We’ve probably all heard of different “get slim quick” advertisements—but they usually work just as well as “get rich quick” schemes, that is, not too well, or there’s a catch. It seems like fitness magazines are selling new ways to lose weight every month. The simplest thing to do if you want to lose weight is understand how the body metabolizes fat and builds muscle, and keep a consistent routine. Let’s examine a few myths here.
Myth #1: The best way to lose weight is to consume a low-calorie diet. (1)
A popular misconception about fad dieting is that all you need to do is adopt this diet or that diet to lose weight. Low-calorie meals aren’t bad in and of themselves, but there are two other important factors to consider: balanced nutrition and exercise. It’s essential to consider how much protein and essential vitamins a low-calorie diet includes. Just eating salad all day, for example, may not provide enough nutrients for the body to function effectively. You may be left feeling drained or fatigued. Different people also have different metabolic types, so a one-size-fits-all solution is necessarily the most effective for everyone [link to the article we wrote on that]. Finally, low-calorie diets by themselves may help you “lose weight,” but are you losing weight in the form of fat or muscle mass? Obviously, we want to lose fat and retain muscle. You don’t want to shrink away valuable muscle mass! A high-protein diet paired with regular strenuous exercise will help burn fat and build muscle—for longer-lasting overall health.
Understanding the way the body uses and stores energy can help anyone not only lose weight, but stay fit throughout life. Human bodies generally have high metabolism until about age 20, and it starts slowing after that. This is why it’s so easy to gain weight as we get older—that is, unless we put effort into our daily routines. Don’t just opt to “lose weight”; instead, look at the combination of your lifestyle factors to tailor healthy habits.
Tip: Even if getting bulky isn’t your goal, lean muscles keep the body strong. No matter your age or ability, yoga is a great way to build strength gradually, with minimal risk of injury.
Myth #2: Exercising in the morning on an empty stomach raises your metabolism throughout the day. (2)
Unfortunately, this is not true. If it were, it’d be an easy prescription for a heightened metabolism and faster weight loss. This doesn’t mean exercising in the morning isn’t greatly beneficial—exercising anytime is great! But for most forms of cardiovascular exercise, an empty stomach is not ideal. Metabolism is a complex biological process that converts mass into energy, so when we exercise, we need something to burn. In the morning, our bodies have just woken up and we may have low blood sugar from not eating all night. Exercising like this just leaves you drained afterward, and without fuel, you may end up exercising less. A protein snack before and after exercising helps maintain energy and repair muscles.
Tip: Drink a protein smoothie in the morning to jump-start your metabolism. It will fuel your body without leaving you feeling too heavy.
Myth #3: Skipping meals is a good way to lose weight. (3)
Wrong! At least, in the long term, skipping meals is never a good way to lose weight. The goal is to healthfully lose fat and build muscle. When you regularly skip meals, you are essentially telling your body you are in starvation mode. This is an adaptation from our hunter-gatherer days, before there was a McDonald’s on every corner. Skipping meals triggers your body to store more fat and slow down metabolism to conserve energy. Instead, eating 5-7 small meals throughout the day keeps your metabolism active. Also try to move your body at least an hour each day, as well.
Tip: Even if you work in an office with limited mobility, get up every 15-30 minutes to take a walk around the building or stretch. This will keep your muscles at least partially active to help prevent muscle atrophy, or the wasting away of muscle tissue.
The bottom line is, losing weight has more to it than just eating fewer calories. Building muscle and consuming enough protein and nutrients are weight loss goals that have very positive long-term effects. Sometimes, though, it can be hard to know the best ways to train our bodies so that we look good, feel good, and stay healthy throughout our lives. A professional fitness trainer can help answer questions about how to construct a healthy lifestyle for yourself.