Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Top 5 Fat Loss Myths

By: Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS
There are so many fat loss myths out there in "exercise-land" that I was hired by Men's Fitness magazine to write about one myth each month.

After all, by now you've probably heard that if you don't do
60-minutes of cardio in your fat burning zone on an empty stomach while Venus is in line with Jupiter, you'll never burn fat.

The problem with myths is that not only are they wrong and give false hope to millions of people trying to lose weight, but they also waste your time and mental effort.

I have also seen these myths used as justification for cheating on
a diet, watching countless men and women justify their "treats"
because they believe they are on some type of magical exercise
program or nutrition plan.

I could go on for days about fitness myths, but I cut my list from
30 down to the Top 5 Fat Loss Workout Myths today. I'll save the other 25 for future newsletters.

Myth #1: You have to do cardio first thing in the morning on an
empty stomach.

Relax. You don't have to hop on the treadmill at 4:30am every
morning. Let's allow common sense to dictate when and how you exercise.

If you want to work out first thing in the morning, and I know that is the best time for many TT readers, by all means, go ahead and do it. There's nothing magical about this time - although it is often the only time many of day many people have to themselves.

We need to think "outside of the hour" of exercise and realize that calorie burning and fat burning goes on for 24-hours. Forget about the theories and look at the big picture.

It doesn't matter when you exercise - as long as you exercise
intensely and consistently. Focus on relatively high-intensity
workouts to increase your metabolism for as many hours after
exercise as possible. That is best done with interval training and
resistance training.

Myth #2: You have to do your cardio in your "fat burning zone".

Again, nonsense.

While you might burn a larger proportion of total calories as fat
when you exercise in your fat burning zone, you burn fewer calories overall by exercising at such a low intensity.

When you increase your workout intensity and get out of your
so-called "fat burning zone", you burn more total calories, and as a result, more fat.

In addition, the "fat burning zone" training doesn't put
"turbulence" on your you don't burn many calories in the post-exercise time period. But with interval training, you burn a significant amount of calories for hours after training, and
that leads to more fat loss.

I've worked with hundreds of people that have avoided the fat
burning zone while still managing to lose dozens of pounds of fat.
The "fat burning zone" is one of the biggest fitness myths of all

Myth #3: You have to do cardio for 20 minutes before you burn fat.

When I hear this, I picture a fat-burning switch in my body that
turns on only after I've been doing "cardio" for 20 minutes. But
what if I only exercise for 19 minutes and 59 seconds? Are
you telling me that I won't have burned any fat? That's ridiculous.

What if I did it on an empty stomach in the morning and in my
target heart rate zone? (read that one sarcastically!)

I'll say it one last time. We need to be more concerned with our
24-hour metabolism, not how much fat or even how many calories are burned during the workout.

Myth 4: Drinking ice cold water will help you burn calories and
lose fat.

Standing in line at the grocery store is a great place to pick up
the latest fat loss myths. You'll also find this one all over the

This myth often comes along with some calculations showing that by drinking 8 glasses of ice-cold water you can burn 70 calories per day. I don't believe that actually holds true in real life. Regardless, drinking cold water is not going to burn any more fat off your body than drinking room temperature water.

Don't get me wrong, I strongly believe you should drink 12 glasses of water per day, but the temperature of your water won't have any effect on your overall fat loss success.

Myth #5: Adding one pound of muscle will burn 50 extra calories each day.

Uh-oh, now I'm cutting down a myth that supports my use of strength training in a fat loss program. But I have an obligation to set the record straight about this extremely prevalent myth (even though I just saw a big name fitness expert perpetuate this myth in a recent article!).

This myth sounds so good. Add a pound ouf muscle, boost your
metabolism 50 calories. That doesn't seem out of line at all.

But do the math for a guy that puts on 30 pounds of muscle. Does his metabolism really increase by 1500 calories? Absolutely not. For an average guy, that would require his resting metabolism to increase from 2500 calories to 4000 calories per day. How would he be able to keep any of that muscle with a metabolism like that? He'd have to eat like a pig forever.

So when you look at the big picture, you can see this little myth
start to fall apart.

That's not to say you should stop your strength training, but just don't use this myth as an excuse to cheat on your diet.

Bonus Myth: Negative Calorie Foods Cause You to Lose Weight

According to the "experts", a negative calorie food requires more energy to digest than it provides you when you eat it. And included in the negative calorie food list are apples and bananas.

So by this logic, I would actually starve to death if I had nothing
to eat but apples (because I would have a net energy loss from
eating a so-called "negative calorie" food).

There is no such thing as a negative calorie food.

It's a shame that people are out there promoting this stuff, and
it's too bad that so many people fall for it.

Remember the old phrase, "if it sounds too good to be true, it
probably is."

Instead, let the common sense fat loss principles apply. It's going to take consistent effort, working hard at your workouts and with your nutrition to get the results you want.

I guarantee you that Turbulence Training will successfully
guide you to the fat loss you deserve and desire.


Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS
Author, Turbulence Training

About the Author

Craig Ballantyne is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist and writes for Men's Health, Men's Fitness, Maximum Fitness, Muscle and Fitness Hers, and Oxygen magazines. His trademarked Turbulence Training fat loss workouts have been featured multiple times in Men’s Fitness and Maximum Fitness magazines, and have helped thousands of men and women around the world lose fat, gain muscle, and get lean in less than 45 minutes three times per week. For more information on the Turbulence Training workouts that will help you burn fat without long, slow cardio sessions or fancy equipment, visit

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