Ah nutrition – the proverbial health and fitness minefield.
No other topic is so hotly debated on a daily basis with many folks clinging to ideas and theories as if their lives, quite literally, depended on them.
The thing is many nutrition “facts” have now been proven to be nutrition MYTHSby science – but still fitness fans the world over will actively try to convince other fitness fans that their approach to nutrition is the “key” to success.
Truth is many of these guys and gals have gleaned their information by religiously following “experts” without researching the facts for themselves. As a result, it can become really difficult to accurately determine what’s true and what’s false.
So, let’s take a look at 12 common notions to uncover the truth…
No carbs late at night
There seems to be this idea that food eaten later in the day, especially carbs, are more likely to be stored as fat.
The logic seems to make sense on the face of it… Because you’ll be going to sleep shortly after, you won’t have chance to burn them off.
Seems pretty obvious.
However, the human body doesn’t really work like that.
Your body is in a constant state of storing fat and burning fat. So it’s the balance between the 2 that determines if/when you’ll store fat.
Total caloric intake at the end of each day or week determines if you gain body fat or lose body fat.
So it’s total amount eaten by the end of the day that matters, whether you’re talking about calories, carbs or whatever, not the time of day you eat them.
Side note: Some people find that eating a high carbohydrate containing meal in the evening helps them sleep. And providing they’re eating at an appropriate calorie level, they will not store the carbs as fat.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day
This is a really common one you hear eat all the time! ‘You must eat breakfast! It’s the most important meal of the day!’
I’m not sure if people who say this know why they say it. Why is breakfast the most important meal of the day?
If it’s because that it will ‘jump start your metabolism’, then that’s just not true.
Your metabolism doesn’t need ‘jump starting’.
Your metabolism is perfectly capable of going without breakfast.
If it’s because you need breakfast to give you energy, then this isn’t necessarily true either.
Providing you ate an adequate amount the day before, you’re energy stores will be plenty full, they don’t just disappear throughout the night.
(Unless you’ve turned to running a marathon in your sleep.)
If you habitually eat breakfast, you’ll probably do best when you eat breakfast.
If you don’t feel hungry in the morning, then don’t feel you have to eat breakfast, because you don’t need to.
Side note: If you’re performing high intensity exercise in the morning, or you’ve a high training volume in general, you’re probably best eating something beforehand.
Organic foods are better than non-organic foods
Organic foods seem to be viewed as healthier across the board but this is not the case.
Studies have shown that eating organic vs non-organic foods doesn’t show any difference in overall health markers.
So if you’re buying organic foods for their superior health benefits, then you’re likely wasting your money.
High protein diets are bad for your kidneys
Unfortunately, this is another case of taking a little bit of information out of context and confusing correlation with causation.
If someone has kidney problems and you lower their protein intake, it seems to help their condition, this much has been shown.
However, this does not mean that high protein intakes cause kidney problems in healthy individuals.
Another example of this would be to say diet coke causes weight gain because you see a lot of overweight people drinking it.
It’s not that diet coke causes weight gain, it just so happens that overweight people are likely to swap to diet coke to try help with weight loss.
High protein diets are only for guys looking to build muscle
The general public, especially women, seem to steer away from higher protein intakes because they think it’s just for muscle building or bulking up.
Higher protein diets have plenty of other health and weight loss benefits.
Just because you eat more protein, doesn’t mean you’ll just magically start bulking up.
Eat little & often to ‘stoke your metabolism’
Again, I don’t know why people think their metabolism needs any help.
I think this comes from the fact that your metabolism does increase when you eat, but it’s in relation to the size of the meal:
- The bigger the meal, the bigger the increase in your metabolism
- The smaller the meal, the smaller the spike
So over the course of the day, it doesn’t matter if you have 3 bigger spikes, (from 3 bigger meals) or 6 smaller spikes, (from 6 smaller meals), the effect is the same.
Eat the number of meals that suits your schedule and preference.
Eating fat will make you fa
This one has been around for decades. Fortunately, the message is getting out that fat isn’t something to be avoided but the idea that fat makes you fat still persists.
Again, the logic seems to make sense, fat will make you fat because it’s fat!
Where it is true that dietary fat is what is most easily stored as body fat, it’s also used as an energy source.
So as long as your total energy intake at least matches your energy output, eating fat will not lead to an increase in body fat.
Egg yolks give you high cholesterol
Egg yolks do contain fat and cholesterol but that doesn’t mean eating them causes high levels of cholesterol in the blood.
You see, cholesterol from your diet only contributes about 25% of the total cholesterol in your body, under normal conditions. The other 75% being manufactured in the liver.
Therefore, when you eat a cholesterol containing meal, your liver will simply make less to maintain a constant level.
So to simply say that cholesterol containing egg yolks are bad for you is too simplistic.
Now, combine a high cholesterol diet with excess body fat, low activity levels, high stress, little fruit and vegetable intake then yeah, you’ll be at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
But to simply say that egg yolks are bad across the board and you should avoid them is simply not correct.
You need to go low carb to lose weight
Low carb diets are quite popular these days and they can be a viable option for some people.
Unfortunately, as with most things, people take it too far.
They claim that low carb is by far the best diet and that carbs make you fat and that you won’t be able to lose fat without dropping carbs.
This is not true.
The truth is high carbohydrate foods tend to be fairly easy to overeat and make up a large part of someone’s diet. This means when they cut out or lower carbs they automatically cut out a load of calories from their diet.
It’s not the low carb nature of their new diet that’s working per se, but the low calorie nature of it.
You’ll often find that when someone has had success in losing weight with a low carb diet they have a massive bias towards it and that’s the people who tend to claim that it’s the best and only way to lose weight.
As long as you ‘eat clean’ you will lose weight
I used to preach the whole just ‘eat clean’ thing, so I do empathise with this view point.
The term ‘eat clean’ or the idea that some foods are ‘clean’ and some aren’t comes from a good place I think.
Basically, it’s just a way of saying you should eat mainly whole, nutrient dense, minimally processed foods. This is a good thing.
But as ever, it can take things too far.
People who ‘eat clean’ often demonise ‘non-clean’ foods and avoid them like the plague – until their ‘cheat day,’ of course, which they just use to go on an almighty binge and eat as much as humanly possible. And more.
That’s certainly what I used to do.
Then it’s totally fine to eat pizza, ice cream and all that stuff, because it’s ‘cheat day’
Calories don’t count on cheat day, duh! *please note the sarcasm*
It doesn’t matter how ‘clean’ or ‘healthy’ you eat, if you’re over consuming calories, you’ll still get fat, (or be unable to lose it)
Calories do matter.
‘Eating clean’ can work if it causes you to eat fewer kcals than you burn, but it won’t always work.
As long as you ‘eat clean’ you will lose weight
This is another one I bought into, as part of my paleo diet phase.
It seems more and more people are claiming to have a gluten intolerance. They cut out gluten, feel loads better and end up losing weight.
But what they have done, (similar to the low carb crowd), is cut out a bunch of calorie dense, highly palatable foods like pizza, bread, pastries, cakes etc. and replace them with more fruit and veg.
Well, no sh!t you feel better when you cut out of that kind of food and eat more greens!
It’s not necessarily that gluten is the problem but that you’re eating too much.
Granted, some people do have a genuine gluten sensitivity/intolerance or coeliac disease, but I think not as many people actually have a real problem with gluten than think they do.
I suppose we all want to feel special in some way. Some people just think themselves into having an issue with gluten that’s not really there.
You need lots of willpower to lose weight
I often get, ‘If only I had your willpower I would be able to lose weight’, or something to that affect. But what they should say, ‘If only I had your habits’.
You see, I don’t believe you should rely on willpower or feeling motivated to stick to your diet or workout plan.
Willpower and motivation are finite resources, you only have so much and it will run out eventually.
What you should do is when you’re feeling motivated is to use it to get into a routine and build good habits.