There’s a lot of myths and hearsay when it comes to looking after your health and fitness. Some of them are silly, some of them are just innocent mistakes that are born out of simple assumptions.
But there are others which are genuinely detrimental and can do lasting damage to you and your long-term health & fitness ambitions. Lets highlight 3 of the biggest culprits!
1) The less you eat, the more weight you’ll lose.
This is one of the oldest myths around, born from calorie controlled diets. The critical thing here is to a certain extent, it’s true. If you take in less energy than you expend, you’ll make up the shortfall by using bodyfat. However the problem is that it can be taken to extremes.
Say you are an average woman looking to lose some extra pounds, your daily calorie intake should be around 2000 in order to maintain your weight. So you decide to cut down to around 1600-1700 cals per day in order to make a calorie deficit and lose weight. The first week you lose some weight, great! Surely if I take in even fewer calories, my weight loss will be even bigger? WRONG! This will confuse your metabolism and cause it to slow so that the calories you do take in will be stored because your body thinks you are starving. Coupled with this is an increase in the stress hormone cortisol which also encourages weight gain. Pretty soon your weight loss will stall and you’ll lose faith, the classic “yo-yo” diet. It can then take months for your metabolism to recover, during this time you’ll probably gain back all the weight you lost, plus a few pounds extra.
There is a “sweet-spot” for calorie intake when you are trying to lose weight. You need to cut out enough to encourage your body to lose fat, but also enough so that your metabolism is happy to go along with you. It’s a delicate balance and one which needs to be constantly monitored. So be careful the next time you see “lose 15lbs in 7 days!”, it’s a trap that can lead to more harm than good.
2) Carbs are bad for you
Atkins, the most ridiculous of all fad diets has a lot to answer for. This “revolution” started a new cult of people who believed that carbohydrates, in all their forms, were the work of the devil.
The truth? Carbs, be they derived from breads, cereals, rice, pasta, vegetables or fruits, are essential to maintain a healthy, balanced diet. They are the human body’s primary source of energy because your body finds them very easy to assimilate and turn into glycogen (your body’s energy “currency”). They are the major component of a normal diet and are used to build lean muscle tissue (protein only maintains muscle, its doesn’t build it), what gets lost in translation is that good quality carbs are what is needed. So avoid white bread and eat wholegrain, have smaller amounts of pasta, avoid processed cereals and have rolled oats instead.
A balanced mix of good carbs, proteins and fats ensures your diet is functioning properly, eliminating a food group is madness. Oh and by the way, the Atkins diet has been proved to be a simply a fancy calorie control diet, you think you’re eating more because it’s all meat and eggs but this same protein diminishes your appetite and overall daily intake. Good? Maybe, but it got all the same problems I mentioned in point 1. It’s basically the low-fat diet fad from the 1980’s. Proof that there really is money in old rope!
3) Eating late at night makes you gain weight
I love this one because it’s based on zero scientific evidence and it’s managed to become a sort of dietary boogie-man. “Ooohhh, as soon as 6pm arrives I can’t eat or terrible changes will occur!”, when I hear this I feel like I’m watching the movie Gremlins (“The most important rule of all, no matter how much he cries, no matter how much he begs, never, never feed him after midnight.”)?!
The truth: Calorie intake is measured over a 24 hour period, not “when you are awake”, you also burn a lot of cals when you are asleep as this is when your body repairs itself from your day’s exertions. Your weight loss or gain is determined by factors far more important than what the time is, total calories consumed and activity levels being the two main ones. Plus, going to bed hungry every night is soul-destroying and means you are far less likely to maintain good nutritional habits. So if you are hungry at 9pm, EAT! Just make a sensible, healthy choice.
So there you have it, ignore these myths and you’ll give yourself a much better chance of achieving your goals.
The real truth is that a balanced, healthy diet coupled with a good exercise program is all you need. No controversy, no gimmicks, no fuss.
Enjoy your health