The modern health industry has developed an overabundance of myths, misconceptions, and inaccurate rules of thumb. These supposed tidbits of expert information can do more harm than good for some people. This is especially true when weight loss information is shared.
Diet Science Myths – The Calorie
One of the most prolific myths currently taught is, “One pound of fat equals 3500 calories. Reduce your caloric intake by 3500 over a period of time and you’ll lose a pound of fat!”
This is not true. Are you shocked to read that this well-known health “Fact” is actually a non-starter? The truth is that this caloric measurement takes a lot of liberties and disregards simple body mechanics. Fat is not the only material that is effected when calorie restriction and an increase in energy expenditure is factored into the equation. Muscle and water are utilized as well. It is highly likely that the first few days of a new exercise and diet plan will lead to a mass weight loss event of several pounds but this lost mass will mostly be due to the reduction of water weight. Muscle will also be cannibalized to help maintain the former energy levels that the body utilized during day to day activities.
The fact that a loss of 3500-3600 calories over a period of time will reduce overall body weight is true. However, this loss of weight does not equate to solely fat loss. It is entirely possible that due to hormonal levels, the types of food that are eaten, and even the time of day that exercise or meals occur very little fat may be lost. This may be true even during times of extreme caloric restriction and high-end exercise programs that burn massive amounts of calories.
Recent studies undertaken by an expert research panel drawn from both the International Life Sciences Institute and the American Society of Nutrition indicate that the 3500 calorie/lb. weight loss myth is drastically inaccurate to an almost incredible degree. One current method of trying to help people lose excess fat is the claim that micro-changes can be easier to utilize and will provide significant results over the course of a few years. It has been cited by some that reducing caloric intake by 40 calories each day would allow for a loss of 20 lbs. of fat over the course of five years. Anyone can chop 40 calories from their daily diet. This should be a literal life-saver for many obese people as simply doubling that action would allow them to drop 40 pounds of fat in the same period of time.
This type of math oversimplifies things to an incredible degree and is quite incorrect. The same research panels that show that the current 3500 calorie reduction of overtime model is grossly inaccurate have stated that a 40 calorie reduction per day over five years would be more likely to reduce fat stores by four pounds, not 20 pounds.
Many people have found nothing but confusion and occasionally disbelief when they tell their family members that they have cut their calories in half but they show little physical difference even after several weeks. The truth is that each individual is a unique chemistry experiment. The way that the human body reacts to a sudden shift in incoming calories, and outgoing energy expenditure, changes from one person to the next. One person’s body might respond extremely well, while another could detect severe stress in this action and ramp up the production of hormones such as cortisol. Heightened cortisol levels can drastically reduce the amount of fat that may be lost during dieting and exercise periods.
It is important that anyone who wants to lose excess fat knows the truth. It is more difficult than the outdated numbers suggest. Dietary matters and exercise regimens are not a one-size-fits-all scenario. Each diet and exercise plan needs to be undertaken on an ever-expanding trial basis until the exact type of food, exercise, and amount of each needed can be determined for their individual physiology. There is no magical numerical fat loss formula. There is only dedication and a keen eye for observing the subtle shifts in the body that will lead to the increased health and fitness levels desired.