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Body Fat: Myths Versus Facts

Reducing your overall caloric intake is often one of the best weight- and fat-loss strategies. However, eliminating the wrong foods from your diet can hinder you from reaching weight-management and body-composition goals. Learning to recognize common myths is a good way to determine which diet and exercise regimen is right for you.

Myth:

Starving yourself is the best fat-burning strategy.

30fat.jpgFacts:

While intermittent fasting or following very low-calorie diets could be beneficial short-term fat-loss strategies, you'll likely have better luck focusing on a diet you can stick with long term. A review published in 2006 in the journal Obesity found that diets containing 1,000 to 1,500 calories per day are just as effective as very low-calorie diets, providing fewer than 800 calories daily, for long-term weight-loss success. Furthermore, fasting and using very low-calorie diets are only safe when you're supervised by a qualified healthcare provider. Harvard Health Publications recommend women don't fall below 1,200 calories and men get at least 1,500 calories daily unless they are medically supervised.

Myth:

High-intensity workouts are the best way to burn fat.

Facts:

High-intensity interval training is often an effective way to burn fat, even if you're only doing it for 20 minutes per day, according to a review published in 2011 in the Journal of Obesity. However, while high-intensity interval training is beneficial when you're short on time, a study published in 2014 in the Journal of Obesity found that continuous exercise training for 36 to 48 minutes per session is actually a more effective fat-burning strategy for overweight adults than high-intensity interval training for stints of 20 to 24 minutes per session. These study findings are consistent with a review published in 2009 in The Ochsner Journal, which reports that after 30 minutes of continuous cardiovascular exercise your body's fuel source shifts from mainly glycogen to stored body fat.

Myth:

Avoiding high-fat dairy foods helps shed body fat.

Facts:


While choosing low-fat dairy foods may help lower your overall calorie intake, you don't have to pick skim milk to shed fat. A study published in 2013 in the Scandinavian Journal of Primary Health Care found that men who consumed low-fat dairy diets, including low-fat milk and no butter, had higher risks for developing abdominal obesity than men who consumed high-fat dairy diets containing butter, high-fat milk and whipping cream. A review published in 2013 in the European Journal of Nutrition also found that high-fat dairy intakes were associated with lower body fats, high-fat dairy foods do not appear to contribute to obesity, and high-fat dairy consumption -- when part of a well-balanced meal plan -- may actually help reduce your chance of becoming obese.

Myth:

Low-fat diets are the most effective fat-burning diets.

Facts:

While choosing a low-fat diet may seem like a good idea, low-fat diets are often high in carbohydrates -- including sugar. One review published in 2013 in the British Journal of Nutrition found that following low-carb diets achieves greater weight loss than low-fat diets long term. A study published in 2014 in Annals of Internal Medicine also found that low-carbohydrate diets are more effective than low-fat diets for weight loss and heart disease risk factor reduction.

Myth:

Cardiovascular exercise is a better fat-burning workout than resistance training.

Facts:

Cardiovascular and resistance-training exercises are equally important when you're trying to shed body fat. While continuous cardiovascular exercise often burns more calories than weightlifting, resistance training helps build muscle -- which boosts your metabolism and helps increase muscle definition. A study published in 2012 in BMC Public Health found that study subjects experienced the most significant weight and fat losses when they participated in both cardiovascular and resistance-training exercises, rather than doing just one or the other.

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An experienced health, nutrition and fitness writer, Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian and holds a dietetics degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She also has worked as a clinical dietitian and health educator in outpatient settings. Erin's work is published on popular health websites, such as TheNest.com and JillianMichaels.com

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