Common Fitness Myths Debunked
Written by Ethan Benda
“If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right” - Seinfeld
There are A LOT of fallacies about fat-loss and food that continue to hang on regardless of how many times they are shot down and proven false. I blame lazy media and uneducated personal trainers for most of the mess. The origin of some of this stuff can be traced to popular magazines in the 80’s and 90’s. Some was extrapolated from poorly done research. Some holds just enough truth to confuse people. Some was just pulled out of thin air by an “expert” and accepted as fact. I want to burn through some of these so we can put them to rest.
1) “You have to eat every 3 hours to “stoke your metabolism and keep your muscle” WRONG!
You still see this in “hardcore” plans that have people eating 8 meals a day. The only reason to eat this many times is if you are consuming so many calories that it would make you physically ill to eat it in less meals. I know pro bodybuilders and strongmen that have to do this because they consume 6000-8000 calories a day, with a significant amount of meat. Most people can’t sit down to a meal of 2 pounds of chicken and 4 cups of rice without gagging. For these guys, it’s just a matter of practicality to eat more meals. Facts are, consistency and accuracy is more important than number of meals. The number of meals is more a lifestyle choice. Do you WANT to eat 8 meals a day? Cool. Do you have a life and can only eat 3 times? Also cool. In the end the result is the same if your calories and macronutrients are correct. In most cases, 5 meals will work well with this food plan, but 2 of those will be high-protein snacks.
2) “Don’t eat carbs after 6pm or you will get fat” WRONG!
This one is still going strong after all these years. Your body doesn’t care how late you are eating. As long as you are still in a calorie deficit at the end of the day, you will lose weight. Not only is this wrong, it’s possibly completely opposite. Some research has shown that eating carbs before bed (provided you are still in a calorie deficit) will increase your metabolism overnight, therefore using more fat for fuel.
3) “You can only use 30 grams of protein at a time” WRONG!
The confusion on this came from the average absorption of protein through the small intestine being estimated at around 30 grams. This was then taken to be believed that only 30 grams of protein can be consumed at one time. This is false. Once again, your meals should be planned based on lifestyle. If you require 200 grams of protein, you may very well be eating 50-60 grams of protein at a time.
4) “You need 2 grams of protein per pound of body weight” WRONG!
This old-school bodybuilding BS that I still hear. Does that mean a 300 pound person with 50% body fat needs 600 grams of protein? That’s ridiculous. We will discuss the real calculation later.
5) “You need protein right after you workout or you lose muscle” WRONG!
When you workout, you damage your muscles, which then need to be repaired. The primary function of protein is repair. So, you do NEED protein, but the window to ingest is much larger than most people think. You don’t need protein immediately after your workout, but you will benefit if you eat a protein heavy meal within a couple hours of working out. What is most important is to meet your protein requirements for the day.
6) “You have to eat low glycemic foods or your insulin gets all jacked up and makes you fat” WRONG!
If you aren’t familiar, The Glycemic Index represents the rise in a person's blood sugar level two hours after consumption of a food. Each carbohydrate has been listed with a number, with 100 being the highest (glucose). The higher the GI number, the faster the sugar or starch breaks down and effects blood sugar. The GI is usually used to categorize “good” and “bad” carbs. Sounds like a good guide, but the rise of blood sugar doesn’t determine fat loss or gain. It is important to note that eating any carb with a protein or fat lowers the glycemic response. So, no, brown rice isn’t necessarily better than white rice for dieting. It’s just a matter of preference.
7) “Eating bread/dairy/[insert any food] will make you fat” WRONG!
This comes from anecdotal stories that sound like this: “Dude, I cut out all my dairy and I lost a ton of weight”. Well, DUH. You actually just significantly reduced your caloric intake. If you cut out an entire food group, you just cut out a large portion of your regular calories. It has nothing to do with the food you cut out. However, if you eat these foods and have digestive discomfort, that’s something different. Don’t feel like you need to eat ANY food that makes you uncomfortable, but don’t demonize one particular food group for making you fat either.
8) “High Fructose Corn Syrup will make you fat” WRONG!
Excess calories will make you fat. HFCS and table sugar are almost identical from a health perspective. Though HFCS may sometimes contain more fructose, the difference is so slight, it’s inconsequential.
9) “You have to eat “clean” to lose weight” WRONG!
“Clean eating” means nothing, no one can even agree on which foods are “clean” and which are not. A good rule is to just stick to whole foods, avoid fast food, and keep processed foods to a minimum. Generally, if you make it at home from actual ingredients, it’s cool.
10) “Fasted cardio burns more fat” WRONG!
This is an exercise myth as well. It’s sort of true. During that activity you will burn more fat, however it will make your body more inefficient at burning fat later in the day, so it all balances out. There’s very little difference between cardio on a fed or fasted state with regard to fat loss, muscle preservation, daily caloric intake, or metabolic rate. Really, it’s a matter of preference. Some people feel great doing fasted cardio and get energized from it, other people feel like crap and get sluggish.