The 4 Biggest Fat-Loss Myths

Looking to do more burning than building? Be sure to avoid these pervasive (and questionable) get-lean strategies.

By Matthew Kadey, MS, RD | December 22, 2015

Bust these fat-loss myths in order to get lean.
Bust these fat-loss myths in order to get lean.

Winning the battle of the bulge is hard enough without also needing to sort through all the information floating around from so-called “diet experts” who claim to know-it-all when it carving your core. But embracing their dietary falsehoods can seriously put the brakes on your goal to keep the flab monster at bay. Here is a quartet of popular fat loss myths that you’d be wise not to fall prey to for the sake of your six-pack.

Fallacy No. 1: One diet is better than another.

The gym floor is full of bro-science touting one diet or another. “Dude, you need to slash carbs to get lean.” “Man, you’ve gotta try this Paleo thing.” Well, what might work for one person may lead to diet failure for another. A new Israeli study involving 800 subjects and more than 45,000 meals found that people can react in wildly different ways to the same diet. When subjects were provided the exact same foods for a week, the scientists discovered that how the nutrients were processed varied greatly among the volunteers. Some people experienced high spikes in blood glucose (which is a risk factor for fat gain) after eating certain foods, while others had a much more moderate response to the same edibles. So while going low-carb may work for your buddy, it may do little shed extra winter insulation from your frame.

Finding the Truth: When it comes to a diet plan, personalization is key. Along with your already-rigorous training routine, take time to find what works for you nutritionally and, most importantly, stick with it.

Fallacy No. 2: All calories are created equal.

In the battle of the bulge, it’s widely believed that all calories are the same. “A calorie is a calorie is a calorie. Right?” Wrong. Take in too much of any calories and you’ll have trouble fitting into your jeans. A calorie from whole foods like nuts, meats and fruits is not the same as a calorie from processed junk. Case in point: A study in the journal Food & Nutrition Research provided volunteers either a sandwich made with multigrain bread or one made with white bread. Even though both meals had the same amount of calories, the less processed sandwich meal required nearly 50 percent more energy to digest resulting in a greater net calorie loss that could trim the waistline over time. It’s harder for your digestive system to break down foods that are closer to their natural form — in this case, grains — which can translate into a fat-burning metabolism boost.

Finding the Truth: Not all calories are one in the same, so forget the tedious task of closely monitoring your calorie intake every day. To show your six-pack some love, simply make your digestive tract work harder by consuming almost all of your calories from foods as close to their natural state as possible and watch the pudge melt away.

Fallacy No. 3: You should graze all day

In the old days, it used to be that most households ate three square meals a day. Now, it’s more like we are eating breakfast, lunch, dinner, pre-workout, and post-workout —with possibly a few snacks sprinkled in for good measure. It’s been hyped that noshing regularly throughout the day can keep your fat-burning metabolism revving and prevent overeating come mealtime. But here’s the thing: there is a dearth of research to support the fat loss benefits of eating several mini meals compared to three larger ones. In fact, a recent study published in Cell Metabolism found that people who ate over the course of a 15-hour period were more likely to pack on the pounds than those who limited the calories they consumed to a period of 11 hours or less. Similarly, a new study in The Journal of Nutrition reported that eating frequency can be a risk factor for extra ab flab. The more hours in a day you eat, the more chance you have to eat too much.

Finding the Truth: If you find that eating at regular intervals keeps your energy levels up and prevents hunger-induced fridge raids, keep doing so. Just be sure to watch your overall consumption and be sure more of your calories come earlier in the day as opposed to later at night when they are more likely to pad your fat stores.

Fallacy No. 4: Everything in moderation.

The statement “everything in moderation” has long been embraced by people who don’t really want to change their eating habits and the food industry who turns out plenty of nutritional dreck that warrants the need to consume the stuff very judiciously. And once you give yourself permission to eat cookies, potato chips and deep dish pizza in moderation, it’s easy for moderation to become the norm with junk food producers laughing all the way to the bank. This was played out in a recent study published in the journal PLOS ONE which determined that people who tend to eat a little bit of everything like processed meats and desserts were more likely to gain belly fat.

Finding the Truth: For any food that you think you should consume only in moderation (here’s looking at you Mr. Double Fudge Ice Cream), is something that in fact should be a very rare occurrence in your diet if you expect to trim the fat and keep it off. All foods do not fit into a balanced diet.



About the Author

Matthew Kadey MS RD

Matthew Kadey, M.S., RD, is a Canadian-based dietitian, nutrition writer and recipe developer. A regular contributor for Oxygen and Muscle & Performance magazines, he is also the author of Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Foods for Sports and Adventure (VeloPress, 2016), Muffin Tin Chef (Ulysses Press, 2012) and The No-Cook, No-Bake Cookbook (Ulysses Press, 2013). An avid cycle tourist, Matthew has pedaled his bike through Thailand, Cuba, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Myanmar.