For many of us, calories have come to symbolize overindulgence and are thought of as "bad." Yet you need a certain number of calories to function well.

Myth: Certain types of calories are more fattening than others, such as those from carbs.

Fact: Calories are created equal. Excess carbs are no more detrimental than excess proteins. Put simply, if you eat more calories than you burn off, from any source, you will gain weight.

Myth: Eating calories late at night promotes weight gain.

Fact: Studies indicate that simply consuming calories before bedtime isn't going to lead directly to too-tight jeans. What matters is how much you eat, not the hour at which you eat it. The trouble is that many late-night eaters do consume too many calories, possibly due to a lack of healthful options available at night or the fact that some delay meals for so long that their hunger is out of control, leading them to eat more when they finally do sit down at the table.

Myth: I can completely trust calorie labels.

Fact: Research has found that some prepared foods are not labeled accurately. A small study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association in 2010 found that some restaurant meals contained an average of 18 percent more calories than they claimed to have, and the frozen supermarket meals tested exceeded their stated calorie values by eight percent. Another label pitfall is that calorie counts are indicated per serving, and many prepared food containers have two or more servings in them—which may not be evident without careful scrutiny.

Myth: I should take up strength training to lose weight, because muscle burns more calories than fat.

Fact: Resting muscles do burn more calories than fat, but only by a very small margin. That said, strength training preserves lean body mass and should be a part of any fitness regimen. Cardiovascular exercise is also extremely important; neither should be neglected for the other.

Myth: You burn more calories exercising in the cold.

Fact: Only if you start to shiver do you expend more energy. However, people with more body fat tend to shiver less than slimmer people, and it's worth mentioning that if your core body temperature drops too low you can develop hypothermia. Always dress for the weather when working out outside.

Allison Massey, RD, CDE, reviewed this article.




American Council on Exercise. "Do I Burn More Calories When it is Hot Outside or Cold?" Web. 10 November 2012.

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "Are You a Late-Night Snacker?" Web.

American Council on Exercise. "Fitness Q&A: Nutrition." Web.

American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "Restaurant and Packaged Foods Can Have More Calories Than Nutrition Labeling Indicates." Web. 6 January 2010.