There’s a lot of crap out there in the nutrition world.
Sometimes, I feel like HALF of my job is debunking myths in the nutrition and fitness world.
The craziest “myth” I’ve ever heard was the “garlic diet” where you consume a disgusting amount of garlic to lose weight, cure cancer, and stabilize blood sugar.
Now we can all pretty much assume the garlic diet is bogus, but what about those not so obvious ones? Or the ones that SHOULD be myths but they’re so popular and prevalent that you’re just not sure?
Fortunately for you, I’m breaking down 10 of my favorite myths in the nutrition and fitness world.
It’s been a hot minute since I’ve done one of these, so I’m excited and I hope you are to.
Let’s get into it.
1. Fruit is bad for you
Fruit is great for you.
Here are some facts about fruit:
Fruit contains sugar. It’s a carbohydrate. Some fruit has a high glycemic index. Fruit is full of vitamins and minerals. Fruit contains water keeping you more hydrated. Some fruit is high in fiber, helping digestion. Fruit helps satisfy cravings. Antioxidants in some fruit (like berries) help with aging. Oxidation of fructose (the sugar in fruit) into glucose can give you an extra boost in your workouts. If you’re struggling with hunger (often the case in many reverse diets or during a women’s cycle), the sugar in fruit will help stimulate a hunger response.
Most important fact: no one got obese eating just fruit.
Fruit is one of the best things out there for you. It helps provide your body with water, nutrients, fiber, energy, etc.
If you’re trying to limit your sugar intake, first assess your processed food intake which often has significantly less nutrient quality before assessing your fruit intake.
2. You shouldn’t eat past 7pm.
I’d like to think that this is no longer a myth and we’ve figured it out by now, except just last week a client of mine was told by a professional to not eat 5hrs before bedtime. I still receive intake after intake where their last meal is HOURS before bedtime.
There are many reasons you should eat closer to bed.
Carbohydrates help reduce cortisol, helping your body get out of the sympathetic “fight or flight” nervous system and into the parasympathetic “rest and digest” nervous system. It helps your body produce acetylcholine and melatonin helping your body recover and rest during the night.
Carbohydrates and electrolytes help transport water into your cells, reducing your need to pee in the middle of the night.
Fats slow your digestion giving your body “fuel” throughout the night to heal and recover.
Think of that post-Thanksgiving coma. That’s not tryptophan from the turkey. That’s from all the carbs and fats in the side dishes. We can apply that knowledge to your nights so you can help stay asleep throughout the night.
Nighttime is usually a source of hunger and cravings. Knowing that, it doesn’t make sense to make a time where cravings and hunger exist and just remove all chances and hope of satisfying those cravings. Instead, have food and SATISFY THOSE CRAVINGS!
The science of weight gain and loss comes down to calories. If you want to lose weight, just eat in a deficit (throughout your day). That could mean you create a cut-off time for food in the evenings...but it’s to create a deficit...not magic.
You don’t want to eat SO close to bed (within an hour usually) to where you’re digesting food while you sleep, but you do want to get some food in before bed so you’re not starving and trying to fall asleep.
3. Fad diets work because of the diet themselves
NAH, in reality, fad diets work because they do two things! They create a calorie deficit and likely improve the quality of your diet.
Keto cuts out highly processed carbs and forces you to get your carbs from more lower calorie dense vegetables. Paleo removes carbohydrates and grains, giving you more veggies and fewer calories. Plant based gives you more veggies and removes a number of higher calorie foods, creating that deficit. Intermittent fasting reduces your eating window likely creating that calorie deficit.
It’s not the ketosis or the lack of meat in your diet.
It’s the deficit of overall calories, the removal of processed foods, and the addition of higher quality foods, most notably veggies.
If you want to lose weight, you 100% can go about it with a fad diet...but only do so if that diet is something you already naturally follow. For example, I already eat a fairly traditional Paleo-style diet with some extra carbs in there. If I had to choose a fad diet to follow, I’d choose the Paleo diet over say the Keto diet (because I hate eating fats).
It comes down to adherence not the fad diet.
Instead of choosing a fad diet that likely isn’t sustainable for you to follow, just take your normal diet and create a 300-500 calorie deficit already eating the foods you normally eat.
4. Eat Less, Do More
Not always the case! You see many coaches and influencers out there hammering home a calorie deficit, that the answer is always a matter of just eating less and doing more (via exercise).
Sometimes the exact opposite is true.
Eat more. Do less.
This is the case for many chronic dieters....and eventually you reach a point where there’s nowhere for you to go.
Say your normal (undieting) maintenance intake is 2500 calories. You diet and successfully lose weight eating 2000...but then never intentionally come out of that deficit. Fast forward to a year later and you want to lose weight again. Your maintenance intake is no longer 2500 calories. It’s 2000. To create that deficit (which is needed!), you need to go off of 2000, which could mean 1500 calories. Rinse and repeat. Fast forward to another year when you want to lose weight, you could have to eat 1000 calories to lose weight! Unless you spend time eating more and doing less, you’ll always just have to dig deeper in that deficit. Think of it like your bank account. You might be okay starting out at $10,000...but if every year you’re putting in $500 and taking out $1,000, eventually you’ll be in debt. Same goes with your calories.
Are constantly fatigued
Are constantly injured
Always think about food
Experience monstruous cravings
Hungry all the time
Live a high stressed life
You likely aren’t eating enough or need to adopt the “eat more, do less”. This will help your body HEAL. It will get you out of that sympathetic “fight or flight” mode and will help you rest and digest. In doing so, your gut will health, your hormones will heal, mental clarity will improve, energy will drastically improve, etc. You MAY even see positive body composition changes. Deficits are stressors and create a cortisol response. Perpetually living in a deficit running yourself to the ground doesn’t put your body in a safe and ideal space to lose body fat...it’s just trying to stay alive.
5. It’s normal to wake up in the middle of the night to pee.
It’s not. Your body is designed to get you through a restful night without having to pee.
There are a couple of potential reasons you are waking up in the middle of the night:
You drank a lot of water/fluids before bed
You’re not eating enough total calories
You’re deficient in electrolytes
You’re not eating enough carbs.
You’re chronically stressed
It’s a habit (that you’ll need to consciously break)
Carbs and electrolytes bring water from your bloodstream into your cells. Not enough carbs or electrolytes and that water has nowhere to go but out. Eat 20-40g of carbs 1-3 hrs before bed. Eat a diverse diet throughout the day, salt your foods, or supplement with electrolytes throughout the day.
Stress also plays a role. This is also tied into not eating enough. Stress and under-eating leads to a chronic activity and elevation of the sympathetic nervous system, better known as your fight or flight response. Cortisol and adrenaline are released into your bloodstream, stimulating activity. This means you’re going to be active and more awake during the night. Cortisol should be highest when you wake up then taper off as you go through the day. Stress, exercise, and not eating increases cortisol. If not met with (1) food and (2) stress management and mindful activities, you’re remaining in that fight or flight mode and will experience broken sleep or grogginess when waking up.
You’ll need to break the habit. Your body loves routine and habit and that could include your nightly pee. It’s like driving past a rest area on the interstate not having to pee then 2-3 minutes later needing to stop. Usually if you can get your mind off of it, you’re good to go for a few more hours. Same with sleep, next time you wake up having to pee (and you’ve applied some of the before-mentioned strategies), tell yourself you don’t have to pee and start counting down from 100. Soon you’ll be back to sleep and good to go for the rest of the night.
6. You are stuck at your body’s pre-described weight
There’s no “set point” where your body has to be. I often hear (and even thought at one time) the classic “I guess I’m just not meant to weigh ____ or look like ____.” To be honest, that’s a complete lie and an excuse for a lack of execution.
Anyone can achieve leanness. Anyone can become overweight or obese. Anyone can gain or lose strength, body fat, or muscle. You CAN change your body type. You just might have some more roadblocks or barriers than others.
There are factors that may affect your ability to achieve desired body composition changes: genetics, metabolism, environment, stress, biofeedback, and past dieting history.
Genetics DO play a role. There are people who, genetically, can achieve leanness or build muscle more effectively and quicker than others.
Your metabolism plays a role. If you’ve been chronically dieting, your metabolism has adapted to match that lowered intake. To achieve desired levels of leanness, you may have to work with your metabolism more than someone who’s never dieted in their lives. You may need more periodization and may need more time to repair your metabolic health.
One piece of the puzzle that people miss when it comes to athletes with “body goals” is that this is their job...so everything has to be perfect – specifically when it comes to their stress and their biofeedback. Brooke Wells (a top CF athlete) shares her sleep often and she’s logging 10hrs of sleep at a minimum most nights. A number of athletes (those that aren’t simultaneously in school or working other jobs) spend their time out of the gym resting and recovering to ensure healthy biofeedback. That plays a role in their aesthetics (as well as genetics).
Most importantly, past dieting history has one of the biggest effects in your body’s ability to change. Chronic dieters tend to have more trouble losing weight and changing their body composition because their bodies are pretty adapted to dieting (your body remembers a lot).
You do have a choice in the matter. You may decide that extra effort to get those remaining 5-10lbs aren’t worth it (due to overcoming the factors above), but that’s a choice you choose to make not one being made for you.
7. Protein, even more meat, is bad for you.
This one will always go on the list.
Protein is SO important. Not only is it an essential nutrient (meaning your body NEEDS it for survival and can’t make it itself), but it’s so important for much of what you’re struggling with: hunger, cravings, energy, slow metabolism, and body composition.
Protein requires a cascade of enzymes and machinery in your body to digest. Fats simply need lipases, veggies need amylases, and so on. Protein, specifically meat needs CCK, pepsin, trypsin, and proteases to eventually break down to it’s most simple amino acid form. This requires ENERGY AND TIME. This is why protein takes longer and requires more fuel to digest. What does this mean for you? A higher protein diet will increase your metabolism, curb hunger, and satisfy cravings. Isn’t that what you’re here for???
Meat, specifically, also has numerous benefits.
Amino acid variety
Omega 3 fatty acids
Precursor to muscle protein synthesis
These benefits aren’t as readily available as our plant-based protein-sources OR you need to eat a whole lot more of them to maybe get close to the same effects (or consider supplementation – likely iron, calcium, and B-vitamins)
8. IIFYM! As long as you hit your macros, you’re good to go.
Quality matters. It always has and always will.
Yes, by definition, following a IIFYM (if it fits your macros) approach will yield aesthetic results. You can eat to fit those macros and yield aesthetic results.
But there’s a saying.
If you chase health, aesthetics will follow. If you chase aesthetics, health will never follow.
This is why every single one of my clients who signs on with me understands our first priority is health and improving their biofeedback. Often case, this yields results before we ever even need to dive into a deficit.
The more applicable approach to IIFYM is flexible dieting.
In flexible dieting, 80-90% of your diet is whole foods and balanced proportions of protein, fats, carbs and veggies.
We NEED those 80-90% whole foods for nutrients and quality. Your body—your muscles, your organs, your brain, your gut, your hormones—need those nutrients for optimal function. The more processed a food is and the more chemicals you find in the ingredient list, the more stripped of its nutritional value.
The remaining 10-20% is where “flexibility” comes into play. This is where you include those non-negotiables: nachos, pizza, ice cream, alcohol, etc.
Quantity is important but so is the quality. Don’t forget and neglect that.
9. Detox Teas/Juices/Programs
Did you know you “detox” every day?
It’s called your liver. Your liver exists to detox your body from harmful pathogens, toxins, and unwanted crap that enters it daily (via food, environment, chemicals in processed foods, pesticides, stress, alcohol, etc.). It works in conjunction with your digestive system to digest helpful nutrients and rid the body of waste and garbage.
So when you dig into your savings to buy that fancy detox tea or program, you’re really just wasting that money...because you’ve already got the best detox program going on in your body.
Now there are ways to support your body’s natural detoxification system. Cruciferous veggies, healthy fats (omega-3 fatty acids specifically), leafy greens, root veggies, ginger, turmeric, garlic, and fermented foods are all GREAT resources to boosting
But for MANY, the best detox remedy is eating a balanced diet, with foods in its most natural state. If it flew, swam, walked, or grew on this Earth, you’re golden.
Aim to make your plate a rainbow and you’ll never need some Pinterest-inspired detox celery juice again.
10. You’re defined by your genetics.
Your parents are overweight. High cholesterol runs in your family. Your mom has Type II diabetes.
All of these can and will likely play a role in your genetics, but they don’t define your future.
Genetics determine your opportunity. They pre-dispose, not determine. In cancer biology and genetics, there are genes that can be inherited that make your risk of developing cancer higher. The most notable one you’re probably familiar with is the BRCA-1 gene. One misconception, however, is that this DETERMINES your risk of developing breast cancer. In reality, it really predisposes you. Cancer is determined by a 2-hit theory, where it takes two hits to lead to the development of cancer cells. Your genes make up just one of the hits, so if you were to have the BRCA gene but never experienced another cancer-promoting (carcinogenic) hit, you’d likely remain cancer free.
This is where your lifestyle comes into play.
You may have some crappy genetics, but it’s not a death sentence. You DO have a say in many cases to adjust your lifestyle to overcome those genetics.
If you struggle with this mindset shift, check out David Goggins and his book Can’t Hurt Me. You can get dealt pretty crappy cards, but ultimately you have the control. Letting those cards determine your worth, success, and happiness is just an excuse. It may mean you have to work that much harder, but it doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
And there you have it, my 10 favorite myths! Did you believe some of them? Are you convinced now otherwise?
It was actually pretty tough getting this list narrowed down because SO many are still prevalent.
If you’re still plagued by crazy nutrition myths, apply for coaching here.
Resources and Coaching:
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[Free] Nutrition Guide here.
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