10 WEIGHT LOSS MYTHS, BUSTED BY SCIENCE
- December 18, 2015
Today’s hectic lifestyle and food products have led to a state where being fit is a goal most people have to strive for.
With losing weight on nearly everyone’s mind, we hear about all sorts of beliefs, claims and routines that are, far too often, less than scientifically-sound.
Here, we’re going to take a look at the 10 biggest weight-loss myths and tell you exactly why Science disagrees with these statements.
Myth #1: “Carbohydrates are bad for dieting”
We all know that the most fundamental basis of weight-loss is to burn more energy (which comes in the form of calories) than we consume – that’s what we call a “calorie-deficit”. We also are aware of the fact that carbohydrates are our body’s best source of energy.
So when you’re trying to lose weight and people tell you to cut out carbohydrates from your meals, it would seem to make sense – but cutting them out completely isn’t the best solution. Studies have shown that these extreme diets make you end up gaining back the weight eventually. 1
Also – and this is something most people aren’t aware of – when your body doesn’t get enough carbohydrates from your food, the proteins and fats from your diet have to be used for energy. They’re now unable to be used for other functions related to your skin, hair and other parts of the body.2
The best thing you can do is to make sure that the carbs you do eat are nutrient-dense (like whole grains), while avoiding low-nutrient ones (like cookies, pretzels, doughnuts and so on). These fibre-rich foods even keep you full for longer, which ends up reducing your calorie consumption anyway.
Myth #2: “‘Low-fat’ or ‘Reduced Fat’ foods are good for weight loss”
The biggest misunderstanding that needs to first be cleared up: eating fat will not make you fat. As always, it’s the calorie count that matters – again, not the fat. In fact, a healthy diet demands a moderate amount of fat (around 20 – 35% of your daily calories, to be precise), coming from nutritious sources.
The other startling fact: most of these foods that are low in fat are also incredibly high in sugar.2
When you reduce the fat of a food, its taste gets hampered. In order to make it taste good again, lots of sugar is added, generally in the form of high fructose corn syrup, which is less satiating than glucose.3 This, coupled with the fact that you think it’s less fattening, makes you often end up overeating without realising that you’re full.
Did we also mention that fats, on the contrary, are filling and can help curb overeating?4
Myth #3: “Snacking will make you gain weight”
Snacking may account for more than 25 percent of our total calories – so, if done right, it can actually improve the overall quality of our diets (adding more fibre, vitamins, minerals, etc.)
But it’s the snacking when you’re not hungry that’s the problem; for example, when you snack while watching TV purely out of habit. Since these calories aren’t required by the body, and the snacks are often low in nutrition, they account to a caloric excess for no purpose.
On the contrary, eating to keep yourself going through the day may help control the size of your next meal. Studies show that healthy snackers are less likely to be overweight or obese than non-snackers.5, 6
Myth #4: “Eating at night makes you put on weight”
Calories get burned up no matter when you eat them; a meal of 400 calories at 11 a.m. would be just as much at 11 p.m.
As long as you’re active, and you exercise and eat sensibly, you will burn calories. When there is a caloric deficit, there is fat loss – the time at which a meal is eaten does not matter.
There’s something to be said for this statement, though: eating increases your blood sugar and insulin, which may make it difficult for you to fall asleep. That’s the real reason eating close to bedtime is not recommended.
Myth #5: “You must eat small, frequent meals through the day for weight loss”
Weight loss depends more on what and how much you eat, rather than how often you eat. This technique probably works for some people because it curbs overeating, which can create a caloric deficit – but it may not work for everyone.
The best solution is to focus on eating the right amount of the right food, in a schedule that fits into your lifestyle.
Myth #6: “Excess protein builds muscle”
In truth, when your body doesn’t need too much energy, the excess protein gets converted to glucose, which adds to your total daily calorie intake and tips it over to the excessive side.7
That said, there are many positives to having enough protein in your diet. Take, for example, the fact that protein makes our body increase the production of the hormone that increases satiety (making you feel full faster and for longer), while the hormone that makes you hungry gets reduced. And most people probably don’t get enough protein in their diet.
To sum up, too much or too little protein isn’t good for weight loss – the balance is the key.7 The recommended amount of protein is about 0.8-1.2 grams per kilogram of body weight. This could vary, though, depending on how much you exercise per day.8
Myth #7: “Bananas make you gain weight”
This couldn’t be less true; in a mere 105 calories, one banana packs several nutrients, including potassium, vitamin B6, vitamin C, fibre and various antioxidants.
In fact, green bananas have a type of dietary fibre called pectin, which may reduce apetite.9, 10
One study on obese and diabetic people showed that taking a banana starch supplement each day for 4 weeks caused weight loss of 1.2 kg, while also improving insulin sensitivity.11
But, remember: overeating bananas, as with anything, will make your calorie count topple over.
As long as it’s combined with a healthy diet, eating bananas can actually help with weight loss.
Myth #8: “All salads are good for weight loss”
All salads are not equal.
Some have a very high calorie count while others simply lack nutrients. The topping and dressings used in some salads can make the meal as fattening as a double cheeseburger.
Adding greens to a high-caloric creamy dressing sauce does not make it any less caloric or creamy.
Then there’s the nutritional aspect – an iceberg lettuce salad, for instance, is low in calories (15 cal), but it’s mostly water with minimal amounts of fibre and nutrients. Fibre keeps you full and helps with weight loss, while an iceberg lettuce salad may have you yearning for another meal.
Tips on choosing the healthiest salads can be found here.
Myth #9: “You will lose weight by simply drinking lemon water”
Lemon juice is a nutritious and tasty addition to meals or drinks, but does not perform miracles when it comes to reducing or burning fat. Adding it to water is a very good way of increasing your fluid intake without resorting to juices or sweet sodas, which can contain large amounts of sugar and extra calories.
Your metabolism rate may increase mildly and temporarily with lemon water, but that’s probably because of the water,12, 13 and may not lead to visible weight loss. Drink lemon water for its multiple health benefits, but don’t rely on it for losing weight.
Myth #10: “Diet soda helps keep you slim”
Theoretically, replacing a high sugar soda with diet soda should help you keep the calorie count less. But this may or may not be the case.
Artificial sweeteners are linked with an increased appetite and cravings for sugary food in some studies, while others show no such effects. It is believed that when people who crave sweet food more than others replace sugar with artificial sweeteners, they don’t get the same satiety or “food reward”, possibly leading to more cravings.14-16
Anyone who is (or is concerned about being) the type of person who craves the food reward should gradually reduce their consumption of sugar – artificial or not.
1. Curioni C, Lourenco P. International journal of obesity 2005, 29(10): 1168-1174.
2. Finner AM. Dermatologic Clinics 2013, 31(1): 167-172.
3. Page KA, et al. Jama 2013, 309(1): 63-70.
4. Wansink B, Chandon P. Journal of Marketing Research 2006, XLIII: 605-617.
5. Piernas C, Popkin BM. The Journal of Nutrition 2010, 140(2): 325-332.
6. Keast DR, et al. Am J Clin Nutr 2010, 92(2): 428-435.
7. Pesta DH, Samuel VT. Nutr Metab (Lond) 2014, 11.
8. USDA. Protein and Amino Acids. Dietary Reference Intakes 2015 [cited]Available from: http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/DRI/DRI_Energy/589-768.pdf
9. Savastano DM, et al. Nutr J 2014, 13: 45.
10. Wanders AJ, et al. Physiol Behav 2014, 128: 212-219.
11. Ble-Castillo JL, et al. Int J Environ Res Public Health 2010, 7(5): 1953-1962.
12. Boschmann M, et al. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 2007, 92(8): 3334-3337.
13. Boschmann M, et al. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2003, 88(12): 6015-6019.
14. Yang Q. The Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine 2010, 83(2): 101-108.
15. Miller PE, Perez V. Am J Clin Nutr 2014, 100(3): 765-777.
16. Tate DF, et al. Am J Clin Nutr 2012, 95(3): 555-563.
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