There are a lot of weight loss tips online and in real life. A lot of people who spout these tips are misinformed and have no scientific basis. Some that do have a scientific basis misinterpret results to promote a product. Some who share inaccurate information or weight loss myths do so out of ignorance or misunderstanding of how the human body works.
Some share tips based on anecdotal experience which may not always work for others that may have different circumstances.
Here are some myths and how we busting them:
Myth: Intermittent Fasting Works for Everyone!
There are those that advise people to try intermittent fasting or IF to keep a healthy weight. Some people just recommend skipping certain meals like breakfast in order to starve your body and trick it to burn stored fat throughout the day. Is this true?
Well, actually, skipping meals could end up in you binging and eating more calories during your actual mealtime. Being hungry leads people to increase calorie intake than a regulated and balanced meal plan. A study conducted showed results that imply that fasting (complete abstinence from caloric intake for 24 hours or more for weight control purposes), rather than more moderate dietary restriction, may increase the risk for binge eating and bulimic pathology. (1)
So yes, you can cut down on calories by fasting or skipping a couple of meals but if you end up eating more calories later on, well that just defeats the purpose of your fast and may even lead to regaining lost weight or worst, you’ll experience more body weight gain.
The truth is simple, for most people, it doesn’t matter how you achieve your caloric deficit. A study conducted compared a calorie-restricted diet and an intermittent fasting diet. Overall, the available evidence suggests that intermittent fasting paradigms produce equivalent weight loss when compared to calorie restrictions, with 9 out of 11 studies reviewed showing no differences between groups in weight or body fat loss. (2)
Myth: Fasted Cardio Workouts Helps Burn Fat Faster
Part of the idea behind fasted cardio is that during a fast, you have Lower levels of insulin and Depleted muscle glycogen. Because insulin is good for utilizing sugars, it actually inhibits lipolysis. These are the necessary steps to breaking down triglycerides into free fatty acids for fat oxidation, hence the idea that exercising during a fast helps burn Fat from the body specifically.
Another theory for fasted cardio is based on reduced muscle glycogen after sleep. This is the idea that your muscle’s stored energy is lower after a night of fasting during sleep.
The notion implies doing a bout of aerobics in the morning on an empty stomach will result in greater fat loss. Some even recommended High-Intensity Interval Training on an empty stomach. It went on for years without being debunked. This is what happens when anecdote marries seemingly sound logic because on the surface it makes sense. However, in the rhetoric to follow I will finally help distill this myth through the filter that is actual data.
If the Schoenfeld study wasn’t enough a meta-analysis was done on this very topic in 2017; a study of studies. As you would imagine the Journal of Functional Morphology and Kinesiology (say that two times fast) concluded that their “review of a small number of studies does not support the use of fasted exercise for weight loss and positive changes in body composition.” They go on to say that fasted exercise hasn’t, however, shown any detrimental effects on body composition, and overall that there needs to be more research was done that covers longer periods of time, volumes of exercise, and controls more for dietary habits. (3)
The truth is that doesn’t make a difference in calorie burning. The potential risk is not worth the reward, you will burn fewer calories, and you miss the opportunity for protein synthesis. The human body has to have energy when it needs it. Think of it this way, the food and the protein you consume are like construction materials, and the body burning calories it’s like hiring more carpenters to build a house and not have any materials.
Myth: Your Body Type: Mesomorph, Ectomorph, and Endomorph Determines Weight Loss
Way back in the 1940s, a psychologist called William Herbert Sheldon proposed an idea that would later be known as somatotype. He suggested that the human body could be classified based on height, weight, and limb length, in other words, a person’s general build.
Weirdly, Sheldon gathered his research by taking nude photos of undergraduate students over years and years. He referred to them as ‘postural photos’ with an aim to assess postural issues in young adults. (4)
It implies that you can’t change the way you look over time, which is obviously false. Out bodies are not merely a result of our genetics and personality but rather our caloric intake and exercise frequency and level of physical activity.
It had nothing to do with how well a person manages his or her weight loss.
Originally, it was a way to predict or classify people’s psychology and personality based on their respective physiologies. It was termed as Constitutional Psychology and it has fallen largely out of favor. At some point in time he also postulated that it had something to do with a person’s criminality. William Sheldon developed the idea of somatotypes in explaining different types of criminal behavior. Sheldon defined three body types believed to be associated with criminality: mesomorphs, who are athletically fit; endomorphs, who are overweight, and ectomorphs, who are characterized by fragility and thinness. Sheldon’s research implied that mesomorphic individuals were more prone to committing violent and aggressive acts. (5)
It is, of course, a myth. The idea, while still used to describe body types today in physical education, is nothing more than just a descriptor of a body type as it appears in the present. He’s been dismissed both as a quack and a person who employed questionable methods as well by taking nude photos of students obtained without explicit consent from a pre-existing program evaluating student posture.
If you are trying to lose weight, focus on “calories in and calories out.” A person’s personality may affect it by way of how well he or she manages to control his or her caloric consumption, and level of physical activity.
Myth: Going on a Detox by Fasting, and Only Eating Certain Vegetables Flushes Out Harmful Toxins from Your Body!
These diets claim to clean your blood and eliminate harmful toxins from your body.
However, it is not entirely clear how they do this, what specific compounds they’re supposed to eliminate, and if they even work. They claim to do the following: Detox Diet proponents claim that detoxing can rest your organs by fasting, stimulate your liver to get rid of toxins, promote toxin elimination through feces, urine, and sweat improves circulation provide your body with healthy nutrients. However, these claims are not substantiated at all. (6) And are not shown to have any effect on toxicity in the human body. (7)
They are a myth, they are based on the assumption that clearing the liver and kidneys need any help clearing out toxins, but they don’t. May cause short-term weight loss from extreme caloric reactions but rarely result in sustainable weight loss and soften lead to weight regain Sometimes they can be dangerous if the detox involves drinking too much water. They are often unsustainable and lead to more gain after you fall from these types of diets.
Myth: Carbs Make You Fat
The idea that bread, pasta, noodles, rice, beans and all forms of carbohydrates are the cause of weight gain is a long and widely held belief that is while not partially false, is founded on a few fundamental misunderstandings.
Weight gain and weight loss are a simple equation of calories consumed and calories burned. Of course, any excess calories eaten and not burned turn into fat. The truth is, eat a lot of something or exceed your daily caloric requirement, and any excess gets stored in the body as fat. It doesn’t matter what you eat as long as your e in a caloric deficit, you will still lose weight. Swinging arms were not any leaner than different non-swinging arms in tennis players.
Well, actually it is a little more complicated than the myth. Not all carbohydrates are the same, there are simple and complex carbohydrates. The carbohydrates that you would get from a potato chip or a donut are not the same as the carbohydrates you will get from a piece of whole wheat bread or some steel-cut oats. All carbs are not equal, and some offer a more beneficial nutrient profile than others, which can affect your weight loss efforts.
It is not about the carbs. It is all about the calories. When you control calorie and protein intake, there’s no energy expenditure or weight loss benefit from eating a low-carb diet over a high-carb diet. At the end of the day, controlling your calories and portion sizes will be more effective than removing carbs completely. (10) Avoid processed foods and do healthy lifestyle changes!
Stop obsessing about macros! Comparison of weight-loss diets with different compositions of fat protein and carbohydrates isn’t necessary. Reduced-calorie diets result in clinically meaningful weight loss regardless of which macronutrients they emphasize.
Myth: Spot Reduction Allows You to Tone Your Muscles!
Spot reduction is a commonly and subconsciously held belief. A lot of people think that losing weight in the stomach area requires a lot of crunches to burn the fat off. The same is true with doing arm workouts to get rid of arm fat, and so forth. It is also known as Targeted Fat Loss.
An observational study conducted comparing tennis players swinging and non-swinging arms found no significant difference between the sizes of the arms even though one arm received far more exercise than the other. There was no difference in the subcutaneous fat on the arm that received more exercise, the one that is more hypertrophied compared to the non-dominant or non-swinging arm. (11)
A more recent study that was a more quantitative had male and female subjects undergo resistance training for a 12 week period but only on one arm. They then measured subcutaneous fat on the dominant and non-dominant arms before and after the 12 year period. They measured subcutaneous fat volume changes were not different between the trained and untrained arms in the men and the women. (12)
A third study put men and women through intense lower body workouts, a high volume 12-week period exercising only one leg similarly found no difference between the fat stored in the limbs. (13)
Imagine the fat store in your body is like a glass of water, you can take a teaspoon out and scoop out some of the water out of the glass. Does that leave an empty space in the water inside the glass? Of course it doesn’t. Just as water seeks its own level and seek its to fill whatever it can fill, so does the fat in our body adjust to move where it can be stored. Working out a specific part doesn’t burn the fat in that area, it may develop more muscle and therefore look more “toned” but these visible results only show as a part of the overall body fat percentage loss.
Myth: Lifting Weights is Not Useful for Weight Loss and Doing Resistance Training Will Make You Bulky and Muscular
There are two myths here that bear busting. One, is that resistance training is not useful for weight loss, and the other is that resistance training or lifting weights will make you bulkier.
This belief tends to be more common in women who generally do not desire a muscular physique. This keeps them from doing resistance training, one of the best ways to burn more calories and keep a healthy body. (14) While it is true that lifting heavy will promote hypertrophy in muscles leading to a size increase. However, the idea that it leads to a “bulky” look is untrue. The true culprit that leads to bulky physiques is fat accumulation. Excessive body fat is what causes both men and women to look bulky. The most important aspect of someone’s physique is his or her body fat percentage. A good physique nearly always requires a fairly low body fat percentage to achieve. Lifting heavy can help accomplish this.
Weight training does one thing very reliably: it makes you stronger. It also gives you more muscles, and having more muscles will increase the number of calories you will burn at rest. That’s right! At. Rest. Your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the number of calories you burn as your body performs basic (basal) life-sustaining functions. Commonly also termed as Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR), which is the calories burned if you stayed in bed all day. Increasing your muscle mass will improve this basal metabolic rate allowing you to burn more calories for the rest of your day. (15)
This is one thing that is misunderstood about calories burned and weight training. With weight training, you burn more calories because of the process of repairing your muscles and maintaining them rather than just for the activity of weightlifting itself.
Now of course, some people will still be hesitant. The fact of the matter is that even though we see a lot of big, muscular men and women on social media, building muscle like that is a long and slow process that needs years of consistency. Most people cannot achieve those physiques over a short period of time and without any assistance from performance-enhancing drugs. It takes a lot of work to be “big.” You do not get bigger just because of lifting once, it is because of the frequency of the workout (16) and your consistency. (17)
But for the women whose concern is being bulky. There are some easy relatable comparisons you can make. Take sports for example, in Competitive weightlifting, and in any professional sport, even if they put in an equal amount of time, women do not generally get as “big” as men? Why is that? It’s because women don’t generally produce as much testosterone as men(18), and Testosterone production is a huge factor in your capacity to grow muscles. (19) Though some women have higher testosterone than other women, even those cannot make them grow muscles as fast as men do. Not Naturally at least.
There are a lot of incorrect beliefs about weight loss and the best way to avoid health issues or injuries is to understand your body and do what is best for it.