6 MYTH Foods that are labeled “low-fat” or “fat-free” are good for my diet.
If it were only that easy—eat fat-free or low-fat anything and get ripped and lean! Unfortunately, relying on low-fat and fat-free foods will more than likely make you fatter or at least slow your fat-burning process to a crawl. A fantastic example I have of this is from the ’90s, when the fat-free and low-fat-product industries in the United States were in high gear, cranking out fat-free and low-fat foods—from cheese to sour cream, cookies to crackers and cakes, and everything in between.
During this time, I remember talking to a particular European athlete who’d recently made the move to Los Angeles—the city that seems to be the make or break of bodybuilders chasing their dreams. This particular athlete was getting ready for the Arnold Classic after coming off an impressive Mr. Olympia debut placement. When I asked how the preparation was going, his response was, “My diet has never been more fun or easier. America is wonderful—there is fat-free everything! I love my diet preparation in America!” Unfortunately fat-free products didn’t love this athlete: The next outing onstage garnered the bodybuilder a placement close to last.
So why do these foods have that effect if they are, in fact, free of f at? The one thing that makes their full-fat counterparts taste so good is the fat. When manufacturers remove it, they must compensate for the taste in other ways, often using a lot of simple and refined carbohydrates and loading the foods with sodium, preservatives, and chemicals to give them a tolerable taste. We all know that high carbs and sodium wreak havoc on a bodybuilding diet, but we are also finding out more every day about how preservatives and chemicals used in these products to improve taste can slow the metabolism and lead to slower or even halted weight and fat loss.
So, if low-fat and fat-free products aren’t the way to satisfying your cravings for cheat foods on your diet, what can you do? This is when planned cheat meals or cheat foods come into play. Say you’ve been dieting for several months and making great progress, but you’re afraid that if you don’t have a little something you will fall off the wagon and blow the diet (and all your progress) completely. With my clients and athletes, I plan cheats—with real foods. This way, they have what they really want in moderation on a set day, then go right back on the diet. I do recommend sticking with your diet for quite a while before planning a cheat. You will also find that after dieting for so long, you aren’t able to eat as much of a cheat food as you did before, so more than likely, a little bit is all you will need to get you over your craving and back to progress.