Losing weight can be a challenge. Regardless of how much you have to lose, shedding the kilos requires discipline and total dedication. But with more and more weight loss tips, diets and theories, it seems you also need to be a detective to figure out what’s a myth and what’s backed by science.

Simply ask a few friends how to lose weight and they’ll tell you to try intermittent fasting, eat less carbs, stay away from the fats, or exercise more. Simply working out what really works is more confusing and difficult than actually losing the weight!

We’ve listed a few of the common weight loss myths and tell you exactly what the science really thinks.

You need to be starving to lose weight

When you think diet, you instantly have visions of carrot and celery sticks, and periods of extreme hunger. Yes, it’s true to effectively lose weight, you need to be burning more calories than you consume. However, if you consume too few calories leaving yourself starving, you’re likely to be hindering your weight loss results.

By eating too few calories your body will begin to adapt and your metabolism will slow as a result. Your weight loss results will then plateau. So not only will you be starving, you’ll also be left disappointed when you step on the scales.

You’ll have to increase your meal frequency to boost your metabolism

The old advice of eating smaller meals more frequently throughout the day has, in recent years, been proven a myth. In fact, there is zero evidence to suggest eating more often will help you burn fat, lose weight or boost your metabolism.

If you’re eating the same number of calories and nutrients, then your metabolism will remain the same regardless of whether you eat three meals a day or six. However, when you eat more frequently, you’ll be producing more fat-building hormones and your blood sugar levels will be constantly elevated. This means, your body will be burning calories rather than using your fat as fuel.

You can out-exercise a bad diet

Think that you can eat what you want because you work out at the gym every day? Think again. By burning 800 calories in a boxing session, and then treating yourself to a Big Mac is going to make losing weight a real struggle.

The key is to stop thinking about calories and instead, think about the type of food you’re eating and what it’s doing to your body. After all, not all calories are equal. Eating 500 calories of chocolate ice-cream is a breeze; 500 calories of broccoli, not so easy.

Depending on the food you eat, your hormones are going to be triggered to store fat or burn it, to boost or slow your metabolism, and to build or break down muscle. Take sugar for example. This will drive up your insulin levels and be stored as fat. Spinach on the other hand, will trigger glucagon which will see fat being released to be used as fuel.

Eat a diet full of sugar, processed foods and trans fats and no matter how far or fast you run on that treadmill, you’re going to struggle to get trim.

The longer you exercise, the better the weight loss results

The age old excuse of not having the time to exercise is irrelevant these days, as more studies reveal short, intense exercise can be more effective for weight loss. This is because high intensity training has the ability to increase your metabolic rate, which means you’ll be burning fat for up to 48 hours after you’ve left the gym.

In just a 30-minute session of quick bursts of intense exercise, with a short recovery in between, you’ll be getting your heart rate up high enough to burn more fat and calories than if you went for an hour run. You’ll also be increasing your fitness, and building muscle mass along the way, which is important.

That being said, everyone is different and if you lived a high sedentary lifestyle with no exercise prior, walking for an hour will probably give you pretty good results initially.

Carbs are off limits after 2pm

Carbohydrates have been the villain in the diet industry for many years. Sure, reducing refined carbs like white bread, lollies, breakfast cereals and pastries will result in weight loss. But, not all carbs are the same. “Good” carbs contain fibre, so excluding vegetables because they’re a carbohydrate is going to see you miss out on important nutrients.

Another important factor is that each person processes carbohydrates differently. If you consume a high complex carb meal and feel mental alert, have stabilised energy levels (meaning you don’t experience a crash an hour later), and experience satiety then that’s a sign of good insulin sensitivity. If you feel bloated, foggy, sleepy, and hungry not long after eating, that’s a sign of insulin resistance and a poor response.

There is no set time to cut off carbs. Instead, you should focus on how your body is processing the carbs, how many calories you’re burning, and when you’re exercising.

Strength training is only good for muscle gain

We now know, high intensity exercise is far more beneficial than a slow, long cardio session. We also know that strength training with weights does more than just build muscle.

While cardio does a great job at burning fat, it doesn’t do much for muscles. Strength training on the other hand is the best way to build more muscle. The more muscle you have, the more calories you can burn without doing any form of training.

It also helps elevate your metabolism so you can continue to burn calories long after your training session has completed. If you really want to burn fat, a regime of strength training, cardio and a good diet is your best bet.

As you can see, there are many diet myths that could be stopping you have shedding the excess kilos. The reality is, there’s no one diet that fits all. Eating a varied, whole food diet that’s free of processed foods, and exercising regularly should be your first point of call. Then begin to test what works for you.