With the New Year around the corner, it is time for resolutions. The majority of resolutions are often fitness-related, with the number one resolution being to lose weight. Five myths often drive fat loss goals; learn how to counter them and get started on the new you.
Myth #1: Diet.
The new definition of the word “diet” is a dietary plan that limits the amount of food one consumes daily. This definition creates a platform for failure and turns dieting into something that is started and stopped. However, in order to achieve a successful “diet,” one must make modifications to their lifestyle, including seeing healthier foods and beverages as regular foods, not diet foods; properly defining the word “diet”; educating oneself on the various types and groups of healthier foods; learning how to balance meals; and finally, learning how to stabilize blood sugar.
The first step is to define the word “diet” correctly. A diet, by definition, is the food and beverages one consumes on a daily basis. According to fad dieters, a “diet” is a reduction in calories and/or a limitation of select foods and beverages. Proper levels of fat loss depend on whether or not the phrase “being on a diet” can be properly redefined as “my diet.”
The next step is education in order to develop a foundation of knowledge for healthy eating. Educated persons subconsciously make superior decisions about types of foods and drinks, as well as how to prepare them. Some healthy options include choosing whole grains versus enriched flour products; limiting sodium levels by avoiding condiments or added salt; spreading carbohydrate consumption over many meals versus a few meals; avoiding high amounts of sugar; learning to eat low-glycemic foods; and various other healthy choices.
The third and final step is to vary food and drink consumption. Eating the same foods over and over again is “a diet,” and varying foods is one of the simplest ways to burn fat and achieve superior nutritional benefits. However, it is imperative to have a few stable foods to fall back on daily; go-to foods in times of need. For example, oatmeal for breakfast provides sustainable energy along with resistant starches; low-sodium lunchmeat (turkey or chicken) saves money and unhealthy omega-6 fats; mixing dark greens with leafy greens adds vital nutrients; and drinking water throughout the day maintains proper bodily function and fat loss. Studies have shown that individuals who consume water regularly often have a lower body fat percentage than those who do not.
Myth #2: Eat less, not more.
The most common mistake modern-day dieters make is simple calorie restriction. On one hand, calorie deficits result in weight loss. Burning 2,000 calories in a single day and eating less than 2,000 calories in that same day results in a caloric deficit. Sounds simple, right? Well, not exactly.
Dieters who count calories try to remain in a constant caloric deficit. This often leads to eating two meals per day, sometimes even one. It can also lead to low-quality calories with no nutritional value. Although this may result in weight loss in the short run, it often results in lean muscle loss and an increase in body fat. The longer the body remains in extreme deficits, weight loss will cease and weight gain will start.
The human body is meant to go through periods of starvation. Before modern times, people used to have to work for their food by hunting, farming, and fishing. They would go through long periods of starvation; the human body adapts to this and stores up any calories that are consumed. Every time one’s body is fed, regardless if it is once or twice per day, these fat stores accumulate. In times of desperation, the human body knows it must have sufficient energy to perform required tasks. The body calls on fat for energy (i.e. calories). Fat, regardless of where it is derived, has nine calories per gram and provides sustainable energy to be called on during times of starvation. Eating fewer meals results in increased fat storage because the body understands it needs to store these calories to be used as energy later. In order to achieve optimal fat loss, one must limit the size of their meals and eat more frequently. Frequent eating trains the body to utilize calories as they are consumed versus storing them as fat. This type of eating can drastically elevate one’s metabolic rate by keeping the body in a constant state of fat burning.
Eat five to seven small meals per day. Space them out two to three hours apart. Choose low-glycemic foods. Prepare protein and fat in a healthy way—over low heat, cooked in Omega-3 fats, and with low sodium. Eat protein and fat with every meal. Increase fresh vegetable intake. Choose nutrient-dense dark leafy greens often. Find a high quality protein shake that is easy to grab on the go, which can serve as a meal replacement with fast- and low-absorbing protein. FitProGo shakes, for instance, consist of ultra-filtered, lactose-free milk with no artificial sweeteners or added hormones. The protein breakdown is 85% casein and 15% whey.
Myth #3: Cardio is the best way to burn fat.
Cardio burns calories from the moment one starts exercising until the moment the cardio exercise ends. Lifting weights, on the other hand, increases caloric expenditure throughout the day, resulting in reduced body fat and increased lean muscle. Individuals with higher levels of lean muscle have a higher resting metabolic rate, lower body fat percentages and higher daily caloric expenditure.
Lifting heavier weights with shorter rest times leads to nearly double the caloric expenditure than that of a typical cardio session. The best exercises are multi-joint complex movements, such as deadlifts, squats, and cleans. These exercises drastically increase lean muscle levels while elevating caloric expenditure post-exercise. This extended elevation in caloric expenditure is known as post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). EPOC results in high amounts of calories burned for up to 72 hours.
Tip for cardio-holics: perform High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) to achieve higher levels of fat loss and lean muscle growth. HIIT means constant variation between sprints, resistance, pace, recovery and maximum exertion.
Myth #4: Zero carbs.
Nearly everyone who starts a zero carb diet “falls off” the diet and watches their weight pile back on. Zero-carb diets can be very dangerous, with numerous long-term side effects. One of the first side effects is loose stool, or diarrhea.
The human body is made up of two masses: lean mass and fat mass (including water and bones). In order to achieve greater lean mass (muscle) while lowering fat mass, one must consume an adequate amount of carbohydrates or cycle between a low-, moderate- and high-carb diet. The primary role of carbohydrates is to serve as an energy source for activities less than three minutes in duration; carbohydrates are the primary source of energy for max exertion exercises. Carbohydrates serve as an ergogenic aid by increasing muscle glycogen, which allows for greater work output and lean muscle retention. If an individual’s carbohydrate levels are too low, then work output will be lower and the body will pull energy from other sources.
Amino acids are the fundamental building blocks of muscle and are one of the main energy sources called upon during low- or zero-carb diets. An inadequate amount of amino acids in the body, especially the branched chain amino acid Leucine, results in muscle loss and fat gain. Individuals on a low-carb diet must consume an adequate amount of amino acids in the body to counter this effect.
Ketogenic diets, low-carb diets, require fewer than 50 grams of carbs per day. The primary goals are to burn fat and lose weight. This diet can be successful for some but not for others. First, it generally works for persons with higher levels of body fat. Leaner individuals generally require higher carbohydrate intake. Second, the carb levels must be cycled. For example; an individual might eat under 50 grams of carbs for three days but will then need to recover with a moderate to high carb count the fourth and fifth days.
Finally, pick carbohydrates that are whole foods and low-glycemic. These carbs will limit blood sugar fluctuation while keeping your body in fat-burning mode. Low-glycemic carbohydrates include sweet potatoes, whole grains, cherries, apples and legumes.
Myth #5: Fat Free.
Healthy fats (monounsaturated) derived from sources like olive oil or fish can help one lose weight while burning fat. Healthy fats have numerous hormonal and fat loss benefits. Monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to health benefits such as improved skin, fat loss, low LDL cholesterol levels, higher HDL cholesterol levels, optimal production of testosterone, and hair health. Unprocessed whole foods are the most nutritious sources and can provide various healthful benefits. To ingest healthy monounsaturated fats, choose oils such as olive oil or avocado oil.
Omega-3 fats, particularly from cold-water marine source, are the best fats to maintain blood sugar and burn body fat. Western diets are high in omega-6 fats, which can lead to fat gain. To counter omega-6, consume 1 gram of omega-3 fat daily for every percent of body fat. For example: individuals who have 20% body fat should consume 20 grams of omega-3 fats daily. To ingest omega-3 fatty acids, choose foods like fish, salmon, wheat germ and walnuts.
Saturated fats are not all bad, intake should be limited to about 20 grams daily, based on an individual’s characteristics. Saturated fats from lean red meat, dairy, eggs, coconut and various other sources can be advantageous. Cook saturated fats over low heat so they are not rapidly oxidized and hardened.
1. The Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning (3rd edition).
By, National Strength and Conditioning Association
Editors: Thomas R. Baechle and Roger W. Earle
©2008, 2000, 1994