Burning fat and the best ways of doing this has been written and researched about for the last few decades. Although we now know so much more in this area (at least we think we do), there are still mis-beliefs that keep cropping up over the internet. Let me help smash 3 of these fat burning myths with my experience and some tried and tested strategies!
Fat Burning Myth #1
**I must avoid carbohydrates at all costs to burn fat.
Carbohydrates are seen as the devils food when it comes to burning fat, but this is our first myth. The truth is carbohydrates per gram are no more calorie dense than a gram of protein - they are both 4kcal per gram. Many think carbohydrates have more calories in them than protein, (in part due to the popularity of high protein, low carb diets) but this just isn't the case. If you are currently avoiding eating carbs in your diet due to their supposed higher calorific value and fat inhibiting effects, then be mindful that they are actually no different in terms of the actual kcal's per gram to any other protein food.
Metabolism and the Thermic Effect of Food
This being said your body will metabolise carbohydrates and proteins differently dependant on a number of variables, including body shape, basal metabolic rate, thermic effects of food, activity levels, training cycles, stress levels, sleep quality etc (there are many variables). For instance, when you digest protein your whole digestive system has to work a little harder than when you eat a carbohydrate as it is harder to break it down into the nutrients our bodies need. This extra work requires energy, this is called the thermic effect of food (TEF) - the sum of energy it takes to digest and metabolise a food source.
So, protein does burn more kcal's right? Well yes when it comes to the thermic effect of food (TEF), but what you must also understand is that the carbohydrates we eat have certain micronutrients in them that actually help to drive TEF to be able to break down this protein in the first place. Wholegrain carbohydrates for example contain many B vitamins which are the driving force for allowing the cells in our body to release the energy from our food, which ultimately gives us our energy.
Therefore avoiding carbohydrates because of the "higher calorific value" is a poor strategy, your cells need the B vitamins and a lack of them reduces energy levels and compromises the release of the nutrients you need from the other food sources you eat.
Fat Burning Myth #2
**Jogging is better than walking for burning fat more quickly.
How many people do you hear say they need to start jogging to burn more fat? Most of your friends right? Well although it is true that you will burn more calories per hour of jogging than walking, it also isn't that simple and comes at a cost to many people. Jogging is often the first go-to option for someone looking to loose weight and reduce body fat, unfortunately jogging is actually one of the last (if any) strategies you should undertake when it comes to burning fat effectively. Instead try brisk walking for a better risk-reward fat burning strategy in the initial stages of a fat burning program.
Do your Prep Work First then Jog Second
I say this through a PT/coach's lens as many people we see in our South Bristol studio often start jogging in an un-fit state where their muscles and joints just aren't conditioned enough to take the repeated stress. It's a sports science fact that if your joints are not properly prepared through a progressive program of stability and mobility exercises, every time your foot hits the floor when jogging you send high peak forces through the foot, into the ankle, up to the knee, into the hips and eventually through the pelvis and lower back (this is the kinetic chain effect). This repeated peak force eventually breaks people down and creates over-use injuries, that could have been avoided with a more planned, progressive approach.
People often feel they have the right to be able to jog without having to put any preparatory work in before they start, this is like trying to take your driving test without having driving lessons before it - would you pass? No of course not, you haven't earned the right to take the test and you will only take it once your instructor feels you are competent and safe enough on the road.
When your body just isn't ready for the stresses of jogging you will get injured, and injuries mean zero fat burning. Instead do your prep work first to strengthen and mobilise joints, practice brisk walking first, then try your hand at progressive jogging. You can then be confident you will be at a lower risk of injury when you do finally start hitting the roads.
Fat Burning Myth #3
**Calorie restricting diets will force my body to burn fat at a quicker rate.
Calorie restricting is certainly an important strategy in the quest for weight loss, but it does not have as much impact as people think. Many calorie restricting diets are not only hard to adhere to in the short-term but are also unrealistic to maintain for the long term. Although people get some very quick results from heavily reducing calorie intake i.e. 800-1000kcal, most if not all of these individuals will put this weight back on as they start increasing their calories and eating more "normally" again.
A Balanced Approach to Fat Burning
Instead use a more balanced, less stressful approach to weight loss and fat burning by reducing your calories to around 500 per day. This measured, less severe calorie restriction approach will be easier to adhere to in the long-term and give better, more effective results. Depending on your activity levels, exercise habits and goal this 500kcal reduction will vary from one individual to another, so ensure to use an accurate weight loss calculator that takes these variables into account. The weight loss calculator we use here at Functional Fitness Bristol is the Precision Nutrition one. Link here: https://precisionnutrition.com/weight-loss-calculator
I hope this dispels some of the myths that often pop up in the fat burning conversation and brings some extra clarity to the topic. Adopting more balanced ways to create a fat burning environment for you to achieve your fat loss target is the overall goal. If you need any further help in regard to this topic or in producing a bespoke program for you, then please fire us across a message and we will do our best to help.
Until next time, stay healthy.