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From fat loss eating trends to fad diets and everything in between, losing fat has become this ever-elusive topic that is shrouded by so much doubt. Doubt that is caused by how many different theories and claims are made by various groups all adamant that their way is the right way.
Well, we’re going to be bashing through some of the ambiguities and hopefully create a little more clarity for you while you navigate your way to your fat-free body.
So let’s have a look at and break down 5 dieting myths that have taken the world by storm:
Let’s kick this one off with a bang. Carbohydrates do not make you fat. All your low carb/zero carb zealots drone on about how carbs are the enemy when it comes to fat loss. They’ll spout everything from how “carbs are stored as fat” to “insulin prevents fat loss”. To prove this point, a recent study examining an overfeeding of women by 50% of their maintenance calories tested to see how this fat was stored and where it came from. What the study concluded was that 1.4% of the overall fat gain came from the carbohydrates (4). But what about insulin resistance and other hormones? Well, continue reading.
The amount of people I’ve seen jump onto diets such as Banting, Paleo, and Keto, with the belief that it’s their magic pill, is astonishing.
True, these diets work but they work no better than any other diet that would have you on the same dietary accounts. A lot of people have seen dramatic weight loss results using these diets but studies into these diets have shown that the advantage that these seem to have over other weight loss eating programs is explained by the fact that people involved with the aforementioned simply tended to eat less overall calories.
In other words, when overall calories and protein are controlled, the studies examining reduced carbs diets vs higher carb diets show absolutely zero difference in weight and fat loss.
So keep in mind that a lot of what you hear in the mainstream media is, at best, ignorant. Therefore, be sure that you do your homework when you hear a bold claim.
The next claim is that insulin is the devil and a whole host of people avoid it like the plague. But what most don’t realize is that insulin isn’t the grand villainous hormone the widespread media makes it out to be.
Many anti-carb zealots will claim that carbs cause insulin release which completely blocks fat burning and induces insulin resistance.
I’ll put this in terms Dr. Layne Norton does:
Can hormones make a difference in energy balance? – Yes
Can a hormonal response ever supersede an energy balance? – No
It’s true that high glycemic carbohydrate intake can cause a larger rise in insulin but the insulin response will also be of shorter duration compared to low glycemic carbs (which may yield a lower response but a much longer duration).
A study performed by Surwit et al. had two groups on a weight loss diet where the caloric intake was the same for both groups but group 1 had sugars at less than 4% of their total caloric intake and group 2 had 43% of their total caloric intake come from sugar. They found that both groups lost the same amount of weight and body fat (3).
Basically, insulin isn’t the enemy, over-eating is.
Big myth number 4 is the idea that there are magical ‘clean’ foods. Foods that you can eat copious amounts of and, despite the portion or how frequently you eat, you will look great. However, if you touch any ‘artificial’ or ‘processed’ foods, even in small quantities, you will instantly turn into a butterball. A study conducted by the Institute for Nutrition and Cancer Research (INCR) discovered that 78% of adults agreed with the statement “the kind of foods you eat is more important than the quantity of food you eat” in regards to weight management.
Scientifically speaking, eating a high protein, high fibre diet is much more thermogenic than eating a low protein, low fibre diet. However, provided you reach your protein and fibre goals, the foods you use to do it are far less important. Keep in mind that in order to reach your protein and fibre goals, you’ll naturally have to eat what you would call “whole, cleaner foods”. But the point here is that you can achieve a great body by eating foods one would consider “outside the box”.
According to Dr Layne Norton, PhD in Nutritional Sciences, “self monitoring and cognitive restraint are the most important things in determining the effectiveness of a nutrition program, not magic foods as evidenced by data from multitudes of cohort studies of thousands of people showing that self-monitoring was the #1 factor in losing fat and keeping it off.”
In other words, get rid of this idea that there is a magic food list where you can eat boundlessly and lose weight. You must realize that what’s important is that you take the time and effort to monitor what you eat in terms of your macronutrient intake and portion control.
A few years back, the idea of meal frequency boosting one’s metabolism appeared as the next biggest fitness fat loss trick. Some even took it so far as to say that smaller more frequent meals were more important than your overall caloric intake.
There is no conclusive substantive evidence that shows any sort of significant difference in fat loss due to meal frequency when calories are equated (2). If anything, research done into this shows exactly that there’s no difference in overall fat loss between someone who eats twice a day and some who eat 6 times a day.
Just to clarify, meal frequency does have its place but when it comes to muscle building instead. Research into muscle building in relation to meal frequency and it’s anabolic effects shows that a meal frequency of 3 - 5 times a day (a sort of middle ground) does have measurable benefits.
However, when it comes to fat loss, meal frequency makes no overall difference.
Take home message
What matters at the end of the day is that eating in a deficit supersedes hormones and tricks when it comes to fat loss. In addition to this, having a diet you enjoy and can stick to is the best move forward when it comes to your fat loss goals.