Busting 7 Common Nutrition Myths

With the emergence of social media and the abundance of free resources online, we have access to all the fitness, health and nutrition advice we could ever ask for. While this is mostly a good thing, it can also be misleading and even frustrating to people who are looking to change their habits and improve their health and physique.

Why? Because given the scientifically complex nature of nutrition and exercise, people will sensationalize certain aspects of each in order to gain attention (and to hopefully make money). Sadly, this leads to confusion amongst those who are less informed in the subjects of health, nutrition and exercise. 

This blog post will focus on 7 of the most common nutrition myths that circulate the internet today. Nutrition is quite simple, and my goal is to clear the air of the garbage nutrition dogma that circulates mainstream and social media. If you want to learn more about nutrition, and see for yourself just how simple it can be, be sure to check out my nutrition guide

Most of these myths are dated back to 80’s and 90’s nutrition education. They were actually taught in universities worldwide to students looking to have careers as nutritionists and dietitians. Sadly, although we know better now, sometimes the word doesn’t spread as quickly to the general population. 

Other myths in this post are more recent. Through social media, podcasting, and publishing books, many professionals will cherry-pick information from studies and use it to sell their products or methods. While some of this information can sound convincing, and parts of it are actually accurate, I believe it does more harm than good to people trying to gain control of their health.

Let’s dive into the 7 biggest nutrition myths (and why they’re myths, and not facts).

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day

It’s long been believed that skipping breakfast would be a catastrophic event for your health and fitness. If you don’t eat something within an hour of waking up, your metabolism will slow down, and you’ll instantly start losing muscle mass. This is completely false.

While eating breakfast is a good idea for some people, so long as you have good eating habits when you do eventually eat, it’s actually totally fine to skip it. Some people just aren’t hungry in the morning. I believe that unless you’re actively trying to gain muscle, you shouldn't eat when you’re not hungry. If this is you, rest assured that you’re not harming yourself by waiting till later in the day to eat.

For some people, skipping breakfast is actually a good idea. If you’re looking to reap the benefits of intermittent fasting, skipping breakfast can be part of your daily routine! Your metabolism will not slow down, you won’t lose muscle, and your health won’t deteriorate if you decide not to eat in the morning. All this being said, if you skip breakfast and then eat garbage later in the day, you’re missing the boat. 

Never eat after 7 PM

Some people believe that eating food late at night leads to the storage of additional body fat. The fact is, the only way to store body fat is to consistently over consume calories. For fat loss and overall health, it does not matter what time of day you consume your calories.

There are benefits to evenly distributing your calories throughout the day, but if you consume food in the evening and you’re in a calorie deficit, you’ll still lose weight. This being said, there may be some benefits to cutting out late night eating.

The first one being that if some people eat too close to bedtime, their sleep quality suffers. If you’re having trouble sleeping I recommend at least 2 hours between your last meal and bedtime (along with many other strategies here). The other benefit is that if you struggle with making poor food choices and unnecessary snacking late at night, having a cutoff time for food can work favorably for you. Your willpower is at its lowest later in the day, so some people make poor food choices in the evening which causes them to be in an overall calorie surplus for the day. Aside from those two scenarios, the time of day you eat is totally up to you!

Carbs make you fat

This one has been made popular by low carb zealots (people trying to make money by selling their low carb fad diets). Some people believe that carbohydrates, and not overall calories, are the main drivers of fat gain because they cause a spike in the hormone insulin. Minimizing insulin spikes throughout the day is certainly good for your overall health, but it is not a direct driver of increased body fat.

The reason eating a diet high in carbohydrates may lead to fat gain is that many carbohydrate sources taste good and are not as satiating as protein and fat. This can cause someone to over consume them, which may result in eating too many calories. The most delicious and easy to overeat carb sources tend to also have a lot of fat content, which raises their overall caloric value. But it’s not the carbohydrates themselves that are making you fat.

In fact, if you enjoy training hard in the gym, carbohydrates are your friend. High intensity training requires glycogen, and while your body can produce glycogen from fats and proteins, it heavily prefers using carbohydrates. Keep this in mind if you’re ever wondering why cutting carbs makes you weaker in the gym!

To lose weight, you need to eat low (carb, protein, fat)

This is another example of people trying to sensationalize their way of eating and scare us into their dogmatic approach. The most common food group eliminated from diets is carbohydrates. While this can help people lose weight and feel more satiated throughout the day (for reasons stated above), it’s not the best approach for most people long term.

There are benefits to going through trial periods of low carb or low fat eating (never go low protein) for short periods of time to see how it affects you. But consuming a balanced diet with all 3 macronutrients most of the time is the most sustainable and likely the most healthy way to eat.

A very low fat diet is not something I’d recommend, as fat is an essential macronutrient (meaning if you don’t eat it, you’d eventually die) important for hormone balance and many other bodily functions. Anything under 25% of your calories from fat is what most would consider too low.

Sadly, even low protein diets have become a thing. Some hardcore vegans and “longevity experts” believe eating a higher protein diet may lead to health problems and decrease longevity. This is as false as it gets. Protein (also essential) is needed for so many different health promoting functions in the body that it would require an entire blog post (or more) to cover them. Please, whatever you do, don’t go low protein.

Nuts are a good source of protein

Here’s the deal, just because something has protein in it, does not mean it’s a “good source” of it. You need to look at the other macronutrients a food item contains in order to determine whether or not it’s indeed a good source. Nuts do contain protein, but they also contain a lot of fat and are quite high in calories for a low volume of food.

While eating nuts in moderation certainly has health benefits, ensure you’re not eating them to get more protein. Not to pick on vegans again, but this claim is very popular amongst their community.

To paint the picture better, let’s say you want to eat a meal with 30 grams of protein in it. If you consume 30 grams of protein from almonds, for example, you’d have to consume an entire cup! Doesn’t sound too bad, right? Wrong. In 1 cup of almonds, there are 826 calories because almonds are also high in fat (more than a 2:1 ratio of fat:protein).

Conversely, if you were to choose 96% ground beef (an actual good protein source) for 30 grams of protein you’d only have to consume 5 OZ and it would equate to about 180 calories! Hopefully you can see the difference between a good source of protein and a food containing protein.

More protein means more muscle gain

If you’re a skinny hardgainer, this myth has most likely been the bane of your existence (hopefully isn’t anymore). Once you’ve consumed .8-1gram of protein per pound of bodyweight (daily), consuming more will not lead to additional muscle gain.

In fact, eating more protein will make you more full, which may lead to less muscle gain because you’re unable to consume enough calories. Once this number is reached each day, to gain more muscle you need to be in a calorie surplus. Higher protein diets can actually make it more difficult to be in a calorie surplus because protein is so satiating.

If anything, someone trying to lose weight should eat more protein than required in hopes they'll be less hungry and lose less muscle while in a deficit. To gain muscle, you need to eat more food overall, but not more protein. Fill the rest of your diet with healthy fats and carbs if you’re looking to get jacked!

You need to eat something every couple of hours

It’s commonly believed that in order to avoid slowing down your metabolism, you need to eat something every 2-3 hours. This is completely untrue. The metabolism is far more complicated than this, and will not, in fact, slow down if you’re not constantly eating. In fact, doing this is a great way to decrease your energy levels.

Digesting food requires a significant amount of energy. If you’re consuming food from sunup to sundown, a lot of energy goes into digestion, which in turn takes away from other important bodily functions, especially cognition and mental sharpness.

Unless you’re a high level bodybuilder or an athlete with extreme caloric needs, eating this frequently is not only unnecessary, but may also be unhealthy. The digestive system thrives when it’s given a rest on occasion. Additionally, most people need to eat less food overall (because more people are overweight/obese in America than not).

If you’re eating every few hours (and are trying to lose weight) you’ll never be able to feel truly satiated. Each time you finish a small meal, you’ll probably want to eat more. Eventually, willpower runs out (because it’s finite for everyone), and you end up overeating.

If you eat 2-3 larger meals but space them out throughout the day, you’ll be able to eat substantially more at each meal and feel far more satiated. Essentially, eating 6-7 meals a day requires significantly more discipline and willpower, so why not cut that in half? 

There are several more nutrition myths circulating the internet and social media. But these seven are not only the most common, but also the most detrimental to progress. Hopefully you now have an understanding that your nutrition habits don’t have to be so strict and that you should take all nutrition advice with a grain of salt. If something sounds suspect, chances are it is!

Thank you for reading! My next post will be all about common training myths. What nutrition myths have you bought into in the past? Leave a comment below!

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