12 Common Nutrition Myths – Busted!
1. Don’t eat carbs late at night
There seems to be this idea that food eaten later in the day, especially carbohydrates, 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.
2. 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’ve probably said it myself, back in the day. I’m not sure if people who say it 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 plentiful. They don’t just disappear throughout the night. (Unless you’re running marathons 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 before hand.
3. 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 proportion to the size of the meal. The bigger the meal, the bigger the increase in your metabolism. The smaller the meal, the smaller the increase.
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.
4. High protein diets are bad for your kidneys
Unfortunately, this is a 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. However, this does not mean that high protein intakes cause kidney problems in healthy individuals. This is confusing correlation & causation.
Another example of confusing correlation & causation 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 them lose weight.
5. 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 & weight loss benefits. Higher protein intakes seem to be better for reducing body weight, fat mass and triglycerides, while limiting lean mass loss and reduction in resting energy expenditure.
Protein is also the most satiating nutrient, meaning it will make you feel fuller for longer. So eating protein at every meal is a good tactic to reduce hunger pangs, which therefore makes is easier to avoid eating more that necessary.
Just because you eat more protein, doesn’t mean you’ll just magically start bulking up.
6. Eating fat will make you fat
This one has been around for decades. Fortunately, the message is starting to get 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, well… it’s fat!
While it is true that dietary fat is what’s most easily stored as body fat, it’s also used as an energy source. So as long as you’re total energy intake at least matches your energy output, eating fat will not lead to an increase in body fat.
Unfortunately, some people have taken it too far the other way, adding nuts, olive oil, butter etc to every meal. However, somewhere in the middle is probably right for most people.
7. Egg yolks give you high cholesterol
Egg yolks do contain fat & cholesterol but that doesn’t mean eating them causes high levels of cholesterol in the blood. (1)
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 & 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.
8. 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 many things, people take it too far.
They claim that low carb is by far the best diet for everyone. 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. Which means, when they cut out or reduce carbs, they’ve 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. It’s these people who tend to claim that it’s the best & only way to lose weight.
Read more about my view on low carb diets here
9. 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 the you should eat mainly whole, nutrient dense, minimally processed foods. Which is a good thing. But as ever, people like to take things to the extreme.
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. Just as food quality does.
‘Eating clean’ can work if it causes you to eat fewer kcals than you burn but it won’t always work.
As I talk about here, it’s certainly possible to eat too many calories from ‘clean’ foods.
10. 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. (2,3) So if you’re buying organic foods for their superior health benefits, then you’re likely wasting your money.
11. You need to cut out gluten
This is another one I bought into, as part of my paleo diet phase.
It seems more & more people are claiming to have a gluten intolerance. They cut out gluten, feel loads better & 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 & 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 celiac disease, but 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.
12. 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’.
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. I discuss this in more depth here
So, how many do you, (or did you), believe?
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