Quiz: How much do you really know about fat?


By: , SparkPeople Blogger

If you’re trying to eat healthy and/or lose weight, you need to know quite a bit about fat—both the kind you eat, and the kind you’d like to lose.

But it seems that many of us don’t really know as much as we need to. In this study, for example, 77% of the people questioned knew that trans fat is one kind of dietary fat that can be unhealthy. But only 21% could name 3 foods that provide trans fat, and only 33% could name one.

Can you name 3 or more kinds of foods that have significant amounts of trans fat in them (without looking at the article first)?

There are also many myths and misconceptions floating around about how to get your body to lose the stored fat you don’t want. If you’re not sure what’s fact and what’s myth, you could waste a lot of time doing things that don’t produce very good results—or even worse, your diet and exercise efforts could produce results that are the opposite of what you really want.

Here are some basic statements about fat that you’ll often run into. Some are true and some aren’t. Decide whether you think each statement is true or false, and then check your answers below.

1. Your body “loses” fat by taking body fat out of storage in your fat cells and converting it into energy when you don’t eat enough to match your energy needs.

2. Compared to protein and carbohydrate, fat is the easiest nutrient for your body to store as body fat.

3. The larger your daily calorie deficit is, the more body fat you will burn as fuel.

4. To get the best fat loss results, you should exercise at lower intensity levels (the “fat-burning zone” you see on many cardio exercise machines).

5. It’s better to exercise on an empty stomach, because you’ll burn more fat as fuel for your exercise.

6. A very low-fat diet is best for your health and for weight loss.

7. For weight loss, it’s better to concentrate on strength training rather than cardio exercise, because muscle burns more calories all the time, and the more you have, the more calories you’ll burn even when just sitting around.

Done? Read on to check your answers…

1.Your body “loses” fat by taking body fat out of storage in your fat cells and converting it into energy when you don’t eat enough to match your energy needs.

TRUE. Whenever your diet provides more than what your body needs at that time, the excess energy is stored as fat for later use, and taken back out of storage when needed as fuel.

2. Compared to protein and carbohydrate, fat is the easiest nutrient for your body to store as body fat.

TRUE. The process of digesting and using the food you eat uses up calories. It takes the most energy to break the protein you eat down and turn it into body fat, and the least to turn dietary fat into body fat. Overall, about 10% of the calories you eat are used to digest and metabolize food.

3. The larger your daily calorie deficit is, the more body fat you will burn as fuel.

FALSE. There are natural limits on how much body fat your body can convert into fuel in any given time period. Many cells don’t use fat as fuel, and how much fat your muscle cells burn depends on the intensity and duration of your activity. The bottom line here is that, if your calorie deficit is larger than the amount of energy your body can get from body fat, it will get the additional energy it needs by breaking down the protein in your muscle and organ tissues to turn it into energy. And by slowing down or stopping certain normal functions, like repairing and maintaining skin, hair, bone, and muscles, to reduce energy needs. When you hear people talking about “starvation mode,” this is what they mean. When your calorie deficit gets too large, your metabolism slows down, less fat is burned, and more muscle and organ tissue is lost. For most people, a calorie deficit between 250 calories (if you don't have much weight to lose) and 1000 calories (if your BMI is over 30) per day is best for healthy fat loss.

4. To get the best fat loss results, you should exercise at lower intensity levels (the “fat-burning zone” you see on many cardio exercise machines).

FALSE.Unless you do several hours or more of exercise per day, where your body gets the energy it uses during the exercise itself doesn’t matter for fat loss. What does matter is how much total energy you expend, and that will be higher when you exercise at higher intensity levels. For more details about how this works, see this article.

5. It’s better to exercise on an empty stomach, because you’ll burn more fat as fuel for your exercise.

FALSE. This is based on a misconception about where your body gets the energy it uses during exercise. Most of it does NOT come from your last meal—it comes from the storage tanks in your muscles themselves. Your muscles have the capability to store and use both glucose (called glycogen in this form) and fat, and once these tanks are filled up, they can only be emptied by using those muscles. That fuel can’t be taken out of your muscle cells and used for other purposes (so it doesn’t get depleted while you’re sleeping), and going for a few hours without eating won’t have any significant effect either. The main thing that can deplete your muscle fuel supplies is a combination of using those muscles actively and not eating enough to let your body refill the tanks between exercise sessions.

Also, whether (and how much) your body uses fat or glucose to fuel your muscles during exercise depends mostly on the intensity and duration of your exercise, not on what you’ve eaten recently. For more on this, see the link in question 4 above.

6. A very low-fat diet is best for your health and for weight loss.

FALSE. An adequate amount of fat is essential for good health. Some important vitamins (A,D,E,K) are fat soluble, which means they can only be absorbed and utilized if your diet is adequate in fat. And some fats can actually help promote heart health. The monounsaturated fats found in many nuts and nut butters, seeds, avocados, and some vegetable oils like olive oil can help raise levels of HDL cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol), which helps to protect your arteries against atherosclerosis. The Omega –3 fats found in some fish oils and in flax, for example, are also very important for good health. Many health professionals now recommend that people use supplements to obtain Omega-3 fats if they don’t get enough in their regular diet.

Obviously, fat is the nutrient that is highest in calories, so you’ll need to be careful about not eating too much if you’re trying to lose weight. But the best way to do that is to make sure the fat you do eat is mostly the healthy kind—not to reduce your total fat intake too much.

7. For weight loss, it’s better to concentrate on strength training rather than cardio exercise, because muscle burns more calories all the time, and the more you have, the more calories you’ll burn even when just sitting around.

FALSE. Muscle does burn more calories than fat, even at rest. But the actual number is pretty small. A pound of muscle will use up about 6 calories per day, just sitting there, while a pound of fat will burn only 2. So, adding 25 pounds of muscle would only increase your resting metabolism by about 150 calories per day. 30 minutes of brisk walking will burn more than that. Not to mention the fact that adding this much muscle is almost impossible if you’re dieting to lose weight—it would take a calorie surplus to do that.

On the other hand, vigorous exercise can make your muscles burn up to 8-20 times as much energy per minute as they do while at rest. So, the bottom line here is that using your muscles as much as you can is what burns the extra calories, not just having them or watching them recover from your weight lifting session. So, don’t skimp on the cardio exercise—do both strength training and cardio for best weight loss results.

How'd you do on the quiz? Any surprises, or changes you need to make in your diet or exercise routines?

Photo grabbed from Flickr

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  • 72
    Although fat is the easiest of the macro nutrients for the body to store as fat, I think it should be remembered that eating fat does not make you fat. Fat is an essential nutrient, as it helps the brain and nerves to function, and as was said in the article, it helps with the storage of certain fat-soluable vitamins. I am afraid that by reading this people will think that since fat is stored as fat, if I want to loose fat I just need to eat less fat. That would inevitably have negative long term results. I think it is also important to remember that eating macro nutrients causes hormonal reactions in the body (for example, eating carbs causes insulin release) that assist in digestion and mobilization of the nutrients through the body. Hormonal reactions such as increases and decreases in insulin levels in the body can have far more of an impact on storage of body fat than the amount of fat that was in the meal you ate.

    One last thing, please remember that when it comes to trans fat, the FDA (govt.) only requires listing of amounts of trans fat in foods if that amount is over .5gm/serving. Any food that has hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils in the ingredients list has trans fat in it. Most of us don't just eat 1 serving (especially of foods like chips or crackers where a serving may be only 5 crackers), so if they say there is 0gm of trans fat, but hydrogenated oils are in the ingredients list, multiply .5 by however many servings you just ate to find out how much trans fat you just ingested. - 9/21/2011   9:26:30 AM
    100%! :) I feel like I'm finally comfortable with nutrition and what it takes to lose weight...10 pounds down and onto my next 10. - 8/26/2011   10:22:22 AM
  • 70
    Eek, will print out the photo and tape it to my fridge. My main problem time is in the evening and I have the munchies. Maybe this will help to prevent me from grazing if I have to stare down a giant glob of fat.

    Regarding the exercising on an empty stomach or not, I tend to feel nauseous if I exercise within 1-2 hours of eating a (substantial) meal. I can do fine on a Fiber One bar or something really light like that, but I'll feel sick if I exercise just after eating a lot. To each their own. - 8/3/2010   10:47:01 AM
    The picture of fat is just nasty. I printed it and taped it to my fridge. - 7/24/2010   12:27:13 PM
  • 68
    A picture's worth a thousand words. - 6/15/2010   11:00:07 AM
  • 67
    good blog - 6/13/2010   2:44:20 PM
  • 66
    Love the letter from my old friend FAT!
    thanks for sharing CHOCMOM! - 6/7/2010   10:29:34 AM
  • 65
    All but one were right, though I do find exercising on an empty stomach first thing in the morning helps me lose more weight....go figure - 12/4/2009   8:38:10 PM
  • 64
    Good article - question regarding To get the best fat loss results, you should exercise at lower intensity levels (the “fat-burning zone” you see on many cardio exercise machines)."

    If this is not true, then why does Spark People's fitness program show me as burning more calories when I take 40 minutes to walk 1.5 miles that it does when I take 30 minutes to walk 1.5 miles. When I had to slow down walking due to heel pain, I noticed this and it has confused me. - 6/27/2009   12:42:14 PM
    I think BROWNBEAR1961 was probably trying to ask about volume. A pound of fat has more volume than a pound of muscle. - 3/31/2009   2:41:08 PM
    Damn, I ALMOST had them all right!! The last one had me down...I guess I've listened to closely to my former boxing instructor about weights and fat...you know what? I never really dared to lift weights before then (too many dudes in the area and I was a gym newbie...to shy! but now...still shy but I can ignore them all and grab the weights!! ha ha) so maybe he did it to encourage me then to go for it...most likely to be very true!! nothing motivates someone more than finding another way to drop those pounds! he wasn't entirely wrong...i just interpreted it differently. Ah hope!! :) - 2/27/2009   1:01:54 AM
  • 61
    This was a great test. I was confused when it came to trans fats. I always kepy my weight off. Due to a sensitive stomach i'm forced to eat more even though i'm not hungry. I have eaten more, and it seems to make me loose weight slower. I love the article very mush. I would love to see an article on starvation mode for people with sensitive stomachs. This still confuses me. I'm eating more working out the same and it takes forever to loose a pound. I workout at least 3hrs a day. I love this article i hope i can get the answer to my question. - 2/18/2009   9:33:55 AM
    #4 surprised me. This is the Curves mantra. They really encourage women to work out "in the zone" and not get their heart rate too high, claiming that you are burning more fat while in the zone than you would with a more intense (higher cardio) workout. Hmmmmmm. - 2/18/2009   12:24:08 AM
  • 59
    This was agreat read, very informative and worth reading over and over. - 2/17/2009   9:20:59 PM
  • 58
    how neat! I always thought you had to pound the pavement exercising when inface you can burn fat at lower intensity. - 2/17/2009   8:03:19 PM
  • 57
    great article, I got all the questions right. now I have to put what I learned from it into practice. - 2/17/2009   7:25:38 PM
  • PIECYK7771
    Very, very interesting article. Thanks. I am following this adivce for last 10 years and doing very good. I don't have a weight problem, even that on weekends I let myself eat some comfort food (chocolate, ice cream, cake, etc.). If you do intesive cardio 4-5 times a week for at least 30 min and weights at least 2 times a week and do not consume more then 1300-1400 calories per day, you are fine.
    Count your calories !!!
    P.S. To BROWNBEAR1961 - please don't tell me you don't get it ??? Pound is a pound.
    - 2/17/2009   4:37:28 PM
  • 55
    Thank you for this article! I think a lot of people get confused by this topic, so it's great that you're spreading the truth about fat and relating the answers to how it affects our weight loss. - 2/17/2009   1:18:50 PM
    Someone sent this to me about a year ago - since we are talking about a pound of fat....

    Hello, do you know me? If you don't, you should. I'm a pound of fat, and I'm the HAPPIEST pound of fat that you would ever want to meet.
    Want to know why? It's because no one ever wants to lose me, I'm ONLY ONE POUND, just a pound!
    Everyone wants to lose three pounds, five pounds, or fifteen pounds, but never only one.
    So I just stick around and happly keep you fat. Then I add to myself, ever so slyly, so that you never seem to notice it. That is, until I've grown to ten, twenty, thirty or even more pounds in weight.
    Yes, its fun beig ONLY ONE POUND OF FAT, left to do as I please.
    So when you weigh in, keep right on saying, "Oh I only lost one pound." (As if that were such a terrible thing.)
    For you see, if you do this, you'll encourage others to keep me around because they'll think I'm not worth losing.
    And I love being around you - your arms, your legs, your chin, your hips and every part of you.
    Happy Days!!!
    After all, I'm ONLY ONE POUND OF FAT!!! - 2/17/2009   11:11:15 AM
    Very informative. I got all the true/false questions correct; but had some confusion over transfats. It is even more confusing now that advertisers are cooking of the foods listed without transfats, although I still avoid them when I can. Good blog and article. - 2/17/2009   8:41:33 AM
  • NAYNAY69
    Wonderful article! I only missed one. Look at the pic. That also explaines why I am smaller than a lot of the other staff at work but I weigh more than any of them. Makes me feel awefull even though I know I have more muscle than they do and it weighs heavier so I weigh heavier and I'm a lot smaller than they are. It still gets very disheartening when u step on the scales....lol - 2/17/2009   7:16:57 AM
  • 51
    Brownbear, A pound weighs a pound, it doesn't matter what it is. To answer your question, a pound of fat and a pound of muscle weighs the same, however, I think you meant for appearance's sake, a pound of muscle looks less than a pound of fat because muscle is much denser. Look at the 5 pound masses of fat and muscle in the picture above. The muscle looks smaller. A one pound beach ball will look much, much larger than a pound of rock. That is why when losing weight, it is wiser to pick the less dense foods (like a pound of grapes) over the denser foods (like a pound of raisins). A pound of grapes will seem like a lot more to eat and will fill you up more than the raisins. - 2/17/2009   6:55:03 AM
  • 50
    Ok...Can someone please tell me which one is true?
    A pound of fat weighs the same as a pound of muscle
    A pound of fat weighs more than a pound of muscle
    A pound of fat weighs less than a pound of muscle
    I am getting so confused. Everyone tells me something different. Thanks - 2/17/2009   2:08:19 AM
    I have a question about the statistics on question 7. You said a pound of fat only burns 2 calories a day, if that is true then just cutting your food intake by 100 calories would make a 50 lb. differnece in your wait, over time. That can't be true! I have heard numbers of 14-15 calories per day to maintain 1 lb of fat. That seems much more realistic. Where did you get those statistics? - 2/16/2009   8:07:59 AM
  • LFLOYD11
    I did better than I thought I would. I only missed one. Nonetheless, this information is priceless and should be shared. "We perish for the lack of knowledge".

    L Floyd
    Washington, DC - 2/16/2009   1:09:20 AM
  • 47
    Great article!!! - 2/15/2009   4:15:03 PM
  • 46
    Made me think! Almost had all right, but then looked back at number two and distrusted that word "easiest", so I thought "false". Ooooops! Thanks for yet another mind-awakening! - 2/15/2009   2:30:14 PM
  • 45
    I have not yet read one of the articles here on SparkPeople that I have not learned something. I appreciate having found this web site and use it every day!
    Thank you! - 2/15/2009   1:34:11 PM
  • 44
    Did OK on the test Love the replicas.. I have a friend that is a dietitian and she has a 10 lbs blob of fat.. That i joking called my friend LOL.. I would go and talk to her and she would know that i would always pick it up and put it on her desk so that i could see it.. it is sort of neat and Gross at the same time.. Her had like blood spots or streaks?? I would say that it was bigger than my baby's when i had them.. I would love to have one.. put that on top of your fridge and you would not eat so much or over eat.. LOL - 2/15/2009   12:47:11 PM
  • 43
    great article - 2/15/2009   7:31:04 AM
  • 42
    Sparkpeople - THANK YOU!!! I not only got answered all of the questions correctly, I even knew the reasons WHY! Thanks to Spark and all the information and education you offer ~ - 2/15/2009   12:30:54 AM
    Great article. I got them all right. Wow. I have learned a lot since joining Spark People! :-)
    Jan - 2/14/2009   10:05:18 PM
  • 40
    Excellent article - 2/14/2009   9:57:59 PM
  • LORETTA1945
    oooo! That picture is gross. AND effective, LOL. - 2/14/2009   4:28:50 PM
  • 37
    Isn't that fascinating? - 2/14/2009   1:09:17 PM
  • 36
    Very interesting. I think I'll be able to keep that visual in my head for a long time. - 2/14/2009   10:43:50 AM
    wow...interesting stuff - 2/14/2009   9:10:49 AM
  • 34
    Interesting. - 2/14/2009   12:10:25 AM
  • 33
    I could not name any particular trans-fat food because first, I just assume fast-food and junk food has trans-fats if I can’t look, and I otherwise check labels for it so I don’t really feel it’s important to have a list in my head. I would have listed all those foods as high-fat foods in general however and that is arguably more important.

    I got 100% on the test portion. It’s not that I haven’t acquired a lot of health knowledge over the years its’ that I’m not always that great at the practical application of it.

    It’s good to have all these bullet-points in one place. It makes a great refresher.
    - 2/13/2009   9:14:40 PM
  • 32
    Awesome picture! I am printing it out to take to my TOPS class. - 2/13/2009   8:33:46 PM
  • 31
    #3 got me. I love these quizzes keep them coming. I am learning a lot.
    Thanks for the information. - 2/13/2009   4:48:58 PM
    I missed # 7! This is a great eye opener! Thanks sooo much for sending it.

    Karen - 2/13/2009   4:22:43 PM
  • 29
    100% - no surprises here. But I seeking another degree as a Food Science and Human Nutrition major so its good to know things are sticking in my brain. haha - 2/13/2009   4:07:35 PM
  • 28
    Great Article. I clarifies alot of things in layman terms. Even though I did decent on the test I understood why I even got things correct better! - 2/13/2009   2:21:32 PM
  • 27
    If you think that picture is disgusting you should see what it looks like inside your body. When I had my gallbladder removed they videotaped the surgery. Watching them pull gobs of fat away from my gallbladder and liver is a real motivating force for losing the weight! - 2/13/2009   1:57:50 PM
  • 26
    I got them all right. I suppose reading articles sent by Spark does help in spite of not being a nutritionist or coach! Thanks Coach Dean! - 2/13/2009   12:37:56 PM
  • 25
    I got the third one wrong (I guess I didn't read the question closely enough). But I've learned so much from Spark! Thanks for the great article.

    As for the picture, well, I once learned from Covert Bailey (author of "Fit or Fat?") that "one pound of fat is FIVE TIMES THE SIZE of one pound of lean [muscle]." The picture is proof of that!! - 2/13/2009   12:10:54 PM
    I missed number six, even though I myself have lost quite a bit without a VERY low fat diet. Go figure! - 2/13/2009   11:20:50 AM
    I am impressed, I got them all correct. Number 6 almost stumped me but I think the key word was "very". Low-fat is good but you have to have some fat. - 2/13/2009   10:31:15 AM

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