Thursday, March 25, 2010

Mar. 25: A Few Things You DON'T Need to Worry About

Do you ever pick up a fitness magazine or turn on the news and feel positively overwhelmed at the amount of information out there? Sometimes it seems like you need degrees in Chemistry and Biology just to lose weight!

It's great to learn. It's wonderful that scientists are constantly researching ways to help us lose weight. But sometimes, the stuff we learn is so negligible that it's just crowding our heads and taking away from the stuff you DO need to know.

The big thing you need to know, if weight loss is your only intention, is that you must consume fewer calories than your body requires to maintain its current level of weight. That's it. There is no magic pill, no scientific discovery, nothing else. All of the other stuff I talk about here is relevant to your good health, but not necessarily to your weight loss efforts. Obviously, the two goals can, and should, go hand in hand, but in this post, I'm strictly focusing on weight loss alone.

Here are some "discoveries" that are not going to make a difference in your weight loss journey.

1.) Spicy food boosts metabolism. Spicy food can boost your core body temperature, but it is not going to be an effect that is long lasting enough to make a difference in how many calories you burn that day. I love spicy food, so I eat it all the time, but if I'm eating cheesy nachos that happen to be spicy, they will still adhere directly onto my butt.

2.) For that matter, the idea of "boosting metabolism" is a myth. Your body burns calories how it burns calories. It isn't something you can inherently change through diet and exercise. The only exception I am aware of to this is a person who suffers from a thyroid or other hormonal disorder. That is repaired through medication and isn't overly common.

3.) You must eat 6 times a day to lose weight. For some people it works very well to suppress their appetite. Other people constantly feel hungry and deprived and really just want to chow down on a bigger meal a few times a day. I eat 4-5 times a day because it's my personal preference and because I tend to eat fewer calories when I never let myself get really hungry. Eating more frequently doesn't do anything to your calorie-burning ability. This is a preference and you just need to see what works best for you.

4.) You can only lose fat by doing 30 minutes or more of cardio per day. Fat loss is purely a function of diet. Exercise can help with your calorie deficit, but don't expect to be able to eat anything you want because you spend 30 minutes a day on the elliptical machine at the gym. Also note the "calories burned" function on those machines is extremely inaccurate. I exercise because I feel fit and healthy when I do so.

5.) Eat XXXX and you will lose weight. Sorry, there are no wonder foods. Eat in a caloric deficit and you will lose weight. Choose your foods because they are good for you and you enjoy them.

This is the bottom line - to lose one pound a week you must be in a caloric deficit of 3500 calories. Be concerned with calorie reduction and good nutrition.

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