The road to nowhere is paved with excuses.
For thousands of years, a lean, toned, athletic body has been the gold standard of physical status and attractiveness. It was a hallmark of the ancient heroes, gods, and goddesses, and we still idolize it today.
With obesity rates over 35 percent here in America (and steadily rising), it would appear that achieving this type of physique and becoming one of the “physical elite” must require top-shelf genetics or a level of knowledge, discipline, and sacrifice far beyond what most people are capable of.
This isn’t true. Your genetics can’t stop you from getting superfit; the knowledge is easy enough to acquire—you’re going to learn everything you need to know in this book—and it doesn’t require nearly as much willpower as you might think. While you won’t be able to eat large pizzas every day and get by on only a few workouts here and there, you will be able to build lean muscle and lose fat eating foods you love and doing workouts you enjoy.
That’s what I want for you. That’s why I wrote this book. Together I want us to upgrade not just your body, but your life.
Fat loss is a major component of this vision. If we’re going to make it a reality, you’re going to have to finally break free of fad diets, yo-yo dieting, and all the nutritional nonsense that keeps guys weak, overweight, and frustrated. To master your body, you’re going to need to know how to easily and consistently lose fat and keep it off.
To help you develop that ability, I want to start with debunking 10 of the worst fat loss myths and mistakes. Chances are you’ve heard or even bought into at least several of them, and if we don’t address this first, you might be skeptical of or even reject the core tenets of the Bigger Leaner Stronger method of dieting.
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So, let’s dispel these harmful fallacies and errors once and for all so they can never again block your progress toward the body you want.
Myth #1: “Calories In Versus Calories Out Is Bad Science”
“Calorie counting doesn’t work,” the overweight MD says in his latest bestselling book.
“It’s a relic of our ignorant dietary past,” the pretty woman who has been skinny her entire life tells Oprah.
“It’s time we moved on and realized dieting is all about food quality, not calories,” the former triathlete turned guru says on his blockbuster blog.
The sales pitch sounds sexy. Eat the right foods and you can “unclog and supercharge” your hormones and metabolism, and your body will take care of the rest. This is music to many people’s ears who want to believe they can get lean and fit without ever having to restrict or even pay attention to how much they eat, only what.
This is malarkey. In fact, it’s worse than that. It’s a blatant lie because, as far as your body weight is concerned, how much you eat is far more important than what you eat.
Don’t believe me?
Just ask Kansas State University Professor Mark Haub, who lost 27 pounds in 10 weeks eating Hostess cupcakes, Doritos, Oreos, and whey protein shakes. Or a science teacher, John Cisna, who lost 56 pounds in six months eating nothing but McDonald’s. Or Kai Sedgwick, a fitness enthusiast who got into the best shape of his life following a rigorous workout routine and eating McDonald’s every day for a month.
I don’t recommend you follow in their footsteps (the nutritional value of your diet does matter), but they prove an indisputable point: you can lose fat and gain muscle while eating copious amounts of junk food.
The key to understanding how this works—and to understanding what really drives weight loss and gain—is energy balance, which is the relationship between energy intake (calories eaten) and output (calories burned).
Various foods contain varying numbers of calories. For example, nuts are very energy dense, containing about 6.5 calories per gram, on average. Celery, on the other hand, contains very little stored energy, with just 0.15 calories per gram.
If you add up the calories of all the food you eat in a day and then compare that number to how many calories you burn in the same period, you’d notice one of three things:
- You ate more calories than you burned. (Do this often enough and you’ll gain weight.)
- You ate fewer calories than you burned. (Do this often enough and you’ll lose weight.)
- You ate more or less the same number of calories as you burned. (Do this often enough and you’ll maintain your weight.)
Your checking account is a good metaphor for how this process works.
If you “put” (eat) more calories into the account than you “spend” (burn), you create a positive energy balance, and your body will “save” (store) a portion of the surplus energy as body fat.
If you put fewer calories into the account than you spend, however, you create a negative energy balance, and your body will turn to its “energy savings” (body fat, mostly) to make up for the deficit and obtain the energy it needs to keep functioning.
Remember that our bodies require a constant supply of energy to stay alive, and if they didn’t have these handy energy deposits to tap into (body fat), we would have to provide that energy through a carefully regulated feeding schedule. If we missed a meal, the energy would run out and we would die. The only reason we don’t have to live like that is our bodies can break down body fat (and other tissues when necessary) and burn it for energy when food energy isn’t available.
What do you think happens to your body fat stores, then, if you eat considerably fewer calories than you burn for weeks or months on end? That’s right—they get whittled down to lower and lower levels, and you look leaner and leaner.
These aren’t hypotheses or debunked theories, either. This is the first law of thermodynamics at work, which states that energy in a system can’t be created or destroyed but can only change form. This applies to all physical energy systems, including the human metabolism. When we eat food, its stored energy is transformed by our muscles into mechanical energy (movement), by our digestive systems into chemical energy (body fat), and by our organs into thermal energy (heat).
This alone explains why every single controlled weight loss study conducted in the last 100 years has concluded that meaningful weight loss requires energy expenditure to exceed energy intake.
This is also why bodybuilders dating back just as far, from the “father of modern bodybuilding” Eugen Sandow to the sword-and-sandal superstar Steve Reeves to the iconic Arnold Schwarzenegger, have been using this knowledge to systematically and routinely reduce and increase body fat levels as desired.
So, the bottom line is: A century of metabolic research has proven, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that energy balance is the basic mechanism that regulates weight gain and loss.
All that evidence, however, doesn’t mean you have to count calories to lose weight, but it does mean you have to understand how calorie intake and expenditure influences your body weight and then regulate your intake according to your goals.
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Myth #2: “Carbs and Sugars Make You Fat”
People love simple explanations and compelling conspiracies, and these two quirks explain the popularity of most mainstream diet trends.
The formula for a fad diet is simple:
1. “It’s not your fault you’re overweight and unhealthy.”
“Jerks keep saying it’s because you eat too much junk and food in general and move too little, but they’re wrong. You’re not lazy and undisciplined. You’re a victim of bad science and worse food.”
2. “New research shows you what to blame.”
“And we’ve strung it up like a pinata for you to bludgeon into ribbons. Strike it down with all your hatred and your journey to the dark . . . er, light . . . side will be complete.”
3. “Avoid this thing at all costs and you’ll live happily ever after.”
“Celibacy is the only way to escape this bogeyman’s wrath. Renounce it and take charge of your destiny.”
These emotion-based tactics are how marketers sold us on low-fat dieting a decade ago and how they sell us on low-carb and low-sugar dieting today. Cut the heinous carbohydrate and sugar molecules out of your life, they say, and the pounds will just melt away.
It all sounds so neat and tidy until someone like me comes along and points out the glitches in the matrix, like the professor and science teacher I introduced you to earlier in this chapter, or the well-designed and well-executed studies that have found no difference in weight loss whatsoever between low- and high-carb and low- and high-sugar diets.
- Scientists at Arizona State University found no difference in weight or fat loss between people consuming 5 and 40 percent of their calories from carbohydrate for 10 weeks.
- Scientists at the Medical College of Wisconsin found no difference in weight or fat loss between people consuming 4 and 30 percent of their calories from carbohydrate for six weeks.
- Scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health found no difference in weight loss between people consuming 65, 45, and 35 percent of their calories from carbohydrate for two years.
- Scientists at Stanford School of Medicine found no difference in weight or fat loss between people who consumed 50 and 25 percent of their calories from carbohydrate for one year.
- Scientists at Duke University found no difference in weight or fat loss between people consuming 4 and 43 percent of their calories from sugar for six weeks.
- Scientists at Queen Margaret University College found no difference in weight loss between people consuming 5 and 10 percent of their calories from sugar for eight weeks.
Later in this book, we’ll talk more about why carbs and sugars aren’t nearly as dangerous or fattening as you’ve been told, but for now, know this:
If you consistently consume fewer calories than you burn, you’ll lose weight, regardless of how much carbohydrate or sugar you eat.
There’s a corollary here, too:
No individual food can make you fatter. Only overeating can.
If you consistently consume more calories than you burn, you’ll gain weight, even if those calories come from the “healthiest” food on earth.
Look around for easy proof of this one. How many people do you know who are overweight despite their obsession with “clean eating”? Well, now you know why.
Myth #3: “Some People Just ‘Mysteriously’ Can’t Lose Weight”
The number one reason most people “inexplicably” can’t lose weight is they’re eating too much.
Seriously. That’s the climax. The big reveal. The way out of the haunted house. The rub, however, is they often don’t realize it.
For starters, studies show that most people are really bad at estimating the actual number of calories they eat. They underestimate portion sizes, assume foods contain fewer calories than they do, measure intake inaccurately, and, in some cases, simply lie to themselves about how much they’re actually eating.
A particularly egregious example can be found in a study conducted by scientists at Columbia University. They found that obese people who claimed to have been eating 800 to 1,200 calories per day for years were underestimating their true daily calorie intake by a whopping 2,000 calories, on average.
That’s right, on average, these people were eating about 3,000 calories per day while claiming to have been eating just 800 to 1,200 calories per day.
This inability to estimate calorie intake accurately is why so many people fail with diets that deal in rules and restrictions instead of hard numbers. You can lose weight without counting calories but it’s a bit of a crapshoot, and it becomes less and less viable as you get leaner and leaner.
There are plenty of ways to screw up calorie counting too.
If you eat a lot of prepackaged and prepared foods, it’s fairly easy to accidentally overeat because the calorie counts we’re given for various restaurant and packaged foods are often inaccurate. In fact, food manufacturers can underreport calories by 20 percent and pass FDA inspection, and you’d better believe many are unscrupulous enough to use this to their advantage. Maybe those “low-calorie” cookies aren’t so low-calorie after all?
People who know this and stick to foods they cook and prepare themselves are often no better in the end because they don’t measure their foods properly. Here’s an all-too-common scenario:
It’s mealtime and you break out the oatmeal, peanut butter, blueberries, and yogurt, and the measuring cups and spoons. You measure out one cup of oatmeal, one tablespoon of peanut butter, and half a cup each of blueberries and yogurt. You cook it all up, scarf it all down, and move on with your day. Unfortunately, you’ve just eaten a couple hundred more calories than you thought.
How did this happen?
Well, that (slightly heaping) cup of oatmeal that you scooped out contained 100 grams of dry oats and 379 calories. The “cup” on the label, however, contains only 307 calories because it assumes 81 grams of dry oats. That’s 72 more calories than you thought. And your tablespoon of peanut butter? You packed in 21 grams for a count of 123 calories, but your app’s tablespoon assumes just 16 grams and 94 calories. There’s another 29 “hidden” calories.
Make these types of errors meal after meal, food after food, day after day, and this alone can be the reason you “mysteriously” can’t lose weight.
Myth #4: “You Can Eat and Drink Whatever You Want in Your ‘Cheat Meals’”
“Cheat” meals are a staple of many weight loss diets, and they usually entail eating more or less whatever your hungry little heart desires.
There’s merit in this idea, and as you’ll learn later in this book, Bigger Leaner Stronger also allows for “cheat” or “normal” meals, mostly as a way to relieve psychological stress and cravings.
There are, however, right and wrong ways to “cheat” on your diet, and many people who struggle to lose weight do it very wrong.
For instance, they often cheat too frequently. To understand why this is a problem, we only have to look back to the big picture of calories and weight loss. If you moderately overeat just a few days per month, your overall results aren’t going to be much affected. If you do it a few times per week, however, you’re going to slow down your weight loss considerably.
Another common mistake is indulging in no-holds-barred cheat days. If you let loose for just one meal, you can only do so much damage. Your stomach is probably going to be begging for mercy by the 2,000-calorie mark. Eat everything in sight for an entire day, however, and you can easily put down many thousands of calories and erase your weight loss progress for the last several days, if not the entire week.
Yet another way to screw up individual cheat meals is eating too many calories and dietary fat in particular. I know I just said you can only do so much damage in one meal, but if you’re of the hearty eating type, it can be enough to noticeably impact your weight loss.
The worst type of cheat meal is one that is very high in both calories and dietary fat, which is chemically similar to body fat and thus requires very little energy for conversion into body fat (between 0 and 2 percent of the energy it contains).
Protein and carbohydrate, on the other hand, are chemically dissimilar to body fat, cost quite a bit more energy to process (25 and 7 percent of the energy they contain, respectively), and are rarely converted to body fat under normal conditions.
This is why research shows that high-fat meals cause more immediate fat gain than high-protein or high-carbohydrate meals.
This information is particularly relevant when you’re lean and wanting to get even leaner. You simply can’t afford to be in a large calorie surplus very often, especially not when the surplus is primarily from dietary fat.
Drinking alcohol while cheating is also generally a bad idea. While alcohol itself basically can’t be stored as body fat, it blunts fat burning, which accelerates the rate at which your body stores dietary fat as body fat, and it increases the conversion of carbohydrate into body fat.
In short, it’s not the calories from alcohol that can make you fatter, but all the delicious food most people eat with it, which is hard to resist when you’re hammered.
Myth #5: “You Can Burn the Fat Covering Your [Body Part]”
Pick up just about any fitness magazine and you’ll find workouts for getting ab definition, slimming the thighs, eliminating back and arm fat, and the like.
If only it were that simple.
While research shows that training a specific muscle increases blood flow and lipolysis (the breakdown of fat cells into usable energy) in the area, the effects are far too small to matter. Training your muscles burns calories and can result in muscle growth, both of which certainly can aid in fat loss, but it doesn’t directly burn the fat covering them to any significant degree.
Instead, fat loss occurs in a whole-body fashion. You create the proper environment (a calorie deficit) through diet and exercise, and your body reduces fat stores all over, with certain areas leaning out faster than others (more on why this occurs later).
This is why studies show you can do all the crunches you want, but you’ll never have defined abs until you’ve adequately reduced your body fat levels.
Myth #6: “Dieting Can ‘Damage’ Your Metabolism”
According to most theories, “metabolic damage” refers to a condition where various physiological systems have been disrupted, and as a result, your metabolism burns less energy than it should.
In other words, it’s a hypothetical state wherein you burn fewer calories than you should based on your body weight and activity levels. Furthermore, the story goes, once you’ve “damaged” your metabolism, it can remain hamstrung for weeks, months, and even years.
It’s called “metabolic damage” because the idea is your metabolism is literally “broken” to one degree or another and requires “fixing.”
The common causes of metabolic damage are believed to be remaining in a calorie deficit for too long, starvation dieting, and doing too much cardio. Therefore, when you’re restricting your calories and stop losing weight for no apparent reason, or when you’re struggling to stop gaining weight after a period of dieting, some people will say that you probably have metabolic damage that needs repairing.
The evidence to support this hypothesis is almost always stories. Stories of people failing to lose weight on a measly few hundred calories per day, and even worse, stories of people gaining weight on very low-calorie diets and intense exercise routines.
And so people everywhere have become convinced that dieting has screwed up their bodies—maybe even irreversibly—and that their only hope for returning to normalcy is special dietary measures.
What does science have to say on the matter?
Well, several studies have shown that the metabolic decline associated with dieting, including long periods of very low-calorie dieting, ranges from less than 5 to about 15 percent.
Furthermore, it took about a 10 percent reduction in body weight to produce the larger, double-digit drops, and most of the research on the matter was conducted with people who made the cardinal diet mistakes of eating too few calories and too little protein and doing no resistance training.
We also know that while these metabolic adaptations can persist long after weight loss has stopped, they can also be easily reversed by raising your calories, lifting weights, and eating a high-protein diet.
And that’s true even for people who have already gone to extreme measures to drop pounds in the past. No matter what they’ve done, it can only produce a relatively small metabolic dip that can be easily reversed with proper diet and training.
Even more encouraging is research on what happens to your metabolism over time when you do things correctly, which we’ll discuss later in this book.
Myth #7: “Dieting Can Send Your Body into ‘Starvation Mode’”
The idea behind “starvation mode” is similar to metabolic damage.
It goes like this: if you’re too aggressive with your calorie restriction, then your metabolism will slow to a crawl, making it more or less impossible to continue losing weight without eating like a runway model.
The way most people describe it, starvation mode and metabolic damage work together to stymie your progress in a process that looks like this:
- You eat too little and lose weight too fast.
- You plunge your body into starvation mode, and weight loss stops.
- You eat even less and move even more, which further aggravates the problem and causes metabolic damage.
- The longer you remain in starvation mode, the less and less weight you’ll lose regardless of what you do, and the more and more damaged your metabolism will become.
One of the only ways to avoid this metabolic carnage, we’re told, is losing weight slowly through very mild calorie restriction. If we get greedy, they say, we’ll pay for it later.
There’s a shade of truth here, but like many of the things that “everybody knows” in the fitness space, it’s more wrong than right.
Your body responds to calorie restriction with countermeasures meant to stall weight loss, but there’s no “mode” it enters or physiological switch that flips to magically block weight loss.
A striking example of this is one of the most extreme studies on the human metabolism ever conducted: the Minnesota Starvation Experiment.
This experiment started in 1944 as the end of World War II was approaching to discover the healthiest way to help the millions of starving people in Europe return to a normal body weight.
As you can guess, this study involved intentionally starving people. And by “starving,” I truly mean starving. Scientists took 36 volunteers who had the choice of shipping off to the front lines or offering their metabolisms to science, and subjected them to the conditions of your average POW camp. These volunteers had to do several hours of manual labor every day and march 22 miles per week on a diet that provided about 50 percent of their average daily energy expenditure (or about 1,500 calories per day). For six freaking months.
As you can imagine, things got pretty grim. By the end of the study, the men were rawboned, some had almost starved to death, and one even cut off several of his fingers to wash out.
What about their metabolisms, though? Were they as devastated as proponents of starvation mode and metabolic damage would predict?
After losing about 25 percent of their body weight on average, their metabolisms were about 20 percent lower than scientists predicted based on their new, lower body weights. In other words, their metabolisms were “underperforming” by just 20 percent on average after enduring six months of the most extreme weight loss regimen you could ever devise.
Then, in the next phase of the study, the same people were put on a “recovery diet” to allow them to regain most of the weight they lost.
After 12 weeks of this recovery diet, their metabolisms were assessed again. This time, average metabolic performance was only about 10 percent lower than it should have been, and for some individuals, everything was already back to normal, as if their severe weight loss had never happened.
Moreover, according to a recent study conducted by my friend and researcher Menno Henselmans, when you analyze the data beyond the first 12 weeks of recovery, you find that everything eventually returned to normal in every volunteer. Some just took longer to recover than others.
This groundbreaking experiment also provided another nail to drive into the coffin of the starvation mode myth: every volunteer continued to lose weight until the very end. The rate of weight loss slowed, of course, but it never came to a complete standstill.
It’s safe to assume, then, that if people can eat about 1,500 calories per day and do many hours of moderately intense exercise every week and still lose weight steadily—for six months—then we have nothing to worry about with our comparatively ho-hum diet and exercise routines.
Myth #8: “Eating More Smaller Meals Is Better for Weight Loss Than Fewer Larger Ones”
Raise your hand if you’ve heard this one before: you should eat many small meals when trying to lose weight to “stoke the metabolic fire,” accelerate fat loss, and better control your appetite.
The theory here is simple: When you eat, your metabolism speeds up as your body processes the food. Thus, if you eat every few hours, your metabolism will remain in a constantly elevated state, right? And nibbling on food throughout the day should help with appetite control, right?
While this may seem plausible, it doesn’t pan out in scientific research.
In an extensive review of diet literature, scientists at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research looked at scores of studies comparing the metabolic effects of a wide variety of eating patterns, ranging from 1 to 17 meals per day.
They found no meaningful difference between nibbling and gorging, because small meals caused small, short metabolic increases, while large meals caused larger, longer increases. Therefore, when viewed in terms of 24-hour energy expenditure, eating pattern had no significant effect.
Further evidence of this conclusion can be found in a study conducted by scientists at the University of Ottawa, which split subjects into two dietary groups:
- Group one ate three meals per day.
- Group two ate three meals plus three snacks per day.
Both groups maintained the same calorie deficit, and after eight weeks, scientists found no significant difference in weight, fat, or muscle loss.
And what about the appetitive effects of meal frequency? This can go both ways.
For example, a study conducted by scientists at the University of Missouri found that after 12 weeks of dieting to lose weight, increasing protein intake improved appetite control, but meal frequency (three versus six meals per day) had no effect.
Scientists at the University of Kansas conducted a similar experiment, investigating the effects of meal frequency and protein intake on perceived appetite, satiety (fullness), and hormones.
They also found that higher protein intake led to greater feelings of fullness, but surprisingly, six meals resulted in generally lower levels of satiety than three.
On the other hand, you can find studies wherein subjects were less satiated on three meals per day than more, and where increasing meal frequency also increased general feelings of fullness and made it easier for people to stick to their diets.
In some ways, the best dietary protocol is the one you can stick to, and that’s very true in the case of meal frequency. Most people I work with enjoy eating four to six meals per day (I’m the same way), but some enjoy eating just two or three meals per day, and that’s totally fine.
Myth #9: “You Have to Exercise to Lose Weight”
If you’re willing to eat very little food every day, you can create a large calorie deficit without doing any exercise.
You can lose plenty of weight this way, but you’ll probably also lose at least a fair amount of muscle, which is undesirable for a number of reasons, not the least of which being vanity.
This is one of the main reasons you should exercise when you’re dieting to lose weight and you shouldn’t do just any exercise, either. The best kind of exercise to do while in a calorie deficit is resistance training, which is a form of exercise that improves muscular strength and endurance.
A good example of the effectiveness of resistance training while dieting is found in a study conducted by scientists at West Virginia University, which split 20 men and women into two groups:
- Group one did one hour of cardio four times per week.
- Group two lifted weights three times per week.
Both groups followed the same diet, and after 12 weeks, everyone lost about the same amount of fat, but the cardio group also lost nine pounds of lean body mass, whereas the weightlifting group didn’t lose any.
A number of other studies have echoed that finding: if you want to lose fat quickly and not muscle, then you want to include resistance training in your weight loss regimen.
Myth #10: “Cardio Is Better for Fat Loss Than Weightlifting”
This one is a natural follow-up to the previous myth.
When most people start exercising to lose weight, they choose some form of cardio, like jogging, swimming, or biking.
This is all well and good, but unfortunately, simply doing cardio guarantees little in the way of weight loss. In fact, studies show many people wind up even heavier than when they began their cardiovascular exercise routines.
Hence the crowds of overweight people addicted to burning calories instead of getting fit.
There are two primary reasons why cardio alone doesn’t always produce significant weight loss:
1. It’s too easy to eat the calories you burn.
Guess how much energy 30 minutes of vigorous running burns? For someone who weighs 150 pounds, about 400 calories. And guess how easy it is to eat that right back? A handful of nuts, a bit of yogurt, and an apple does the trick. Or if you’re the more indulgent type, a measly chocolate chip cookie with a cup of milk.
My point isn’t that you shouldn’t eat nuts, yogurt, apples, or cookies when you want to lose weight, of course, but that cardiovascular exercise just doesn’t burn as much energy as we wish it did.
The energy you do burn during cardio does support your weight loss efforts, of course, but your goal isn’t to just burn calories, it’s to reduce body fat levels. And if you’re eating too much, no amount of cardio is going to get you there.
2. Your body adapts to the exercise to reduce calorie expenditure.
Research shows that when in a calorie deficit, the body strives to increase energy efficiency. This means that, as time goes on, less and less energy is needed to continue doing the same types of workouts. This also means that you’re no longer burning as much energy as you think you are when performing the same exercise under the same conditions, which increases the likelihood of overeating and stalling out in your weight loss efforts.
Many people who experience this try to beat it with more cardio, which may raise energy expenditure enough to get the needle moving again but can also accelerate muscle loss and metabolic slowdown.
And what about weightlifting?
Well, research clearly shows that it’s an effective way to lose fat, so why is it generally associated with “bulking up” and not “slimming down”?
The answer is simple. Weightlifting isn’t a popular way to lose weight because it’s a bad way to lose weight, but it is a fantastic way to speed up fat loss and preserve muscle.
A study conducted by scientists at Duke University illustrates this point perfectly. Researchers recruited 196 obese or overweight men and women ranging from 18 to 70 years old and split them into three groups:
- Group one did three one-hour resistance training workouts per week.
- Group two jogged three days per week at a moderate intensity for about 45 minutes per session.
- Group three did both the resistance training and cardio workouts.
After eight months, guess which group lost the most weight?
No, it wasn’t groups one or three. It was number two, the cardio-only group. BUT! That was also the only group that lost muscle as well. And guess who lost the most fat while also gaining muscle? That’s right, group number three—the resistance training and cardio group.
In other words, adding resistance training to the cardio workouts resulted in less weight loss due to muscle gain but more fat loss due to various physiological factors that we’ll talk more about later in this book.
I’m genuinely excited for you right now, because in reading this one chapter, you’ve taken your fitness knowledge to a whole new level—a level very few people, including many doctors, athletes, and even scientists, rarely achieve. And we’re just getting warmed up!
In the next chapter, we’re going to analyze muscle building in the same way as we just examined fat loss.
That means it’s time to discuss the 10 absolute worst muscle-building myths and mistakes that keep guys from ever getting that lean, muscular body that looks as good as it performs.
- Energy balance is the relationship between energy intake (calories eaten) and output (calories burned).
- Energy balance is the basic mechanism that regulates weight gain and loss.
- If you consistently consume fewer calories than you burn, you’ll lose weight, regardless of how much carbohydrate or sugar you eat.
- If you consistently consume more calories than you burn, you’ll gain weight, even if those calories come from the “healthiest” food on earth.
- No individual food can make you fatter. Only overeating can.
- The number one reason most people “inexplicably” can’t lose weight is they’re eating too much.
- The inability to estimate calorie intake accurately is why so many people fail with diets that deal in rules and restrictions instead of hard numbers.
- There are right and wrong ways to “cheat” on your diet, and many people who struggle to lose weight do it very wrong.
- The worst type of cheat meal is one that is very high in both calories and dietary fat, which is chemically similar to body fat and thus requires very little energy for conversion into body fat (between 0 and 2 percent of the energy it contains).
- Research shows that high-fat meals cause more immediate fat gain than high-protein or high-carbohydrate meals.
- While alcohol itself basically can’t be stored as body fat, it blunts fat burning, which accelerates the rate at which your body stores dietary fat as body fat, and it increases the conversion of carbohydrate into body fat.
- Training your muscles burns calories and can result in muscle growth, both of which certainly can aid in fat loss, but it doesn’t directly burn the fat covering them to any significant degree.
- The metabolic decline associated with dieting, including long periods of very low-calorie dieting, ranges from less than 5 to about 15 percent.
- Metabolic adaptations can persist long after weight loss has stopped, but they can also be easily reversed by raising your calories, lifting weights, and eating a high-protein diet.
- Your body responds to calorie restriction with countermeasures meant to stall weight loss, but there’s no “mode” it enters or physiological switch that flips to magically block weight loss.
- Meal frequency has no significant effects on total daily energy expenditure or weight loss.
- If you want to lose fat quickly and not muscle, then you want to include resistance training in your weight loss regimen.
This article is an excerpt from the new third editions of Bigger Leaner Stronger and Thinner Leaner Stronger, my bestselling fitness books for men and women, which are currently on sale for just 99 cents.