In this final article in our series we will discuss the myth behind “speeding up” your metabolism as well as two myths and mistakes related to exercise and weight loss.
“EATING SMALL MEALS THROUGHOUT THE DAY IS BETTER FOR WEIGHT LOSS BECAUSE IT SPEEDS UP YOUR METABOLISM”
When I started coaching people on their nutrition and helping them lose weight, everyone believed this to be the truth. If you eat 5, 6, or even 7 small meals throughout the day you will keep your metabolism stoked and it will burn white hot helping you lose weight faster.
The theory makes sense, you eat something and your metabolism has to speed up to process the food SO if you eat every couple hours your metabolism will stay elevated and not only will it control your appetite but your body will burn more fat. However, science has disproved this myth through scores of studies comparing eating patterns from once a day (OMAD) to 17! Times a day, What? 17 times a day. That’s a full time job! The results showed no meaningful difference between any of the patterns, why you ask? Because small meals only cause a small increase in metabolism for a short period of time but larger meals cause a bigger increase in metabolism for a longer period of time. So if we look at a 24 hour period there is no measurable difference. That is with calories maintained but macros not maintained (how much not the quality/macro distribution). So is there a difference in satiety when you eat several times a day vs. only a couple times per day? The short answer is no, actually in one study the more frequent smaller meals left people less satisfied and more hungry but there is one shining gem we can glean from this myth. Protein is the magic bullet. When protein makes up more of the total calories in someone’s diet, they stay full longer and it’s known to have a higher thermic effect(takes more energy to digest and assimilate).
To summarize, the best meal timing/frequency is the one you can stick with long term, in fact that goes for anything to do with your nutrition, if you can comply with it, then it’s a good strategy. That’s why I find what works best for someone and their lifestyle and we stick to it. If you like 3 meals a day with a snack, great. If you like 2 meals a day because breakfast is too hard to manage, great. I’ve even had someone that did alternate day fasting because it allowed him to manage his caloric intake and made his life easier. If it works for you, then you do you!
“YOU HAVE TO EXERCISE OR YOU CAN’T LOSE WEIGHT”
You have heard it for years, “eat less and move more”. It’s that simple, right? That’s what my doctor told me to do so I guess I have to go running everyday or I won’t lose weight. This is the same myth that puts people in the mindset that they have to run 3 more miles if they want to eat that hamburger or have that brownie for dessert.
Does exercise help you lose weight, SURE! But if you are willing to eat very few calories and don’t want to exercise, you will lose weight. It may not be the most desirable or comfortable way to lose weight but you can lose weight without exercising. As you will see in the next myth there is a good and a better way to exercise when you are trying to lose weight but ultimately it comes down to a calorie deficit. If you are in one, you will lose stored energy (body fat) in order to do all the things you demand of your body.
Let’s debunk the last myth and arm you with the truth about exercise and weight loss so you can get out there and kick butt.
“CARDIO IS BETTER THAN RESISTANCE TRAINING FOR FAT LOSS”
Most people equate jogging, cycling, or long bouts of some “cardio” exercise to a weight loss program. Unfortunately, this mentality leads to “exercise to eat” and studies show most people end up heavier than when they started their cardio routines. There are two major reasons why cardio alone doesn’t always produce significant weight loss results:
A few bites of something high in calories can erase an hour of cardio exercise. Depending on the person if you maintain a six-mile per hour pace, you'll burn upwards of 557 calories in one hour. If that pace seems unattainable, you burn about 398 calories per hour by jogging. There are about 200 calories in one plain glazed donut, about 466 calories in 100 oz.(3 x 4 inch) of a brownie. Pretty depressing, huh!
Your body adapts to exercise to reduce calorie expenditure. Research shows that when you are in a caloric deficit, the body strives to increase energy efficiency. That’s how the body works, if you stress it, it adapts and the same stress becomes less effective. If you try to beat this with more cardio then you are heading towards increased joint pain, increased time dedicated to exercising, and increased muscle loss.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t exercise and all movement is helpful to lose weight but if your goal is losing fat and maintaining as much muscle as possible (hint, it should be) then there is a more effective way to exercise. Enter resistance training! Resistance training can include lifting weights, body weight exercises, bands, weight vests, or anything else that stresses your muscle against adequate resistance. The best part is you don’t have to be in the gym for hours a day. All you really need is 2-3 hours a week of a structured resistance program and you will not only lose more body fat, you will retain more muscle(lots more on this in subsequent articles).
In a landmark study conducted at Duke University, 196 participants that were either overweight or obese were split into 3 groups and for 8 months they did one of the following for their exercise:
Group one: 3- one hour resistance training workouts per week.
Group two: jogged 3 days per week at a moderate intensity for 45 minutes.
Group three: did both the resistance training and cardio workouts.
Who do you think lost the most weight? Surprise, it was group two! The cardio only group, BUT (big but here) they also lost the most muscle. Group 3 lost the most body fat and even gained muscle. That is ideal when it comes to long term fat loss because muscle is expensive and it takes calories to maintain it. Muscle has so many benefits it will get it’s own article but let’s leave it at this, you want to at least maintain muscle (if not build it) and the only way to do that is through a resistance training program and having adequate protein in your diet.
To summarize these three myths, how often you eat doesn’t matter when it comes to losing fat, your nutrition is more important than exercise to lose body fat, and if you want to maximize your body composition you should dedicate 2-3 hours a week to resistance training.
How awesome is this? After reading the past 3 articles you have now gained more knowledge than most doctors, dietitians, athletes and even scientists about how to effectively lose body fat. The next step is to arm you with ironclad knowledge of how to build the lean, athletic, sculpted body you have always wanted without spending hours in the gym by debunking the 10 most common myths and mistakes about exercise and building muscle.
Eat Smart, Live Smart