500 calorie deficit as well as cardio four to five times a week to lose the most weight as fast as possible!
While this will definitely help you lose weight, it most likely won’t be the weight you want. There is a reason why pro bodybuilders do something called “reverse dieting”, where after a contest they slowly up their calories as to not gain too much fat. The same approach should be taken when starting a diet, cutting out calories slowly. A large sudden drop will result in a huge spike in cortisol the stress hormone. The result of which will actually force your body to hold onto fat even when you are cutting your calories, as your body believes it is starving to death and this isn’t what you want for optimal progress.
The same goes for cardio, while it is great for burning calories, it is also one of the most catabolic forms of exercises you can do. Solution: Start with a small deficit until your fat loss stalls (maybe 200-250 calories below maintenance), then increase gradually to a 500 calorie deficit. Once you are no longer losing weight at a 500 calorie deficit you should add a single cardio session per week (this should be enough to increase your deficit enough to break the plateau). To increase the calories burned in a small time period try and incorporate HIIT (high intensity interval training), as the shorter your cardio sessions are the less muscle you are likely to breakdown.
You can do two cardio sessions a week, but anymore isn’t recommended as you will begin to lose more muscle than necessary. Finally once you hit a plateau in a 500 calorie deficit and are doing two cardio sessions per week, it will be time to reassess your weight and recalculate your maintenance calories (more than likely you will need to decrease calories as your 500 calorie deficit will be more like a 300 or 200 calorie deficit depending on how much weight you have lost).
And as a last tip, don’t just go by weight loss on the scale to judge fat loss. Taking progress pictures, measurements and visually seeing progress in the mirror is just as important as the scale. Especially for males above 20% body fat and females above 25%, if you begin a diet and muscle building routine simultaneously it is quite possible to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time, resulting in no change on the scale but actual progress in the mirror!
Take Home Message
Unfortunately fitness and nutrition myths will always be around, being perpetuated in gyms and supplement stores around the world. With this article (and maybe more to come) hopefully I can correct any misinformation out there, one at a time. The best way to make sure anything you are being told is backed by science or false ‘bro-science’, is to take any advice given to you with a grain of salt and actually research it the next chance you get.
Something very new to the technological advances we’ve made in the past few decades, allowing us to literally look up any question to seemingly unlimited resources the second we think of it. That being said, there is no reason why each and every one of you can’t find a proper training routine, diet regimen and solid research backed by studies to help you reach your goals whether they be to gain muscle, get lean or just fit into your old jeans! Thank you for reading my article and I hope you learned something valuable.