Written by: Nikolaj Bach, BCs. Scient. Med.
Weight loss in itself is quite simple. It is about consuming fewer calories than you burn, so that the body mobilizes its fat stores for energy consumption. It's pure math - calories in vs. calories out.
The fundamental cause of obesity and overweight is an energy imbalance between calories consumed and calories expended. Simplified, we either overeat or are too sedentary, or both.
It's pure math - calories in vs. calories out.
However, it is not always so straightforward to achieve a weight loss in practice. Partly because losing weight is hard work.
But certainly also because weight loss is, unfortunately, an area that, like many other aspects of exercise and health, is a myth.
These myths can not only place unneeded restrictions on people, making weight loss more unpleasant than necessary, but they can also be directly counterproductive and harmful to your goal.
As a result, I'll expose some of the most frequent weight-loss myths in this article. So, if you have trouble separating fact from fiction when it comes to weight loss information, you should better understand what's right and what's true.
Myth 1: There is one optimal way to eat when it comes to achieving weight loss
Answer: No, there isn't. Some people benefit from following a diet plan, possibly understanding their diet better. In contrast, others benefit from focusing on habits (such as eating fruits or vegetables at every meal). Yet, others benefit from eating whatever they want and achieving a calorie deficit through periodic fasting.
There are several approaches, and no single option is optimal for everyone.
However, the ideal method to lose weight is to eat in a way that suits you best and that you can maintain in the long run. Having a strict diet is pointless if you quit it after two weeks.
Myth 2: You MUST do cardio to lose weight
Answer: To reduce weight, you do not need to do cardio routines. Instead, weight loss is simply by burning more calories than you consume, so exercise and calorie reduction result in faster weight loss because we create a more significant calorie deficit.
Cardiovascular training is not required. Lifting weights, on the other hand, can help you lose weight.
Remember, calorie deficit has a more significant influence on weight loss than exercise (1).
It may not be surprising, given that exercise accounts for only a tiny part of our overall calorie consumption. However, our total calorie intake is everything we consume and needs more focus than exercise.
Myth 3: Many meals keep your metabolism going
Answer: NO! It's a widespread myth in the training environment: you have to eat many small meals to keep the metabolism going. But it is not supported by scientific evidence. The total calorie intake is the only thing that matters, and whether you choose to split this into 6 or 3 meals depends on your preferences.
Although a recent meta-analysis found a link between eating more meals and losing weight and having a lower body fat percentage, a sensitivity analysis revealed that this effect came from only one of the 15 studies included and did not represent the overall evidence.
As a result, the researchers conclude that one should eat the number of meals that best suit one's needs and stick to it (2).
Myth 4: Carbohydrate fats
Answer: Low carb diets should be better for achieving weight loss. You have probably heard that before. But unfortunately, it's another big myth in the training environment. In reality, it's not because of carbohydrates, but instead, one often eats a higher intake of protein and vegetables on these diets.
Scientific studies typically reveal no benefit to low carb diets when protein intake is maintained and carbohydrate and fat composition changes within the same calorie intake.
It's a well-discussed topic in scientific studies that carbohydrates should lead to increased fat storage due to insulin secretion, and there are still trainers and personalities within the fitness culture who stubbornly claim carbohydrates are particularly fattening. Nevertheless, the insulin hypothesis has been rejected in several scientific studies, recently dismissed in a new review by KD Hall (3).
Therefore: Make sure you eat enough protein and distribute your calorie intake between fat and carbohydrate as it suits you best.
Myth 5: You need to detox your body to lose weight optimally
Juice cures, herbal cleansings, tea detox, and whatever influencers on Instagram will sell you. It can be said very briefly: Detox is a pure hoax.
You've undoubtedly heard of several cleansing concepts, commonly known as detox. Oddly enough, typically, those selling a "detox" product, some people say that cleansing the body of unidentified waste items might result in a range of health benefits, including weight loss.
However, there is no scientific proof or physiological reason for these cures to cleanse the body - or for the body to need cleansing in the first place. Your liver manages that completely free of charge.
It's not science that you will achieve weight loss by living solely on tea. It's just an unhealthy and unsustainable way to achieve weight loss. However, muscle mass and metabolism will suffer from such starvation cures, and you will offer yourself a great starting point for regaining weight.
The only thing you cleanse by taking a detox is your wallet. Don't do it!
(1) Verheggen RJ, Maessen MF, Green DJ, Hermus AR, Hopman MT, Thijssen DH. A systematic review and meta-analysis on the effects of exercise training versus hypocaloric diet: distinct effects on body weight and visceral adipose tissue. Obes Rev. 2016 May 23. doi: 10.1111 / obr.12406.
(2) Schoenfeld BJ, Aragon AA, Krieger JW. Effects of meal frequency on weight loss and body composition: a meta-analysis. Nutr Rev. 2015 Feb; 73 (2): 69-82. doi: 10.1093 / nutrit / nuu017.
(3) KD Hall. A review of the carbohydrate – insulin model of obesity. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, (11 January 2017) | doi: 10.1038 / ejcn.2016.260
(4) James M Rippe and Theodore J Angelopoulos. Sugars and Health Controversies: What Does the Science Say? Advances in Nutrition. July 2015. DOI: 10.3945 / an.114.007195.
(5) Peters JC, Beck J. Low Calorie Sweetener (LCS) use and energy balance. Physiol Behav. 2016 Oct 1; 164 (Pt B): 524-8. doi: 10.1016 / j.physbeh.2016.03.024.
(6) Helms ER, Zinn C, Rowlands DS, Brown SR. A systematic review of dietary protein during caloric restriction in resistance trained lean athletes: a case for higher intakes. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2014 Apr; 24 (2): 127-38. doi: 10.1123 / ijsnem.2013-0054
(7) Phillips SM. The impact of protein quality on the promotion of resistance exercise-induced changes in muscle mass. Nutr Metab (London). 2016 Sep 29; 13:64.
(8) StewartTM, Williamson DA, White MA. Rigid vs. flexible dieting: association with eating disorder symptoms in nonobese women. Appetite. 2002 Feb; 38 (1): 39-44.
(9) Palascha A, from Kleef E, from Trijp HC. How does thinking in Black and White terms relate to eating behavior and weight regain? J Health Psychol. 2015 May; 20 (5): 638-48. Doi: 10.1177 / 1359105315573440.
(10) Smith CF, Williamson DA, Bray GA, Ryan DH. Flexible vs. Rigid dieting strategies: relationship with adverse behavioral outcomes. Appetite. 1999 Jun; 32 (3): 295-30