Fat loss! It's pretty much everyone's goal, right? Even if your goal is to build a little bit of a muscle, at the end of the day we all want to lose that little layer that hides those curves, FAT. Have you ever typed in "best ways to lose fat" in Google? I know have at some point in time. But there are literally a million ways and tips on how to best burn stubborn fat (well maybe I am exaggerating but it's a lot!). It's one fad diet after another, the next magic diet pill, the next new workout craze, and it can all get a little overwhelming with a fat loss guru overload.
These days everyone seems to be a fat loss expert, even my mum has tried to give me advice (bless her). So what should you believe? I know many of you have tried what feels like everything under the sun without much result. So let me debunk some common myths for you to make sure you are set up for long-term success.
Common fat loss misconceptions
Now before I get into it I am the first to admit that I myself have tried ALL of these at some point in time and believed every part of it! I mean they all sound plausible, right? But after extensive research, mentoring over the years from scientific gurus of this industry, plus A LOT of trial and error on myself I have managed to sort through the endless amount of misinformation out there. So let's see if I can help clear a few confusing myths up for you.
“Just eat clean food and you will lose fat”
This is such a common one and I hear it get thrown around all of the time. Clean Eating is the concept that if you just eat “clean” foods then you will lose fat. Firstly, I am not a fan of the term “clean” foods simply because there is no one-way to define it. The term “Clean Eating” means different things to different people and if we asked 100 different people I am sure we would get 100 different definitions. For argument sake lets just say clean foods are whole foods. For example, your chicken, beef, rice, sweet potato, broccoli, greens, your typical "bro" style or traditional body builder type of diet.
The idea here is that when people change their nutritional intake to these types of foods only they lose weight. And yes they usual do lose weight but not because of the type of food or that those foods possess any magical fat-burning properties, but because it's the calories that matter. Lean proteins and fibrous vegetables are less calorie dense and are very filling compared your typical every day take away or processed foods. Hence, when you change to these foods you feel fuller sooner so it becomes very difficult to over eat on these types of food.
But it is not that the food itself is causing the fat loss, but rather by default you are eating less than you were before. In saying that, you can absolutely overeat on "clean" foods too. If you eat over your designated caloric intake, then you would still gain weight regardless of the foods that you choose to eat. What really matters at the end of the day for fat loss is that you are in a caloric deficit and you are hitting your macronutrient targets and/or overall caloric intake.
“You can eat whatever you want as long as you workout”
Have you every actually tried this? I know I have! I thought I was invincible and if I trained really hard each day that I could eat anything I wanted and as much food as I wanted and I would be able to lose fat. Well, believe me when I tell you I was completely and utterly wrong. But the reality is, that you cannot out train a bad diet. Well, technically no diet is necessarily a bad diet so long as you are getting adequate macronutrients and fiber intake.
So what matters most are calories. If you are exercising hours on end every day, yet you are still consuming a high enough amount of calories then you will still not lose weight. This is because if you are eating more calories than you are burning then your body will not be bale to burn through body fat. Now in saying that this also does not mean training for hours is a good thing I order to make up for too much food you have eaten. There is definitely a "sweet spot" for training, recovery, and adequate calories in order to lose fat. The aim is the try and gets the most results with as minimal training as possible.
“You must do fasted cardio to lose fat”
I have absolute nothing against fasted cardio if you want to do cardio fasted then that is absolutely fine by me. However, doing fasted cardio will not actually make you burn more fat. Studies have shown that doing cardio fasted versus eating before doing cardio actually make no different to overall fat burning in a 24-hour period. So even though you may burn more fat during that particular cardio session if you were to perform it fasted, you will burn the same amount of fat in your overall day if you were to eat a meal beforehand.
So if you are going to burn an equal amount of fat, I would take the option to eat first. If you eat a meal, then you are giving your body more fuel to use which will help you perform better and go harder in your session, most likely resulting in more calories burned anyway.
“If you cut out carbs at night and you will lose fat”
I actually have my biggest carbohydrate based meal right before bed most nights. Does that blow your mind or what? Simply having a carbohydrate based meal before you go to bed is not going to make you store fat just like having it any earlier in the day will not make you store fat. This is if we are talking about eating within your carbohydrate targets for the day, it really ones not matter too much if you eat them earlier in the day or later, as long as you are consuming your recommended amount. What can make you store fat is if you eat an extra carbohydrate meal (or any extra meal) before bed, or anytime of the day. This is because the extra meal puts you over your recommended caloric intake for the day.
I like to place a majority of my carbohydrate intake around my workouts to ensure the fuel is used in the most optimal way possible. Read more about my Nutrient timing recommendations HERE.
“Eat frequent small meals to ramp up your metabolism”
This is something I used to do religiously. I would eat a meal every 2-3 hours in the hope of speeding up my metabolism, I would I would tiny meals and by the 3-hour mark I would be starving! I think we have all maybe tried this one out. There is nothing wrong with eating 6 meals per day but it is also not necessary for fat loss. I have mentioned this a few times throughout my articles and I will say it again, what matters most is your overall daily caloric intake.
Now, what is actually important is how frequently you eat protein. Protein needs to be consumed every 4-6 hours in order to ensure your body is getting adequate repair all day. This is important for tissue regeneration, the more effectively your body can repair itself, the more lean muscle tissue you will hold, and in turn, you will boost your metabolism. The remaining carbohydrates and fats you consume can be spread out wherever you feel like over your day.
My recommendation would be to eat 4-5 protein based meals in your day. If someone is on a very high caloric intake they may wish to spread this over 6 or 7 meals in the day, simply to allow them to be bale to digest such large amount of food. I personally like to eat 4 or 5 meals as it keeps me full and satisfied, I feel like I have eaten something rather than eating air. So it really does come down to personal preference, if it won't hinder your fat loss goals, then why not choose what works for you and your lifestyle.
“You need to cut calories drastically to lose fat”
Most of the time, I see people wanting to lose weight, which is a great goal. But in the hopes to lose a large amount f body fat they cut calories drastically right from the get go. NO NO NO and just NO. why do we want to do that to ourselves? It's as if we want to suffer on our fat loss journeys, and the more we suffer the better it must be working right? Wrong! You absolutely do not need to drop your calories super low straight away to reach your fat loss goals. In fact, you should be aiming to be seeing results while eating as much food as you possibly can. Hear me out a second and do not take that too literally. This doesn't mean eat the world and you will lose fat.
What I mean is, if you start out on say 2000 calories, then there is absolutely no need to drop your calories to say 1200. That is a HUGE unnecessary drop. Sure you will most likely drop white a bit of weight to begin with and see some great results for a few weeks, but what happens when you plateau? You literally have nothing left to cut down from (my lowest thresh hold I take any female down to is 1200cals, 1800 for men and only if absolutely necessary for a short period of time). Instead, you could cut calories a little, say by 10-20% and see how your body responds after a week. Then when you stall, you can either add some more training or cut calories slightly (e.g. 50 -100cals per day) or do a little of both to bust through the plateau. You will still get results but I promise you that you will be happier and healthier in the long run.
“You need to add in hours of cardio to lose fat”
2 hours of cardio a day is probably the MOST I have ever been up to in order to drop weight for a competition. It absolutely killed me and it was for a short period of time, I definitely do not recommend it to anyone. Plus, who has time for that! Now I know better!
I have even heard stories of some people adding in upwards of 3 hours of cardio a day just to drop weight, now that is just a recipe for hormonal and metabolic disaster. When trying to drop fat, many people think its all about how much cardio you add, and some people even opt to drop out any resistance training in order to get in the cardio for “fat burning”. So yes cardio does have its place but it should not be your primary focus when it comes to fat loss.
Did you know that you actually burn MORE fat in a 24-hour period from a weight session? So weights/resistance style training should be your main focus on when you aiming for your fat loss goals. Cardio is great and you can add it in, but I would use it as a tool to add when you hit plateaus. If you start out doing hours of cardio then your body will adapt soon enough and you will have to add even more to get anywhere. Try opting for HIIT sessions (High-intensity interval training) in short bursts to keep cardio as short and as effective as possible. A few of these a week should be plenty. But start with one or 2 then progress when needed.