1. “Don’t eat carbs at night, you’ll put on body fat!”
Oprah and Bob Greene were wrong! It’s amazing how many people STILL believe this one. Is eating carbs at night making you fat? NO!
There is really no negative whatsoever to eating carbs or any macro at night. In fact, there’s a benefit for most people because going to bed on a full stomach helps you sleep, and if you work out in the morning, a carb-rich meal will potenitally improve your performance in the gym. Put this myth to rest!
2. “When you eat is more important than how much you eat for fat loss.”
Nutrient timing is great for planning and staying on track, and timing carbs can boost performance. There’s even some merit to making sure you eat protein steadily throughout the day.
That said, does it really matter when you eat? Is there a direct correlation between meal timing and fat loss?
NO. Sorry, but nutrient timing is a small piece of the puzzle. Managing your Calorie intake and sticking to your macros should be your first priority before you start micromanaging your meal timing. This video is a little nerdy but Alan Aragon runs through why amount of food you eat is WAY more important than timing. Learn some stuff and come back to finish the rest of the myths.
3. “Your body can only absorb 30 grams of protein per meal.”
If I had a penny for every time I heard this one from some guy at a gym trying to use his extensive knowledge of human nutrition to impress someone, I’d be typing this paragraph from upon a golden throne, chilling in my palace on my private island while my pet elephant plays a violin concerto on a $45,000,000 17th century Stradivarius.
The myth is that if you eat more than 30 grams of protein in a meal, your body will just poop the rest of it out. This is only partially true. Amino acid transporters in the small intestine work at an upwards limit of 10g per hour, but protein absorption slows down when you eat more of it in one go and you’ll only potentially poop out a little bit. How much? It varies between individuals, so you’d need to do a test.
There’s no clear cut answer to what the optimal protein intake per meal is, but we can say with confidence that you’re not hurting your gains or your health by eating your fill each meal. This article from Examine.com covers the topic in greater detail so if you want a more in-depth look with references and the lot, head on over.
4. “Calories don’t matter – just eat clean food/cut carbs to lose body fat.”
Anyone that says Calories don’t matter, that the key to looking sexy as hell is to eat 100% clean and avoid any and all processed food (especially if it’s got carbs) is either giving you the runaround or they’re painfully uneducated in very basic nutrition concepts. Either way, take what they have to say with a grain of salt. I won’t argue against eating a mostly clean/whole foods diet…I just don’t recommend you deny yourself food you love to eat because you probably have room in your diet for a regular treat.
The simple fact is that Calories are the way we measure energy intake and expenditure. Yes, there’s a difference between how protein, fat and carbohydrates are processed; a Calorie is not a Calorie in that regard. However, everything breaks down and releases heat energy in the end, everything can be measured as a Calorie, and energy homeostasis is the primary variable you need to manipulate to directly impact changes in body composition.
In other words, if you don’t spend at least some portion of time in a Calorie deficit, your weight will not trend downards and you will not lose a significant amount of body fat. If you don’t know what constitutes a deficit for you, you’re going to have a very hard time achieving a specific result.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t reduce body fat percentage by building muscle and maintaining your fat mass to achieve a recomposition effect but again, if you ignore Calories it’s nearly impossible to do.
5. “The scale lies, so just ignore it.”
Look, I have been there: you want the scale to go down but it doesn’t and it hasn’t for a long time and so you are looking for an answer. Then some blog somewhere tells you that scale weight is a useless metric and it’s exactly what you want to hear. The only problem is that it isn’t true, at least not in a black and white sort of way.
The scale is just one of many ways you can measure whether or not what you do is working – along with measurements, body fat analysis, how your clothes fit, and even performance tests. It’s also readily available for most people. The simple fact is that you don’t want to check the scale because you can’t handle the truth.
If you want to avoid data I have your back 100% but if you are looking for specifics to see real results, the scale is a good place to start. A downward trend usually equals fat loss, and an upwards trend usually equals fat gain. In general, we want to maintain our weight most of the year.
6. “You need to lose weight to reduce your body fat percentage.”
This myth ties into myths 4 & 5. If your scale weight remains the same, but you add lean mass to your frame, your body fat percentage will be lower. As I mentioned before, this is called recomposition and it’s the preferred way to go about building muscle and staying lean. There’s no cutting, no bulking, you just stay around the same body weight year round (or get slightly heavier) but slowly add muscle. You focus on eating well, having killer workouts, and you only occasionally track your food intake. It’s AWESOME.
Guess what though: you NEED to be in a calorie surplus on occasion to effectively recomp. That is why all this incessant dieting misses the point. Building muscle is the key to looking lean and athletic and when you DO go on a focused fat loss diet, it’s going to be a lot more effective if you aren’t already coming from ANOTHER diet. Muscle literally burns fat while you sleep, so getting more of it and staying around the same weight should be your focus most of the time!
7. “Detoxing is a great way to lose fat!”
Juicing, detoxing, water fasting, what do they all have in common? They get you into a Calorie deficit without you having to track anything, and you lose weight. That could be a good thing if you’re severely overweight and unhealthy, but most people who go on these “diets” are already healthy. Let’s be honest folks; you aren’t detoxing. You’re starving yourself to lose weight because proper nutrition and exercise aren’t giving you the result you want. You’re just moving from one extreme to the next.
An example might be:
See Food Diet (3,000 Calories)—> Juicing (1,200 Calories)—> Detoxing (700 Calories) —> Water fasting (zero Calories)
This is not a sustainable strategy for living a healthy lifestyle – it’s disordered eating. If you have healthy, functioning kidneys, you are detoxing your body just fine. You’re not fluffier than you want to be because you’re holding onto toxins, you just need to get your diet under control and stick to it for a long time.
If you don’t have working kidneys, go see a doctor. Don’t play around with your health.
8. “Abs are made in the kitchen.”
This myth is actually an attempt to dispel the erroneous notion that doing an endless number of crunches will somehow bestow you with a rippling six pack, but it unwittingly discounts the importance muscle mass plays in achieving the toned, solid look that most of us are going after.
When someone says “abs are made in the kitchen,” they’re emphasizing that losing body fat is paramount to revealing your abs, not doing ab exercises, and that’s certainly true. What most people don’t consider though is that abs aren’t the only muscles you’re showing off when you get lean. Without a well-developed, muscular body that’s been built through rigorous training, you will not look the way you want to no matter how lean you get. Yes, that includes your abdominal section.
That doesn’t mean you need to squat 500 pounds and bench press a house to look good (although it wouldn’t hurt), but without a solid base, you’ll just end up looking small and frail or worse – you’ll be skinny fat. If that’s your goal, then power to you but I know our readers and I know that you guys want to look athletic and strong, not small and scrawny.
So no, this isn’t an argument against eating a diet of mostly whole foods and getting lean, but to build muscle you need Calories. Abs are made in the gym AND in the kitchen. The answer, as we’ve gone over several times now, is to adopt an approach that prioritizes adding lean mass and improving performance.
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