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“Lose 15-pounds in 15-days!”
“Eat what you want and still lose weight!” “Try the ABdominator and lose inches fast!”
Sound familiar? If a claim sounds too good to be true it is! Marketing claims that promise fast results with little effort are everywhere making it challenging for the average fitness enthusiast or dieter to decipher fact from fiction. Let’s face it; it is easy to get confused; so, the purpose of this article is to:
1. Clear up some confusion surrounding some popular fat-loss claims
2. Provide insight regarding healthy fat-loss methods
3. Provide suggestions to guide your decisions regarding physical activity and nutrition
Myth: Fad diets work fast to lose weight
Fact: Fad diets do help you lose weight, but not much fat. The weight lost is associated with fluid, muscle, vitamin and mineral loss. Every “crash diet” has a rebound effect. Did you mess with your diet? If so, here’s what you should know…
• Severe decreases in daily caloric intake (less than 600 kilocalories) can cause a 10%-20% average drop in RMR of over six weeks.
• Once off this “calorie restricted” diet, the metabolism remains slow for several more weeks.
• Even after vigorous aerobic exercise, resting metabolism remains slower and takes time to TRUST then Re-ADJUST again.
• Repeating this destructive habit over the years, the body becomes “resistant” making fat-loss efforts more challenging.
Tip: Eat small meals regularly. Bring your snacks and meals on the road; buy travel food containers. Plan one afternoon a week to shop and prepare a few large batches of healthy foods for consumption during the week; this will make it easier to eat consistently and healthier.
Myth: Skipping meals is an effective way to lose fat.
Fact: A recent study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology concludes that skipping meals and eating less frequently may result in weight gain. Consider these research findings:
• Individuals who ate four or more times a day were 45% less likely to be obese than those who ate three times a day or less.
• Skipping breakfast was linked with a greater chance of obesity. People who skipped breakfast were more than four times more likely to be obese than those who ate breakfast daily.
In addition, it has been theorized that people who skip meals tend to feel hungrier later on, and eat more than they normally would if they ate smaller, more frequent meals. It may also be that eating many small meals throughout the day helps people control their appetites and cravings
Tip: Eat small meals throughout the day that include a variety of healthy, low-fat, low-calorie foods. For more information about healthy eating, read the Weight-control Information Network brochure Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Across Your Lifespan: Tips for Adults.
Myth: Eating after 8 p.m. causes weight gain.
Fact: It matters less, what time of the day you eat; it matters more, how much physical activity you do during the whole day that determines whether you gain, lose, or maintain your weight. No matter when you eat, your body will store extra calories as fat, if unaccompanied by physical activity.
Tip: If you want to have a snack before bedtime, think first about how many calories you have eaten that day. And try to avoid snacking in front of the TV at night—it may be easier to overeat when you are distracted by the television.
Myth: After 30-minutes of low-intensity aerobic exercise, your body starts burning fat
Fact: Your body is always using some combination of fat, carbohydrate and protein. It just doesn’t suddenly reach a specific time of 30-minutes then switches to fat. The switch is gradual. Initially, during any exercise the body will rely on carbohydrate for the majority of its fuel. In order to have your body derive most of its fuel from fat, you will need to exercise for over one hour. The results of a study of trained cyclists will help to explain why this myth is incorrect. Basically, a group of cyclists rode at a moderate intensity while the amount of each substrate (energy source) being used was measured. At the one hour period, they were still deriving over 60% of the calories burned from carbohydrate. Of the approx. 40% fat being burned, only 27% came from fat cells while the other 13% came from intramuscular fat. This merely serves to point out that it can take upwards of an hour for fat to be a major energy source during exercise.
Tip: Consider being more active throughout your day and accumulate a caloric expenditure of 300-500Kcal/day. This can be accomplished (by most) by performing physical activity that raises your heart rate between 100-130 beats per minute for 30-minutes to 60-minutes.
Myth: Low intensity exercise is the best way to lose fat
Fact: Consider this: have you ever seen a fat Olympic level sprinter? Why not? She/he expends large amounts of kilocalories per day in training, most of it being high-intensity frequently throughout the day. Any consistent physical activity that raises your heart rate (generally over 100-180 beats per minute for 30-minutes to 60-minutes will help with fat loss. The body simply adds up every kilocalorie expended that day and the food consumed; then determines if there are extra kilocalories left over, if so, the body will store these as fat.
Tip: Consider quitting your job and becoming an adventure tour guide (just kidding). The point here is to realize that many North Americans have become casualties of technology and sit motionless for 12-15 hours per day. To offset this level of stagnation (and fat-gain), you need to consider breaking up your day with frequent movement activities starting with a morning walk, mid-day fitness class and post-meal walk. Although this may sound challenging, consistent and frequent movement will offset the fat-stored daily due to long-hours of inactivity.
Myth: Lifting weights is not good to do if you want to lose weight, because it will make you “bulk up.”
Fact: Lifting weights or doing strengthening activities like push-ups and crunches on a regular basis can actually help you maintain or lose weight. These activities can help you build muscle, and muscle burns more calories than body fat. So if you have more muscle, you burn more calories—even sitting still. Doing strengthening activities 2 or 3 days a week will not “bulk you up.” Only intense strength training, combined with a certain genetic background, can build very large muscles.
Tip: In addition to doing at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity (like walking 2 miles in 30 minutes) on most days of the week, try to do strengthening activities 2 to 3 days a week. You can lift weights, use large rubber bands (resistance bands), do push-ups or sit-ups, or do household or garden tasks that make you lift or dig.