Debunking the Top 5 Fat Loss Myths: Revealing the Truth for Effective Fitness

Jul 24, 2023
Mark Carroll


You have probably been told some pretty wild fat loss myths over the years. I know, I sure have been. I started lifting weights as a 13-year-old in my backyard. I read 80’s bodybuilding magazines, and some of my friend’s dads would give me lifting advice and tips on getting my 6-pack like Arnold. What I realise now is that the majority of that advice was to put kindly “terrible”. Twenty years later, the scary thing is that this same “advice” is all over social media and fitness pages.

When it comes to fat loss, we are bombarded with information. Or should I say misinformation? From the latest gimmick diets to old school workout routines making yet another comeback. I get it! It’s challenging to separate fact from fiction. In this blog, I aim to debunk five common fat loss myths that have misled many individuals on their fitness journey. Me included! Now, let’s dive in and uncover the truth behind these myths!

Myth 1: You Must Do Cardio to Lose Fat

Cardiovascular exercise, such as interval work or steady state, is often associated with fat loss. When people think of training to lose weight, they tend to immediately want to jump on the treadmill and ditch the barbells. Cardio is commonly pushed in the fitness community to lead many to believe that it’s the only way to shed those unwanted kilograms.

However, the truth is that while cardio can help create a calorie deficit, it’s not the only answer. Those words “calorie deficit, ” the essential component of fat loss, do not require cardio. It can be achieved without cardio work and simply eating less to create your calorie deficit. Cardio is a tool! A great tool! It can help you expend more calories, driving you into a larger calorie deficit. However, your focus should not be solely on cardio, unless you are someone whose goals centre around purely improved cardiovascular fitness (such as a marathon runner).

My clients focus on resistance training first and foremost with their training. Whether it’s in a building phase or, yes, a fat loss phase. Resistance training is our base. For example, weights help build lean muscle mass, improve strength and bone density, and you should lift weights when you diet. It also leads to more muscle retention, which helps keep the metabolic rate higher than someone with less muscle mass and the same weight.

More muscle mass is maintained, and more calories are burned even at rest by preserving your muscle. Combining cardio and strength training yields the best results for fat loss over cardio only! As weights will allow you to build or, at the very least, more optimally maintain muscle mass in a calorie deficit.

Yes, cardio can assist with fat loss! But, it is not essential. It is an effective tool!

Myth 2: You Need to Cut Carbs to Lose Fat

The misconception that carbohydrates are the enemy of fat loss has existed for decades. The idea is that consuming carbohydrates leads to lowered fat loss due to the hormone insulin release. This insulin hypothesis led to various low-carb or no-carb diets gaining popularity, aka keto, Atkins, etc. The problem for the people pushing this is it needs to be backed by science. The research shows that your macro breakdown, whether low carb or high carb, does not impact your weight loss. Your calorie intake does.

If your calories and protein are equal, fat loss will be identical. It doesn’t matter if you eat low carb or high carb. But then why do low-carb diets often work to help people lose body fat?

Simple! Because they are eating fewer calories! They are creating a calorie deficit by excluding an entire macronutrient, carbs.

While it’s true that reducing your overall calorie intake is essential for fat loss, cutting out an entire macronutrient is unnecessary and can be detrimental to your overall health. Carbohydrates are our body’s prime fuel for exercise, such as resistance training and interval cardio, which are both very glycolytic.

To perform at a high level, energy during workouts is essential. Why remove our primary fuel source for performance when there is no proven benefit for fat loss? Yes, when you diet, you will need to reduce calories. Reducing calories will coincide with reducing carbohydrates to some degree. However, instead of eliminating carbs, focus on consuming various carbohydrate sources such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, while monitoring your overall caloric intake. Carbohydrates consisting of fibre are also essential components of improving satiety when we diet and potentially positively impact our gut health.

Take home – requiring someone to completely cut out carbohydrates to lose body fat is a myth. Carbs will most likely lower during your fat loss phase due to decreasing calories. But this does not have to be solely from carbs.

Myth 3: You Must Eat Low-Fat Foods to Lose Fat

Go to any supermarket in Australia or America, and you will see more than ever “low fat” alternatives to every food. For years, the food industry has marketed low-fat products as the go-to choice for individuals with the goal of fat loss. However, it’s crucial to understand that eating fat does not mean you will become fat. Eating fats doesn’t instantly mean you store this fat as body fat.

All fats are not all created equal. There are different types of fats. Fats are an integral component of a healthy diet.  Fats, such as olive oil, nuts, and avocados all have a place in a person’s diet and are essential in hormone production. Fats are an essential macronutrient to humans. Meaning we must eat fats to live a healthy life!

Now, this does not mean low-fat foods are not helpful at times. They can be when your goal is balancing out your macronutrients, particularly intending to keep carbohydrates in your diet. But, using low-fat foods does not mean you do not need to decrease your fat intake and ultimately lose body fat when you diet.

Just like carbs, we must create a calorie deficit when we diet. This means you will reduce your fat intake to some degree. This doesn’t mean we need to cut it out completely. Commonly it’s suggested to keep your fat intake above 0.8g per kilogram of body weight. Keep to this range for your daily intake instead of eliminating all fats from your diet. Opt for a well-balanced approach by including healthy fats in moderation while ensuring your overall caloric intake aligns with your fat loss goals.

Take home – fats are essential to health and hormone production. You do not need to eliminate fat intake for more fat loss.

Myth 4: High Reps Are Key for Fat Loss

The notion that high-repetition workouts are a must-have for fat loss is yet another common myth. While high-rep training can contribute to muscular endurance and conditioning in itself, it is not the reason you lose body fat, nor is it key. It simply takes away from your focus when lifting weights, which is getting stronger in rep ranges, leading to improved hypertrophy.

I say this all the time, the way you lifted weights to build your muscle is the same way you should lift weights when dieting for fat loss to keep your muscle.

High reps and very low rest periods will likely lead to less weight being lifted. The short rest periods impact recovery. The very high reps prevent you from lifting as much weight, which is not ideal for muscle growth.

A big component of fat loss is maintaining muscle mass when dieting.

Remember, we want fat loss, not just weight loss. Resistance training with reps in the 3-15 rep range will complement your goals the best.

Think of the gym with lifting as the place to build muscle and strength. Try not to think of weights as training for fat loss. Think of it as muscle/strength building. The fat loss will come from creating a calorie deficit through your nutrition and using cardio to increase calorie expenditure further.

Replacing strength sessions with high-rep circuits will be doing you a disservice to your future physique.

It’s not necessarily the most efficient way to lose fat. Incorporating a mix of low reps with heavier weights and high reps with lighter weights allows you to challenge yourself in various ways. However, high reps do not need to be 40-50 reps with very short recovery. High reps of 15-20 with longer recovery will help you manage fatigue and keep the rep ranges within a hypertrophy growth potential.

Take homes – high reps are not essential for fat loss. Focus on strength training being just that, strength training. Keep to traditional rep ranges of 3-15 and aim to get stronger in the gym, even when dieting. Use your diet as the focus for generating your calorie deficit and not your strength training.

Myth 5: Fasted Cardio is Superior for Fat Loss

Outside of “cutting carbs is the key to fat loss”. Fasted cardio would be the second most common myth I find. Fasted cardio aka exercising on an empty stomach, has gained popularity for decades due to endless claims that it enhances fat burning. People believe your fat loss result will be superior if you train on an empty stomach rather than training after a meal.

However, is this supported by the research? No. The body’s ability to burn fat only partially depends on whether you have eaten before your workout. Ultimately, it’s the total calorie expenditure that determines fat loss. So, whether you choose to exercise in a fasted or fed state, what matters most is maintaining a consistent calorie deficit throughout the day to support fat loss. Training fasted with low-intensity exercise will use fat as its primary fuel source. However, this does not mean you are losing more body fat. It is two different things.

This is why people lose body fat on low-fat diets as well as lose body fat on high-fat diets. The key differs from the fuel source you use for exercise or the macronutrient intake. The key consistently comes back to your calorie deficit.


I hope that by debunking these five common fat loss myths, I have helped to clarify and guide your fitness journey. More than ever, misinformation is running rampant. The frustrating part is misinformation sells. It aims to give people simple solutions they can buy into and targets those desperate for help.

Successful fat loss is not about following a magic diet or eating particular foods. There are no hidden shortcuts, but instead, adopting an intelligent approach combining a strong focus on nutrition, resistance training, and cardio as a tool. You are on your way to a winning formula for fat loss success. Nutrition should first and foremost be centred around your calorie intake, as this is the essential driver of fat loss. Then, choose a diet that has a balanced approach for your macronutrients, which includes healthy fats, carbohydrates, particularly fibre-based foods, and then, of course, protein intake to optimise muscle retention.

With your training, your base should be built around your strength training which incorporates various exercises that challenge the whole body. Use cardio to increase calorie expenditure for fat loss when needed, but know it is not the key driver, and be active each day! Steps are a fantastic tool to utilise as well. Embrace evidence-based strategies, and you will find great results that will become more accessible than ever when you focus on the big things that matter and get away from these common myths.

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Good luck!

Yours in health & Fitness,