Fallacies of Fat Loss: Spot Reduction and other fallacies

Here is the second installment of fallacies of fat loss. If you did not manage to catch part 1, you may do so here.

Fallacy 5: Eating fat is detrimental to fat loss

Fallacy 6: Keto is the best way to lose fat

Fallacy 7: Fat loss equals muscle loss

Fallacy 8: Continuing a calorie deficit till goals are met

Fallacy 9: Spot reduction

Solution: What to do for efficient fat loss

Fallacy 5: Eating Fat is Detrimental to Fat Loss

The low fat labels have infiltrated the shelves of supermarkets before most of us were even born. This has been made worse from advertisements emphasising on why you should consume certain products as they are low in fat.

There are two main sources of fuel for our bodies. Mainly carbohydrates and fat but carbohydrates always is the preferred choice over fat as it is inefficient to convert fat for energy when we need it immediately. Protein only comes in as a fuel when we are in survival mode through the process of gluconeogenesis which is highly unrecommended as it is very energy and time consuming.

This is the reason why the relationship between fats and carbohydrates are inverse such that when you have high fat, It is not recommended to have high carbs and vice versa or you will have a surplus in stored fuel.

If a fat loss diet is low on carbohydrate as well as fat, our body will turn to amino acids either from the food we consumed a few hours ago or break down our muscle tissues as they are made out of amino acids for fuel. 

Fats are usually not the macronutrient responsible for obesity . In fact, we need good fats such as omega 3s and monounsaturated fat to ensure that the cell membrane of fat molecules are permeable so the fatty acids can be used as fuel in a calorie deficit state in the absence of carbohydrates.


Fallacy 6: Keto is the Best Way to Lose Fat

On the other end of the spectrum, a diet high in fat and zero carbohydrates are thought by many to be the holy grail to fat loss. There is truth to this but it is heavily dependent on your training stimulus.

Granted, the body burns mainly fat in the absence of carbohydrates but there are two problems with this. Firstly, carbohydrates are protein sparing while fats are not. So if the sets and reps  of a training stimulus demands for a lot of carbohydrates but there is none to spare, our amino acid pool along with the fatty acids will be broken down for fuel which is very taxing to the body and causes hypoglycemia leading to brain fog. Secondly, for training to be done at their highest intensities, carbohydrates are needed as they are the fastest stored energy to be convert to ATP or energy currency. Fatty acids take too long to convert into biochemical energy and training intensity will suffer. Not the best if we are trying to retain as much muscle as possible in a fat loss phase or if we are trying to burn as many calories during training.

Keto, ketogenic diet with lettering, low carb and high fat weight loss meal plan.


Fallacy 7: Fat Loss Equals Muscle Loss

There are two paradigms to this myth. The first myth is a misconception for those that are not well informed on what fat and muscle tissue really are and they are not interchangeable. Meaning, if one were to lose fat, the fat would be converted into muscle. However, fat tissues and muscle tissues are a totally different biochemical make up and they cannot convert interchangeably. Fat cells lay above the muscle tissues and there is a clear separation between them.

scales with meters on white background

Secondly, many people think that going into a calorie deficit means muscle loss. Understandably, losing fat will make a t- shirt feel smaller and the sleeves looser. However all that just means that the fat tissue as well as water is being shed off during the fat loss process to uncover what is really beneath it, giving the muscles a defined though smaller look.

Having a proper training program that matches the macros will help greatly in maintaining muscle mass. Doing a sub optimal training program with the wrong macros has the ability to not only lose muscle mass but put on fat. Yes. It doesn’t mean that being in a calorie deficit equals guaranteed fat loss, especially when you are down to a percentage closer to a low normal scale. One sure way to tell is if your strength is dropping during your training.


Fallacy 8: Continuing a Calorie Deficit till Goals are met

Staying on a certain stimulus too long, be it fat loss, hypertrophy or strength will decrease the trainability of the stimulus. Same goes for eating for phases of fat loss, hypertrophy and strength.

Diet concept: ripe fresh red apple on plate served for one in empty white room

It is recommended that a fat loss phase not exceed 3 months due to mental and physiological purposes which will backfire on a fat loss goal. The body is a smart mechanism that will adapt to what you throw at it.

If there is a lot of fat to be lost, calories need to be increased to maintenance level along with a switch in training after a period of 6-12 weeks depending on how aggressive a calorie deficit was. The more aggressive the calorie deficit, the refeed will be very much closer to 6 weeks. The less aggressive, going back to maintenance can be closer to 12 weeks. During the maintenance phase, no fat will be lost but it does not matter as it is just a short phase of about 3 days to a week. Increasing calories and changing the training stimulus gives a psychological and physiological break from the stresses of dieting. When this has been adhered to, you will realise that it is easier to lose fat when you go back to a calorie deficit and fat loss training program stimulus.


Fallacy 9: Spot Reduction

personal trainer

Everyone believed this myth at some point on their fat loss journey. How many times do you see people doing countless crunches and side bends so that they can burn their belly fat? 

Fat is lost as an entirety. There isn’t such a thing as site specific fat loss. That being said, if you do find that you do tend to store fat in some areas more than others such as the abdomen or pectorals and triceps for example, it could possibly be a sign of other underlying issues. Fat stores at the abdomen is usually a cortisol control problem while fat stores in the pectorals and triceps are usually linked to a testosterone problem etc. 

The only way to tell is to visit professionals who are good in skinfold caliper testing.


What to do for Efficient Fat Loss

With so much information floating around on the internet, it can be puzzling as to what is right and wrong. The list below are some strategies that may aid you on your fat loss goals.

  1. Earn your carbohydrates by training at a high intensity with weights
  2. Control your external stress from daily life through meditation and though activities that you enjoy
  3. Have a good sleep hygiene by sleeping at the same time while ensuring a deep sleep
  4. Consume 2 – 4g (EPA+DHA) of fish oil
  5. Periodize your dieting phases and make sure your training phases accompanies it
  6. Ensure you are in a calorie deficit
  7. Train with heavy weights, light weight, low reps and high reps, long rest times and short rest times at different phases of your fat loss 
  8. Ensure you have adequate protein in your diet
  9. In phases where carbs are low, ensure fat is decently high
  10. Do your steady state aerobic work on non training days
  11. Move. Plenty

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