13 Health and Fitness Myths

There is a lot of miseducation out there and a ton of gimmicks that don’t support sustainability of a healthy life.  That is the focus of my blog: to teach practices that continually support your health/fitness, so that you can build a sustainable, healthy, and fit lifestyle.  Stray away from the FAD DIETS and GIMMICKY EXERCISES/EQUIPMENT.  Here are some of common myths.

Myth #1: “I’m on a Diet” means I can’t eat (normally)

Why this came about: We all know that calories in (food) < calories out (exercise) results in weight loss.  So, why not just not eat at all to lose weight effectively?

Truth:  WRONG.  “Diet” doesn’t always = “Diet.”  To distinguish the two, a “Lifestyle Diet” is what you eat everyday versus a “Fad Diet” which is what most people are used to (meaning you must starve and if you have the urge to pass out, you can have a small cube of cheese).  Do you hear how ridiculous this is?  Other fad diets that I have heard of are (1) the Cabbage Soup Diet, where you can only eat cabbage as food and (2) The Lemon-Cayenne Pepper-Maple Syrup diet. Before you start any diet always ask yourself if you are eating nutritiously. OR you can just read the name of that diet…Lemon…Cayenne Pepper…Maple Syrup…Disgusting.  Unless you are illiterate, you have no excuse to go on these terrible FAD diets.

Myth #2:  My body is gross so I have to detox

Why this came about:  I have poisoned my body, and it’s just stuck in my body making it all gross and gunky.  I have to clean it out before I can start anew.

Truth:  Your GI/digestive tract is pink and beautiful regardless.  This myth is tricky because I think eliminating all the “bad” stuff that we normally eat is great.  I also think that detoxes/cleanses help to recenter us emotionally and mentally.  To raise our mental acuity and educate us on nutrition, detoxes and cleanses serve as perspective changers.  See food as fuel!  The only dangerous downside is that during these cleanses or detoxes, normal eating is eliminated and substituted with simply juice or not eating at all.  From a dietetics point of view, it is dangerous because you are depriving your body of essential nutrients by not eating.  However, these detoxes and cleanses are short term and do not last long and that is why I do not think they are bad.  Again, I think there are benefits, but the shock factor can be extreme.  A different type of cleanse that I suggest is to change your eating habits by switching to healthier options.  That in itself is shock enough and you are still eating normally…just healthier.

Myth #3: I need 5000 grams of protein to get buff

Why this came about: We hear that proteins provide essential amino acids which build muscle.  Also, dietitians push protein to conserve lean body mass especially when patients are critically ill and in need of healing or maintaining biological homeostasis.  From these, we believe that more protein = more muscle.  Not exactly.

Truth:  This is my favorite.  When I hear a gym rat say this, I immediately laugh inside my head.  Why?  Because this is 150% untrue!  Protein is essential, and I am not debating that.  However, dietitians and nutritionists (as well as the USDA, American Heart Association, etc) all agree that we, as averagely active beings, need 0.8 grams of protein for every kg of body weight.  Even if you are an extreme athlete, you need approximately 1.2 grams of protein for every kg of body weight (as a MAXIMUM).  20%-30% of your daily caloric intake should come from protein.  Did you know we EASILY get up to double our recommended protein requirements just from eating, so there is no real need for taking protein shakes or supplements.  Any more protein, and we just get rid of it through our urine or we can convert it to fat via a complex biochemical mechanism.  Also, a lot of fad diets call for low carb, high protein (see myth # 5).  Watch out though because protein is generally (but not always) coupled with fat.  Think about meat, nuts, avocados, eggs, and dairy.  All high in protein, all high in fat.  Choose wisely and opt for lower fat content/lean sources of protein.  Protein doesn’t make your muscles bigger.  Lifting weights properly and regularly does.

Myth #4: Eating fat will make me fat

Why this came about: The rationale is that if we eat more fat, we will store it as fat.  That introduced the craze for low-fat or non-fat everything.

Truth: Fat is actually very essential to our diets.  Recommendations are around 20-30% of our diet.  Why?  Well, saturated fats (like from milk, meat, and animal products) are necessary for normal nerve function in our bodies.  However, limit those fats because they are often linked with high cholesterol!  Trans fats give other fats a nasty reputation because trans fats are well…bad!  Our body can’t break it down to metabolize it and get rid of it.  Still, other fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats) provide health benefits like lowering LDL cholesterol and increasing HDL cholesterol as well as other heart healthy benefits.  We want to eat a variety of fats to provide balance and moderation.  Don’t eliminate fat; limit fat.  Oh and did you know that “Low Fat” products generally have more sugar added to them in place of the fat because of it’s effect on taste and texture?  Be weary!

Myth #5: Carbs are evil/White Grains are bad

Why this came about: Carbs are sugar.  Too much sugar is believed to be bad for us.  Also, we blame carbohydrates for making us fat.

Truth:  This is one area that gets me riled up.  Carbs are SO good for us.  Why?  It is our primary source of energy.  We take carbs which are sugars and use it to create energy for our cells.  Glucose (sugar/carb) is broken down into ATP (energy for our cells).  Carbohydrates are divided into two groups: simple carbs (fruits/vegetables) and complex carbs (pasta/rice/bread/etc).  That is one great reason to loading your plate with fruits and vegetables.  Complex carbs get the worst rep.  Whole grains are great because they also provide fiber, vitamins, and mineral.  White bread is like the misunderstood kid on the playground.  It’s not that bad!  White grains are made up of just the endosperm of the grain and leave out the germ and the bran where tons of the nutrients are.  But federal regulation actually requires manufacturers to enrich/fortify these white grains as to put back some of the nutrients back.  Is white grain perfect?  No.  Should you feel bad about eating some once in a while?  No.  Should you switch to whole grains most of the time?  Definitely.

Myth #6: Lifting weights is only for men who want to get buff

Why this came about: Women are leaner and that is accomplished by running or “cardio.”  Men should be buff and that’s through lifting weights.

Truth: More than half the dudes in the weight room know sh*t about working out properly.  Egos get in the weigh (ha!).  Lifting weights is as effective if not more effective in aiding weight loss and muscle gain (opposite but positive possible results, I know!).  When we run, we push our bodies during that period of exercise.  But when we lift muscles, we break our muscles down and they need to heal.  Through this healing process (days of rest in between exercise), our bodies are exerting a lot of energy/calories to rebuild.  Regardless of gender, everyone should include a bit of weight training to prevent muscle atrophy, build lean body mass, and reach our fitness goals.  Remember, eating more protein won’t help you build muscle.  Lifting weights will help us build muscle.  It can also help us lose weight too.  Through proper training, you can get your desired results, whichever it may be.

Myth #7: I can’t eat fruit because all that sugar is bad for me

Why this came about: It’s the classic A = B,  B = C, and so A = C scenario.  Fruit has Sugar, Sugar is Bad, and so Fruit is Bad.

Truth: Fruit provides natural sugars, vitamins, and…FIBER!  Eat lots of it.  What the USDA and the ADA recommend is that we limit ADDED sugar (table sugar, corn syrup etc).  This is because added sugar = added calories which we tend to overdo because we love sweet things!  Don’t equate fruit with added sugar.  Remember, we run on carbohydrates.  So, try to get your sweetness through natural sources like fruits and vegetables and limit the added sugars.  Note, the juice made at home with a juicer is different than the juice cocktails that you buy at the store because the juice cocktails from the store are LOADED with added sugar.  Danger, Will Robinson, Danger.

Myth #8: I walk 30 minutes everyday and that’s enough.

Why this came about:  It is recommended that we do 30 minutes of daily exercise.

Truth: We need 30 minutes of RIGOROUS exercise.  Walking is a great starting point for those who are new to exercise.  But challenge yourselves by going on regular hikes, swimming, running, playing other team sports, biking, dancing, weight lifting, etc.  These rigorous exercises require more energy from our bodies which means we burn more calories.  Not to mention the benefits to our heart exercise, weight loss, lean muscle gain, and healthy body maintenance.

Myth #9: I have to eat many smaller meals versus fewer bigger meals

Why this came about: We tend to overeat at mealtime if we haven’t been snacking.  Also, snacking helps to regulate our blood sugar levels.

Truth: It does help to normalize our blood sugar levels to prevent spikes.  But it’s not always necessary to eat 6-7 small meals a day.  In fact, as long as you consume the same amount of calories, nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, it’s not majorly bad for average people to eat 3 bigger meals a day.  However, for those who are sick like diabetics and pregnant women, meals should be more frequent and regular to make sure blood sugar isn’t too low/high and to prevent the formation of ketone bodies which can result in dangerous pH imbalances in our bodies.  The only downfall of eating smaller meals more frequently is the increase in oral problems like cavities and bad breath.  When we eat, we secrete acid into our mouth to break it down for digestion.  That acid can be detrimental to our teeth and form cavities.  Therefore, chew sugar free gum to increase saliva production which balances out the acid in our mouths.

Myth #10: I cannot eat past 8pm

Why this came about: It’s a fad diet technique, and it speaks to the fact that we all tend to indulge and overeat during midnight snacks

Truth: The only reason why this works in weight loss is because we don’t eat.  By not eating, we consume less energy/calories.  Sometimes, people forget the time, and because it’s after 8pm, they just don’t eat.  Talk about dangerous!  A better way to approach this is to have planned snacks after dinner.  This way, you don’t jump into your temptation of a bowl of ice cream.  Some fruit or some oatmeal will hit the hungry spot before bed time.

Myth #11: I work out regularly, so I can eat whatever I want

Why this came about:  Energy out versus energy in.  Because I am exercising so much, my energy out is so high.  I can compensate that by eating whatever crap I want and it won’t affect my body.

Truth: This is dangerous because along with eating whatever we want, we tend to eat the crappiest food for us.  So even if you burn 700 calories, you shouldn’t go and eat a 1000 calorie burger.  When we eat, we shouldn’t just think about calories.  We should think about what kind of calories we are getting.  Does it come mostly from trans fat or added sugar?  You can still eat deliciously well without turning to nachos drenched in oil based nacho “cheese.”  If you are trying to gain weight, consume more calories, but eat cleanly and with balance (see My Plate entry).

Myth #12: I’m skinny so I don’t need to exercise or eat right

Why this came about:  We relate overweight people as having a lot of fat and being unhealthy.

Truth: Even if we weigh less, we can actually have a higher body fat percentage.  This is most common as we grow older and more sedentary.  We don’t move around or exercise as much (like lifting weights) so we don’t build or maintain our muscles.  As such, our muscles shrink and are replaced by fat.  Note that muscle does not turn into fat!  So even if you are the same size as you were since high school, the chances of you having a higher body fat percentage is great if you don’t exercise or lift weights.  Higher body fat is already linked to many diseases like heart disease.  Additionally, with your decreased lean body mass (muscles), you become weaker and less mobile.

Myth #13: If I do 1 million crunches, I can lose my tummy fat

Why this came about: I can target the areas I want to work on like biceps, triceps, chest, etc.  Therefore, I can target my core by doing a million crunches to lose the body fat via spot reduction.

Truth:  Losing fat and gaining muscle are different.  You can gain muscle in target areas but you can’t lose fat in target areas (excluding liposuction).  Men generally keep their fat around their gut, so they tend to lose fat there if they lose weight.  Women generally keep fat around their hips, butt, and breasts, so those are the areas that lose fat first.  And no, you can’t choose the location of your body that loses fat first.  A big belly can be dangerous because that is where all your organs are stored generally.  This added fat can harden and really limit the expansion and function of your organs. Beer bellies are not cute and downright dangerous.
There you go: 13 health/fitness myths explained and debunked.  If you have any more questions or comments, please leave a comment and I’ll try to address it to the best of my knowledge and ability

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Jess says:

    GREAT article Thomas!!! Very well written and informative! Glad to see I already knew all this, but it was a good read anyways 🙂

  2. Jenilee says:

    Impressive! Glad to see one of us is using our Nutrition background!…love your posts!

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