It seems that everywhere you look today, someone is preaching about how to “eat healthy” and the best ways to lose fat. It can get confusing and overwhelming and often we are left not knowing who to trust or what to do.
We are going to discuss some of the more common ridiculous myths that are still being passed around today, despite the amount of studies that have debunked them. While most of them are harmless, they can contribute to wasting time and money, lack of results and subsequent frustration. Others can lead to unnecessary food or food group elimination which can lead to nutritional deficiencies and health issues.
MYTH #1: CALORIES DON’T MATTER
Our all-time favourite.
Um…yes they do if you have a specific body composition goal that you are trying to achieve.
Calories are the driving factor for weight management. Consuming less calories than you burn will result in weight loss. Eating more calories than you burn is what causes weight gain.
Sure, it is important to eat a diet that is high in micronutrient-dense foods for optimal health but the law of thermodynamics proves it doesn’t matter where these calories come from.
In fact, Mark Haub, a professor of human nutrition at Kansas State University, ate a diet consisting of only Twinkies, doughnuts, oreos, sugary cereals, and corn chips for 10 weeks. His plan was to prove that when it comes to weight loss – being in a calorie deficit is what matters most, not the nutritional value of the food. The result? A loss of 27 pounds in two months. Obviously this is not a sustainable diet, but this experiment proves where your priority should lie when trying to lose fat.
MYTH #2: YOU CAN’T EAT CARBS AFTER DARK
Another one of our favourites!
There is no difference in consuming carbs in the late afternoon or evening as opposed to any other time of the day. The human body doesn’t undergo a specific process that suddenly turns all carbs into fat after 6pm.
Again, going back to myth #1, the cause of weight gain is when you consistently consume more CALORIES than you burn. This is true no matter where the calories come from – whether it be chicken breast, peanut butter, even broccoli! Not just carbs.
As long as your TOTAL calorie intake for the day is less than you are burning, you will lose fat. When you choose to eat your carbs is largely irrelevant.
MYTH #3: EATING FAT MAKES YOU FAT
If you think eating fat will make you fat – think again!
Eating foods high in fat doesn’t directly make you gain fat – eating excess calories is what makes you gain weight (are you noticing a trend yet). Due to its high caloric value (1 gram of fat = 9 calories) it is easy to consume a lot of calories when eating fatty foods. Any extra calories you eat that your body doesn’t use can be converted into body fat, not just dietary fat. Remember calories in vs calories out!
Although it is high in calories, fat actually helps you feel fuller for longer. Low-fat products may be lower in calories, but they are often super high in sugar – which isn’t as satiating and can result in overeating. Make sure you read the nutrition panel before choosing the low-fat version! You may find that you are better off eating a small serving of the full-fat kind so you actually enjoy it and feel fuller for longer.
MYTH #4: EATING SMALLER, MORE FREQUENT MEALS BURNS MORE FAT
The claim that you need to eat many smaller meals per day to “keep the metabolism firing” to accelerate fat loss, has been advised for quite some time and I am sure most of us have done this or maybe are even currently doing this. However, evidence shows the number of meals you consume largely makes no difference when it comes to fat loss. In fact, some studies suggest having smaller meals more often makes you feel less full compared to eating larger, less frequent meals, potentially leading to increased food intake.
The calories we burn digesting a meal are proportional to the size of the meal. Therefore, we expend a small amount of calories digesting a smaller meal and a greater amount of calories digesting a larger meal. If you were to eat the same amount of calories per day in 6 smaller meals or 3 larger meals, the calories burned through digestion would balance out.
So, while increasing meal frequency can make dieting more enjoyable for some, it doesn’t help us lose more fat.
MYTH #5: YOU MUST EAT BREAKFAST
“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day” is something we have all heard before. But the health advantages of consuming breakfast every day have been overhyped. It’s claimed that skipping breakfast can crash your metabolism, but studies in both lean and overweight individuals have shown that skipping breakfast does not inherently slow your resting metabolic rate (RMR). In fact, skipping breakfast has been shown to help people lose weight by reducing their eating window and subsequently their calorie intake for the day. The bottom line? You don’t need to eat breakfast to be healthy or to lose weight. You should base your breakfast consumption on your preferences and personal goals. If you like eating breakfast, eat it. If you don’t, then don’t!
MYTH #6: YOU MUST AVOID GLUTEN
When people cut out gluten they often cut out a lot of calorie dense foods which unknowingly puts them into a calorie deficit and results in weight loss. This can often lead people to believing that cutting out gluten is the secret to them to losing weight, but the reality is that eating less calories than they are burning is what is allowing them to lose weight.
Unless you suffer from Coeliac disease or have a gluten intolerance/sensitivity which causes digestive issues, avoiding gluten is completely unnecessary and in no way assists fat loss. Gluten free products are usually no less calorie dense than products containing gluten, and they also may contain more fat or sugar, added to make the food more palatable. Gluten free foods are often lower in fibre too, which is essential for bowel health and helps us to feel fuller for longer.
If you think you might be sensitive to gluten, or have any of the symptoms of Coeliac disease, it is best to talk to your doctor.
MYTH #7: DAIRY IS A FAT LOSS KILLER
Dairy foods often get a bad rap because they can be high in calories, saturated fat and cholesterol – things that have been associated with increased risk of heart disease, high cholesterol levels, inflammation, diabetes and other health issues. Dairy products have many nutrients that are beneficial to our bodies. They offer protein to build muscles and help organs work properly, and calcium to strengthen bones. Most milk and some yoghurts are fortified with vitamin D to help our body use calcium. There are low-fat options available to help reduce calorie and saturated fat intake. Studies also suggest dairy may reduce feelings of hunger – which can help with reducing snacking. Unless you have an allergy or intolerance to lactose, there is no need to avoid it. And even in that case there are plenty of lactose-free alternatives available now too!
MYTH #8: THERE ARE NEGATIVE-CALORIE FOODS
Whether you’ve bought into the myth or not, you’ve likely heard that certain foods (for example, celery, cucumber, lettuce, ect) burn more calories via digestion than they contain. When we consume food, we do burn calories digesting it – also known as the thermogenic effect of food. But not a whole lot – typically only 10% of the food or meal we have consumed. That’s because using calories from food is a big part of what keeps your body alive, so it’s streamlined the process into something that doesn’t take much energy to accomplish. So although they are very low calorie foods, it still takes less energy than this to digest and absorb them. This is why we recommend tracking everything you consume – including vegetables!