Top 5 Weight loss myths

There is no doubt the most common reason for someone wanting to have a Personal Trainer is to help them manage their weight and body composition. With that in mind it might be a good time to dispel a few of the weight loss myths you can sometimes come across.

1. Carbohydrates make you put on weight

Thanks to a few well marketed, high profile diet guides over the past few years, reducing carbohydrate intake has been a common strategy to losing weight. The inaccurate message that seems to have been transmitted to the world is that eating carbohydrates makes you put weight on.

The main function of carbohydrates is to supply the body with energy to function. Over consumption of too many carbs will supply more energy than is required with the result being weight gain. Let’s look at this from a different prospective. It is quite reasonable to expect an endurance athlete to consume approximately 650-800 grams of carbohydrate per day. The equivalent of approx. 12 medium baked potatoes. Yet the very last thing they are is overweight. Carbohydrates, in the form of glucose, provide fuel to your muscles and they should account for 50% of your calorie intake. At rest, carbs supplies approximately 40% of the energy required by our bodies and during high intensity exercise they start to become the primary fuel for the body.

Every gram of carbohydrates provides the body with 4 kcal of energy. Therefore to calculate the daily carbohydrate requirement for active people / athletes we can use the following equation:

Assume daily requirement of 7 to 10 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight.
7g or 10g x bodyweight in kg
2. Skipping meals is a good way to lose weight

Let’s start by re-phrasing this. Consuming fewer calories each day can be a very effective way of losing weight. Unfortunately though, skipping meals is often the method followed to achieve this and in many cases it’s breakfast that goes amiss.

By missing a meal you end up making your body wait a considerable amount of time before it will be given more energy to function. The side effects to this can result in lethargy, a reduction in your metabolic rate and feeling immensely hungry – 3 things that should be avoided when trying to lose weight!

The better option would be to spread your energy intake throughout the day by eating little and often. Avoiding any lulls in energy levels as well as encouraging your metabolism, mood and energy levels to stay high. Healthy snacks consumed in between light balanced, healthy meals will encourage this elevated metabolism and lack of hunger. We are better off grazing as opposed to gorging on heavy meals, however, the lightest meal of the day should be your evening meal and consumed a few hours prior to going to sleep.

3. Eating before bed leads to greater food storage

The misconception to point out here is that the energy consumed by eating before you go to bed does not turn into fat. Weight loss comes down to calories consumed compared to calories expended over each day. So right now you may be thinking ‘I’ll not eat all day long and consume 2000 calories just before I go to bed’! – Not a great idea I’m afraid. Your body is about to go into shut down mode and digesting a heavy meal is certainly not on the cards. If you feel the need to eat late at night, the chances are that you haven’t eaten a balanced, nutritional and fulfilling diet during the day. Aim to avoid this by following the grazing approach recommended in the point made above.

Not eating late can be quite a challenge for many people with their hectic working lifestyles. In the case that it is unavoidable, aim to consume a small portion of low carbohydrate based food and instead choose something high in protein such as a glass of milk or even just a healthy snack (something that can be easily and quickly digested). Your metabolism is about to slow down for the night so it makes sense not to pile in the calories at this point. Assume that one pound of body fat is equal to approximately 3,500 calories. Therefore, if you were to consume a 500 calorie snack on top of your daily intake before bed every night of the week (when you just don’t need this energy), you would gain approximately 1 pound of body fat / week.

4. Muscle turns to fat if you stop exercising

When you stop exercising it encourages muscle atrophy (lean tissue reduction). It’s the old adage of ‘use it or lose it’. It doesn’t, however, turn into fat. By losing this lean tissue as well as possibly adding some extra body fat, if you were to perform a body composition test, it may give you the false impression that your lean tissue has turned into fat.

The other consideration to make here is that many people will continue consuming the same amount of calories as they were when they were exercising. As a result their energy intake is greater than energy expended causing an overall increase in bodyweight as body fat.

5. Cardio training is the best method to burn body fat

There is always great debate over this point. When it comes to the energy required to actually perform the exercise, studies have shown that Cardio training can be up to 3 times more effective in burning calories compared to resistance training. However, with weight loss being the goal, it is unwise to approach this with cardiovascular training alone. Cardio training alone would fail to acknowledge the bigger, longer-term picture of sustainable weight loss and body shape. The minute you stop Cardio exercise without adjusting your calorie intake, you’re highly likely to gain weight.

A better, more long-term weight loss management approach should always include resistance training. This will promote an increase in lean tissue, which in turn will lead toward increasing your BMR (Basal metabolic rate). Studies have shown that resistance training can increase your metabolism by up to 15%, so for someone who normally uses 2000 calories per day, this metabolic increase would bring this total to 2300 calories. Some of the many additional benefits to resistance training also boast improved shape and posture as well as ensuring those occasional days where you may go a little astray with calories consumed should go unnoticed.

Considering the points mentioned above, having a programme which incorporates both resistance and cardio training all performed to a high intensity will give you the most effective approach for achieving and sustaining weight loss.

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