It’s difficult enough to get and stay healthy even with the right information—but are you falling into the trap of persistent myths that refuse to die? Some of them have been around forever, and some continue to be supported by so-called experts.
Even though everyone knows there’s no such thing as a healthy shortcut or “trick” to getting the body you want, humans are designed to seek out the path of least resistance.
At best, believing nutritional myths will keep you stuck in a weight plateau. At worst, they can be very dangerous. How many of these seven top nutritional myths have you heard or abide by?
Myth #1: Losing fat is a simple math equation of calories in, calories out.
Technically, there is a lot of truth to this statement. If you continuously consume less calories than your body needs on a daily basis, you will lose weight. You might also lose muscle mass, strength, and your health if taken to the extreme.
However, if losing fat was really this simple, there wouldn’t be so many overweight people. Calories are just one part of managing your weight, because not all calories are created equally.
For instance, it’s impossible to have a healthy diet on 1,200 calories a day of sugar-free chocolate. And what about if you’re looking to gain muscle mass or want to look toned? You need a surplus of the right calories.
Calories in, calories out is an overly simplified and sometimes dangerous approach to weight management.
This is how many calories a 45 year old, 5’7, 150 pound female will burn jogging for one hour:
It only takes 4 oreos to “out eat” the calories burned. You decide which is easier.
Myth #2: It’s okay to have a mediocre or bad diet if I work out enough.
Unfortunately, you can’t out-exercise a bad diet. This falls back into the calories in, calories out myth (but with a focus on expended calories).
You can burn some of those excess calories, but certainly not all of them without spending the entire day working out.
A bad diet also obliterates any attempts at building muscle mass, strength, endurance, agility, and flexibility.
The occasional indulgence is fine and healthy, but a diet that largely consists of poor quality foods will trump any exercise regimen. One myth that isn’t false? Health is 80 percent diet and 20 percent exercise.
Myth #3: Working out while fasted is best.
There is some solid evidence in a few studies that back up this claim, but fasted workouts are generally reserved for hardcore athletes—particularly bodybuilders.
The theory is that an empty stomach demands that your body depend on fat reserves for energy instead of calories you just consumed.
However, many people don’t or can’t workout until the afternoon or evening. For the majority of people, a fasted workout isn’t going to produce noticeable results compared to one after a healthy snack.
In addition, a study here found that people saw body composition changes that reflected their dietary and calories changes – not whether or not they decided to workout while fasting.
Myth #4. The low-carb craze is unhealthy and a gimmick.
There are a lot of myths surrounding Dr. Atkins, including his death (it was a slip and fall, if you’re curious).
The “Atkins Diet” is actually based on a diet formulated for a diabetic person in the 1940s. It’s gotten a lot of flak and has been abused, often because people didn’t do their research before jumping on this bandwagon.
There are various phases to Dr. Atkins’ designed diet, which jumpstarts fat loss, but the final stage is really an avoidance of refined and processed simple carbs, not all carbs.
Phasing out an excess of starches and simple carbs will certainly help most people achieve a healthier body and weight.
Myth #5. You can “lose weight.”
Losing weight is a common reference, but in reality this often means losing fat. You don’t want to lose muscle.
Sarcopenia, or age-related muscle loss, happens to everyone which is why it’s so important to include strength training in your exercise routine.
However, the only way a person can actually “lose” fat is through a surgery like liposuction.
Otherwise, what you are doing is reducing the size of the predisposed fat cells that you are born with, and these fat cells are uniquely distributed throughout the body.
The only non-surgical control a person has is to increase or decrease the size of the fat cells through nutrition.
Myth #6. Supplements are a waste of money.
This may be true for some supplements and some people. However, it’s nearly impossible to consume all the nutrients you need on a daily basis while maintaining a healthy, enjoyable, and reasonable caloric intake.
It’s always best to try to get the majority of your nutrients from whole foods, but consider your last deficiency screening. Ask your GP every year to screen for deficiencies so you know exactly where you’re lacking.
You might have low levels of iron and be anemic, or if you live in a cloudy region you may lack vitamin D. Taking doctor-recommended, high quality supplements can make a huge difference in your life and sometimes these deficiencies are impossible to combat without the help of supplements.
Myth #7. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
This is only true if you’re hungry at “breakfast time.” Breakfast literally means to break the fast from the night before, and the desire to do this can happen at various times throughout the day. Listen to your body.
Maybe you’re most hungry when you wake up, maybe you crave just a snack, or maybe you don’t get hungry until noon. Breakfast is a meal, not a time of day.
Forcing yourself to eat because “you should” will lead to excess calorie intake, potential weight gain, and feeling sluggish.
Part of embracing a healthy lifestyle is doing your homework and separating myth from fact. However, it’s also about listening to your body and understanding what works for you.
In collaboration with your medical team, including a GP and perhaps a nutritionist or personal trainer, you can bust myths while customizing a unique healthy lifestyle.