Special Report

28 Weight Loss Myths That Pack on Pounds

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16. Cardio is the only way to lose weight

Doing cardio is an effective strategy for reducing overall body fat, but it’s just one of many components. The real picture is a bit more complex. “Most people don’t work out enough to maintain muscle mass, which is important for weight loss as well as maintaining a healthy weight,” Fink said. “You don’t have to lift weights every day — twice or three times a week is enough.”

A Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health study found that combining cardio with strength training was the most optimal way to lose weight. According to the research, men who increased the time they spent lifting weights gained less weight around the waist than men who focused on aerobic exercise.

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17. You can never oversnack

Some people forget that calories from snacks are still calories that count towards our daily recommended allotment — a very general average recommendation is 2,000 calories. So having a lot of snacks during the day — in addition to regular meals — can result in weight gain. “Having a snack more often than every three hours is not usually good for you,” according to Hirshberg.

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18. You need sports drinks after working out

Sports drinks are a popular beverage among fitness enthusiasts. They replace the lost water and electrolytes while working out. But water is enough, according to Fink. “Most people don’t work out hard enough to need all the sugar in these sports drinks,” she said. A single sports drink can have as many as five teaspoons of sugar and a total of 90 calories, undoing much of what you’ve just achieved working out. Experts at the Nutrition Source and the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health advise to only drink those “infrequently and sparingly, if at all.”

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19. BMI is a good health measurement

BMI is short for body mass index and is calculated based on a person’s height and weight. BMI levels are broken down into four: underweight, normal, overweight, and obese. Though some in the medical field consider BMI to be a fine gauge for obesity, others think it is obsolete. It’s just a number that doesn’t take into account important health factors such as cholesterol levels or blood pressure, according to Brown. It also doesn’t tell you where fat is stored. Having fat around the waist is much worse than having it in other parts of the body as it may increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes.

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20. You burn fat first

It seems logical that the body will burn fat if it’s not getting enough energy. In fact, fat is the last thing the body breaks down to fuel the body. Before fat, the body burns muscle. “In the long-term you’re looking at a rebound effect,” Brown said. And when you start eating normal amounts, as you will inevitably do, you may gain more weight than you’ve lost.

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