Have you ever tried losing weight, thought you were doing everything correctly, and still didn’t see the progress you wanted? Sure, there are a number of reasons why you weren’t seeing the results, but what if the changes you made to your diet weren’t actually that helpful–or even downright useless?
There are numerous myths surrounding the “best” eating plans and nutrition protocols for successful (and rapid) weight loss. Unfortunately, these myths often become prominent hallmarks within the programs of unknowing individuals who pursue their fitness goals with misguided information. They find themselves bound to unhelpful, sometimes dangerous eating rules for years on end before they discover it’s been for naught.
In this article I’ll cover three popular fat-loss myths, all relevant to concerns regarding metabolism–the chemical process within your body responsible for producing and burning energy (calories).
Myth #1: Metabolism Can’t Be Altered
With the release of a New York Times article discussing the unfortunate outcome of many “Biggest Loser” contestants, many people come to believe that their metabolism is out of their control. Fortunately, this isn’t completely true. While prolonged weight loss can cause “metabolic adaptation” (the slowing of your metabolism to adjust to the new level of nutrient intake), a regular strength-training routine can help combat this adaptation by increasing one’s resting metabolic rate—the number of calories one burns at rest.This occurs because muscle is “metabolically active,” meaning muscle tissue requires extra energy to maintain itself. This extra energy needed for maintenance and growth of muscle tissue can slow the rate of this metabolic slowdown, and help increase metabolic rate once a goal weight is reached.
Additionally, more modest calorie restrictions can help prevent unnecessary metabolic adaptation. A good rule of thumb is to eat the most amount of calories that still allows you to lose weight. This not only slows down the rate of metabolic adaptation, but will also leave you with additional wiggle room to further reduce calories when your program calls for it.
Myth #2: Small, Frequent Meals Help Stoke The “Metabolic Fire.”
There was an old belief that small frequent meals would speed up metabolism, because just like a fire, constantly supplying the body with nutrients would keep the “metabolic fire” aflame. However, research conducted on this subject found that eating only two meals a day, compared to three meals a day, had no effect on total energy expenditure throughout the day.
Does this mean frequent meals are a waste of time? Not necessarily, as more frequent meals may be able to help individuals better control total calorie consumption (by avoiding binge-like eating behaviors).However, some individuals find it easier to eat fewer meals throughout the day, both as a way to help control appetite and because it simply fits better with their lifestyle. The best approach is to find an eating frequency that works for you–allowing you to successfully eat the proper amount of nutrients while maintaining a modest calorie deficit.
Myth #3: Calories Eaten Late At Night Will Turn to Fat
Numerous studies have shown a correlation between late night eating and weight gain. However, this weight gain was likely caused as a result of total caloric over-consumption, and not because of its effect on their metabolism. In other words, late-night snackers consume more calories because they are ingesting additional food when their non-snacking counterparts are sleeping or engaging in other, non-food related activities. The research is clear: as long as you remain in a calorie deficit, consuming a meal close to bedtime does not increase fat accumulation more than a meal consumed during normal daytime hours.
If eating close to bedtime (such as in an intermittent fasting diet) works best for your lifestyle, go right ahead. Some individuals might even find it easier to fall asleep when they aren’t trying to ignore hunger pangs because they haven’t eaten since 4pm.
The realities behind these myths provide some promising insights:
- Metabolism is a dynamic process. Yes, it adapts and slows down the longer you remain on a weight-loss diet, but you can also combat and reverse this effect through strength training and gradual calorie changes.
- Meal frequency has a much smaller affect on fat accumulation than previously believed. (Almost negligible.) This means you have much more freedom to time your meals in a manner that fits best with your lifestyle–making your nutrition plan easier to maintain.
- As long as you remain in a modest calorie deficit, eating just before bed is OK. So if you’re like me and enjoy a bedtime snack before getting some shuteye, go on with your Halo-Top eating self.