I sat there, head in hands.
Some self-proclaimed fitness guru assured me I could drop 8 pounds of BODY FAT per week
All with some nifty trick he had discovered.
Yeah, I know right; you’ve heard it all before?
In fact, a quick google search will uncover countless other tricks, shortcuts, and hacks on how to rid yourself of those love handles once and for all.
Quite frankly though, the majority of these tricks and shortcuts are complete and utter nonsense.
At best they will get you results, but not for the reasons you think.
And at worst, they’ll leave you frustrated, confused, and still stuck with those love handles you’re so desperate to get rid of.
So today I’m going to tear apart 5 of the worst offenders on the list of fat loss BS
Starting with the ‘8 pounds of body fat per week’ I told you about above.
Fat Loss Myth 1: Can you really lose 8 pounds of fat in a week?
Back to brass tacks, losing body fat is a game of Calories in vs out; not how much salad you eat, whether you have 6+ meals a day, or your ability to avoid carbs after 6pm strikes (1).
Expend more Calories than you take in over time and you’ll torch the fat. Simples.
A pound of body fat provides you with around about 3500 Calories
And scaled up, that means 8 pounds of body fat adds up to around 28,000 Calories of stored energy.
So to lose 8 pounds of body fat in a week, you need to expend AT LEAST 28,000 more Calories than you take in.
When broken down, that means a daily Calorie deficit of 4000 (28,000 divided by 7).
Considering the average person burns 2000-3000 Calories per day, can you see any problems here?
Yes? No? Maybe?
Ok, if not, take a look at the fancy graphs I made below.
Each one represents a hypothetical bro:
Bro 1 expends 2000 Calories per day. He also eats 2000 Calories per day so doesn’t lose or gain weight.
Bro 2 also expends 2000 Calories per day. He doesn’t eat anything though so is in a 2000 Calorie deficit each day.
So if the average dude were to eat nothing whatsoever, they still wouldn’t create a big enough Calorie deficit as they only burn 2000-3000 Calories per day.
What does this mean?
You need a combo of a big ass amount of exercise and barely any intake of Calories to create a 4000 Calorie deficit per day.
Here enters bro number 3.
Bro 3 is our iron pumping, cardio-ing, fitness fanatic who literally lives to exercise. He expends a whopping 5000 Calories per day. For some reason he’s also eating next to nothing (1000 Calories) so has created a 4000 Calorie deficit.
(FYI, these are hypothetical examples and you shouldn’t need me to tell you that bros 2 and 3 are dumb.)
So the conclusion from all these bros going on crazy ass diets is that it’s ridiculously unrealistic to aim for a 4000 Calorie deficit, and if you were to do it, it would leave you doing more exercise than even the keenest of gym goers, whilst simultaneously eat next to nothing; pretty dumb-ass thing to do, right?
And there’s a kicker too: the above assumes that your body is drawing from body fat ONLY to compensate for the 4000 Calorie deficit. That DOES NOT HAPPEN (here’s why). In reality, you lose some mix of stored carbs (glycogen), protein (muscle) AND body fat to compensate for your Calorie deficit.
So all in all, the ‘8 pounds of fat per week’ claim is a crock of crap and even the most dedicated gym bro couldn’t hack the exercise and dietary demands needed to make it remotely possible.
Fat Loss Myth 2: Eat high fat, low carbs and turn into a fat burning machine
It’s true; if you eat a high fat/low carb diet, you’ll burn a ton of fat.
Does this mean you’ll lose body fat though?
No, not necessarily.
You see, believe it or not, your body is pretty damn smart
And it will shift what fuel it uses for energy depending on what you provide it and its capacity to store the energy (2).
In general, the more of something your body can store, the less eager it is to burn it off.
The order goes:
- Alcohol – no storage. So when you consume it, you burn it before carbs, fat etc.
- Carbohydrates – around 400-500g storage in glycogen.
- Protein – 25kg or so stored in muscle/organs.
- Fat – pretty much unlimited.
So when you eat a load of sweet and delicious carbs, your body will burn them in preference to fat as it has a lower capacity to store carbs.
Think about this logically; your body has a virtually infinite capacity to store fat, whereas it can’t even store a kg of carbs. This means that when you eat carbs, your body’s use of fat for energy gets put on the back burner and it is stored, whereas carb use gets ramped up because you’re not able to store as much.
So carbs are a bit like a switch; when you eat them it will switch fat burning off and carb burning on.
If you take away the carbs though, fat will be burnt more for energy.
Sounds good so far right? Cut the carbs and fat burning is jacked up.
What the anti-carb crew fail to tell you is that the fat your body uses for energy comes from both stored fat AND the fat you eat in your diet.
So if you feed yourself on a shed load of coconut oil, nuts, and butter in an attempt to turn into a fat burning machine, sure, you’ll burn more fat, but unless you’re in a Calorie deficit, you won’t have a net loss of BODY FAT.
So again, it ultimately comes down to a game of Calories in vs out.
Fat Loss Myth 3: Fat, carbs, sugar, gluten or whatever else makes you fat
First it was fat and bacon getting all the blame for obesity, now its carbs and cobs.
This whole ‘good guy, bad guy’ narrative is what the media fuels off as everyone loves to point the finger at a villan.
As should be crystal clear to you by now though, Calories are king in the world of fat loss, and no food or food group can make you fat or stop you losing fat if you’re in a Calorie deficit.
So anyone claiming X or Y food makes you fat is either flat out lying or ill-informed (I like to think the latter in most instances).
Sure, there are foods that are easy to overconsume
Which is why you should limit your intake of foods like the sugary, creamy goodness that is Ben and Jerry’s on your quest to get abs.
As I’ve said before, my grandma could have told you that.
If these foods don’t trigger an all-out binge and they fit into your Calorie needs for the day, then there’s nothing wrong with having a little here and there though.
Sounds like moderation right?
Moderation doesn’t sell though, so there will always be folk telling you certain foods will blow up your waistline.
Fat Loss Myth 4: Eat little and often to stoke the metabolic fire
Like so many fitness myths, this one has some truth behind it.
Let me explain:
When you eat, your metabolism does go up.
This is simply because the chewing, digestion, and processing of food uses up energy.
This is know as the thermic effect of food (3).
The truth behind the myth ends here though
Because first off, the boost your metabolism gets isn’t all that much so you shouldn’t waste your time worrying about it.
And secondly, the boost is proportional to the size of the meal you eat.
So if you eat the same type and total volume of food over the course of the day, it doesn’t matter whether you eat it in 3 or 6 meals as your metabolism will be boosted by the same amount over the 24 hours.
Fat Loss Myth 5: Skipping breakfast makes you fat
We’ve all heard it from the nutrition crowd, in fact, I used to say it a lot myself:
“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day”
It kick starts your metabolism and makes you eat less later on in the day, right?
Whilst the above has become somewhat dogma in the nutrition world, it’s just as much of a myth as my ability to resist a croissant as I walk past the bakery aisle at tesco (seriously, it’s becoming a bit of a problem).
Tackling the metabolism claim first:
Quite simply, your metabolism doesn’t stop overnight and if it needed kick starting you would be dead.
You also now know that provided you eat the same total amount of food, the metabolism boosting effect of a particular meal is irrelevant.
I will say that you may move about a little more if you eat early in the morning (4), but in the grand scheme of things, this isn’t a big deal at all.
Will breakfast make you eat less later in the day though?
Maybe, maybe not.
Research suggests that even if you do eat a little more later on in the day because you skipped breakfast, it’s unlikely to compensate for the meal you missed though
And therefore, skipping it may actually help achieve a Calorie deficit and therefore fat loss (5,6).
Either way, this ultimately comes down to personal preference.
Do you enjoy breakfast?
Does it make you feel more energised for the day ahead?
And does eating it help you stick to your diet?
If the answers to the above are yes, then sure, eat breakfast.
If the answers are no, rest assured that skipping it won’t suddenly destroy your health and make you fat.
Ok, that’s all cool Tommy, but what do I actually have to do to drop fat fast then?
I’m glad you asked.
You see, I’ve actually written a really simple, but damn effective guide on how to do exactly that.
Just actionable steps teaching you exactly how to lose those love handles and replace them with chiseled abs.
Here it is: How To Work Out Your Macros For Fat Loss (don’t worry; I explain exactly what macros are and why they’re important in the guide/blog).
References and Reading
(1) Hall, K. D., Heymsfield, S. B., Kemnitz, J. W., Klein, S., Schoeller, D. A., & Speakman, J. R. (2012). Energy balance and its components: implications for body weight regulation. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 95(4), 989-994.
(2) Lyle McDonald. Nutrient Intake, Nutrient Storage and Nutrient Oxidation. www.bodyrecomposition.com
(3) Reed, G. W., & Hill, J. O. (1996). Measuring the thermic effect of food. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 63(2), 164-169.
(4) Levine, J. A., Eberhardt, N. L., & Jensen, M. D. (1999). Role of nonexercise activity thermogenesis in resistance to fat gain in humans. Science,283(5399), 212-214.
(5) Brown, A. W., Brown, M. M. B., & Allison, D. B. (2013). Belief beyond the evidence: using the proposed effect of breakfast on obesity to show 2 practices that distort scientific evidence. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 98(5), 1298-1308.
(6) Leidy, H. J., Ortinau, L. C., Douglas, S. M., & Hoertel, H. A. (2013). Beneficial effects of a higher-protein breakfast on the appetitive, hormonal, and neural signals controlling energy intake regulation in overweight/obese,“breakfast-skipping,” late-adolescent girls. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 97(4), 677-688.