I’m sure you have been blasted with online advertisements by so-called “Fitness gurus” with an impressive physique and six pack abs. Fat loss, body sculpting, muscle growth… They tell you that for a small price, they’ll reveal their unique training regime that’s guaranteed to give you results in a month. You might have even bought into some of their secret tips and tricks you paid good money for.
But how true are these “tips & tricks”? Could some of them actually be nothing more than a myth?
Let’s begin by addressing 3 of the BIGGEST fat loss myths over the past decade… and reveal whether they’re actually true or not.
Potential Myth #1: I can spot reduce fat in a specific area if I keep doing exercises that target it.
I’ll get straight to the point for this one – no. Spot reduction has been proven to be largely ineffective over many years of studies and different body groups. An example of one such study was conducted in 2011, where one group of participants were put through an abdominal exercise regime while the control group did not engage in any form of exercise. Both groups consumed the same amount of calories. At the end of the study, the first group did not achieve greater abdominal fat loss than the latter.
From a scientific angle, it makes perfect sense. Men and women struggle to lose fats in different areas of the body due to contrasting anatomies. More often than not, the areas that people want to spot reduce are these exact stubborn areas. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not impossible to achieve fat loss in these areas; it just takes significantly more time. The fat around these areas tend to only start dropping off when you have reached a low body fat percentage as there simply aren’t other fat storages available to burn.
Men generally struggle with love handles (that’s the flab of fat that extends outwards from the hips) and abdominal fat. Even with a proper diet and exercise routine, those areas are typically always the last to show fat loss and reveal the muscles underneath. In fact, it is possible that engaging in frequent abdominal exercises might even make your tummy look bigger. The muscles beneath are strengthened and grow bigger, pushing the layer of fat above it further forward. If your goal is to lose weight and get that sexy six-pack abs you’ve always wanted, you’re better off just working on your entire body. You’ll look way more proportionate too!
Verdict: Spot reduction is not effective. BUSTED!
Potential Myth #2: I’m guaranteed to lose fat/weight as long as I eat less.
At the most fundamental level, weight loss occurs when the calories you consume is less than the calories you expand through your daily activities (maintenance calories). This is known as being on a calorie deficit. It’s really that simple. If you eat more than your maintenance calories, you gain weight. You eat less, you lose weight. If you’re interested in calculating your maintenance calories, you can use this calorie calculator here. P.S. Bear in mind that this is just an estimate and might not be fully accurate!
Now, for the sake of this myth, let’s assume that your maintenance calories is at a fixed 2,500 daily. To achieve a calorie deficit leading to fat loss, you have to consume less than 2,500 calories. Here lies the issue – the sentence above is too vague. What exactly constitutes “less food” and how many calories does it add up to?
Here’s a simple solution! Get into the habit of using macro trackers such as My Fitness Pal where you can log the food you consume each meal. You will be able to track the calories you consume daily and in extension, whether you are exceeding your maintenance or not. With prolonged usage of macro tracking apps, you will also realise that calories doesn’t necessarily equate satiety. Some food that are high in calories such as sugary drinks & pastries do not fill you up at all. The high sugar content might even leave you feeling more hungry!
Verdict: It’s not about the amount of food, it’s about the calories. SEMI-BUSTED!
Potential Myth #3: Doing cardio on an empty stomach will allow me to burn fat more effectively.
Fasted cardio is a relatively new trend which many people swear by. It is essentially jumping straight into an intense workout that gets your heart rate going without any nourishment for the past 6-12 hours, leaving your body in a fasted state. In this situation, your body does not have fuel available in the form of glycogen to burn for energy during the workout. It turns to stored fuel instead, typically in the form of fat. Past studies do support this, with a group of people running on a treadmill in a fasted state burning up to 20% more fats as compared to their non-fasted counterparts.
However, before you immediately hop aboard the fasted cardio hype train, there are some cons you have to be aware of. It is true that your body has to turn to another source for energy. Unfortunately, it’s a toss of the dice for which source it goes for. This means that your body could very well break down your muscles for protein as energy. One hour of steady fasted cardio can result in 2 to 3 times protein breakdown in muscles as compared to non-fasted cardio. This is a disaster for gym-goers that are looking to build or maintain muscle mass.
It’s worth pointing out that it is possible to minimise muscle loss by sticking to low intensity workouts such as yoga, walking or a slow jog. These activities that keep your heart rate around the 40% to 60% mark are well known for targeting fat storage and will be your best bet for results with fasted cardio.
There’s one more point to consider: your comfort level with fasted cardio. If you enjoy waking up early in the morning for a workout session and don’t need breakfast, you might find that you can easily adapt to this routine. However, if you need to have something in your system before you can function properly, this might not be for you. You might tire easily or even experience headaches and spells of dizziness.
Verdict: There is some truth behind it! Studies show that it could be effective, but it ultimately comes down to preference. There are other healthier ways of burning fat though. Consider that before taking on the fasted cardio challenge!
Many people buy into these myths as they offer a quick way to weight loss. However, it’s important to ensure whatever routine or diet you are following is backed up with scientific facts. You don’t want to find yourself being led around on a wild goose chase with little to no results to show despite your hard work. As we always like to say at Alpha BodyTec, work smart, not hard!
At Alpha BodyTec, we cut through all the clutter and deliver only the best for our customers, be it through articles or our fitness tech products. If you would like to experience and adopt some of the latest industry-disrupting EMS fitness wearables, do take a look at our store. Enjoyed this article? Browse more of our fitness and health articles at our blog.