Body fat is often considered the enemy for those looking to get fit. People will try many types of diets and exercise in an effort to rid their bodies of excess fat, and such regimens produce varying degrees of success. Part of what makes fat so confounding is the misconceptions surrounding this natural component of anatomy. By separating the myths from the facts, men and women might find their efforts to banish body fat that much more successful.
Myth #1: Body fat is only under the surface of the skin. While body fat near the surface of the skin, which is known as subcutaneous fat, may be most noticeable, body fat is actually accumulated throughout the body. Organs can accumulate fat, and this internal fat, known as visceral fat, can wrap around the heart and marble muscle. According to Dr. David Haslam, clinical director of the National Obesity Forum, visceral fat can be toxic and unhealthy. When people begin to exercise, they burn away this visceral fat and the results are often noticeable shortly after an exercise regimen begins.
Myth #2: Muscle turns to fat without exercise. Muscle and fat are two separate entities, and one cannot become the other. People will gain weight after they stop exercising because fat will begin to accumulate more readily because it isn't being burned. Fat may mask muscles that were once there and are no longer as pronounced. However, the muscles will not turn to fat. Upon returning to regular exercise, a person can regain his or her physique.
Myth #3: Body fat develops from eating fatty foods. Fat in food will not necessarily turn to fat on the body. That piece of bacon will no more turn into a spare tire around your midsection than would a banana. Fat is formed from excess calories. When the body takes in more calories than it uses for energy, that excess is stored as fat reserves. Whether calories come from a lean protein or fatty gristle, if the calories are all used up they will not turn into fat.
Myth #4: Starving oneself will burn fat. Depriving the body of calories may initially force it to burn body fat stores. However, if the calorie restriction is so marked, the body may actually go into "starvation mode," where it breaks down fats more slowly. Also, when food is reintroduced, the body may store more fat in anticipation of future deprivation. This can cause a person to gain more weight and body fat than if he or she had just adhered to a moderate diet all along.
Myth #5: A person can lose body fat from just one area. There are a number of exercises purported to burn fat from a specific area of the body. For example, doing hundreds of crunches will banish belly fat. However, fat will not diminish in just one spot from targeted exercise. The body burns fat evenly so that one portion is not depleted more than another, resulting in an area of the body that is not naturally insulated by fat. Therefore, a diet and exercise plan will produce gradual shedding of body fat all over the body. Yet, the appearance of diminished fat may be visible in particular areas more so than others.
Myth #6: Fat modulates body temperature. Scientists used to believe that body fat was instrumental in regulating body temperature. New information suggests that it is actually muscle that helps regulate body temperature, although it is not entirely understood why. According to a report published in Nature Medicine, muscle protein called scarlopin is believed to help regulate body temperature. Muscle contractions also help to generate heat.
Myth #7: Fat weighs less than muscle.Muscle and fat weigh the same. A pound of bricks will weigh the same as a pound of cotton. Muscle is more dense than fat, so if a person is exercising and building muscle while shedding fat, he or she may not notice a big change in weight.
Body fat is often shrouded in mystery, but understanding the science behind body fat can make shedding it that much easier.