Facts and Fiction About Fat

One of the reasons that people fall for weight loss gimmicks is that they have many misconceptions about fat. You would think that with all the health and fitness information available over the Internet, TV, newspapers, and magazines, people would know better. But I have met highly intelligent professionals like lawyers and engineers who have fallen for weight loss scams because they lacked the basic knowledge about human physiology. So here’s what is fact and what is fiction about fat.

You only burn fat after twenty minutes of exercise
The body is constantly burning a combination of fat and carbohydrates. In fact, even as you are reading this article, you are burning both types of fuel. For every calorie you burn at rest, approximately 50 percent of that calorie comes from fat and the other 50 percent from carbohydrates. We are continually burning both nutrients throughout the day but at different percentages depending on the intensity of our activity.

Low intensity exercise burns more fat than high intensity exercise
A greater percentage of fat is burned at lower exercise intensities while a greater percentage of carbohydrates is burned at higher exercise intensities. However, since more total calories are burned at higher exercise intensities, a greater amount of fat is actually burned. The confusion lies in the words “percentage” and “total absolute amounts”.

A good way to explain it would be this way. Who is richer? The man who owns 100 percent of a sari-sari store or the man who owns one percent of Microsoft? Assuming you are exercising for the same amount of time, you will burn a greater amount of fat at a higher exercise intensity because you are burning a greater number of total calories compared to exercising at a lower intensity.

Studies have also found that more fat is burned after vigorous intense exercise than after low intensity exercise. This is called the EPOC or “excess post exercise oxygen consumption”.

Correct breathing techniques are all you need to burn fat
Your body needs the oxygen in the air you breathe to burn fat and carbohydrates for fuel. It will only use up as much oxygen as it needs depending on how long and hard you make your muscles work. You can sit in a chair and deep breathe all you want but the body will only take what it needs. If it were true that we only needed to increase the amount of oxygen in the air we breathe to lose weight, then there would be no more obese people in the world because they would simply attach themselves to an oxygen tank.

You can eat as much as you want and not gain weight as long as the food you eat is low in fat
All excess calories, whether they come from fat, carbohydrates or protein, will be converted to fat. Non-fat or low-fat food does not mean zero calories.

You can eat as much as you want and not gain weight as long as you exercise
Long and intense workouts do not guarantee that you can eat whatever you want and not gain weight. If the amount of calories you eat is greater than the amount of calories you burn, you can still gain weight.

If you stop exercising, your muscles will turn to fat
Fat cells cannot turn into muscle cells in the same way that your bone cells cannot turn into your blood cells. Muscle cells can enlarge or shrink the way fat cells can. Muscles become heavier and denser with exercise while fat cells shrink if you burn enough calories. When you stop exercising and eat an excess of calories, the process will revert itself – muscles will atrophy and fat cells will enlarge. To the naked eye, it might seem as if the muscle has turned to fat.

You can’t get rid of fat cells. They are with you forever
Yes, fat cells are with you forever. They don’t disappear when you lose weight; they only shrink. When you gain weight, they enlarge. They can only be removed permanently through surgical procedures like liposuction. However, if you gain weight, the other fat cells in other parts of your body will enlarge with excess fat. You cannot fool the body; it has to store the additional calories somewhere.

You should lose weight first before exercising or your fat will become hard
Fat cells cannot “harden” in response to exercise. They will get smaller since they are a source of energy for calories that are burned through exercise. Muscle cells, on the other hand, can get harder in response to exercise, especially weight training type of exercises. Exercise and eating right go hand in hand to help you lose weight.

Don’t drink cold water because it will make you fat
Water, whether it is hot or cold, has no calories so it can’t make you fat. However, if you drink a large amount of water in one sitting as some people do when they are very thirsty, your stomach will be temporarily distended. This might make you think the drinking cold water makes you fat.

A fat child will become a fat adult
A fat child will not necessarily turn into a fat adult but the chances are high that it will happen. Studies indicate that if one parent is overweight, a child has a 40 percent chance of becoming overweight. If both parents are overweight, then the percentage rises to 70 percent. In comparison, a child with normal weight parents only has a 7 percent chance of becoming obese. Researchers still don’t know whether this is due to heredity or the family’s bad eating and exercise habits or a combination of both.

The more you sweat, the more fat you lose
Not necessarily. If you sweat because you are exercising in extreme heat or humidity or because you are wearing ‘’rubberized’’ clothing, the weight lost is only water and not fat. When you eat and drink, those lost pounds return almost as fast as they left. Since you have to burn 3,500 calories to lose one pound of fat, do not be fooled into thinking that the three pounds you have lost by staying twenty minutes in a steam room is composed of fat.

Don’t be fooled either into thinking that if you are not actively sweating while you are exercising, very few calories are being burned. Running on a treadmill in an air-conditioned gym will probably produce less visible sweat than taking a five minute leisurely walk outside in the heat of the noonday sun and yet, will burn many more calories.

It is easier to lose fat from the abdomen than it is from the hips and thighs
Research does tend to show that it is easier to lose fat from the abdomen than from the hips, thighs, and buttocks area. Scientists think that this may be because the reproductive hormones in a woman’s body regulate the fat that is stored in the hip and thighs area. While pear-shaped individuals may be very frustrated with their ‘’saddlebags’’, at least this type of fat distribution pattern is not related to health problems. Apple-shaped people, meanwhile, have an easier time losing their abdominal fat but are at risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, and hyperlipidemia (elevated levels of fat in the blood).

Doing 1,000 abdominal crunches a day will make you lose fat in the abdomen
Current research indicates that you cannot “spot-reduce” fat from specific areas of the body. Tests done on tennis players show that their dominant arm (the arm they use to swing the racket) is bigger, has more muscle mass but has the same fat percentage as their inactive arm. Exercise stimulates fat reduction throughout the entire body, not in localized areas. If you could choose the exact areas where you wanted to burn fat from by doing specific exercises, then obese people who chew gum the whole day would have slim cheeks. ‘’Spot exercises’’ are good for making specific muscles firmer and tighter.

Fit people burn more fat than sedentary people
Your body adapts to aerobic training by increasing your stamina, the capacity of your lungs to take in more oxygen and the efficiency of your muscles to use that oxygen to burn more fat.

Studies indicate that, even at rest, a fit individual will burn more calories from fat than a sedentary individual.

Cellulite is a special kind of fat
Biopsies reveal that there are no differences between fat cells taken from a person with cellulite and a person without it. A Columbia University study shows that there isn’t even a difference between the fat cells taken from the cellulite-ridden area of a woman’s thigh and the fat cells taken from the non- cellulite area of the same thigh. It seems that cellulite is ordinary fat trapped within fibrous connective tissue and under thin skin. No wonder that even thin athletic women can have cellulite while there are overweight women who do not.


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