Common Misconceptions of Fat Loss
Fat loss is one of the most common goals among individuals seeking personal training services. Most trainers know that a multifactorial approach is best when attempting to help a client lose fat in a safe and expedient fashion. The training program itself must focus on maximal caloric expenditure. Concurrent nutritional modifications must promote a negative caloric balance while still preserving macro/micronutrient adequacy for health and lean mass conservation. Fat loss is obtainable for all clients, albeit at varying rates depending on their physical condition or any limitations/special needs; but proper protocol must be followed to facilitate ideal results. The first step in this process is to filter through the various misconceptions surrounding fat loss to ensure all efforts help drive the client toward their ultimate goal.
A client may need education or guidance from a personal trainer on the following topics where myth seems prone to mingle with fact:
- Effective fat loss is fast
- One pound of fat theoretically requires a negative caloric balance of 3,500 kcals. This means losing 10 pounds requires a negative balance of 35,000 kcals – equal to running 350 miles for the average-sized person. This degree of caloric deficit cannot be obtained in any sort of a rapid fashion without engaging in aggressive caloric restriction or severe weight-loss strategies. Severe caloric restriction will usually promote significant lean mass losses and negatively impact metabolism. Severe weight-loss strategies (e.g., wearing a rubber garment while training in the heat, excessive use of steam rooms, stimulant and/or diuretic use) primarily result in severe dehydration and reduced glycogen stores rather than fat loss.
- Fat-free foods make for a fat-free body
- Fat-free or low-fat foods do not necessarily facilitate fat/weight loss. Oftentimes, fat is replaced by sugar to retain a desirable flavor or texture; adding sugar to the diet is in no way associated with optimized fat loss. Trainers should recognize that food manufacturers add various claims to food product labels to make them appear more healthful than they may actually be to make them more marketable to unwary consumers.
- The fat-burning zone helps one lose the most fat
- Fat is the predominant fuel used when resting or exercising at relatively lower intensities. Training in the “fat-burning zone” therefore limits the total quantity of calories that can be expended in a given period of time. A greater relative quantity of fat is utilized, but the total quantity of calories is lower when compared to training at higher intensities.
- Spot reduction
- Working a given area of the body (e.g., abdominals) may increase hypertonicity, hypertrophy, or strength in the muscle groups addressed; thereby improving its appearance - but the body does not selectively burn fat in specific areas of the body based on muscle activation. Essentially, doing hundreds of crunches will not help an individual lose as much total fat in the midsection as appropriate cardiovascular/resistance training aimed at caloric expenditure.