We are constantly bombarbed by “cutting-edge” research that often causes dietary confusion. Several years ago, eggs were “bad”, but now they’re “good”; diet soda was a great way to lose weight, but now is correlated with obesity; chicken was considered a lean protein source, but now might be laced with unhealthy hormones. Often it’s enough to make your head spin. In this article, I’d like to dispel 7 nutritional myths that may help clear some confusion and put you one step closer to achieving perfection in your weight loss or fitness routine.
Myth #1: Fat-free yogurt is a great tool in a weight loss diet.
Much of the yogurt at the grocery store is basically a sugar smoothie. Key lime pie, kiwi-raspberry, strawberry-banana – you name the flavor or the fruit, and usually it means that heavy doses of sugar were added to generate that particular flavor. Often, the actual “fruit-at-the-bottom” is a low-quality fruit that was too damaged or over-ripe to sell for raw produce. Your body’s reaction is a hormonal response that induces fat storage and an increased appetite! Instead, use plain, no-sugar added, fat-free yogurt, and add your own fresh fruits, berries, or nuts. Never feel pressured to finish the whole container – that’s what the lid is for! Often, a small container of this healthy yogurt can extend to 2 or 3 separate snacks.
Myth #2: Cholesterol in eggs is bad for your body.
Cholesterol is an essential component of our cells, as well as a crucial element of the anti-inflammatory response, which we know is high in the presence of stress, alcohol, injury, and even exercise. Natural sources of cholesterol actually *contribute* to your body’s overall health! A good egg contains enough of a compound called lecithin to help breakdown most of the cholesterol present in the egg itself. Unfortunately, an egg is often accompanied by a huge slice of frying butter, a couple strips of bacon or sausage, or even an evil breakfast pastry. Instead, try this for breakfast – fry an egg in just a few drops of olive oil, and eat over a bowl of oatmeal – you’ll elevate levels of good cholesterol, increase fiber intake, and start the day with a great surge of protein. And if you’re on a lower fat percentage diet, ditch the yolk, and eat the egg white only.
Myth #3: Saturated fat is the primary contributor to heart disease.
Actually, saturated fat in the form of animal meat was around long before the surge of heart disease in modern man. During the time that heart disease has become prevalent in America, consumption of saturated fat from animal sources actually decreased, while consumption of trans-fatty acids and hydrogenated fats in the form of margarine, shortening, and refined oils increased! This pattern, accompanied by a sharp rise in sugar intake and a gradual decrease in exercise levels, is the real culprit for the modern day heart disease epidemic.
Myth #4: Drinking diet soda and using artificial sweeteners helps to control weight.
Artificial sweeteners still stimulate your digestive system receptors, causing the brain to go into “eating mode”. However, with no food present, the body is not satisfied and the appetite powerfully craves real calories. Not only do artificial sweeteners actually *increase* your appetite in this manner after consumption, but they often are accompanied by many of the acids and chemicals in soda that can cause intestinal distress, and even brain and nervous system damage. Instead of using artificial sweeteners or consuming diet compounds, try using honey (preferably natural), herb sweeteners, fruit, or natural, raw sugar to sweeten your food. But regardless of what you choose for sweetener, remember that the hormonal response to any sweet compound switches your body into fat storage, appetite-increasing mode, so everything in moderation!
Myth #5: You should never eat before bed.
Some individuals rapidly burn carbohydrates, and if they are following the “don’t-eat-2-hours-before-bed” rule, they often become hypoglycemic during the night, which can disrupt sleep patterns, growth hormones, and the immune system, causing them to wake up grumpy, hungry, starved, and in maximum fat-storage mode! Test yourself – if you don’t eat 2 hours before bed, do you lie awake hungry at night, or tossing and turning as your appetite plows full speed ahead? Are you ravenous upon waking? If so, try a light meal before bed that mixes protein and fat. This will slow carbohydrate metabolism and leave you satisfied for a longer period of time. I recommend a small handful of almonds, walnuts, or sunflower seeds, or if you’re allergic to nuts, try a few avocado slices, olives, or lean turkey breast or chicken.
Remember, everyone has a different body, and there are very few “rules” that are directly applicable to the entire population. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your diet to find out what is best for your particular system. If you find that you need more direction, a personal trainer at Greenfield Fitness Systems can perform a complete dietary analysis, and provide you with tips and tricks that are more specific to your body type and eating habits. All you have to do is keep track of exactly what you eat, when you eat, and how much you eat for 5-7 days on our easy-to-use nutritional form. After reviewing your log, a trainer provides you with specific and beneficial nutritional recommendations.
Until next time, train smart,
M.S. PE, NSCA-CPT, CSCS