Today I have the pleasure of introducing a home grown Barrhaven blogger who specializes in the health and nutrition niche.
Her name is Sophie Smith and she’s an expert in personal transformation by means of diet and exercise. You can read her blog at muscleboundfitness.ca
Today Sophie shares three common weight loss myths.
Three Common Weight Loss Myths
A Pound is a Pound.
This is probably the single most erroneous myth I have come across in this industry. It also happens to be the most important factor in determining if a weight loss program is right for you or not. Here’s what I mean:
If you go on a “cleanse” and you consume 800 calories per day worth of some mythical concoction created by an MLM company to “detoxify your cells”, you are in fact creating a caloric deficit. This means you WILL lose weight. Notice I didn’t say “you WILL lose fat”? This was not a mistake. When we enter a caloric deficit, our body needs to find additional resources for energy. Even if you’re bedridden you’ll not find it easy to function on 800 calories per day. Your body, in all its scientific wonder, needs a base amount per day just to function on a cellular level. This amount varies depending on a number of factors, including how much muscle you have on your body. If you have more muscle, you’ll need more calories. The “average” number of calories a body needs at minimum to function is around 1200. So, if you’re bedridden in a hospital, this is how much they’ll feed you to keep your body alive.
So, clearly, on this cleanse, one is not consuming 1200 calories per day – so what happens? The body will look for the fuel in the most efficient way possible. The most popular opinion by the average dieter is that the body will choose fat – and it will – sometimes. But more often than not it will choose muscle. You might think you want that because you only wanted to be skinny, so you don’t care, right? Well, guess what muscle does? It is responsible for your metabolism. So now that you’ve offered your metabolic furnace to the weight-loss Gods as a sacrifice to be “skinny”, your body’s most efficient fat-blasting tool is turned off. Now you must rely entirely on starvation to reach your goal weight.
“But, Sophie – I’ve lost 15lbs in one week! It’s obviously working!” Sorry to break it to you, but here’s the truth about your 15lb loss: Muscle holds carbohydrates for a ready available fuel source – and carbohydrates hold water. So when you drop the carbohydrates, you drop the ability to hold water. The less muscle you have, the less water you hold. So, of the 15lbs, about 8lbs was water. Further, you now have no solid mass inside you. Your digestive system is literally empty. That will account for another 5lbs for sure. So now you’re left with a net loss of a whopping 2lbs which is quite possibly fat loss. So, you starved for a week to lose 2lbs of fat. The 13lbs from water loss and food volume will come back as soon as you start eating again.
How reasonable does that sound?
Cardio is KING for Fat Loss
Cardio is a great form of exercise and it will improve your overall athleticism. What it does for the
purpose of fat loss is it deducts your overall calorie intake for the day, contributing to the deficit you require in order to lose weight. Let’s say you eat 1500 calories then spend 500 calories on the stepmill. Your daily intake is now at 1000 calories per day. I don’t think I have to explain to you what’s happening here, do I? You’re in the same situation as the poor hungry bugger in myth 1 “detoxing” her cells.
Further to that point, let’s say you hit your goal weight this way with six grueling hour long cardio sessions per week and what your body uses for fuel doesn’t matter to you. What do you think is going to happen when you continue to eat 1500 calories per day and stop the cardio? You’re no longer in a deficit and you’re now eating in excess of what your body is using. You’re going to gain it all back – and likely, more, because your metabolism took a swift kick to the gut.
By the way – “cardio” includes ANY circuit work – even with really light weights.
Muscles Only Come in One Size – HUGE (and that’s gross)
This is the most humorous myth for me, personally. I’ve had potential clients tell me that their husband refused to let them (don’t even get me started on that one) sign up for my program because he doesn’t want her to look “manly” like me. Considering I’m a woman and I have more muscle than he does – and he’s a man who has none, I’m not sure what he’s saying by calling ME manly – but I digress. The point is, it takes YEARS AND YEARS of incredibly specific and challenging training AND eating to look “like me”. I wish it was as easy as eating whatever I want without tracking specific macronutrients and lifting 10lb dumbbells, but it certainly is not.
When we use resistance training (weight training) as a means to lose weight, here’s what it does: straining the muscle under weight repeatedly, causes the muscle fiber to tear, thus producing a need for your body to recruit protein to repair the damaged tissue. THIS is what muscle is. It is constantly damaged and rebuilt muscle fiber. This process requires energy which we get from calories. So, if we are only eating 1200 calories per day it doesn’t matter how much weight training you do, you’ll never build that muscle. However, if you eat more calories and you weight train, the body will scoop those calories up and use it to repair the muscle fiber. This means those calories will not be stored as fat because they were used. This muscle might not even be visible yet, but you’ll know it’s there because you can no longer function on so few calories .Suddenly you’re starving, consistently. The more muscle mass we build, the more calories we need to eat to fuel that muscle.
Remember how when you stopped doing cardio but ate the same number of calories, you gained the weight back? That’s because the activity of cardio is what was requiring the fuel. If you stop weight training for 2 weeks, you still have that muscle mass because you built it – and as long as you still have it, it will still require that fuel in order to maintain it. It’s like a sponge. If you suddenly drop your calories again however, you will lose that muscle! Here’s the real irony: you only need to weight train for 40-60 minutes per day, 3 days per week in order to produce this change in your body. Wouldn’t you rather do that than spend 6 hours per week on a treadmill, only to be a slave to it your entire life?
Here’s my favourite example to show clients. The photo on the left is me at 175lbs. At this stage of my life I ate around 1200 – 1400 calories per day and did about 5 hours of cardio per week. The photo on the right is me also at 175lbs, eating 2300-2600 calories per day, weight training 4 days per week and doing ZERO cardio. While I respect that you might not want to look like me, or even find it remotely attractive, the point is, both women are the same weight and the one with more body fat works more and eats less than the muscular one. Food for thought.
I don’t know about you, but I’m a big fan or working smarter, not harder. Once upon a time, I was a newbie in the free-weight area of the gym as well, and I remember how scary it seemed. Having now been there for 7 years, I can promise you that it’s not nearly as scary as you think it is. There are always plenty of newbies in the gym feeling just as fearful and out of place as you do, so you’ll be in good company. Take a small step toward sanity and away from cardio hell – you won’t regret it!