Weight Loss Myths
There is a lot of fitness information on the interwebs. Unfortunately, the vast majority of this info is wrong. Like, really wrong! How many of you have heard about not eating past 6 pm? What about having to do abs to get rid of belly fat? Another one of my favorites is that if you aren’t sweating, you aren’t burning fat.
The fitness industry takes a hit because of a**holes who push this kind of stuff to gain followers or push for a “miracle cure” to all your weight loss problems.
But, here at Attack on Fat Loss, we pride ourselves in bringing you real, scientifically based tips to help you lose weight and get in the best shape of your life.
So, Let’s Debunk Some Weight Loss Myths.
Weight Loss Myth: “Low carb diets are better than low-fat diets and vice-versa.”
Truth: One is not better than the other.
A recent meta-analysis by Hall & Guo (2018) analyzed the effects of both diet strategies (1):
- A low-fat, high carb strategy
- A high-carb, low-fat approach
The meta-analysis was composed of 32 studies where calories and protein were equal.
Both diets resulted in comparable metabolic rates and similar rates of fat loss.
The low-fat, high-carb diet resulted in a few more calories (about 26) burned throughout the day than the low-fat, high-fat diet (-16).
The takeaway: Choose a carb-to-fat split that makes it easier for you to stick to your diet. Calories are the most critical factor when trying to lose weight, followed by protein and fiber.
Weight Loss Myth: “Sugar makes you fat.”
Truth: Not necessarily.
Overweight individuals were prescribed a low or high sugar diet (2).
Their diets consisted of approximately 1110 calories with a macro split of:
- Low sugar group: 11% fat, 19% protein, and 71% carbs, with 4% of carbs coming from sugar
- High sugar group: 11% fat, 19% protein, and 71% carbs, with 43% of carbs coming from sugar
researchers provided all meals to ensure accuracy.
At the end of the 6-week study, there were no significant differences in body composition between the groups.
The researchers concluded that a high sugar diet doesn’t impair weight loss when in a caloric deficit.
The takeaway: As long as you are in a calorie deficit, eating sugar isn’t going to wreck your metabolism and cause you to gain weight.
Assuming you’re still in a calorie deficit, it can help you stick to your diet and prevent you from going on a binge.
Weight Loss Myth: “If you aren’t sore, your muscles are not getting stronger.”
According to a study by Flan et al., Muscle soreness is not a sign of muscle growth or strength gains (3).
Researchers in a 2005 study found that we might feel sore after a workout due to training our muscles in a way our muscles are not used to (4).
Which explains why, over time, the more we perform certain types of exercises, the less sore we feel (5).
Weight Loss Myth: “You have to confuse the body by constantly switching up your workouts.”
Truth: Another one. NO.
“Muscle confusion” is one of the biggest fallacies in the fitness industry.
The idea originated from people thinking that muscles won’t grow unless you constantly change things up, confusing them into growing.
Muscle can’t be confused, lol.
In an 8-week study, researchers found that constantly rotating exercises resulted in slightly less muscle growth and significantly less strength in the bench press than the group who kept their exercise selection the same throughout the study (6).
Weight Loss Myth: “A high protein diet is bad for you.”
Truth: Another no.
A 2016 study found no harmful effects of a high protein diet (1.13–1.5 g/lb/d) over a one-year period (9).
Weight Loss Myth: “Artificial sweeteners make you fat.”
Truth: Not even a lil bit.
In a study by Bonnet et al., volunteers drank 330 ml of an artificially sweetened beverage or 330 ml of carbonated water twice a day.
Researchers found no significant differences in insulin sensitivity or secretion, body weight, or waist circumference (9).
Weight Loss Myth: “A high protein diet is bad for your bones.”
Truth: A high protein diet can be beneficial for your bones.
This myth started after a study from the 1920s found that a high protein diet led to increased calcium excretion in the urine.
But a meta-analysis by the National Osteoporosis Foundation found that a high-protein diet increases calcium absorption in the intestines. The researchers determined that the excess calcium secretion in urine was thanks to increased calcium absorption due to the high-protein diet (10).
Weight Loss Myth: “Protein is bad for your kidneys.”
Truth: Not on healthy adults.
Although a high-protein diet can be harmful to those with chronic kidney disease (11), there is no evidence that it is dangerous to kidneys in healthy people.
Weight Loss Myth: “Carbs get turned into fat.”
Truth: Yes, but not as much as you think.
De novo lipogenesis is when carbs are converted to body fat, and it takes place in the liver and adipose tissue.
In a study, women were fed 50% more calories above their maintenance for five days. All those extra calories came from carbs. Researchers found that the participants stored, on average, 282 grams of body fat per day. Of those 282 grams, only four grams came from carbs, and the remaining 278 grams came from dietary fat (12).
Weight Loss Myth: “You have to eat six times a day to supercharge your metabolism.”
Truth: It doesn’t matter how many times you eat per day
A study from the Center for Human Nutrition, School of Medicine in Denver, analyzed eating three times versus six times per day on fat oxidation (burning fat as fuel) and hunger levels (13).
The research was designed as a randomized crossover study, which means that all 15 subjects participated in both approaches. Between procedures, the participants would have a 1 to 2-week washout period before starting the next treatment.
Participants would have isoenergetic balanced diets (same calories and balanced macronutrients).
Researchers found no difference in fat oxidation (fat burning) between groups. But, participants reported higher hunger levels when eating 6 meals per day.
Weight Loss Myth: “You can only do between 8 to 12 reps to build muscle.”
Research shows that doing between 25 to 35 repetitions results in similar muscle growth to eight to 12 repetitions as long as you stop close to failure (14).
Weight Loss Myth: “Drinking alcohol can hurt your fitness journey.”
Truth: Consuming alcoholic beverages in moderation does not prevent people from burning body fat or building muscle.
A new study explored whether moderate drinking alcohol five times a week affected body composition while performing HIIT training twice a week for 45 to 60 minutes (15).
The 10-week study observed 72 healthy adults between 18 to 40 years old.
The participants were randomized into two groups:
A non-training group
A HIIT training group
- The participants who chose to perform high-intensity training then decided whether they would like to consume alcoholic beverages or not.
- Those who opted-in for alcoholic beverages were randomly selected to receive either beer with 5.4% alcohol or a comparable amount of vodka.
- Those who chose not to have any alcohol were randomly selected to receive sparkling water or non-alcoholic beer.
The researchers defined moderate alcohol consumption as:
Men: 2 to 3 drinks a day (24-36 grams of ethanol)
Women: 1 to 2 drinks a day (12-24 grams of ethanol)
Researchers found no difference in body mass, visceral adipose tissue (the fat that surrounds our organs), waist circumference, or waist to hip ratio in any of the groups.
Although, the training groups did show significant losses in fat mass and gaining lean body mass.
Weight Loss Myth: “Fiber doesn’t have calories.”
Truth: Soluble fiber does contain calories.
There are two types of fiber: Soluble and insoluble. Although the body cannot absorb insoluble fiber, soluble fiber is digested in the large intestine.
The problem is that both fibers usually come in the same foods, and nutrition labels do not differentiate between them.
According to researchers, dietary fiber yields between 1.5 and 2.5 calories per gram (16).
Weight Loss Myth: “Foam rolling helps decrease soreness.”
Truth: Not really…at least not by itself.
In a study comparing the effects of foam rolling and not foam rolling on recovery (17), researchers split 37 men into a foam rolling group and a non-foam rolling group.
The participants completed 40 15-meter sprints. Then, for the next four days, researchers measured soreness.
Researchers found no difference in muscle soreness between the groups.
If you like foam rolling, consider also doing some active recovery.
Active recovery, like walking and swimming, increases blood flow to the sore muscles, therefore helping with soreness (18).
Weight Loss Myth: “You have to train in the fat-burning zone to lose weight.”
The “fat-burning zone” describes an intensity level in which the body uses fat to power your workout.
Yes, there is an intensity level in which your body predominantly uses body fat to fuel your workouts. The problem is that this intensity also burns the least amount of calories.
See, to burn fat for fuel, there is a need for oxygen. Therefore, you are probably burning more fat (percentage-wise) than carbs by reading this article.
But, if you were to get up and do a bunch of jumping jacks as fast as you could, as you start to run out of breath, you would use more carbohydrates.
That is because the more intense the exercise, the more our bodies will rely on carbohydrates to create energy (19).
Also, the higher the intensity of your workout, the more calories you will burn.
Wilkin et al. found that those who ran for 10 minutes burned more calories than those who walked for 20 minutes (20).
Weight Loss Myth: “Men should avoid soy like the plague.”
A meta-analysis by Hamilton-Reeves et al. found that soy did not cause any negative hormonal impact on men (21).
Weight Loss Myth: “You’ll lose all of your gains if you take a break from the gym.”
Truth: Slow down Kimosabe
A 2017 study found that taking a 2-week break from the gym does not harm muscle size or strength (22).
Another study found that taking a 3-week break from resistance training does not significantly decrease muscle size or strength (23).
Weight Loss Myth: “Static stretching before a workout can hurt your gains.”
Truth: Unfortunately, this one is true.
Static stretches are those where you hold a position for some time, usually 45 seconds to 2 minutes.
A study found that stretching for 50 seconds immediately before a set decreases performance.
So, what can you do?
In a 2014 study, researchers found that waiting ten minutes after stretching can cancel the harmful effects static stretching can have on performance (25).
Other studies have found that performing dynamic stretches (movements where you go through a full range of motion, i.e., bodyweight squats) can also cancel the negative effects of static stretching (26)(27).
Weight Loss Myth: “Performing cardio can hurt your gains.”
Truth: Yep, this one is true too.
A meta-analysis by Wilson et al. examined the effects of concurrent (lifting and cardio in the same workout) training on muscle size and strength (28).
The researchers found that performing both HIIT and steady-state cardio after resistance training leads to smaller muscle size and strength gains than those only resistance training.
So what can you do?
If you must do cardio, a study by Jones et al. found that limiting the frequency, volume, and type of cardio (i.e., cycling and swimming instead of running) can lessen the effects of concurrent training (29).
And there you have it. We hope to have clarified some of these fitness myths for you.
A good tip to know who is full of crap is to see if they have any citations to studies to back their claims.
Remember that although many fitness “influencers” are either uneducated or full of s**t, it doesn’t mean every personal trainer is, and that some of us do have integrity.
Are you struggling to lose weight? “The complete fat loss guide” teaches you how to lose weight and how to keep the pounds from ever coming back.