5 Damaging Fat Loss Myths

This post was originally written to be published by Rapid Personal Training on their site. Since then the business has closed down, and so I have decided to re-publish any content that I produced for Rapid PT here so that everyone can still have access to it.

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There is a tonne of information available nowadays.fat loss

At the click of the button you can begin to learn more about any topic that you can think of, including everything health and fitness related.

Whilst having readily available information to access whenever necessary is truly a blessing (ever used the term Google It to settle an argument?), not all information is created equal.

In fact, particularly with respect to the health and fitness industry, some information (i.e. misinformation) can be damaging – not only to your results, but also your physical and mental health.

It’s necessary then, to have a good B.S. filter when it comes to reading anything fitness-related. Unfortunately for most of us, we weren’t formally trained in this space, making it hard to tell the truth from the garbage difficult.

Luckily for you, that’s where we come in – and debunking garbage peddled by industry charlatans is one of our favourite things to do!

Here are some of the more prevalent fat loss myths that could be hindering your results.

1) Calories Don’t Matter

It doesn’t matter how much you eat as long as it’s [insert real food/natural/raw].

Rubbish.

You can absolutely overeat eating ‘real’ foods, and those extra calories absolutely will be stored as extra cushion around those areas that you don’t want it to be.

Now, before too many people get their panties in a bunch, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be eating wholefoods, or that you have to start counting calories. I’m just saying that you need to acknowledge that calories do matter, and you can definitely overeat them with any food group.

As an example, I had a client who was competing in a 12-week challenge at a large, commercial gym. She started off the challenge progressing well, mostly as a result of changing what she was currently eating to a higher proportion of real, whole foods. Great. Around week six, though, we hit a speed bump, and she stopped losing fat.

Upon perusal of her diet it was clear that what she was eating was pretty good, so we needed to get more information about how much of it she was consuming. I set her the task to track what she ate in MyFitnessPal for the next seven days.

On day one she called me and screamed ‘I EAT 700 [EXPLETIVE] CALORIES A DAY OF AVOCADO!’.

I calmly responded ‘Ok cool, let’s half that for the next couple of weeks’.

Her progress kick started again and she won the challenge.

Her problem wasn’t the type of food she was eating, but the amount of it – and by getting more detailed with how many calories she was eating allowed for an easy adjustment to her diet on my behalf, and the problem was fixed.

2) You Need To Eat Every 2-3 Hours

‘You need to eat every 2-3 hours in order to stoke your metabolism’

Whilst it’s easy to follow the logic with this myth, it simply doesn’t translate into real-world results.

This was highlighted in a recent study by Canadian researchers, which they literally named the study “Increased Meal Frequency Does Not Promote Greater Weight Loss In Subjects Who Were Prescribed An 8-week Equi-Energetic Energy-Restricted Diet.”

It’s safe to say that this would be a terrible name for a book – not only is mouthful to say, but it leaves no mystery to the readers whatsoever.

But I digress.

In the study the researchers split subjects into two groups – one ate three meals per day, and the other ate six. Calories were equated for both groups. At the end of the study there was no difference in weight loss between to the two groups.

What we understand is that total calories consumed is the main determining factor of weight loss, and when calories are equalised, it really doesn’t matter if you eat two meals, three meals, or eight meals across the day.

Apart from it not being founded in any true evidence, having to eat every 2-3 hours is a giant pain in the backside!

From preparing all of those meals, to lugging them around in what’s effectively a small refrigerator with a shoulder strap, and then getting up from your desk to go heat your food, all while your boss gives you a meaningful glare, and your colleague says ‘another meal?’ for the 13th time this week.

But hey, maybe that’s just me. Some people might prefer eating more frequently.

However, if you secretly hate eating like that, and you’re only doing it because of the magical increase in fat loss that you’re going to get, don’t bother.

As long as you’re eating to your calorie targets, and your diet is high in good quality protein, it doesn’t matter whether its three, or six, meals per day.

3) You Need To Do Hours & Hours Of Cardio

Cardiovascular training has its benefits.

Notably are its effects on cardiovascular health, general energy and focus, and an increased in work capacity.

But most people don’t view cardio training in this light. Most people look at cardio and instantly think of fat loss training, or something similar. The truth is that whilst cardio training will burn calories and subsequently contribute to your fat loss efforts, it’s not a requirement, nor is it always the best option for everyone.

Take your regular male who joins the gym with the goal to lose fat. He might be 20kgs overweight, and because he wants to lose weight, he decides that he’s going to run for 5kms on the treadmill, despite not having run consistently for the last eight years.

Do you think that his body is physically ready for the impact of said running?

It won’t be, and when your body isn’t prepared for the training that you put it through, you’re leaving yourself open to the risk of injury.

He would have been better off started on an intelligently designed strength training program coupled with some nutrition and lifestyle adjustments, and the results would come just as quickly as if we kept the cardio training in the program; but he won’t be at risk of getting injury.

Injury risk aside, I always ask clients this question when it comes to any type of training – do you enjoy it?

If you’re not enjoying the hours that you’re putting in on the treadmill, then it might be time for a change of pace to something that’s going to re-spark that excitement.

And look, yes, sometimes you need to suck it up and get the training in despite not enjoying it. However, if I can skew your training towards the stuff that you enjoy, and still maximise you results, well, that’s win-win for everyone involved.

4) Avoid Fruits, For They Contain Fructose

And fructose is the spawn of evil – at least that’s what some people will have you believe, which makes me laugh.

I mean, when did we get so worried about eating fruit?

It’s freaking fruit!

Nutrition-dense, fibre-dense, fruit. It’s ridiculous that the current state of affair for some people in this world is campaigning against the supposed dangers of fruit.

Nonetheless, you don’t need to worry about eating too much fruit, particularly if you eat it in moderation (as with everything).

Yes, it does contain sugar.

Yes, it does contain calories.

No, you won’t instantly get fat if you include a couple of pieces of fruit into your diet each day.

Just remember that total calories matter, and if you eat so much fruit that you blow your daily calorie intake out of the water, then yes, those excess calories will be stored as fat.

But if you eat fruit within a diet that fits within you target calories, and you’re getting enough protein into your diet, then enjoy the damn fruit!

5) Your Sessions Should Leave You Exhausted

Go hard or go home.

Beast mode engaged.

Eat clean, train dirty.

Now that we’ve got the daily dose of Fitspiration out of the way, we can discuss why how hard your training session was isn’t a good measure of its efficacy.

Coaches design programs to accomplish a number of different things – to make you stronger, fitter, to increase mobility, to stimulate certain muscles to grow, and any number of other things, but making you tired isn’t one of them.

If my goal was simply to make you tired, we’d take a drive to the closest 400m athletics track, and I’d watch you complete 45-minutes of walking lunges around it. That would make you tired, sore, and exhausted – but it would it make you better? (The answer is probably not).

It really doesn’t take a genius to make you feel like you’ve worked hard, but to make continual improvements – that’s another story completely.

Luckily for my clients, I couldn’t care less how tired they are at the end of their session if they’re making tangible progress towards their goal.

If you’ve got a PT who doesn’t measure your objective progress based upon body composition changes (measurements, body fat percentages etc.) or performance markers (strength, aerobic capacity, mobility etc.), and yet they drive you into the ground with a new, random workout each session, then it’s probably time for a new PT.

Great coaches design programs to take you towards your goal. Sometimes these utilise sessions that are exhausting. And then, other times you complete sessions that make you feel better walking out of the gym than when you walked in.

It all depends on the goal and other variables, but not every session needs to be at 100% intensity.

The value of session is measured in long-term progress, and not in how tired it makes you.

James Garland

James is an educator, frequent ranter, teller of terrible jokes, lover of all-day breakfasts, and the Education Manager for The Fitness Playground. Feel free to tell him whether you loved, or hated, this article below.