When it comes down to it, the biggest reason many people start workout programs in the first place is to lose weight. Over and over again we've seen that the benefits of exercise go well beyond fat loss, but that still seems to be what many people fixate on. Since this mindset affects so many people, we asked exercise scientist Shawn Arent about some of the misconceptions associated with exercise and weight loss. He had a lot of interesting things to say, particularly about the role that diet plays in the equation.
Here's what he told us:
"I think the biggest misconception is the term 'weight loss.'"
Really what we need to be focused on is 'fat loss.' And people confuse the two because they're concerned about the number on the scale. And the problem is — let’s say I put you on an exercise program, and you gain five pounds of muscle, and you lose five pounds of fat. According to the scale you had no weight loss. According to your body composition and your clothes you just made a 10-pound difference. So we need to be careful about weight loss vs. fat loss.
"Another one of the biggest misconceptions is that the way to lose weight is cardio."
Yeah, cardio works to lose weight but so do a lot of other things in conjunction with that. So from a fat loss standpoint, cardio and resistance training work great! Even resistance training [such as weight lifting] by itself works well if you do it at an intensity sufficient enough.
"I think another misconception is … look — abs are built in the kitchen."
You can do all the exercise you want, but … it’s really really hard to out-train a bad diet. And I’m not saying diet like you have to have major caloric restrictions. Just pay attention to what you’re eating, clean it up a bit, stop relying on the processed stuff and everything like that. Ultimately, if you’ve got your diet under control, and you combine it with exercise, you have a much better chance at significant fat loss.
"I think the other misconception is that people think there’s a quick fix."
You didn’t get fat overnight, and you’re not going to get skinny overnight either. It’s just not the way it works ... It takes time to reverse the effects of gaining that weight.
"It’s an issue of burning more calories than you take in, to a great degree."
When it comes to weight loss there’s no quick fix, and most of the quick fixes don’t work for a long time. You just re-gain the weight. So there’s really still no substitution for a healthy lifestyle and a progressive approach to get you in shape."
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