When we fall for fat loss myths dire consequences occur. When we’re promised quick results, but instead fall flat on our face it’s devastating. We’re less likely to try again. Obesity is surging. There are currently 175 million overweight or obese teens and adults in the United States. We need proper guidance. I won’t promise what I can’t deliver. I promise you the truth. Changing your lifestyle won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. You deserve great health. Let’s start with a stand. Let’s make today the day we stop falling for these notorious fat loss myths.
15 Common Fat Loss Myths
We’ve all seen that guy wearing trash bags or a sweat suit. They look hot, silly, and in no better shape. Are they onto something? Let’s take a deeper look. The human body is approximately 60% water. If our human body weighs 180 pounds, 60% of the weight is water, which means 108 pounds of your weight is water weight. On the scale your weight can vary anywhere from 2-5% of your body weight daily. That means the weight can vary from 3-9 pounds for our 180 pound example. If we have 108 pounds of water, and we dehydrate ourselves by sweating as much as possible. We can drop up to 20 pounds of water in extreme cases. We can bring down our weight on a scale to 160 pounds in a very short time.
But, it’s only a water weight loss not fat loss. Great for making weight in a fight, but not for changing your appearance. Unless you’re training for a big fight, you’re playing with fire. Sweating too much can compromise your health. You will lose water weight, but you run the risk of many severe health problems:
Sweat is mostly water, and sweat is used to cool the body down, so you won’t die. Not dying is good.
Dehydration from vigorous exercise, increased temperature or not enough water can cause:
- Heat Exhaustion: These can range in severity from mild heat cramps to heat exhaustion to potentially life-threatening heatstroke.
- Swelling of the Brain (Cerebral Edema): This can happen when you drink water after being dehydrated. The brain is desperate for water and pulls water, sometimes too fast causing swelling and sometimes cellular ruptures.
- Seizures: Electrolytes in water carry electrical signals from cell to cell. If your electrolytes are compromised, the normal electrical messages can become distorted. This can lead to involuntary muscle contractions and sometimes a loss of consciousness.
- Low Blood Volume Shock (Hypovolemic Shock): When low blood volume causes a corresponding drop in blood pressure and a drop in the amount of oxygen in your body. This can prove fatal.
- Kidney Failure: This life-threatening problem occurs when your kidneys can no longer remove excess fluids and waste from your blood.
- Coma and Death: When not treated promptly and correctly, severe dehydration can be fatal.
People’s bodies average two to four million sweat glands. How much sweat is released by each gland is determined by many factors, including gender, genetics, environmental conditions, age and your fitness level.
Fat Loss Myth versus Fat Loss Fact
Fat is matter, it’s a substance you can grab, it’s a real thing. For fat loss your body needs to convert the extra fat mass into energy. The human body is sixty percent water, so cutting water out, or sweating it out, will only give you a temporary weight loss. You temporary lose the water in your body, but once you re hydrate your weight will come back. To lose one real pound of fat, you need an energy deficit of 3,500 calories. A realistic fat loss goal is one to two pounds per week.
Fitness Simplified: While wearing a sweat suit, not drinking water and sweating too much can be dangerous in extreme situations, it can be helpful in measuring your own effort.
How To Use: Keep everything equal, meaning proper clothing, proper hydration, and a cool temperature. In this situation, sweat can be a good indicator of effort. Sweat can show you if you are putting on a good effort, compared to yourself. The key to the game is caloric burn, and if it feels harder then it is harder, and harder always burns more calories.
“My friend started running and she lost a ton of weight,” my client Kelly said.
I’ve personally trained over 50 clients in endurance events. Whether you’re training for a marathon, half marathon or 5k, running didn’t make anyone lose weight.
In fact, in my estimates people misjudge the amount of calories their body burns. Most people eat more calories “carbing-up” for a race than they do running one. Just because you’re running, doesn’t mean you get a free pass at the buffet line. Don’t let running be another creative excuse to overeat. Fat loss comes from eating less than your body consumes. And your body burns calories far less than it can consume.
Fitness Simplified: Running isn’t a fast track to fat loss, just another sad fat loss myth.
What to Do: Running is a great cardio, strengthens your legs, strengthens your heart, strengthens your mind. Run, but only count it as exercise and incorporate it with a healthy diet for best results.
“Oh, I don’t eat bread,” said everyone in the last seven years.
Poor bread, I love bread, but it got such a bad rap. But how can cutting bread make you lose weight?
Breads are carbohydrates. (Carbo-HYDRATES) Emphasis on HYDRATE, like water.
Carbohydrates are your primary source of energy. Coincidentally, they hold a vast amount of water. Lose the carbs and guess what happens? You lose water weight, again a temporary weight reduction. But you need carbohydrates in your life. Carbs are an essential macro-nutrient, like protein and fat, they provide essential functions in your health. Unless your diabetic, or pre-diabetic then you don’t need to worry about carbohydrates.
Fitness Simplified: Don’t let carbs scare you.
How To Use: If you want to lose weight don’t limit the carbs, limit the calories.
We can probably blame Instagram for this one. We’ve heard our body is supposed to burn more fat when it’s in a fasted state. This is correct, the body burns more calories from fat stores. Which is great if you’re trying to burn less calories and only the ones from fat.
Do you know which ones those are?
When you grab your love handles, what kind of fat are you holding? Do you care or do you want it gone?
Yeah, me too.
Fasted cardio is a fast way to pass out. When you have energy in your system, you push harder and thus burn more calories during the workout. It’s hard to burn calories when you’re light headed and laying down.
Fitness Simplified: Use common sense for your workouts. If you can power through a workout with only coffee or a small banana then go for it. If you feel awful with no fuel in your system, don’t do that. There’s no one since fits all solution, do what works best for you.
How To Use: Don’t complicate calorie burn. When something feels harder, you’re working harder. When you work harder, you burn more calories. Burning more calories, gets you there faster.
Metabolism: Converting food into life energy
Our metabolism converts calories from food into energy to live. During this complex process, calories are converted into the energy your body needs to function. Even at rest, your body needs energy for all its regular functions, such as breathing, circulating blood, adjusting hormone levels, and cellular maintenance. The calories your body uses to perform these basic functions is known as your basal metabolic rate, “metabolism.”
Fat Loss Factors
While age doesn’t affect metabolism directly, other factors exist between people that account for differences in our individual metabolic rate. (How many calories our bodies burn, with no physical activity.)
- Your Body: Larger people burn more calories. It takes more energy to power a garbage truck than a shopping cart.
- Your Sex: Men usually possess more muscle than women. Having slightly more muscle than fat means a slightly higher energy demand. Muscle requires energy, fat doesn’t.
Although we don’t have control over how many calories our bodies use, we can control the demand for calories. This can be increased with physical activity. But not the type your thinking. Not weights, not exercise, but movement. Yes, any and all movement.
Fitness Simplified: Think of your metabolism as a funnel. You can’t change the speed of the funnel. That remains pretty much the same. What you can do is pour more energy into the funnel.
How To Use: You can’t increase your metabolism rate, but you can use it more. By moving more, your body uses the funnel more. By moving more, your body needs more energy, and when your body needs more energy, it uses the energy from the fat in your body.
Move more, lose fat faster.
I’ve met countless ladies who desperately want to get rid of their bat wings. I get it, I want to help you get rid of that too. Unfortunately, like our height (I wish I was a little bit taller) we aren’t in control of our genetic make-up. Your genes, (so in essence your parents) are the ones to blame for those thick thighs. Genetic factors influence whether people store fat around the trunk or in other parts of your body. Males store fat different from females. Individual fat storage also varies from person to person. And trust me, the place where you store fat, is not where you want it.
Sucks, but true.
But what can we do?
To minimize fat in the areas you hate, you need to minimize fat everywhere in the body. Yes, lower your overall bodyfat and everything will look better. I know the look you want, and to the look you want means the bodyfat needs to come down everywhere. The first place you gain fat is the last place you lose it.
Fitness Simplified: Don’t target specific areas, target the total body.
How To Use: Focus on exercise that burn more calories. Total body workouts burn more calories because bigger muscle groups burn more calories. Burning more calories reaches your goal faster.
Females fear lifting weights, because they fear getting bigger and looking manly. While there are similar percentage improvements in strength with resistance training, increases in muscle size are typically less in women than men. While it is true both women and men produce testosterone, which is an anabolic hormone that plays an important role in growth and the repair of tissue, men produce up to 10 times more testosterone than women. This is one of the primary reasons men produce a greater amount of muscle mass over a shorter period of time.
Women only look bigger if they lift weights, but don’t adjust their diet.
If you keep the bodyfat or increase the bodyfat, and add more muscle. You will get bigger, if you keep the muscle and lower the bodyfat you will get smaller, and look more toned.
Fitness Simplified: It’s more important for females to lift weights than men.
How To Use: You don’t have to kill yourself in the gym. You only need to stimulate the muscle and bones in your body. Adding external overload (resistance training) will help your bones and muscles grow stronger. Your bones like your muscles are living tissue. Perform a total body workout 2-3 times/week.
This fat loss myth alone causes more people to avoid the gym. While there is some discomfort in resistance training, flexibility and cardio training. The discomfort can be minimal. Think of it, this way. You need to go slightly past the breaking point for your body to rebuild. Then we rest, recover, and come back stronger. We repeat this process and you slowly become stronger, more flexible and improve heart strength. Like the three little pigs story, you need to breakdown the house and then rebuild stronger. When you push too hard, it’s painful, dangerous and you will quit. Obviously, it hurts too much. Quitting gives you zero benefit.
Fitness Simplified: The workouts need to be slightly uncomfortable, unnecessary pain will only force you to quit.
How To Use: Don’t think of the exercise as a punishment. Think of it as a reward and push yourself enough to produce natural endorphins. Plan a day of rest in between workouts. Start with about an hour of resistance training and roughly 20-30 minutes of cardio. Start slow and build. It’s more important to be consistent than to go hard.
This fat loss myth is closely correlated to spot training. The body essentially has three layers. Muscle, bodyfat and skin, when we measure bodyfat we pinch all three and get bodyfat percentage.
When you target the abs with crunches, you do make the muscle stronger. Which is great for strong abs, but the problem isn’t the muscle. The problem is the fat covering the muscle. I call that layer the marshmallow layer and this layer is the problem. But doing every crunch known to man will not do anything to change the appearance of your tummy. You need to remove the extra fat to have the abs look better.
Fitness Simplified: Crunches make your abs stronger but does nothing for the looks.
How To Use: Crunches, planks, and core work are great exercises. But these exercises do nothing for the appearance of the midsection. To trim the waistline, usually the best exercise is the one where you eat the right amount of calories.
High Intensity Interval Training (HITT) is alternating between timed hard cardio, and then a timed rest interval. You then repeat the circuit, hard and rest, hard and rest. Trainers like to tell you that you burn more calories in this matter. But, here’s the problem with this method.
150 female doing HITT (5 minutes on, 1 minute rest) repeat X 5 = 30 minutes
If during the High Intensity phase you push you burn up to (8 cals/min)
During the Rest you rest (1 cal/min)
Total: (25 X 8) + (5 X 1) = 205 calories
Compare to a lower but manageable intensity for 30 minutes.
(30 X 6) = 180 calories
The Caloric Difference:
The difference is 205 – 180 = 25 calories (or 2 jelly beans)
This doesn’t even consider that towards the end of your interval training, it’s hard to match the same effort. You probably wont have the same energy as the first couple intervals, less effort means less calories.
Interval training does have a role increasing VO2 max, helping your cardio increase, but as far as fat loss goes, it’s just another fat loss myth.
Fitness Simplified: HITT isn’t a shortcut, it’s just another workout.
How To Use: HITT can be fun to mix up your workout. Incorporating a total body circuit with recovery will help you burn slightly more calories(slightly.) But the bulk of your caloric burn with come from constant activity. Steps, activity and eating the correct number of calories.
Hormones are a touchy subject and probably used the most to prey on females. It’s a convenient excuse for weight gain. It’s a hands-off approach and others choose to sell you their product of choice to help these hormones. If you want to see for yourself google “Weight gain and hormones” and immediately it isn’t your fault. The problem is hormones don’t cause weight gain. Eating more calories than your body needs causes weight gain.
Hormones Don’t Cause Weight Gain
While hormones, sleep and stress can cause other issues. The main issue is eating too much, I know it hurts to tell you. But it’s true. I’ve personally helped many clients who had thyroid issues or other hormonal imbalances. And while these issues are real, when it comes to weight gain it just isn’t the case. Menopause is another area where muscle loss occurs lowering the metabolic rate, but again not enough for weight gain. Weight gain only happens when the hormone imbalance causes you too eat too many calories. If you can control the urges, fight the temptations and stick to your plan, you will succeed.
Fitness Simplified: Hormones alone can’t cause weight gain. Eating too many calories, and not moving enough causes weight gain.
How To Use: If you feel hormones are really slowing you down, then perform what I call I a “Deep Caloric Audit.” Figure out exactly how many calories you’re eating (especially weekends) and figure out your activity level. Follow these numbers religiously for 2 weeks and look for either the caloric surplus or the caloric deficit. Energy is energy, and when your body intakes more energy than it needs, it will store the extra energy as fat regardless of hormones.
This fat loss myth can cause severe harm to females. Females produce estrogen. Estrogen weakens bones, lowering bone density. Resistance training keeps bones strong. Lifting weights is only a form of resistance training. You can also use machines, bands, balls and your body weight to get the same benefits. Any external resistance (weights included) will provide the stimulation needed for bone and muscle growth.
Fitness Simplified: It’s more valuable for females to do resistance training than men.
How To Use: Focus on workouts that you like, but focus on the total body. Ladies tend to avoid the weight room and focus on crunches and booty work. Although this is awesome and I thank you. It will provides minimal results because you’re missing the biggest muscles in your body. And bigger muscles burn more calories, getting you skinny faster.
“You need to run to lose weight, you need to push to lose weight faster. I’ve heard this one a lot. And the facts are true. While you burn more calories during a cardio session, you don’t burn nearly enough to offset a poor diet. Cardio is a form of movement, but only lasts a small duration (usually 30 minutes.)
Your day is 24 hours, 1,440 minutes. That means your 2% of your day, your burning more calories. But what about the other 1,410 minutes 98% of your day?
You will burn more calories during that period, but not as many as you would like. Cardio keeps your heart and lungs strong. Cardio focuses on the cardiorespiratory system, it will strengthen your heart, but it will not speed up fat loss.
Fitness Simplified: Cardio helps your heart and lungs. But it won’t speed up fat loss. Focus on total caloric expenditure (total movement matters more.)
How To Use: Don’t count on cardio for fat loss. Count on cardio for heart strength. Count your steps. Steps represent movement. More movement means faster fat loss. Track your resting heart rate, as your cardio increases your resting heart rate (RHR) will decrease.
We’ve all heard this myth in the gym, especially by trainers (myself included.) I fell for the bait. I thought as long as I lift weights, I can eat whatever I want. Turns out, if I eat whatever I want I gain weight.
But what about this fat burning muscle machine I was promised?
At rest, muscle does burn more calories than fat. But not much more, not enough to give you free pass at the buffet. The data is clear. A pound of muscle burns six calories per day while a pound of fat burns only two. Yes, it’s three times more calories, but how much is that?
Let’s say you weigh 200 pounds and your bodyfat percentage is 20%, and your muscles burn 20% of the caloric burn.
You work hard to lose 20 pounds, and add 1 pound of muscle (muscle is very hard to add, but that’s a story for a different day.) You drop your bodyfat down to 15%
Your RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate: the calories your body uses to keep you alive.) Brain (20%), heart (15-20%), liver (15-20%), kidneys, lungs, fat, tissues(10-15%) and muscle(20-25%).
Weight 200, Fat = 40 pounds, Lean Body Mass(muscle, bones, etc.) = 160. RMR Would be roughly 2000 calories, with 20% burn with muscle. This will be 400 calories/day.
Weight 180 pounds, Fat = 27 pounds, LBM = 153 pounds. You add one pound of muscle and increase your caloric burn to 21%.
RMR= 1800 calories, Muscle 378 calories from the increased muscle.
So you added one pound of muscle, lost 20 pounds of fat, and increased caloric expenditure by… (-22 calories?)
Correct, contrary to the popular belief. Adding muscle, getting fitter, makes you an efficient machine, not a calorie burning machine. When you’re lighter, fitter, and stronger, it takes LESS energy to move. It takes LESS energy to run. Become fitter makes movement easier, and easier movement burns LESS calories.
Weight Lifting Research:
- In 1995, researchers at the University of Limburg in the Netherlands published a study in Medicine & Science in Sport & Exercise on 21 male subjects and determined that weight-training “has no effect” on RMR
- In 1994, researchers at the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University in Denmark compared 10 bodybuilders with 10 lean subjects. Published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the report found that intense weight-lifting did not result in any measurable EPOC.
- In 1992, researchers from the University of Texas at Austin compared intense weightlifting with intense aerobic exercise on 47 males and reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that “RMR did not significantly change after either training regimen.”
Fitness Simplified: Lifting weights is important but doesn’t mean you can eat anything you want.
How To Use: Lifting weights can change how your body looks, but only if you execute on your diet. 90% of how you look depends on what you eat.
As we discussed earlier, metabolism is the process of converting food into energy. Your body wants to live, so it will always convert food into energy.
Age has no bearing on metabolisms.
Metabolism and Fat Loss Myths
The body will always convert calories into energy in the same way. But as we age, we lose some muscle mass and are far less active. A metabolism is defined as the chemical processes that occur within a living organism in order to maintain life. The metabolism doesn’t change. When you read articles about “speeding up” your metabolism, they’re referring to total calories burned. And we all know how to burn more calories, move more.
Age and Fat Loss Myths
As you get older, the amount of muscle tends to decrease and fat accounts for more of your weight, slowing down calorie burning.
Fitness Simplified: Your metabolism doesn’t ever slow down. Don’t slow down your activity, less activity as you age, means less calories burned.
How To Use: Always burn more calories, than you eat to be lean forever.
You possess the knowledge to beat the 15 most common fat loss myths. I wish there was an easier way, but with hard work and common sense you can accomplish all your fitness goals. The fitness game can be unnecessarily confusing. Focus on the fundamentals, be patient and you’ll be successful.
Free Fat Loss Myth Checklist
I put this valuable list together in a convenient PDF, you can have the checklist for free. This will help your arguments 😉
What are some fat loss myths you’ve heard? Please share in the comments below. Maybe you can help someone avoid falling for fat loss myths.
Best Selling Author, Get Me Skinny
NASM Master Trainer (OPT, MT)
Weight Loss Specialist (WLS), Corrective Exercise Specialist (CES),
Sports Fitness Specialist (SFS), Behavior Change Specialist (BCS)
- Center for Disease and Control, “Childhood Obesity Facts” https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/childhood.html
2. American College of Sports Medicine, Sawka, M. N., Burke, L. M., Eichner, E. R., Maughan, R. J., Montain, S. J., & Stachenfeld, N. S. (2007, February). American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Exercise and fluid replacement [Abstract]. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 39(2), 377–390. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17277604
3. Hansen, Julieann. “The Science of Sweat”. American College of Sports Medicine. Archived from the original on 2013-09-21. Retrieved September 19, 2019 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9303999
4. Sparks, Dana. “Dehydration can lead to serious complications”. Retrieved September 19, 2019 from https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/dehydration-can-lead-to-serious-complications/
5. William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR. “Medical Definition of Carbohydrates”. Retrieved September 19, 2019 from https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=15381
6. Center for Disease and Control, “Diabetes.” Retrieved September 19,2019 from https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/index.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fdiabetes%2Fhome%2Findex.html
7. Merriam-Webster. “Definition of Metabolism.” https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/metabolism
8. Merriam-Webster. “Definition of Calorie.” https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/calorie
9. Cleveland Clinic Center for Consumer Health Information: “How Does Exercise Improve Depression?”
10. American Psychiatric Association, Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients with Major Depression, 2000, and Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-IV-TR, American Psychiatric Pub, 2000.
11. National Academy of Sports Medicine. “HIIT, HVIT, or VIIT: Do you know the difference?” Retrieved from https://blog.nasm.org/sports-performance/hiit-hvit-viit-know-differences/
12. UCLA Health. “What is Menopause?” Retrieved from http://obgyn.ucla.edu/menopause
13. US National Library of Medicine. “Hormones” Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/hormones.html
14. Melinda Ratini, DO, MS. Web MD Thyroid Symptons Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/women/ss/slideshow-thyroid-symptoms-and-solutions
15. Clark, M.A., Lucett, S. C., & Sutton, B. G. (2012). NASM Essentionals of Personal Fitness Training (4th ed.). Wolters Kluwer.