We all encounter our fair share of bullshit. The cheque’s in the mail. I’ll be there in five minutes. That girl was my sister. While we have limited control over being presenting with a big ol’ steaming pile of scat, we do have control over whether we accept the smell at nose-value.
In perhaps no other industry is perpetuating misinformation as rampant as in the nutrition field. It exists for many reasons. Misunderstanding, purposely twisting facts for financial gain, pure laziness: they’re all leading causes of nutrition myths, and more than being confusing, these myths can stop you from reaching your goals. Whether you want to lose fat, gain muscle or simply live a healthier, happier lives, these common nutrition myths can stand in your way. But we’re here to clear things up.
Read on for the top 5 nutrition myths you need to stop believing.
Nutrition Myth #1: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
This is one of the most persuasive nutrition myths, and is actually a slogan, not a fact, created by the dudes behind Kellog’s cereal to get people to buy more of their products. There is actually no valid evidence to support this claim, and studies show that people who skip breakfast are not more or less likely to be overweight that people who eat breakfast. What matters, really, is that overall, is that your first meal (whenever that is) be healthy. This goes for all of your meals, actually. If you wake up ravenous and need to eat your first meal at traditional breakfast time, then do it. If you can skip breakfast and eat a healthy meal later on in the day, do it. The point is: all meals are important.
Nutrition Myth #2: Carbohydrates are bad.
First off, in a healthy, balanced lifestyle, no food should be labelled as bad, unless it is actually poisoned. Less than ideal, sure. Full processed sugars and additives, yeah. But, when these foods aren’t regular staples in your life, it’s unlikely they’ll do you harm. What will do you harm is writing off an entire, unquestionably essential macronutrient as bad. Carbs. Are. Good. For. You. You need at least 20 grams of carbs a day for proper brain function. Most of us can eat quadruple that maintain a healthy body weight. Granted, these carbs don’t have to come in the form of wheat-based breads or pastas (though in moderation, some of them can), but you can also enjoy carbs from foods like sweet potatoes, squash, carrots, fruits and whole grains like quinoa and brown rice are amazing for you, providing you with essential vitamins, minerals and energy needed to live well.
What most people need to learn to do is simply account for their macronutrient intake (i.e. fat, protein and carbs—your three macros). We all burn fuel differently—sometimes a lot differently, sometimes a little—so there is no one-size-fits-all diet. Some people see amazing results and feel incredible on lower carb diets (not to be confused with no carb diets—remember, you need carbs), while others thrive when there macros are a little more balanced. Still, other people need to get more than half of their daily energy from carbs. It all depends on factors like your metabolic make-up, genetics (which can be part of that metabolic makeup), your activity level and general health (e.g. do you have any disorders or diseases? Are you pregnant or nursing?).
If you want to learn how to measure your macros, here’s a solid, sweet and short article we wrote on the topic, but again, it is not a panacea: you will have to be real about your body, your goals and patiently tweak your macros until you find the perfect fit. If you’re hell-bent on finding the best macro ratio for you without as much tweaking, grab our Meal Plan and Nutrition Guide to get all the intel you need to make a more customised, informed decision.
Nutrition Myth #3: Eating late at night will make you gain fat.
Nope! Eating more calories than you should in a day and/or eating out-of-whack macros can make you gain fat, but there’s no evidence that eating late at night will put on the pounds. This myth is likely so stubborn because many people who eat at night are eating outside of their caloric limit: they’ve already had their last meal of the day, and are tired or bored or stressed and are eating more. And being tired is a leading cause of overeating and psychological (i.e. not actual) hunger. However, there’s an entire population of people who do shift work and eat late at night and not all these people are overweight. Just look at the BodyRockers in our Insiders Group who rock shifts and are in incredible shape.
Another thing: even if you regularly eat late at night and go right to sleep, as long as you weren’t eating more than caloric limit, you wouldn’t gain fat. Firstly, digestion and metabolism have overlapping processes, but they are not the same thing. So, even if your digestive system is bogged down digesting, your metabolism is not slowed down. Secondly, your digestion doesn’t stop (or even really slow down) when you sleep anyway, so when you’re in dreamland, your body is still working its way through your food.
All this said, there is evidence that suggests that people who eat large, high fat meals before bed may not sleep as deeply or well, and again, being tired can cause overeating. So, while you can eat later at night, it may be worth avoiding loading up on a large fatty meal just before you hit the hay.
Nutrition Myth #4:You need cheat days.
While you absolutely need to make room for occasional indulgence, you do not necessarily need to set an entire day aside for treating yourself. If you’re someone who allows yourself little treats throughout the week—a burger here, a couple cookies there, a slice or two of ‘za, etc.—then also granting yourself an entire cheat day could short-change your lean gains. At worst, it could set you back in your goals. At best, it can prevent you from getting ahead.
If, however, you eat almost 90-99.999% clean all week, then a day of eating those less than ideal foods you love could be just the thing you need to refresh your mind, and reboot your body, giving you that renewed focus and energy bump you need to continue your commitment to a healthy lifestyle.
You know you best. Be honest with yourself, and choose an indulgence model that works for you. (We don’t like the term ‘cheat day’ anyway. You’re not cheating anything or anyone. You’re living your balanced life.)
Nutrition Myth #5: You should eat small meals every 2-3 hours to lose fat/maintain weight.
This is, again, one of those nutrition myths that’s not wrong as much as it is not completely right. It’s myopic, only offering people one possible truth. Sure, some people see their best results when they eat every couple hours. Some people follow this eating pattern and can’t lose fat, but then switch to intermittent fasting (IF)—an eating paradigm that has no food restrictions, but promotes healthy eating in general and entails fasting for a sustainable portion of the day (usually, for 16 hours) and eating for a shorter period (usually 8 hours)—and then the fat seemingly falls off. (You can learn more IF here, and for a limited time, grab our Fast & Furiously Fit ebook for 30% off using promo code FASTED30.) Some people eat three standard meals a day spaced four to five hours apart and have a perfectly healthy BMI. Remember: there is no blanket solution to the question of the perfect eating paradigm, because everyone is different.
As we close up, let’s just take a moment to reflect on two terms we’ve used here: diet and eating paradigm. They are not the same thing, though often, we think of them interchangeably because they overlap (just like metabolism and digestion). A diet refers to the types of foods you eat (e.g. a low carb diet, the Medietterian diet, vegetarian) and an eating paradigm refers to how you eat (e.g. grazing or fasting). You can fast and do eat a lower carb diet. Or eat three meals a day, or eat small meals every two hours during your eating window (in which case, even the paradigms overlap). You can graze and eat a Medietterian diet or keto diet. These concepts are far more fluid and far less suffocating than we often think they are. In this fluidity is your key to recognising the tell-tale stench of a nutrition myth: if a claim seems too one-dimensional and static—if it seems to evade or exclude a basic tenet of common sense nutrition—then you can usually call bullshit.
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