Whether you're looking to shed a little of the excess fat that's crept up over the last six months, want to get lean and mean for a fitness contest, or simply want to improve your overall health, your diet is essential to your progress.
There's no doubt about it—without a proper diet plan, your results will be slow at best. If you want to kick your results into overdrive and get the most of each sweat-drenched workout, it's time to do your research and put together a muscle-building macro plan.
So how are you supposed to separate fact from fiction? To help clear the noise, here are the top eight nutritional myths you don't want to fall for. Know these and you'll be prepared to debunk phony theories and chow down smart.
Nutritional Myth 1
Eggs Will Put You At Risk For Heart Problems
You've likely heard time and time again that, as far as heart health is concerned, whole eggs should be avoided. After all, too much yolk is never a good thing, right? Not necessarily. It's true: The recommended daily dose of cholesterol is around 300 mg, and one egg yolk contains 450 mg.
That's nowhere near the whole story, though. Egg yolks contain high levels of dietary cholesterol, which is different from the blood level cholesterol that's linked to an increase in the risk of atherosclerosis and heart attacks.
In fact, egg yolks can be beneficial. The carotenoids in the yolks may promote eye health. Egg yolks are also one of the richest dietary sources of the B-vitamin complex choline, which is linked to reduced inflammation and better neurological function.1
While downing a couple of six-egg omelettes is never a wise idea, eating one per day isn't going to put you in harm's way.
Nutritional Myth 2
Honey Is Good For You Because It's Natural
Hold it right there, honey. Just because you've sworn off granulated sugar doesn't mean you can have a pass on the "natural" alternative. Far too many people think that honey is a healthier alternative to sugar.
While honey does contain more nutrients than sugar—serving up vitamin B6, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, calcium, copper, iron, and magnesium—at the end of the day, sugar is sugar by any name.
Honey contains 55 percent fructose, and studies suggest that high fructose consumption can lead to health problems such as obesity, heart disease, and liver disease. A teaspoon per day won't crush you're your dietary goals, but view honey as a health food, and you're going to be in for a rude awakening. Too much of any form of sugar puts you at risk for type 2 diabetes, weight gain, and energy crashes.
Nutritional Myth 3
Fat From Beef Should Be Avoided
Many people concerned about their heart health or weight loss shun red meat entirely. They're following the conventional wisdom that red meat is too high in saturated fat to be a regular part of a healthy diet plan.
However, this isn't the case. The trick is to choose the grass-fed variety of red meat. Do that and you'll take in healthy CLA fat, which actually promotes fat burning.
CLA is a form of omega fatty acid that, according to a study published in the "Journal of Nutrition," can help lower your risk of cancer. Regular intake can also help to lower blood pressure and combat insulin resistance, therefore preventing type 2 diabetes, reducing the level of inflammation in the body, improving overall body composition, and combating osteoporosis.
So, don't be quick to pass on the beef for the chicken or tilapia alternative. It's a great source of protein, creatine, amino acids, and vitamins that will keep your muscles full while helping you maintain a lean physique.
"Red meat increases ATP levels in your body, providing you with immediate energy," says Reid. "The extra calories in red meat—as opposed to fish or chicken—can provide a little more fuel for heavy training sessions."
Beef's iron content is also essential for maintaining your energy levels for physical activity; it's a can't-miss food.
Nutritional Myth 4
A Higher Protein Intake Is Dangerous
Another common myth that you'll often hear spread by non-gym goers is that all those protein shakes are slowly depleting their bone calcium content.
What's the truth here? Is that protein shake you're drinking helping you build muscle or setting you up for a stress fracture?
Don't put down your shaker cup just yet. The research is clear: A reasonably higher protein intake is safe.
As reported in a study published in the "American Society For Clinical Nutrition," a higher protein intake won't change your markers of bone turnover or calcium extraction.
However, all that protein can be dehydrating. If you bump your protein intake up from either supplements or real food, make sure you drink a little extra water throughout the day.
Nutritional Myth 5
You Shouldn't Combine Carbohydrates With Fats
This is another common food misconception, that eating carbs plus fat equals fat gain. The "logic" behind the myth is this: If you eat both carbs and fats in the same meal, you could run the risk of overrunning your total caloric intake for that meal—a risk that would pose less of a threat if your meal was low carb or low fat.
But, as long as your calorie intake isn't excessive, simply eating the two nutrients together won't increase your risk of fat gain. In fact, eating a meal that contains a nice balance of all three nutrients—healthy fats, complex carbs, and lean protein—tends to provide greater nutrition and satiety while keeping energy levels stable.
Nutritional Myth 6
Gluten-Free Diets Mean Weight Loss
Gluten's gotten a bad rep as of late. And, while there's no question that it poses a threat to people who are unable to digest it, for the vast majority of individuals, this isn't the case. Avoiding gluten doesn't spell automatic weight loss.
If cutting it out means you reduce your consumption of processed foods and lower your total caloric intake by trading in junk food for nutrient-dense options, then going gluten-free has a clear benefit and you're bound to lose weight. But, if you just replace gluten containing foods with highly processed "gluten free" alternatives, don't be surprised if your weight plateaus or even increases. There's an incredibly high amount of unhealthy gluten-free products on the market.
Nutritional Myth 7
Eating More Frequently Boosts Your Metabolism
People seeking fat loss might be quick to jump on the multiple meals per day plan thinking that it'll give them a metabolic boost and spur faster weight loss. While eating frequently might help you out, it's not because of a supercharged metabolism. The thing to note here is that the metabolic spike you get after eating is going to be directly proportional to the amount of calories you consume. Eat more, burn more. Eat less, burn less.
At the end of the day, if your calories are the same in both situations, you'll see the same metabolic enhancement. People who eat multiple times per day run the risk of consuming more calories since they eat more often; they're at a greater risk of weight gain.
It all boils down to personal preference, but either way, calories tracking is the key.
Nutritional Myth 8
Detox Is Great For Weight Loss
Think twice before jumping on the latest detox bandwagon.
This so-called fast way to kick-start weight loss is anything but. While some detoxes might serve up a healthy dose of antioxidants, they're also often notoriously low in calories and protein. So while you may think you're ridding your body of built up chemicals and toxins, you actually encourage your metabolism to crash—meaning you set yourself up for fat gains down the road.
Low protein intake coupled with a reduction in calories means you're at a high risk of losing muscle mass as well. "These lose-weight-fast formulas might help you drop some water weight initially and, while the number on the scale might go down, by no means will you lose any body fat," says Whitney. "I would actually consider some of these detox programs harmful because they can lead to dehydration and deplete your body of important vitamins and minerals."
If you want to cleanse your system, drink more water, cut out processed food, and feast on fresh fruits and vegetables all while taking in safe level of protein and calories. Not only will you feel better, but you'll also likely keep off the weight you lose.
- Kelley NS, Hubbard NE, Erickson KL. (2007). Conjugated linoleic acid isomers and cancer. J Nutr. Dec;137(12):2599-607.
- Argyiou, E. et al. (2003). Effect of a high-protein, energy-restricted diet on body composition, glycemic control, and lipid concentrations in overweight and obese hyperinsulinemic men and women. American Society For Clinical Nutrition. Vol. 78, No. 1.