The big, bad internet is full of mind-blowing amounts of information. Everything is at your finger tips and just seconds away.
The problem is there is more bad information than there is good information.
Especially in the fitness industry. It seems like the easiest way to make it big is to find a “new” way to make more progress.
The sad part is, there are really no “new” ways. There are many recycled methods that are simply renamed and refurbished. And then there are just down-right flawed plans.
Broscience can work very well and at other times fail completely.
There are many myths that seem to just be perpetuated because they sounds fancy and seem to hold such great promise of magical muscle gain and fat loss.
Myth 1: Clean food means calories don’t matter.
These magical foods are a step above the rest. They somehow defy physics and hold less energy than “dirty” foods. This can be extended into low fat diets where you can eat all the meat and cheese and nuts that you want as long as you keep your carbs low.
This sounds great in practice when you frame it with the “insulin causes fat gain” approach, and without it you can’t gain fat. Or that clean foods cause the body to work so hard to metabolize it and break it down, that you can’t get fat.
Sorry to burst this bright bubble but in calorie-controlled studies, subjects gain fat no matter the diet if the calories are higher than their output. Calories still matter most when it comes to weight loss or gain.
Myth 2: Low-carb is better for fat loss
Tagging along with myth 1 is the thought that a diet low in carbs somehow makes you lose fat faster. This myth gets perpetuated for a few reasons. One of them is the fast weight loss seen at the start of the diet.
The problem with assuming weight loss means fat loss, especially when making a massive shift in carbs, is that there is a loss of glycogen and therefore large amounts of water. This will slow by the end of the first week depending on training volume. And, yes, your body will burn more fat if you are eating higher fat. But you are also eating more fat.
That is like water running through a small pipe vs. a big pipe. If the amount of water increases as the pipe increases there is no net change in flow. To give some random numbers: if you eat 70g of fat normally and burn 100g, you are losing fat. Then you increase your fat to 150g and now burn 180g. Yes, you are burning more fat but not losing bf any faster. Your body just adapted to the fact you are eating more fat.
Myth 3: Sugar makes you fat
Many different diets and the media have vilified poor sugar. The media and many fad diets claim that cutting out sugar will cause weight loss and that adding in sugar to a diet will make you fat.
Since myth 1 busted the fact that calories indeed to matter, we now apply this logic to this myth and find that it still holds true here. Sugar will not make you fat unless you are overeating. So as long as you stay in a caloric deficit you can eat all the sugar you want and you will still lose fat.
But what about diabetes? One of the best treatments for diabetes is weight loss and exercise. If you are eating in a deficit and losing fat and exercising you are doing the two best things you can to prevent diabetes.
Myth 4: The Workout Window
The workout window has been loosely defined in many ways. But it normally comes down to the period just before, during, and after the workout. This is a magical time that muscle gain can be cranked up because muscle protein synthesis is elevated and the body is ready to use the nutrients for muscle building.
The problem is the window is more like a barn door. And the science is just not backing up the need to rush to eat carbs and slam protein immediately after a workout. Getting in 20-40g of protein 1-4 hours after a workout seems to be just fine.
Carbohydrates do not seem to elevate protein synthesis further so they can be eaten or not. That will depend on your daily amount and where you prefer it. As far as before the workout, you can eat before, you can have a shake, or you can have nothing. Do what works best for you and your workout performance.
Myth 5: Carbs at night make you fat
This has been a long standing myth that carbs, after some random time–normally 6pm–will make you fat. Luckily this has long since been busted. Science doesn’t support this at all.
In one study they actually had people eating a majority of their carbs in the evening with dinner and they lost body fat. There are anecdotes all over the Internet of people saving their carbs to eat at night and getting ripped. Carbs at night are very nice. They can help with sleep and most people enjoy a dinner and or dessert with carbs. So you now have permission to eat your carbs wherever you like. Remember myth one: calories matter most.
Myth 6: Fructose is the devil
Fructose has gotten quite a bad rap in the recent years mostly coming from high fructose corn syrup. The problem is people take this even further and say that if HFCS is bad then fructose is bad.
If fructose is bad, fruit is bad because it has fructose. This tailspin is not based on reality. HFCS has been shown to cause some appetite deregulation. The metabolic pathway that fructose takes is one reason for this this myth.
Fructose can be stored as fat easier than other carbohydrates when liver glycogen is full. Liver glycogen remains full during times of energy surplus…. see where this is going? During times of energy deficit liver glycogen is not full and fructose will not be stored as fat, it will be stored as glycogen. So in an energy deficit you can still lose fat with high levels of fructose consumption, and overeating is what is causing the fat gain. Not fructose.
*Livesey G, and Taylor R. Fructose consumption and consequences for glycation, plasma triacylglycerol, and body weight: meta-analyses and meta-regression models of intervention studies. Am J Clin Nutr 88: 1419-1437, 2008
Myth 7: You must eat breakfast
Breakfast: the most important meal of the day….or is it? Could it be possible to not eat breakfast? No way, not possible. You will waste away and your body goes into starvation mode. There would be no way to lose fat if your body is in starvation mode.
Luckily this is false. There are countless studies showing that if you want to skip breakfast you can and have no problems with fat loss. There maybe even be some health adaptations that take place during fasting that could be helpful.
But since we only want to look sexy, I am happy to inform you that if you are not hungry for breakfast, feel free to skip it. Combining this with caloric restriction will cause fat loss. Now if you want breakfast there is also no research to show that skipping breakfast is magical at all either. It comes down to your preference and what works best for you and adhering to your diet.
Ryan Bergren is a 4th year medical student that has an obsession with all things that compose a healthy lifestyle, like fitness, diet and mental health. He writes at www.thewhitecoatfitness.com based on science and experience. He posts any odd experiments and also his own struggles in fitness and life.