From lemon water that ‘burns belly fat’ to avocados not making you fat at all, we’re debunking the most ludicrous fat loss tips and giving you the PT-approved truth.
The best and worst thing about the internet is that anyone can publish anything they want. On the one hand, people like me can bring you validated and accurate information. On the other hand, oxygen thieves with an internet connection can post pseudoscientific drivel.
So today, I’m going to clear up some of the more common fat-loss myths that you might have seen shared on various ‘health and fitness’ pages. Enjoy!
Certain foods and exercises target body fat in different places
The idea here is that if you consume certain foods or work certain muscles, you’ll concentrate your fat loss on specific areas.
I’ve seen some absolute nonsense in my time, but one that stuck out for me was an infographic shared around social media saying that drinking lemon water ‘burns belly fat’.
Similarly, you’ll get exercise plans claiming to target ‘stubborn stomach fat’. Or arm fat or love handles, or anywhere else people might feel insecure.
You cannot spot reduce fat. You cannot choose where you lose it from first, or in what order. This is largely determined by your genes, age and gender. Don’t trust anything that tells you otherwise. Eat within a sensible calorie deficit, exercise frequently and consistently; in time you will shift it.
Sugar makes you fat
Sugar has been vilified extensively over the years, and it seems many people are still terrified of its potential effects on their fat loss. Not that long ago, I told a client to snack on fruit if he was hungry, and he told me he was worried that the sugar content would derail his fat loss goals.
Sugar on its own is not making you fat. Sugar is a simple carbohydrate and contains four calories per gram. High sugar foods and drinks themselves are not always highly calorific - a can of regular coke is only 139 calories.
The issue is that sugar is also often found in very high fat foods (fat has nine calories per gram), and it can also cause cravings. In moderation though, sugar is not in itself making you fat - too many calories overall are.
Good fats won’t make you fat
On the topic of fats, this is another really misunderstood concept. The idea is that ‘good fats’ such as those found in salmon, nuts and avocados, will not make you fat, regardless of how much you eat, even if your calories in are more than calories out.
‘Good’ fats and ‘bad’ fats have the same number of calories per gram: nine. An excess of calories will lead to excess fat being stored in your body, whether it comes from avocados or Ben and Jerry’s.
Eating late at night makes you fat
The idea behind this one is that your body might metabolise food differently at night time, or that when you’re asleep, your body doesn’t burn calories as effectively, therefore your food is stored as fat.
This one feels like it makes sense, but it’s not true. There’s no intrinsic issue with eating your calories late at night. What might be more often the case that if you’re up late, or tired, you’re more likely to eat more, or crave unhealthy, high-calorie foods.
Eating small meals frequently ‘stokes the metabolic fire’
The idea here is that if you eat small amounts regularly, you’re asking your metabolism to keep working throughout the day, rather than just at set meal times.
Again, this one feels sensible. It’s just not how metabolism works. In terms of fat loss, it doesn’t matter if you eat three times a day or six smaller meals a day, so long as the overall calorie intake is the same and puts you in a calorie deficit.
That being said, I do like the rule of ‘eat every 2-4 hours, based on what you just did, and what you’re about to do’ as it stops you getting hungry, and makes it easier to hit a high protein number.
Not all of these myths are equally awful, and some might actually help with a fat-loss goal through unintended consequences; for example if you cut out sugar, you cut out a lot of high fat foods too. We don’t like to recommend this as it can be problematic (if you ever want to reintroduce sugar again), but you get the point.
Likewise, avoiding eating late at night might mean you make better food choices. Eating smaller meals regularly might mean you don’t get as hungry and binge less. It’s important to understand how the choices you make do or don’t benefit you, so you can decide how or if to apply them in your own fat loss journey.
Don’t believe everything you read on the internet, don’t look for shortcuts, and always question where your information comes from.
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