- Many of the myths about weight loss originate from social media and the ever-changing field of nutritional science.
- One of the most persistent myths about weight loss is that all you have to do is exercise more to lose weight.
- If a weight loss method sounds too easy or too good to be true, it probably is.
- Check out Insider’s Insider Reference Library for more advice.
From extreme juice cleanses to supposed miracle cures, some people seem willing to try almost anything to lose weight. However, experts say that many of these fast-track methods are based on myth, since weight loss is the result of consistently consuming fewer calories than you consume over time and making smart dietary choices.
According to Artur Viana, MD, clinical director of the Metabolic Health & Weight Loss program at Yale Medicine, one of the most popular weight loss myths is that all you need to do is exercise more and lose weight.
“Exercise is fundamental to a healthy lifestyle, weight loss and weight maintenance, but it must also be accompanied by a change in diet,” says Viana.
Below are diet and exercise experts debunking some of the most common misconceptions about weight loss.
Your body doesn’t metabolize all food in the same way. And how quickly you digest something can affect insulin levels, blood sugar spikes and fat storage.
For example, compare 100 calorie cakes to 100 calorie carrots. The amount of calories is the same, but the cake is made with refined carbohydrates, while carrots have more fiber and nutrients.
This difference is important because your body digests the cake faster. This inundates your system with glucose, rising blood sugar, and insulin levels, which can promote fat storage.
In contrast, carrots are digested more slowly, which means less glucose in your blood. This helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels and can also keep you full longer, which can help prevent overeating.
So while 100 calorie cakes and 100 calorie carrots provide the same amount of energy output, one is vastly superior to the other for weight management, says exercise physiologist Joel Seedman, PhD.
According to Viana, processed foods don’t send the same satiety signals to your brain as whole foods, which means you are more likely to overeat – and thus gain weight.
Research has shown that what you eat and how much matters, not necessarily when you eat.
What the research says: A large 2016 study found no association between dinner after 8 p.m. and weight gain in children. However, a 2008 study found that people who ate between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. burned approximately 500 more calories per day and gained more weight than those who ate only during the day. However, other research has shown that meal time can affect glucose intolerance and decrease fat utilization, especially if you usually eat late for dinner.
Takeaway food can lead to weight gain at night if you exceed your daily calorie budget, says Andres Ayesta, MS, a registered nutritionist and certified strength and conditioning coach.
Carbohydrates are often billed as the enemy when it comes to weight loss. However, a 2018 study found that adults who followed a low-carb diet lost on average the same amount of weight as those who followed a low-fat diet.
However, not all carbohydrates are created equal. Whole grains contain more fiber than refined carbohydrates, which means they are metabolized more slowly and won’t cause large insulin spikes.
In fact, a 2017 study found that people who ate a diet high enough whole grains to make the recommended amount of fiber burned 100 more calories a day, in part due to a slight increase in their resting metabolic rate compared to humans This is due to the fact that they ate refined grains with little fiber.
According to Ayesta, fat contains more calories per gram than protein and carbohydrates, which means that fat is much easier to overeat.
However, a 2019 review found that the Mediterranean Diet, which gets around 35% to 40% of your calories from heart-healthy fats, may prevent weight and waistline gains in non-obese individuals.
The researchers found that a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra virgin olive oil, for example, can lower overall body weight and BMI.
A 2016 study found that people without celiac disease buy gluten-free products because they believe they are a “healthier option”.
In reality, “many processed gluten-free products are actually higher in calories than their gluten-containing counterparts because they may be higher in fat and sugar,” says Viana.
A 2017 review found that overall gluten-free foods contain more saturated fat, sugar, and salt, and less protein and fiber than regular foods. In particular, gluten-free bread and flour products tended to be high in fat and sugar compared to their gluten-containing counterparts.
When it comes to weight loss, breakfast is a mixed bag. Some research shows it can help with weight loss, while other research suggests the opposite. For example, a 2018 review found no strong evidence to support the idea that eating breakfast helps with weight loss.
According to Viana, the only time that eating a large breakfast could be beneficial is that if it helps you eat fewer calories later in the day.
According to Harvard Medical School, a 155-pound person burns about 372 calories while walking an average of 10 minutes per mile for 30 minutes, and about 112 calories to lift weights for the same amount of time.
Although cardio workouts may burn more calories than weight training right now, at least one small study has shown that you may burn more calories in the hours after lifting weights because your metabolism may stay elevated longer.
According to Seedman, the ideal exercise regimen for weight loss involves a combination of cardio and strength training.
Studies have shown that after exercising, many athletes resort to “compensatory behaviors” that offset the calories they burned. For example, a 2009 study of postmenopausal women who were either overweight or obese found that participants seemed to increase their food intake after exercising on a treadmill or exercise bike, either because they felt hungrier or because they thought they did would have burned a lot of calories.
The idea behind small, frequent meals is that it helps better control hunger and keep your metabolism up throughout the day to make weight loss easier. In practice, however, according to scientific research, this is not the case.
For example, a 2007 study looked at two groups of people who ate the same number of calories per day: one who ate three meals without snacks and another who ate three meals and three snacks. At the end of the year-long experiment, the researchers found no difference in weight loss between the two groups.
According to Seedman, meal size and frequency is all about figuring out which approach will best suit your lifestyle and helping you stick to your daily calorie budget.
While a juice cleanse can result in short-term weight loss, Viana says it is due to a severe calorie deficit – one that is not realistic to maintain for more than a few days at most. Once you reintroduce solid foods, you will likely lose weight again.
Ayesta also points out that most of the time, you will lose water weight with this strategy because drinking that much juice can make you urinate more often.
Dietary supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the FDA says many of them fail to deliver on their weight loss promises and may even contain dangerous hidden ingredients such as: B. Chemicals found in blood pressure medications and antidepressants.
In addition, a 2004 review found no convincing evidence that dietary supplements help with weight loss.
Ayesta and Viana say many of the lingering myths about weight loss stem from social media, the ever-changing field of nutritional science, and the $ 71 billion weight loss industry that is constantly creating new products to stay competitive.
The final result? If a weight loss method sounds too easy or too good to be true, it probably is.
Weight loss is “a journey that requires patience, education, and persistence to achieve sustainable results,” says Ayesta. “People don’t have to follow strict rules and eliminate entire food groups just to achieve weight loss.”
Rather than taking extreme measures, Viana recommends focusing on an exercise program that includes both cardio and strength training, and maintaining a varied diet that emphasizes whole foods over processed foods.
Finally, Ayesta says it is important to remember that diets only work when you limit calories. The only way to reduce this weight is to make sure your diet changes are sustainable over the long term.