We recently shared the top exercise myths that could be impacting your results (read here), but today we are focusing on nutrition.
Even with regular exercise, your health and fitness level is greatly impacted by what you eat. Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation on the internet about what is and is not good to do, and it can be very frustrating and confusing. The other scary piece is that if you want to find something on the internet that agrees with a certain line of thinking – you will. Despite the amount of research and advancements that have been made in nutrition, so many myths that people are raised to believe are truths, are still out there. That is why we are breaking it down for you! If you are a member of our nutrition and fitness plan, you know that we believe in focusing on the lifestyle aspect of eating clean and exercising, versus dieting and counting every calorie. However, there are some other nutrition myths that we are addressing for you below:
1.) Diet foods are better
Even though diet sodas and other diet foods with artificial sweeteners are usually lower in calories, this doesn’t mean they will help you lose weight. Studies have shown that artificial sweeteners can have the same effect on our body as sugar, by triggering insulin responses and lowering our sensitivity to natural sugar, like those found in fruits. Diet foods and sodas can also have psychological effects that lead to more hunger cravings, and therefore could lead to you eating more unhealthy foods to fill the calorie void.
2.) Low-fat and low-calorie foods are healthier
If we take a step back from just diet foods and look at all “low-fat” and “low-calorie” foods offered today, many of these also create cause for concern. These foods often use many processed ingredients such as added sodium or artificial sweeteners to mimic the original taste without the calories. Again, this can trick your body, and leave you with cravings, defeating the entire purpose of the low-calorie food. You need to consume real food and you need to consume calories, so focus on making your food choices healthy instead of finding ways to eat more “food” for less calories.
3.) You need more protein
Chances are you really don’t need any more protein than what you are currently consuming. In fact, 97% of all Americans are achieving the daily recommended amount of 42-56 grams of protein per day. The trend is simply to say more protein is better, but is this really true? If you don’t need it, you shouldn’t mindlessly consume more protein, especially if it comes with high amounts of saturated fat and low levels of fiber, which is the case with many meat and dairy protein sources.
4.) A low-carb diet is needed to lose weight
Carbs provide energy and are vital to living. When you drastically cut them out in an attempt to lose weight, you are depriving your body of the energy it needs to live your daily life. In addition, restricting carbs can trick your body into resetting and slowing its metabolism, which will likely lead to initial weight loss coming right back. So does it really make sense to feel miserable and deprived from restricting carbs, just to have that weight come back with a vengeance a few months later? Consuming quality carbs that satisfy your hunger and provide you energy should actually be a staple of your long-term weight loss plan.
A side note on one of our favorite sources of carbs – fruit! We get especially concerned when it is advocated that people do not eat fruit, because fruit can be high in carbs and sugar. We would encourage you to try to research legitimate studies that link fruit consumption with weight gain (you won’t find any). The natural sugar and carbs that come from fruit provide a great source of energy, with additional benefits such as added potassium, fiber, and antioxidants.
5.) Salt is bad for you
There has been a very targeted effort by organizations to reduce salt intake, with the promises of better heart health. However, we would encourage you to research this more for yourself, as the evidence is not strong that strictly a drop in salt consumption leads to better health outcomes. The problem comes more from consuming too much salt in processed foods, which can certainly have an impact on your overall health. Rather than eating these highly processed foods, improve your overall health and nutrition by turning your focus towards eating whole, natural foods, even if it has a little salt that you add when you prepare your meal. In addition, it is especially important that if you are active and working out that you have salt in your diet, as it will replenish what is lost when you’re getting your sweat on! The bottom line: be careful with added sodium in products and processed foods, but don’t eliminate all salt from your diet.
6.) Whole wheat bread is a health food and better for you
Many have taken the wheat bread vs. white bread battle too far. While whole wheat bread can have more fiber and nutrients, the difference is usually minor and not enough to just mindlessly substitute in whole wheat bread. Most breads in grocery stores are loaded with preservatives, added sugars and other additives – whether it is white bread or wheat bread. Instead focus on adding more whole grains, such as oats or brown rice, as a healthy source of carbs. Still want bread? You can opt for wheat from time to time, but try using items like Ezekiel bread instead, which contains no added sugars, and is made entirely of grains like millet, barley, spelt, and legumes. *Please note, if you are gluten free, Ezekiel bread is NOT gluten free, but there is a gluten free kind that you can see on the label.
7.) Calories are calories – they are all created equal
You have to get those gains, right? As funny as it may be to hear someone use the gains phrase, it is not true that calories are calories, regardless of where they are coming from. A few slices of white bread can provide you with a lot of calories, but with little else to show for it, except for perhaps feeling hungry an hour later. Similarly, drinking a shake with loads of additives and processed foods is not a natural way to replenish your body. Eat whole foods and meals that provide healthy sources of carbs, protein, and healthy fats, and you will get those gains you are looking for! Additionally, do not be afraid to eat a whole food that may be higher in calories, versus something that is not real, whole, food, but lower in calories.
8.) You shouldn’t eat later in the evening
This is a tricky one that makes sense on the surface, but is actually a myth the way many people describe it. Studies have shown that it is not about when you eat, but instead about how much you eat, what you eat, and how much your exercise when it comes to weight gain or loss. So eating later in the evening does not by itself cause weight gain.
That being said, there is one part of this statement that can have some truth. Some people have a tendency to overeat at night either because they are bored, stressed, or tired. If you have a tendency to do this, then it could be a good idea to limit eating later in the evening so that you avoid situations where you are prone to overeating. Additionally, if you do not eat enough earlier in the day, or do not have a filling afternoon snack, that can lead to eating more in the evening. In general, it is a good idea to be aware of your tendencies so that you set yourself up for success and stay on track towards your long-term goals.
As we mentioned, there is a lot of misinformation to be had on the internet and this means you should not just blindly believe us either. We encourage you to explore this topic more, and to know that when you are reading articles or hearing advice from others, consider the source and what the motivation or funding may be that supports a particular line of thinking. If at any time, you have any questions, please contact us here.