Top Nutritional Myths

Have you ever heard something in health or fitness that wondered if it were true?

Maybe it’s something that you’ve heard for long enough that it makes you wonder how something could survive that long if it weren’t true? For example, I remember back when I was in university and people were talking about doing their cardio on a empty stomach. The premise was that if the body didn’t have any nutrients

Maybe it’s because enough people are repeating the same message that you begin to believe as well. At one time 99% of the world’s population thought the earth was flat. But majority numbers don’t change the truth.

Nowadays, almost everyone acknowledges the world is not flat. Well, unless you’re NBA star Kyrie Irving.

Science won't sway Kyrie. He knows the earth is flat.

Science won’t sway Kyrie. He knows the earth is flat.

 

And maybe it’s because health and fitness is not our area of expertise that we don’t have enough to question what we are hearing. You’ll recognize when someone brings up a topic but isn’t overly familiar. Sometimes this is a newer concept and the individual goes along with the consensus as they don’t have any experience or specific education to think otherwise.

Bro-science can be another source for the prevalence of nutritional myths. If the individual passing on the (mis)information is big enough, ripped enough, lean enough, confident enough etc they can hold court around the bench press of the local gym while passing along their pearls of wisdom. This can be anything from the best way to get gainz, to their favourite supplement or what they do or don’t do nutritionally.

Whatever the reason there a lot of myths that continue to be spread.

So with that in mind I wanted to cover 5 of the most common myths still getting passed aroun

1 – Carbs Keep You Fat

It’s funny how things go in cycles. About 20 years ago bagel shops were found all over town. Fast forward to the introduction of popular low-carb diets and you might find a couple of stores that remain. More recently more and more people are giving the ketogenic diet a try. On a keto diet you may eat as few as 5% of your calories as carbohydrates. Just to be clear, in the journals, a VLCD, or very low carbohydrate diet, is 40% of calories as carbohydrate.

Some of the leanest people are athletes and they wouldn’t be able to fuel their training or competition on such a low level of carbohydrate. Now granted the general population doesn’t train or compete as intensely or frequently as an elite athlete they use the same pathways and energy systems to train. The intensity of your training is related to the rate and supply of carbohydrate. When carbs are limited, training intensity is impaired. And we can’t get as lean as possible without frequent and intense training.

2 – Negative Calories

Have you ever the heard the term ‘negative calories’? Oftentimes celery is used as the example food in this situation. Other foods referenced in this way include grapefruit, lemons and lettuce. The premise is that these foods are so low calorie that it requires more energy to digest these foods than the caloric content of the food itself.

While it is true that these foods are low calorie they shouldn’t be thought of as negative calories. The body doesn’t expend more energy to digest them than is present in the food itself. Further, most of us eat more than the dose represented in the example. 100 grams of grapefruit has 42 calories. But an average grapefruit could be 250 grams and this have over 100 calories.

Of the calories we burn in a day one component is called TEF or the thermic effect of feeding. TEF makes up only about 10% of the calories we burn. So while grapefruit is a low calorie food it doesn’t burn more calories to eat it than are provided by the food.

3 – Clean Eating 

Each week I’ll sit down with a number of people to find out more about their goals and to see if we’d be a fit for them and vice versa. When we discuss their nutritional habits I’ll often hear people say they eat ‘cleanly’.

Ask a dietitian what clean eating means and they may smile and give you a puzzled look. This is because in nutrition certain words have specific definitions and a common understanding as to what they mean. For example when a food label says ‘includes a source of fiber’ this means at least 2 grams of fiber. ‘High fiber’ means at least 4 grams of fiber in a serving.

Low-fat, cholesterol-free and reduced calories also have specific and agreed upon definitions.

But clean eating is more a made up term. It typically means the avoidance of certain foods i.e. gluten, processed, sugar etc rather than a description of what clean foods are. At one time, minimally processed foods were considered to be clean and thus the raw food approach gained some traction. But certain raw foods, such as milk or eggs, are not only not healthier but can unhealthy bacteria and chemicals.

4 – Cleanses/Detoxes work well

Have you ever had a friend, neighbour or coworker lose some weight. And when prompted what led to their weight loss they attribute it to the popular cleanse or detox they tried.

The common prescription for a detox is to:

  • drink more water
  • no smoking
  • no drinking
  • eat more fruits
  • eat more vegetables
  • eliminate sugar

And typically the most important part involves ingesting a tea with all the special ingredients.

The individual typically notices a quick substantial weight loss in the first week. What has happened is the caloric restriction as well as the elimination of starch depletes the liver and muscles of glycogen. The associated water is then passed resulting in a lower number on the scale. As soon as the cleanse ends and a normal caloric intake including carbohydrates is resumed the weight comes back.

5 – Lemon Water Burns Fat

I asked Savannah of a common nutritional myth and this was her answer. I’m not sure many people would openly admit to believing this but you do see a number of people with lemon wedges in their water bottle. Do they do so for the flavour? Or is it because they believe it does something else?

There are claims of lemon water enhancing immune function, to raising metabolic rate and easing muscle soreness. Unfortunately there isn’t scientific evidence to back any of these claims. Sure lemons contains vitamin C but soaking a lemon in your water is not the same as eating a lemon. And in terms of burning calories this comes down to your activity, your metabolism and the food you eat. Drinking lemon flavoured water doesn’t enhance any of these.

If throwing a lemon wedge helps you drink more water than that’s a great reason to continue doing so. But any of the other reasons are probably empty promises.

 

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