5 Fat-Loss Dieting Strategies That Don’t Work

Burning fat and maintaining muscle is not easy for anyone. If you’ve been struggling to understand why your current fat-loss program is not working, you may have succumbed to one of these fat-loss dieting myths. If that’s the case, it’s time to re-evaluate your diet plan, with these strategy correctors.

MYTH #1: You Need to Count Calories

Not exactly true. Counting your calories is important, but it’s not the be-all and end-all to your fat-loss results. You should have a good indication of how many calories you need to take in each day, but remember – determining your calories is based on many factors, including your metabolism and your activity level. So even if you have an idea of how much you think you need, this could (and will) change as you increase or decrease your activity level, put on muscle and lose fat. As for determining how many of each macronutrient you need, this is also based on how fast you metabolize food, how your body utilizes carbs, protein, and fats.

BETTER STRATEGY: If you’re looking to lose weight, multiply your current weight in pounds by 10 to 12. So a 200-pound, fairly active individual will need around 2,000-2200 calories as a baseline to start losing weight. If you’re looking to maintain your weight, your calories will be slightly higher- between 13 to 15 times your weight. If you’re always hungry, chances are you’re eating too little. Likewise, if you’re always full and feel like you’re force feeding yourself, then you’re definitely eating too much.

5 Fat-Loss Dieting Strategies That Don’t Work

MYTH #2: You Need To Eat Every 3 Hours to Increase Metabolism

At one time it was believed that eating small, frequent meals revved up your metabolism and resulted in greater fat loss, but not anymore. The theory was thought to be driven by the thermic effect of food. Eating and digesting food does burn calories to perform this function, but its not enough to have a significant effect on your weight loss. Studies have shown that eating one meal or multiple meals of the same calories doesn’t influence metabolic rate, energy expenditure or thermogenesis.

In fact, one study in the British Journal of Nutrition found that obese individuals randomly assigned to eat six or three meals a day for 8 weeks of the same caloric value lost significant and equivalent amounts of weight and lost approximately the same amount of body fat.

BETTER STRATEGY: One thing that eating frequently can do is help maintain your blood glucose and energy levels. If you know you have a hard time dieting and often suffer with hunger or cravings, then you’ll want to eat more frequently than someone who doesn’t. Aim for 3 to 4 larger meals or 5 to 6 smaller meals depending on your specific needs.


MYTH #3: You Must Cut Out All Carbs

The amount of carbs you specifically need is completely dependent on your activity level and your metabolism. If you burn through carbs quickly because you have a higher metabolism and are generally more active , then you will need to eat more than someone who may not be as active or metabolic. Carbs do serve a purpose – they are not only a main source of energy during workouts, but are also vital for muscle anabolism (protein synthesis). The ideal situation when it comes to carbs is to reduce and lower your intake of refined sugars and starches, which will in turn help blunt blood glucose spikes and insulin response. When you continually spike insulin, fat burning hormones are down regulated, and fat storing hormones are up-regulated.

BETTER STRATEGY: Choose the right carbs, including those that are high in fiber and have a low glycemic index value, and avoid those that are refined or high in sugar. Carb sources such as non-starchy root vegetables (squash, pumpkin and sweet potato), green vegetables (broccoli and kale), berries, apples, and whole grains (oatmeal and quinoa) provide long-lasting energy and can help reduce appetite.

5 Fat-Loss Dieting Strategies That Don’t Work

MYTH #4: You Must Eat Clean 100% of the Time

Sure, it’s important to be consistent with your diet. But eating strict all the time can lead to metabolic down shift. If you are constantly following a low-calorie diet for an extended period of time, your body’s metabolism will start to slow down. Hunger and metabolic hormones leptin and ghrelin down-regulate. The body assumes that it’s not getting food anytime soon and as a result it starts to hold onto fat instead of burning it off. The body then seeks out muscle tissue for a quick source of energy.

BETTER STRATEGY: One way to keep your body guessing and your metabolism up-regulated is to eat clean about 80% of the time, leaving about 20% of the diet open to whatever will satisfy your appetite. Some choose to have a re-feed day, while others choose to use their macronutrient ratios to include a daily treat – such as the If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM) diet.

MYTH #5: Eating Fat Makes You Fat

Fat is an important part of any healthy diet plan. Fats are an integral part of hormone production – especially when it comes to testosterone. In fact, it has been shown that men who ate a diet containing 40% fat had smaller waistlines and higher testosterone levels than those who ate a low-fat diet.

BETTER STRATEGY: Be sure to get the right fats in your diet, including plenty of healthy unsaturated fat like avocado, almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, coconut oil and olive oil. Additionally, be sure to include saturated fat like whole eggs and steak – which can help contribute to increasing testosterone levels.

Lauren Jacobsen

Lauren is a biochemist with a background in sports nutrition and supplement formulation. Lauren has over 15 years of experience as a trainer, consultant to the supplement industry and nutrition expert. She is also the TV show host of "Body Fuel," a former competitive athlete and regular contributor to various fitness publications.

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