As bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts, we're constantly trying to figure out the best workout, most effective eating program and quickest way to burn fat. Unfortunately a lot of obstacles are in our way. The biggest is misinformation. Myths surrounding fat loss have been with us since the dawn of the fitness movement. Debunking these myths and learning the truth about losing fat is the key to maximizing your time and effort in the gym. Separate fact from fiction and you're well on your way to building a body that gets noticed.
Low-Intensity Exercise Burn the Most Bodyfat
This fable was spun from a poor interpretation of scientific research. Studies on exercise metabolism showed that the body burns a higher percentage of fat calories during slower, easier exercise sessions. Yes, the primary fuel used at rest is fat, but that doesn't mean being a couch potato or doing low-intensity aerobic exercise will make you lean.
The key to losing bodyfat is burning calories, and you wont do a whole lot of that doing low-intensity workouts. High-intensity exercise (performed at 75% and higher of your maximum heart rate) is the way to go. You'll burn more calories during the exercise itself, and once you finish training, you continue burning calories. Called excess postexercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC for short, this allows you to burn fat long after you've left the gym. Low-intensity training just doesn't give you the same perks.
Aerobic exercise is of major importance when you're trying to burn fat. Combined with proper eating and added muscle from resistance training high-intensity aerobic exercise can make you a fat-burning machine.
Lift Weights Only After You Lose Unwanted Bodyfat
I hear both men and women say that they'll pump some iron after they drop some weight. This is just plain foolish. Resistance exercise facilitates the fat-burning process by main taming skeletal muscle and thus preserving the body's most important metabolic regulator muscle. Skeletal muscle is the single largest organ system in humans, accounting for almost 40% of our bodyweight. Most people fail to realize that muscle is much more than something pretty to look at it's the key to the fat-burning process.
Bottom line, if you want to be lean, you have to lift weights. Maintaining and especially adding muscle is the only way to permanently alter your metabolic rate. So, hit the weight room and lose weight.
Fat-Free Means Calorie-Free
Grocery-store shelves are lined with fat-free potato chips, cookies, lunch meats and just about any other food you can dream of. But are these good food choices if you're trying to burn bodyfat? I say no way. Fat-free doesn't mean calorie-free or that these foods are good for you.
The fat-free label grew popular with food companies when the public became concerned about dietary fat intake. While they don't contain much fat, most of these products are loaded with sugar. Without even knowing it, you could be consuming large amounts of empty calories that are going right to bodyfat. To make matters worse, most people read fat-free on the label, eat large quantities of what they think is a good food choice and end up getting fatter. Fat-free shouldn't mean a free-for-all.
Dieting Burns Fat
One of the worst things you can do to burn bodyfat is diet. That's right, I said don't diet. One well-documented change that occurs when you diet is a dramatic and sustained reduction in your metabolic rate. That means your own body's ability to burn fat comes to a screeching halt. It also means you could end up storing more bodyfat as a direct result of your eating program. Talk about a plan backfiring!
Instead, eat your way to a lean body. Meal frequency and food quality are vital to the person who wants to banish bodyfat. Eating 5-6 meals per day keeps your body's metabolic rate high and will help you maintain that all-important muscle mass. But before you hit the buffet at Pizza Hut, let me explain this idea of eating your way to leanness.
Each meal should adhere to good nutrition basics low-fat, balanced meals, no junk foods and, above all, moderation. The following should serve as the benchmark of a sound eating plan: low-fat sources of protein (egg whites, chicken breasts, fish, lean cuts red meat), complex carbohydrates (rice, potatoes, oatmeal, whole-grain breads), plenty of vegetables and just a little fat. As a general rule, divide your plate into thirds: carbs, a lean source of protein and vegetables. Remember, no single eating plan is best for everyone, and nutrition isn't an exact science. Experiment with different foods and quantities to find what works for you. If you think quality and moderation, the rest will fall into place.
Fat-Burning Supplements Make You Lean
Go to any health-food store and you'll find tons of products that claim to be fat-burners. Do they work? Some might, but most are just a waste of your time and money. The truth comes to light when you look at the science. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
One supplement that has received lots of hype but fails to help in the fat-burning department is carnitine. Its physiologic role in the body is as a component to several enzymes that transport long-chain fatty acids into the mitochondria (the energy centers of a cell). In theory, an increase in muscle-carnitine levels would facilitate the fat-burning process during exercise and spare muscle glycogen. But this is just conjecture. Laboratory studies are inconclusive regarding oral administration of this supplement. Despite questionable findings by scientists, some supplement manufacturers are still pushing the stuff as a legitimate fat-burner.
Other products currently available as fat-burning aids should be classified as drugs because of their ability to alter the body's normal physiology and, in some cases, cause serious side effects.
Focus on Trouble Areas With Spot Reduction
Spot reduction is localized exercise thought to reduce fat stores in certain "trouble areas" of the body. The theory is that if you exercise a specific area or muscle group, more fat will be burned from that area. For example, you might think you could do a large number of sit-ups or crunches to decrease abdominal fat. As attractive as this sounds, increasing a muscle's activity doesn't decrease fat in that area. Sorry for the bad news, but spot reduction is a waste of time.
The way your body stores and mobilizes fat depends on individual genetics and is an incredibly complex process, more complex than TV infomercials and slick advertisements would have you believe. Current research shows that exercise stimulates the mobilization of fatty acids via hormones delivered through the blood, which then act on fat deposits throughout your entire body. No evidence demonstrates that fatty acids are released to a greater degree from fat pads located directly over exercising muscles.
Still skeptical? Let's look at some research that clearly shows spot reduction belongs in the story books. In what was a landmark study in the field of exercise physiology in 1971, scientists examined subcutaneous fat stores in the right and left forearms of tennis players. They found that the girth, or degree of muscularity, of the subjects' dominant arm was as much larger than the nondominant arm, but the level of fat in both arms was the same. The stresses of tennis play caused the forearm muscles to hvpertrophy or grow, but despite serious work to that area, fat stores remained unchanged.
Eliminate Fat From Your Diet
Don't make the mistake of thinking that all fat is bad. In fact, taking in adequate amounts of fat is very important to the fat-burning process and to your overall health. Dietary fat serves as a carrier for the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Getting rid of all fat in your diet can lead to a reduced level of these important vitamins, which over time can produce a vitamin deficiency. Fat also delays the onset of hunger pangs and gives you that "I'm satisfied" feeling after a meal. This is a big reason why ultra-low-fat diets fail. If you want to drop bodyfat, be reasonable with your fat consumption and limit your fat calories to 10%-20% of our total daily calories.