The most desirable element of health and fitness is undoubtedly fat loss. Nearly everyone wants to get leaner yet we are growing fatter each year. For a topic as popular as weight loss you would assume that there were established methods without ambiguity available to everyone, however you would be wrong. In fact the opposite is closer to the truth. There are more mistruths, misunderstandings and downright falsehoods within the weight loss industry than any other part of the fitness world. It need not be this way. Let’s examine of a few of the most common misconceptions surrounding fat loss.
MYTH #1: Spot Reduction. This has been disproven for decades yet continues to persist; the belief that exercising an area of higher body fat will cause the body to lose fat in that specific spot. Common offenses are men doing thousands of crunches for their beer bellies and women performing bodyweight lunges and squats to rid their backside of blubber.
TRUTH: Fat loss is neither immediate in response to activity nor site specific. In other words, energy for exercise is not required by just the working muscle, it is systemic for the heart, lungs, vascular system, etc. That energy may come from fat stores but rarely fast enough to fuel existing activity and is extracted from fat cells throughout the body fairly systematically. It appears to come fastest from the leanest areas and slowest from the fattest only because it is a matter of relative proportion. Bottom line: Fat is burned throughout the body, not in particular areas.
MYTH #2: High Reps burn fat. Women in particular like to do high repetition work claiming, “I don’t want to get big, I want to tone and lose weight.” Both genders perform abdominal work in high rep fashion as if it were a completely different muscle group than any other, all under the guise of losing more fat.
TRUTH: In fact this one is almost exactly opposite of the truth. The fastest way to induce muscular growth is via fairly high repetitions. This is why bodybuilders employ many more reps than power lifters. If you really don’t want to get bigger you should train extremely heavy with very few reps; this employs the nervous system instead of soft tissue. As for abdominals, there is nothing magical about their makeup. You can train them in the same fashion as any other muscle. If you wanted to develop your arms would you do a million reps of unweighted curls? Of course not. Abs should be trained with resistance if you want them to tighten and delineate.
MYTH #3: You have to do a lot of cardio to lose fat. Women especially love to spend hours on the elliptical or treadmill in hopes of achieving their desired bikini body.
TRUTH: Cardio is a tool, nothing more. It is unnecessary if your diet is in order. The time spent spinning your wheels on the stationary bike could be better used in the weight room building up your metabolic rate. Cardio simply burns calories, that’s it. If you create the needed caloric deficit via diet cardio just isn’t called for. Cardio also tends to develop slow twitch muscle which is the exact opposite of what you need to pump up your metabolism. If you enjoy it, go for it. But make sure to balance it with more effective exercise too.
Fat loss doesn’t need to be approached as some top secret mystery. In the end it is just numbers; calories in versus calories out. You don’t need special exercises or infomercial gadgets to get lean. What you do need is knowledge and willpower. Anyone claiming otherwise is selling something!
This post is written by Aaron Whitten in conjuction with Gym and Fitness Australia. Aaron Whitten is pursuing a medical doctorate with an emphasis on nutrition and exercise as preventative measures against disease. Nothing brings him more pleasure than helping someone achieve newfound health and vigor. He also enjoys the challenges of competitive bodybuilding where nutrition is especially critical. He has competed in the Mr. Universe and won his division at the Mr. USA.