Everything. The fitness industry is full of myths perpetuated by the supplement industry and broscience. All this misinformation can make fat loss seem incredibly confusing. Let’s clear up three of the most common myths:
Myth #1: Eat multiple small meals a day
You’ve probably heard that to lose fat, you need to eat every few hours because it speeds up your metabolism.
Backers of this myth often cite something called “the thermic effect of food” or TEF. When we eat food, our bodies require energy to digest and turn it into fuel. When you use this extra energy to convert food to fuel, your body burns more calories than it normally would- this is TEF.
So eating six small meals a day would mean your metabolism is constantly running at a high rate due to TEF right?
TEF is equal to about 10% of calories consumed, no matter meal size. If you eat five meals in a day, at 500 calories each, the TEF of each meal is 50 calories. After five meals, your total TEF is 250 calories. However, if you only ate one massive 2500 calorie meal, the TEF is still 10% of 2500, or STILL 250 calories. So, it literally makes no difference for your metabolism whether you eat one or six meals a day.
Your total daily caloric intake is what determines if you lose fat or not. Focus on creating a calorie deficit, and eat whatever number of meals is most convenient for you.
Myth #2: Eating fat makes you fat
This one almost makes sense.
Shouldn’t eating more fat make you fat?
Fortunately for us ribeye lovers, this is the furthest thing from the truth.
Adequate fat intake is crucial for hormone regulation. Out of whack hormones lead to increased body fat storage, and leave you feeling worse overall. Higher fat intake keeps hormones at optimal levels, which promotes energy, muscle building, and libido. Higher fat diets also keep blood sugars from spiking and crashing, which will give you more consistent energy throughout the day. Furthermore, fat is very satiating (it makes you feel full), which can help make low calorie days more tolerable. Consuming enough fat is key to staying healthy as you shed body fat.
Myth #3: To lose body fat, do lots of cardio
The truth is, to create long-term, sustainable changes in your body, cardio is one of the least effective things you can do.
But cardio burns more calories than weight lifting, shouldn’t it be better for fat loss?
Your body adapts to cardio very quickly. For several weeks, running three miles every day will give you great results. Soon, your body adapts to your current level of cardio. From this point forward, you see very little fat loss from running three miles daily. But, since this is the activity level your body is now used to, a sudden decrease in activity will lead to fat gain. Now you have to run three miles a day just to maintain your current weight!
Excessive cardio sends your body the signal that endurance is a high priority. To better adapt to the focus on endurance, your body becomes more efficient with its calories by slowing the metabolism. A slowed metabolism means slowed fat loss. Quite the opposite of what we’re trying for.
Simply focus on resistance training and a diet that allows a calorie deficit, while still giving you the nutrients you need to be healthy. Sustainable fat loss and long-term health are sure to follow.