03: There are No Shortcuts

Table 03.1. A Small Sampling of Common Shortcuts to "Hack, Trick or Boost" Your Metabolism

These are just a small sampling of the advice that you have probably heard at some point in an effort to supplement or enhance your weight loss.  We all have limited time and energy, so it makes sense to maximize the return on your investment and to be as efficient as possible.  The problem is that many of these “hacks” either

    1. flat out don’t work or
    2. offer very little return on your investment (ROI)/effort.

Saving ten dollars/month in a retirement account is nice but you’ll never be able to retire on that.  The same is true for weight loss.  Some of the shortcuts you can take will yield some weight loss but not the weight loss that you’re looking for.  And even if you were to do 50 such hacks, the effects are not synergistic as you can only squeeze so much water out of a dry rag.

There are thousands of hacks, many of which contradict the other (Table 03.2). 

Table 03.2. Contradictory Weight Loss Advice. The complete opposite advice is given depending on who is giving the advice.

If a hack truly worked, wouldn’t a) everyone adopt it and b) wouldn’t doing the opposite not work?

The bottom line is, there are no shortcuts.  If you don’t believe us, please take a look at The Paper Database.  The Paper Database is a collection of over 5000 research papers on weight loss and metabolism that The Science of Dieting has put together.  There just isn’t much evidence for many of the “hacks” that people promote and if there is evidence, it might be a few studies out of many.  We need to be able to look at the bulk of the scientific literature rather than cherry picking the facts that support our conclusions.  Most people (professionals) don’t do this and I don’t know if it is out of ignorance, laziness or both.  If you have fallen for one of these hacks or fad diets, don’t feel bad about it, you didn’t know and more than likely someone who also didn’t know was feeding you bad information, pretending they did know.

The Paper Database contains randomized controlled trials (RCTs), the highest quality evidence, as well as observational studies that show correlations between variables.  When an observational study provides interesting results, typically a RCT is undertaken to further investigate whether there is a cause and effect to that correlation.  Both of these study types should outweigh the opinions of your trainer, nutritionist, GNC worker or friend on facebook.

Finally, anything that does significantly and meaningfully help you lose weight is either illegal, requires a prescription or a surgery.  Anabolic steroids (testosterone) will absolutely help you build muscle and improve your body composition, prescription weight loss medications will suppress your appetite and help you lose weight, and bariatric (weight loss) surgery will lead to significant weight loss.  However, the vast majority of the tips, tricks, and hacks to make your weight loss more efficient are not worth the effort.

If you accept that there are no shortcuts, then we encourage you to continue to our next section, Section 04: Nutrition is NOT a transactional service, why you are the only one who can fix your diet.