Let’s Bust These Nutritional Myths
Browsing the internet and working in the fitness industry, I have encountered numerous weight loss myths or “rules” that often hold very little value.
You may have seen them advertised in ways such as “follow this one rule to lose weight” or perhaps you have heard from a friend that “eating after a certain time makes you fat”.
Though these myths may have helped you lose weight, the reasoning is very simple: it helped you reduce your daily caloric intake.
Below I have laid out a few common myths that I hear all too often, if they actually work, and how.
The Top 5 Common Weight Loss Nutrition Myths Busted
#1. High carb foods make you fat
Although consuming too much of any macronutrient can make you fat, I find the majority of people have a skewed perception of what exactly a high carb food actually is. Many of these people actually love the combination of high carb and high fat foods such as pizza, cakes, brownies, donuts, etc. While all those foods do contain quite a large of amount of carbs, they are also loaded with fats making them very high calorie foods. Reducing high calorie foods from your diet will inevitably help you lose weight. However, you do not have to give up all your “high” carb foods.
Plenty of people enjoy high carb foods such as whole grains, fruits, and legumes and still lose or maintain a healthy weight. Just remember, it is probably not the high carb foods that is packing on the weight, but rather the higher calorie foods that is adding pounds to your physique.
#2. Do not eat after 6pm or before bed
The basis behind this logic is that when you are sleeping you do not burn as many calories and therefore, everything you eat at night readily turns into body fat. While eliminating late night eating helps some people lose weight, it is not the time of day that accounts for that weight loss. For some individuals, simply restricting calories from 6pm on helps them to consume fewer calories throughout the day leading to fat loss. Although you may not be active during your sleeping hours, the body still burns calories as its metabolic processes still take place during your sleep. At the end of the day, it is the total calorie intake relative to energy expenditure that determines weight loss.
#3. Do not eat carbs at night
The premise of this myth is very similar to the aforementioned do not eat after 6pm myth. The logic is you are less active during the evening and therefore require less energy from carbohydrates. The problem with this logic is that it looks at the body from a very short term perspective. Although you may be less active at night if you were extremely active during the day, the carbohydrates consumed at night would go towards the body’s immediate energy needs and towards replenishing depleted glycogen stores in the muscle and liver tissues. Think of it in terms of money, if you spent a $100 shopping during the day and found a $100 on the ground late that night, you would have a balanced bank account at the end of the day. The body works in a similar fashion. If your body expends 2000 calories daily, your weight would be the same if you consume 2000 calories regardless of the macronutrient source and the of the time a day you consume them.
#4. You have to consume multiple small meals a day to lose weight
The precise of this myth is that every time you eat your stimulate your metabolism. When you eat, it takes a certain amount of energy to break down that food into energy that can be used by the body. This is what is referred to as the thermic effect of food or TEF. Although eating does require energy to break down food, the amount of energy required is relative to the macronutrient (protein requires more energy to breakdown than carbs and fats) and calorie content. Thus, if an individual consumes 1500 calories, assuming the macronutrient consumption is equal, the thermic effect of food would be the same at the end of the day regardless of the amount of meals consumed throughout the day. Therefore, it is not necessary to consume multiple small meals throughout the day. Some people do better eating 3-4 meals while some do better eating 5-6 meals. Essentially, meal frequency it is up to the individual. Remember weight loss is determined by the calorie intake relative to energy expenditure not how often an individual eats.
#5. I worked out so I can eat whatever I want
Although exercising helps expend extra calories, it does not give you a free pass to eat whatever you want especially if the goal is weight loss. Even an exhausting workout that burns 1000 calories can easily be undone by three slices of pizza, or a meal from a fast food chain. Therefore, if you are looking to lose weight, do not use the excuse of exercise to consume whatever you want. Exercise tends to make some individuals hungry so be mindful of your food consumption and be aware that you cannot out exercise a high calorie diet.
(BONUS) #6. I eat clean so I do not have to count calories to lose weight
Although eating whole nutritious foods commonly referred to as eating clean is an excellent way to get adequate nutrition, calories still count when it comes to weight loss. Generally, it is easier for individuals to consume fewer calories when they choose clean or healthier food options, but calories still matter. If you consume too much of any food, regardless of quality, the body will store the excess as dietary fat. If you are looking to shed some weight, I would suggest keeping track on your energy consumption in conjunction of choosing nutritious foods.
Weight Loss Nutrition Myths: The Bottom Line
Although some of these nutritional myths may work well for certain individuals, it is not the rule themselves that make them effective. Instead, some of these myths work by helping individuals reduce their calorie intake by not consuming high calorie foods, limiting the daily total calories consumed, and by consuming fewer calories by eating clean foods. Ultimately if your goal is weight loss, your main focus should be reducing your daily total caloric intake and how you do that – not eating after 6pm, eating only clean foods, or eating multiple small meals a day – is up to you.