As a personal trainer and fitness coach, I am continually presented with questions about diet, exercise and nutrition. Most are related to fact or fiction. Something they have been told, heard of or read about in the media network. To clear up some of the confusion, I decided to present a two-part series on the Top 10 Most Commonly Asked Questions I receive from my clients, family and friends. To make it interesting, you’ll get a first hand chance to answer the questions before the truths revealed.
- True or False: When the body stops exercising regularly, muscle turns to fat.
- True or False: Exercising specific parts of the body will reduce fat in those areas.
- True or False: Low cholesterol foods are also low in saturated fat.
- True or False: A person can safely lose 20 pounds in two weeks.
- True or False: “Sugar Free” means there is not sugar in the product.
- False: Muscle and fat are two different types of tissue. Smooth muscle tissue is found in the vascular system, cardiac muscle in the heart and skeletal muscle tissue around the bones and connective tissue. Skeletal muscle can contract, extend, maintain tone, grow in size (hypertrophy), become stronger with use, or deteriorate in size, strength and tone with disuse (atrophy). Muscle fibers, however, cannot turn into a fat cell. The distribution of muscle fibers and fat cells we have is genetically determined.
- False: Exercising specific parts of the body can strengthen and tone the muscles in those areas, but it cannot reduce the number of fat cells located in a target area. Fat cells can and do shrink with a proper combination of diet and exercise, but the cell itself will not disappear from the genetically positioned spot.
- False: A product that is low is cholesterol doesn’t mean it is also low in fat or low in saturated fats which, if consumed in abundance, can contribute to increased blood cholesterol levels. Although it sounds confusing, I distinguish cholesterol from fat with a word association. Cholesterol is a sterol, fat (technically referred to as a lipid) is composed of fatty acids. All fats contain three types of fatty acids – monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated. Butter, Coconut Oil, Lard, Palm Oil (things that are solid at room temperature) are high in saturated fatty acids. These are the food items that can contribute to increased blood cholesterol. Corn Oil, Cottonseed Oil, Safflower, Sesame, Soybean and Sunflower Oil are high in polyunsaturated fatty acids which can help lower blood cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease.
- False: A person who tells you they have safely lost 20 pounds in two weeks simply isn’t telling you the whole truth. Physiologically, if someone has lost that much weight, it is most likely a combination of water and intestinal junk that has accumulated in the system. They could be dehydrated, starving or on a detox diet. The weight lost is not body fat. To safely lose one pound of body fat, a person needs to burn or expend 3,500 calories. To lose 1.5 pounds of body fat, they would need to burn 5,250 calories. Now imagine 20 pounds in two weeks. That is 70,000 calories expended in 14 days. Highly unlikely and very unsafe.
- False: Beware of labels that contain the words sugar free. It only means there is no sucrose in the product. Other forms of sweeteners include: honey, maltose, fructose, corn syrup, molasses, dextrose and sorbitol. These substitutes are not necessarily better than sugar. They are all carbohydrates which contain 4 calories per gram and offer the same insulin spike as regular sugar. If you are trying to cut back on sugar for health issues or weight loss, make sure you carefully read the food label first.