AKA “Things we thought we knew that might be wrong”.
In this article, we will look at some other misconceptions surrounding nutrition and exercise.
There are many diet and exercise philosophies that have been preached for so long that most just assume they are true, but are they?
Artificial Sweeteners are bad
If you read chain emails started by lunatics then yes, they are horrible – causing everything from cancer to leprosy. But are they really carcinogenic? The body of evidence says no – although some may be safer than others. My beef with AS’s is not the potential dangers they supposedly cause but rather the caloric emptiness of the foods they are designed to sweeten.
These substances are rigorously tested – toxicology, mutagenicity, carcinogenicity, reproductive toxicity, etc. Scientists collect data and determine an Acceptable Daily Intake – the maximum amount that regulatory bodies consider safe. Even 90th percentile consumption falls in about 5-10% of the ADI. Over 1000 studies have been published on Aspartame alone and with scant exception they have been deemed safe. Of course you’ll hear the “yeah but those studies are funded by the companies that make it”. When looking at studies, the methodological quality is the most important factor when validity is the subject.
Hallowing or “Drawing in” your stomach muscles is the best way to stabilize them
“Hallowing” is a technique popular in yoga and Pilates whereby people are instructed to “suck in” their bellies” to stabilize. Unfortunately the science here is unstable (nyuk, nyuk). The rationale is to try and fire up the deep muscles of the abdominals and lower back.
When tested clinically, however, a technique called “bracing” was shown to be far more effective in recruiting the right muscles for lower back stability. To “brace”, think about filling the belly up with air without letting the belly button stick out or draw in. Pretend you are bracing for a punch to the gut. Side note: Anyone involved in prescribing exercise should read Stuart McGill’s books.
Counting Calories Doesn’t Work
Telling people what they want to hear 101 – the #1 trick of the trade of diet book authors. In a perfect world we could just eat near-limitless amounts of certain kinds of foods and never gain an ounce. Well, reality can be harsh, but it’s the only place to get a good steak. The simple indisputable fact remains, that chronically eating more than you burn will cause you to gain weight – regardless of macronutrient composition. At some point, even extreme low carbers and the fading low fat advocates will have to watch calories.
High Protein Intake will ruin your kidneys
This one has weaved its way into “common knowledge-hood” without much in the way of scientific validity. The fact is, however that there is no evidence that those with healthy kidneys will suffer kidney issues from elevated protein intakes. In fact, boosting protein (in the presence of adequate calcium) will likely benefit bone density.
Eat often to stoke metabolism
“Eat smaller, frequent meals to keep that metabolism humming”. This is a familiar rhetoric that has just been accepted as truth for many years. And while it may seem elementary that eating often would keep metabolism up and hunger at bay, the research cupboard is empty when it comes to validating this. In fact, recent research shows that 3 meals is better than 6 for weight control.
Muscle is a massive metabolism booster
“1 lb. of muscle uses 50 extra calories a day”. This one’s been promoted heavily by health practitioners and fitness authors alike for years. Forget about science for just one second and let’s apply some common sense to this one. If the above were true, if one were to put on 10 lbs. of muscle, they would burn an extra 500 – 1000 calories PER DAY. The more rigorously designed the study, the lower this number becomes. More tightly controlled studies put that number closer to 6.
Eat your carbs in the morning
Stop me if you’ve heard this one; “No carbs after 3”.. “Eat carbs only in the morning”. Well, it turns out you won’t sabotage your fat loss efforts by indulging in the oft-maligned carbohydrates – even if it’s after 3. This study shows BENEFITS to eating carbohydrates mostly at dinner.
Exercise Makes you Hungry
People just assume this to be true. I picked this assumption apart in a certain TIME Magazine article last year. So while this assumption has been parroted by journalists and other health experts – both qualified and not – the majority of research says otherwise. Here’s a good summary of research on the topic.
While the scientific process is never final, it’s a good idea to question things we think are fact.