Fallacies of Fat Loss – Is EPOC overrated?

Here is part 1 of 2 on fallacies of fat loss and nutrition in which we will cover 4 out of the 9 topics we hope to address to enable you to achieve your fat loss goals efficiently and sustainably.

Fallacy 1: Steady state aerobic work is best for losing fat

Fallacy 2: Training with higher repetitions for muscle definition

Fallacy 3: It is all about calories in vs calories out

Fallacy 4: HIIT is the more effective way to lose fat

Fallacy 5: Eating fat is detrimental to fat loss

Fallacy 6: Keto is the best way to lose fat

Fallacy 7: Fat loss equates muscle loss

Fallacy 8: I have to be in a calorie deficit till i hit my goals

Fallacy 9: I can lose fat around my tummy if i do more abdominal work

Solution: What to look out for, for efficient fat loss.

Fallacy 1: Steady state aerobic work is best for losing fat

We first have to establish what aerobic work actually does to the body. Firstly, all aerobic work does is burn calories while you are doing it. Running for an hour almost has the same effect as being in a calorie deficit of 400 calories. Doing the latter is way easier although doing the former provides health benefits as well. 

We have had clients who stopped training and did nothing but aerobic work for 4 weeks and actually lost 2kg of muscle mass while putting on 3 percent of body fat. Forget the fat burning zone, if other factors mentioned in this article are not taken care of, you will not lose fat efficiently. 

Fallacy 2: Training with higher repetitions for muscle definition

This is a  very common misconception among bodybuilders and especially among ladies. You first have to understand that exercise is a prescription. The repetition, sets, intensity and rest times you do have the power to alter the training stimulus so much that it can be either gearing towards carbohydrate utilization, fat loss or neural adaptations (strength gains).

Higher repetitions, short rest times or heavy training all has its place. You need to be clear on what exactly you are trying to achieve. For example, training with higher repetitions and shorter rest times shifts the body into a glucose furnace during training while being a fat loss machine post training. Training with heavy weights and longer rest time utilises more on fatty acids during training and actually has the ability of T3-T4 peripheral conversion (think leaner arms and limbs) as well as preservation of strength and muscle during a major calorie deficit.

Fallacy 3: It is all about calories in vs calories out

Who can forget the infamous fallacy, not that this concept is wrong. Calories in vs calories out work and they work well for the majority of people, most of the time. However, the important point here is that it’s not ALL ABOUT calories. Yes, calories have to be in a deficit and that can be done with both exercise and restriction in diet but there are other factors such as carbohydrates and the timing of carbohydrates that have to be taken into account especially when we talk about utilizing the different phases of fat loss training. 

We often overestimate how much carbohydrates we need for training and daily life which have shifted the body into a carbohydrate burning machine even when we are not doing anything. The way we need to approach carbohydrates is to “earn them”.  If it is a rest day or just light aerobic activities, eat just enough to sustain a stable blood sugar level. If it is a training day, eat just enough carbohydrates before for a sufficient training intensity and after to replenish liver and muscle glycogen stores for the next training session.

Next, is the timing of carbohydrates which is a topic not often spoken about. What you eat on your first meal determines what fuel source you will be predominantly utilising the whole day. So if you start off with carbohydrates early in the morning, you will be utilizing that as fuel the majority of the day. That being said, if you are training early in the morning, then you should consume your carbohydrates for sustained energy for high intensity efforts. If you are doing systemic training (think circuit training), it is best to eat only 90-120 minutes after training to allow growth hormone produced during the training to do its job in terms of fat loss.

Fallacy 4: HIIT is the more effective way to lose fat

EPOC stands for Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption. It’s an increase in oxygen uptake above resting levels that occurs after exercise. Increased oxygen consumption requires energy, so EPOC means that you burn calories even after an exercise bout.

This is one of the biggest myths of HIIT. This is what we mean when a study is taken out of context. 

Here is an example where in a 60 minute duration of 3 groups of people. 

1) The group that did nothing, 

2) the group that did moderate intensity aerobic work and 

3) the group that did intervals. 

The participants either rested for the entire hour, rested for 10 minutes and then cycled for 50 minutes continuously at a moderate intensity, or rested for 40 minutes and then did 10 x 60-second high intensity cycling intervals with 60 seconds’ rest in between. During those one-hour periods, here’s the average number of calories they burned:

  • Rest: 125 calories
  • 50min cycling: 547 calories
  • 20min intervals: 352 calories

Over the full 24 hours (including the exercise period), here’s approximately how many calories they burned:

  • Rest: 3005 calories
  • 50min cycling: 3464 calories
  • 20min intervals: 3368 calories

These participants burned more calories during 50 minutes of continuous cycling than they did during the 20-minute interval session, and they burned more total calories over 24 hours when they did continuous cycling. The difference between continuous cardio and interval training in this case is only about 100 calories over 24 hours. 

I hope that clears things up as to why EPOC is overrated. 

Fallacies 5 – 9 will continue in the next article.

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