There are a number of lies being sent out into the world...and the worst part about it is that MOST of them are coming from the actual fitness industry.
I have done some myth-busting posts in the past, but that included most of the myths coming from popular culture, celebrities, and advertisements.
Today’s is a bit different. These are the lies that have come out of the fitness industry...the industry we should be able to trust. I say should because in a perfect world, those in the fitness/nutrition industry should be on the same page. They should be doing their homework and staying up to date on current research. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Some of this is due to simple cognitive dissonance, meaning people are going to favor research that supports their view and discredit those that disagree. Some of it is due to lack of education and regulation with what it takes to be a trainer or coach. Some of it, my least favorite part, is just people out to make a buck and don’t care about the well-being of the client or individual.
That’s why I do SO many of these. If I can reach even just one person and convince them to not do the HCG diet or taking a weight-loss pill or from avoiding carbs forever and as a result improving their quality of life, then I’m happy and successful. I know the struggle of trying to find the right information on the internet. There’s so much out there and it all conflicts with one another, it’s hard to distinguish what’s true or false.
This is the basis of how I created the name “Clar-e-ty”. I strive to provide clarity in nutrition and fitness and clear up all of the confusion and confounding diets and secrets.
Below are some of my favorite lies I’ve heard from the fitness industry. Enjoy!
Fasting is the secret to losing weight AND building muscle
Fasting is a tool to help in weight-loss. It’s not the fasting itself, it’s the deficit that is created from restricting your feeding window. Less time to eat usually means eating less food.
Fasting has been studied pretty extensively as to whether it’s an effective tool to building muscle and the general consensus is that it’s not very effective at all. The reason for this is because building muscle needs a surplus. Now you can eat in a surplus with intermittent fasting. That is 100% true, but it is much more difficult and may lead to some GI distress from eating so much food in such a short window of time. Additionally, we best see muscle growth when feeding is frequent and consistent, most often by eating 4-5 meals ~3 hours apart, with carbs and protein at each meal, which does make fasting and building muscle more difficult. That being said, it always comes down to adherence. If you personally feel better fasting (GI symptoms, sleep, brain fog, etc. are all improved) and still are seeing muscle growth results, then keep with it.
Unless you’re a novice lifter (<1 year of lifting), it’s nearly impossible or at the very least extremely difficult to build muscle AND lose weight. This makes fasting the secret to both very false. It will always come down to calories in, calories out. To lose weight, you must be in a caloric deficit. To gain weight, you must be in a surplus. You most often can’t do both at one time. Now, some people with >2 years of training under their belts will say they hit PRs and built strength while in a deficit, disproving my point. My response is this. Most often in a cut or deficit, everything is on point: stress management, sleep, meal timing, adherence, food quality, recovery, training, etc. Having all of this on point (compared to often not during maintenance or “intuitive eating”) reduces inflammation and makes you feel significantly better, improving your performance at the gym. It isn’t the deficit that’s building muscle, it’s the improved adherence and consistency.
Keto builds muscle
It doesn’t, in most cases. You need carbs to promote building muscle, because carbs are what replenishes and provides your muscles with glycogen. Carbs also fuel your workouts, helping you push harder and increase the volume and intensity needed for maximal growth. The keto diet is a great tool for losing weight and is a great diet for pre-diabetics or diabetics and even a reset-diet for poor insulin sensitivity, but not as effective as eating carbohydrates.
Protein gets stored as fat or converted to sugar when overconsumed
From a biological or biochemical perspective, this one makes no sense...but unfortunately is a widespread belief. The physical structure of each macro determines how it’s going to be digested in the body. The chemical nature of each macro is vastly different. For a protein to be treated as a fat or a carb/sugar, it’s chemical structure would need to be completely altered, changing chemical bonds and even the elements making up the macro...which is virtually impossible.
There is no upper limit when it comes to protein, despite the many claims stating otherwise. They’ve taken overall protein amounts to as much as double bodyweight and saw no adverse reactions. The reason we generally recommend 1-1.2g/lb bodyweight is simply to get the necessary amount of protein for muscle protein synthesis while still allowing room in your diet for carbs and fats. Giving someone too high of a protein prescription will take calories away from fats and carbs, while also making protein pretty hard to reach, affecting the person’s adherence. If they can’t adhere to the diet, then they won’t get results.
There is not a maximum daily protein limit nor is there a maximum amount per meal. Your body doesn’t reach 51g of protein and all of a sudden shut down and say “nope, we’re 1g over! Time to store as fat.” That’s just not how the body works. There are, however, optimal ranges for performance and weight loss. We see best results consuming 30-60g protein every ~3 hrs. This provides your body a drip effect of protein, which will encourage constant muscle protein synthesis, while also improving hunger/satiety/cravings. Again, it comes down mainly to an adherence factor.
Remember it always comes down to calories. If you’re eating SO much protein that it’s putting you into a surplus, then yes you likely will gain weight, but again, it’s not the protein that’s doing that, it’s the caloric surplus.
Low Carb Diets
You need carbs. Low carb diets are NOT the solution. Your brain alone needs 100g of glucose, which comes from carbs. Your muscles, liver, and overall body needs glycogen as fuel, which comes from carbs. This is even without factoring in training...but if you’re doing any sport, you are using glycogen as your predominant fuel source and that alone comes from carbs.
Will you get results? Yes. Will you feel leaner? Yes (1g carb has 3g of water). Will it last? Most likely not.
They’re just not sustainable. You can’t follow that diet forever. You’re going to go out to eat. You’re going to drink alcohol (which has some carbs). Your kids are going to want pizza...and not the low-carb cauliflower pizza. Your kids will want a birthday cake. Your coworkers might bring in donuts. Your grandparents (mine at least) are going to bake you goodies. You can say no, but this is going to lead to a miserable and restrictive life. You can eat carbs and you can learn how to eat them in moderation so that you don’t gain weight or any of the feared side effects of carbs.
Weight loss is effortless
This is one that absolutely kills me. Weight loss is not easy. You will be hungry. You will have cravings. You likely will have to sacrifice some social events OR bring your own food so you can stay on track. You will be more tired. Your sex drive may even take a hit. Sleep may suffer. You won’t feel 100% because you’re not fueling yourself 100%. It also is likely going to require some significant lifestyle changes by changing habits that you’ve had for years...and the mental strength behind that is very difficult.
That’s not to say you will feel miserable. Hopefully by finding the diet and approach you can adhere to, you will “effortlessly” lose weight. I’m currently cutting and all things considered, it has been a piece of cake in the sense that I am able to adhere to the approach very effectively and my body is responding very well...but this was achieved after almost 4 months of struggling and figuring out what approach would work best for my lifestyle. Even though my body is responding well and very quickly, I’m hungry often (starving actually). I’ve sacrificed some nights out with friends. I’ve had to adjust my training volume to not burnout (something I didn’t do 4 months ago). I had to manage my trip to New Orleans and adhere to two 75g carb days. I have to plan diligently the night before, so I don’t cave in the following day. It’s hard work and the benefits for me outweigh the cost of all of this and I’m loving the results...so it may seem effortless because of the joy of the results, but don’t let that distract you from the hours of work I’m putting in.
If someone in the fitness industry promises you “effortless” weight loss, don’t trust them because I can guarantee it isn’t true.
“No pain, No gain”
This is one I fell into for a while. You don’t need to annihilate yourself at the gym to get results. You don’t need to do a soul-crushing workout day in, day out to reach your goal.
In fact, not only do you not need to, you don’t want to. Training like this is only going to lead to burnout, injury, and inflammation, all things that are a recipe for disaster when it comes to any goal: weight loss, weight gain, or simply maintenance.
If you follow a smart training program, where volume and intensity are managed, you are likely to get better results.
Does that mean your workouts are easy? NOPE. In fact, the most difficult workouts I’ve ever done had no conditioning piece in them and were strictly lifting exercises with intention and appropriate volume. You can make lifting pretty damn difficult...you can get that heart rate up (I’ve done a set of squats and seen my heart rate spike to 170bpm) and feel the effects just without the inflammation that comes with it.
A few years back, I took a step away from constant metcons (CrossFit lingo for workout) where I was running myself into the ground. I was constantly injured because I 1. wasn't eating enough and 2. wasn't recovering properly and managing volume well. I took a step back and incorporated exercises with way more intention, mainly just lifting and doing the right amount of accessory work. I still have conditioning pieces but with more quality of movement.
Now I love a grinding workout...so I give myself 1-2 days/week to just go for it and run myself into the ground. It keeps me happy, but my body doesn’t suffer the consequences.
Lean = healthy
This is another one. Lean does not equal healthy. Follow some decent lifters or bodybuilders (especially the ones I name below) and you’ll see how upfront they are on the cost your health takes when you get lean.
Check out Holly Baxter, Layne Norton, Eric Helms, Jason Phillips, Laurie Christine King, Boom Boom Performance, Caroline Ofenstein (w/ BBP) and they’ll all tell you pretty upfront how shitty it feels and how unhealthy it is to be at very lean levels.
At my leanest state (142lbs), I wasn’t sleeping. I had no hunger. I lost my period completely (not a good sign of health in the slightest). My workouts sucked. I was sore often. My strength had tanked. Did I look good? Hell yeah. Did I feel good? Hellllll no.
We see these ripped individuals, either on magazines, on social media, on TV, etc. that look really good...but they are NOT healthy. When you drop to a certain body fat percentage, you obviously are losing fat, which is a significant marker of health. Fat is essential at hormone regulation, homeostasis, inflammation, etc. Losing [too much] body fat causes your hormones to take a hit. This is when we see people lose their sex drive completely, when thyroid issues come about, when women lose their cycles. These are needed for overall health, meaning you need to have some body fat on you.
This means that you probably need to be more realistic with your goals. Sure, you may want to look like that magazine model or that IG person who spent months prepping for that shoot, but it by no means is sustainable nor is it healthy. You’re meant to have body fat on you, especially if you’re a female. I loved how I looked at 142lbs, but I hated how I felt and the state at which my health was, so I realized that 148-150lbs is a perfect place for me to sit to love what I see in the mirror but still be as healthy as possible.
The celery juice, lemon water, juice/water detox, weight-loss/detox tea trends are all bogus. They don’t promote fat loss. They don’t magically improve or heal your gut.
Real food does. Eating 80-90% whole foods is what works.
These detoxes and teas, if they work, work because of the placebo effect. If you believe something to work enough, it will...but that doesn’t mean it was the celery juice that magically healed your gut and shed 10 lbs. You velieved that it would and likely subconsciously made adjustments to your diet (cleaned up food quality, increased activity, decreased stress, etc.) that caused you to lose weight.
Does this mean you can’t drink them? No, but drink them because you like the taste or you like the feeling that you get upon starting your day with a refreshing drink. For example, I’m a big proponent of a greens supplement/powder, more from the changes it makes to your day not because of the “serving of greens, and fruits, and micros that it provides”. Starting your day in a routine on a good foot likely will lead to increased mood and motivation and better choices throughout the day.
I’m making this a very broad category. By “quick fixes,” I’m referring to all of the fad diets, supplements, fancy machines, waist-trainers, 30-day diets, 6-week programs, etc. that are promised to guarantee results fast. We all want quick solutions because we want results as soon as possible, but real results take time and effort and need to be in junction with your lifestyle. If you hate fruits and veggies and love carbs and try the Whole30 challenge and see great results, they won’t last because you need a plan that includes carbs and the bare minimum of fruits and veggies...something you can stick to for years to come.
It comes down to marketing and what sells.
The fitness industry chooses to promote the things that capture the most attention. Unfortunately, what works and is guaranteed to work is the non-sexy work: tracking, meal prep, eating veggies and fruits, limiting processed foods, daily exercise, walking, sleeping 7+ hours/night, and managing stress. None of this is what sells despite its effectiveness. The 30-day detox tea/juice diet guaranteeing a flat belly or your money back is what sells...but unfortunately doesn’t work.
So what does this mean?
This means that you must take the responsibility of taking control of your own health. Do the research necessary to find the approach that works for YOU. Understand it does take work, but it does guarantee real results that you can be proud of. Hire someone to keep you accountable while you’re making the necessary changes to your life or someone to ask questions about what does or doesn’t work, what is or isn’t legit. Accountability cannot be stressed more, and that is where a coach comes in.
Resources and Coaching:
Online Coaching here.
[Free] Nutrition Guide here.