When I first started my fitness journey (back in the days when there was no easy access to the internet), I had no idea what I was doing. To gather tips, I asked people who seemed, watched infomercials, and watched what other people did in the gym. Then armed with my arsenal of broscience, I headed off to make a change to my fitness level. Needless to say, I failed miserably.
Through a lot more reading, research, and a bunch of trial and error, I ended up learning about and debunking a bunch of fitness myths, so I thought that I’d compile some big ones in this post.
Myth 1: Alcohol makes you fat
This one is the most convenient myth that has been busted (at least for me), so I want to spend a little more time explaining this one.
On a regular basis, your body uses carbs in your blood stream for energy. Once you run out, your body will start oxidizing the fat cells for energy (ketogenic process – good!). At which point, if you were to consume carbs or protein, you will pause fat cells oxidization. The carbs you consume will go towards a glycogen store and once that store is full, any extra carbs will be turned into fat.
Once you consume alcohol (ethanol), it will get immediate priority over all other substrates. This means that all fat, carb, and protein oxidation will stop. You body will work to try to oxidize the alcohol first for energy. At this state, any dietary fats that get consumed will easily get converted to fat cells and any carbs you consume over your glycogen store will get converted to fat. What this also means is that if your macronutrient for your drinking day is almost purely protein and you keep pounding shots of tequila (not chugging beer or cocktails), then you will not gain that much fat at all.
Note: Beer has lots of carbs in addition to alcohol, but shots have almost zero carbs (0.5g-1g of carbs per shot).
Myth 2: Drinking water will help you lose weight.
Although replacing sugary beverages with water is a smart thing and will help with reducing your caloric intake, recent studies are starting to show that drinking water actually does not help you burn calories or suppress your appetite.
Myth 3: Eat smaller meals to keep your metabolism up
I used to eat small meals throughout the day. The only thing that ever helped me with was to learn how to portion control. I didn’t lose any extra weight by splitting up my 3 big meals into 6 small ones throughout the day.
“More importantly, studies using whole-body calorimetry and doubly-labelled water to assess total 24h energy expenditure find no difference between nibbling and gorging.”
Myth 4: Eat more meals to keep you full all the time
More like, this will make me starve all the time. I’ve learned that a good amount of protein & fat keeps me full and satiated longer than back when I used to eat 6 small meals per day.
“Collectively, these data suggest that higher protein intake promotes satiety and challenge the concept that increasing the number of eating occasions enhances satiety in overweight and obese men.”
Myth 5: If you don’t eat constantly, your blood sugar level will drop causing you to not be able to think straight.
Personally I skip breakfast everyday and I am a full time software engineer. I notice no mental drawbacks in the morning.
“Cognitive performance, activity, sleep, and mood are not adversely affected in healthy humans by 2 d of calorie-deprivation when the subjects and investigators are unaware of the calorie content of the treatments.”
Myth 6: Eating right before you sleep will make you fat.
“It was really interesting to see that the monkeys who ate most of their food at night were no more likely to gain weight than monkeys who rarely ate at night…”
“This suggests that calories cause weight gain no matter when you eat them.”
Myth 7: Skipping breakfast will plummet your metabolism and make you fat.
I’m not saying that eating breakfast is bad for you. I’m just saying that it won’t help you lose weight. I skip breakfast everyday intentionally since it has helped me get lean. Here’s a study that shows that short-term fasting doesn’t lower your metabolism, but instead increases it.
Myth 8: Fasting will destroy your metabolism and make you lose muscle.
For long term fasting, this is true. But there has been no reliable study to prove this for short term fasting (i.e. 12-24 hours). Not to say that 24 hours is the cut-off time. This study found that the negative effects of fasting starts kicking in at about 60 hours (so you got plenty of buffer room).
Myth 9: After your workout, you have only one hour to replenish your body with fast nutrients.
This is a popular myth that needs to be debunked. According to this study by Tipton and colleagues, our body still responds to good nutrition even at 24 hours after your workout. Eat enough protein throughout the day.
Myth 10: Your body can only process 30g of protein per meal.
“Based on the available evidence, it’s false to assume that the body can only use a certain amount of protein per meal. Studies examining short-term effects have provided hints towards what might be an optimal protein dose for maximizing anabolism, but trials drawn out over longer periods haven’t supported this idea.”
Myth 11: Eating saturated fat will destroy your health and increase your risks of cardiovascular disease
“A meta-analysis of prospective epidemiologic studies showed that there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD or CVD.”
Myth 12: Fructose is much worst than sucrose (sugar)
I talked about this before in an earlier post: Sugar (Sucrose) Is More Similar to High Fructose Corn Syrup Than You Think
Myth 13: Cholesterol == BAD
“Our findings do not support the hypothesis that hypercholesterolemia or low HDL-C are important risk factors for all-cause mortality, coronary heart disease mortality, or hospitalization for myocardial infarction or unstable angina in this cohort of persons older than 70 years.”
Myth 14: High protein intake can harm your kidneys.
According to this study, you can intake up to 1.27g of protein per pound of body weight per day without any adverse effect on renel functions. Most athletes on a high protein diet usually consume about 1g of protein per pound of their body weight each day. Take that hippies.
Myth 15: Red meat causes cancer.
This myth started back in 1986 when a Japanese researcher discovered that feeding rats “heterocyclic amines” (the burnt part of overcooked meat) causes cancer growth in rats. Since then there has been many studies (like this one) trying to correlate red meat with cancer and failed to do so. There is even a study unlinking the consumption of a usual amount of heterocyclic amines with cancer. Don’t stop grilling and eat your meat people. It’s good for you.
Myth 16: Low/no carb diets are unhealthy.
“Even short-term consumption of a paleolithic type diet improves BP and glucose tolerance, decreases insulin secretion, increases insulin sensitivity and improves lipid profiles without weight loss in healthy sedentary humans.”
Myth 17: Carbs are bad for you.
Carbs have been getting a bad rap lately, but carbs do have a place in helping you get in shape. Your body needs carbs for fast energy. Try lifting heavy weights or competing in any sports without eating carbs on that day. You will get destroyed. There is no way you can perform intense workouts without eating your carbs.
If your goal is to cut fat, you should be eating as much carbs as you can while not gaining fat.
Personally, I have a hard time cutting fat (my metabolism sucks), so I cut out the carbs completely during my non-workout days. Everybody is different though so experiment, monitor your carbs, and find what works for you.
Myth 18: Take Fish oil supplements to lose fat.
Fish oil has many wonderful benefits, but it only marginally helps with fat loss.
“In the most recent fish oil + exercise study to date, Hill’s team examined the effect of fish oil supplementation … less than a pound more weight loss in the fish oil group in 12 weeks.”
Myth 19: Ephedrine is the most dangerous supplement. That’s why it was banned in the US.
Ephedrine stacked with caffeine is no more dangerous than any other fat burning supplement when used as directed. That said, if you are not reasonably healthy, you shouldn’t be taking any fat burners anyway since they can seriously harm you even at recommended dosages.
“In total, these suggest that herbal ephedra/caffeine herbal supplements, when used as directed by healthy overweight men and women in combination with healthy diet and exercise habits, may be beneficial for weight reduction without significantly increased risk of adverse events.”
Myth 20: Creatine is bad for you and can permanently harm you.
“Creatine is a naturally occurring compound, made up of three amino acids called Glycine, Methionine, and Arginine. It exists in meat (roughly 5g per kg of meat) and animal products as well. Supplementation with creatine (in the form of monohydrate) has not been shown to infer any harm to any healthy population.
Despite popular broscience, creatine will not (under healthy conditions) harm kidneys, the liver, the heart, the brain, and will not induce any significant hormonal changes that manifest themselves as behavior changes.”
That’s it so far!
Giving credit where credit is due: I learned a lot of this stuff from leangains.com, alanaragon.com and lurking around on r/Fitness over the years (great resources to follow if you want to get in the best shape of your life). Please feel free to share in the comments section if you know of any other nutrition myths that you used to believe were true.