Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Fat Loss Urban Myths and Legends

I feel it's appropriate at times to dismantle myths and legends regarding fat loss, diet, and exercise. I picked a top ten list from a "fly on the wall" conversation.

1. "The older you get, the more your metabolism slows down. It's normal to be heavier as you age".
As you age you are less active. Thus your lean body mass decreases and the amount of calories you burn with activity using your muscles goes down. If you continue to consume the same amount of calories, you add fat. For an excellent article on this go HERE.

2. "More meals raises your metabolism".
Nothing could be further from the truth. The Thermal Effect of Food (TEF) is considered to be 10% with normal mixed meals. Many bodybuilding magazines and personal trainers suggest multiple small meals as a way to "stoke your metabolism". This is rubbish. A big meal gives a big burn, a smaller meal gives a smaller burn. When you add them up, there is no difference. Once again, I suggest you read the research. Check it out HERE.

3. "Take this pill, it will help you lose weight".
Everyone has the belief that some over the counter pill sold at a pharmacy, convenience store, or gas station will be their answer to weight loss. ( I always go to gas stations for health advice and pharmaceutical needs. ). Stimulants (amphetamines) will increase your pulse rate, blood pressure, and cause you to burn more calories. Ephedra, caffeine, and cocaine fall in this category. The jittery hands, racing pulse, and profuse sweat is a sign that it's working. I'd suggest you discuss this with your doctor and law enforcement representative. There is NO magic bullet. Billions of dollars are spent on 'diet aids' every year and we still have plenty of fat people. Check this article at Dr. Gabe Mirkin's site. HERE

4. " I just want to lose tummy fat!"
Fat loss is systemic. You cannot lose body fat in a particular region without losing it all over your body. Men gain in the abdomen and sides. Women gain in their hips, thighs, and breasts. During mid life hormone levels reduce for men and women. They begin to store fat similarly. Women gain more abdominal fat and men gain more weight in their chest regions. The cure of course is in prevention. Keep your body fat low and stay fit.
There is more data from Harvard. HERE

5. "Some people are naturally thin".
People vary in height, bone structure, coloration, and many other factors. Metabolism differences are not that dramatic. They don't have to be. If your friend burns 100 calories more than you per day, and you eat the exact same diet, you will be one pound heavier in 35 days. It's about calories in and calories out. PERIOD. The best breakdown of this law is found HERE.

6. "Carbohydrates stimulate insulin. Insulin makes you fat".
Without insulin, you would die. Many diet books and kool aid drinkers believe that only carbohydrates make you fat. Well your body is perfectly able to convert calories to fat without insulin. Read this article and get a clue. HERE.

7. "Sugar Alcohol is not sugar and does not go to fat. My protein bar says only two grams of sugar, but 24 grams of carbs".
Sugar alchohol has calories. Excessive calories above your needs will make you fat. Label it any way you like, it's still calories, and calories count.

8. "My diet balances Acid and Alkaline".
If you could vary the PH of your body too dramatically, you would die. It's carefully controlled like body temperature. Dr. Gabe Mirkin tears this ancient myth apart HERE.

9. "I went on a Detox Diet to detox my system and clean the decaying red meat out of my colon."
According to many people, detox diets caused them to lose weight, have better skin, and better well being. After all, a lower calorie, fiber rich, healthy diet should work that way shouldn't it? I'm fortunate to have special organs that detox me. They are called a liver and kidneys. I also have a colon. Remember John Wayne's colon was filled with 40 lbs of rotting red meat, wasn't it? Let's check it out HERE.
Then there is the whole concept of detoxification. Let's let professional skeptic Brian Dunning take a shot at it HERE.

10. "Weight Lifting gives women large muscles. They should practice Yoga or Pilates to give them long muscles".
The size of muscles is determined by genetics. It's largely how long the bellies of the muscles are and the abundance of muscle fiber. If you want big muscles, choose your parents carefully. When female bodybuilders or strength athletes display large muscles, it's the product of training and use of male hormones. The average woman does not have the hormones capable to build large muscles. Even most men are not capable of getting really big. Lance Armstrong and Tiger Wood are both weight trained athletes and yet are relatively slender. The statement that, "I don't want to lift weights because I'll get too big!" is interesting. It's like saying, "I don't want to jog because I'll be forced to run a Marathon or compete in the Olympics".
As far as Yoga or Pilates lengthening your muscles, these activities increase your range of motion around your joints and in some cases the stability. They do not produce longer muscles. To do that you would have to surgically detach the muscle and move it to a more stretched position on the distal end. That could be expensive.

Have any more questions or statements you wonder about related to fitness, longevity and health? Email them to


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