Hello, it’s me Kelley, the world’s worst and most inconsistent blogger.
Now, I don’t want to make excuses for my lack of blogging (ok, I do), but I have been pretty busy. First of all, I literally spend ALL day everyday writing and that makes it really hard to want to write even more in my free time. Second, I got married over the holidays and that was stressful and time consuming, and third, I have been running a 6-week lifestyle challenge for approx. 35 people and that has taken A LOT of time. Oh yea, and I like to do a lot of fitness too.
But, while running this challenge, I have noticed a lot of the same questions, concerns, perceptions and themes emerging so I thought I would take a moment to bust a few of the myths that I think have people confused. It’s long..but there is some good shit here.
#1. Carbs are bad
This is dumb. We as human beings need carbs and even more so as athletes. (I like to pretend I am an athlete….when in fact, I am a retired athlete turned average joe fitness enthusiast). But these poor little guys are extremely misunderstood and have been vilified by the media since Mr. Atkins emerged on the scene. I think it’s mainly because carbs are not an essential nutrient…while protein and fat are. However, for the performance population or anyone who does exercise, carbs are pretty essential.
To the Paleo lovers…you can’t survive (ok you can) on fruit and veggies alone as your only carb source. We need starches to perform high intensity exercise of any sort, even if the goal is weight loss. Specifically, carbohydrates are necessary for those who do CrossFit, or high intensity exercise which is glucose-dependent. We also need carbs for recovery, hormone regulation and our nervous system. (Albeit, there are certain populations that do better by limiting carbs or following a ketogenic style diet).
But what kind of carbs should I eat you ask?
People respond differently to different foods. It might take some playing around with to find what works best for your body. Simple white rice is a good place to start, as well as potatoes (white or sweet), oats, quinoa and other grains. Stay away from processed carbohydrates and sugar as much as possible – which usually cause a greater hunger response and leave you craving more. Carbs=good…too much sugar=bad.
The reality is, at the end of the day if the goal is weight loss, your body must be in a caloric deficit…how those macros add up doesn’t really matter. What does matter is how you feel and a diet containing carbohydrates will likely leave you with more pep in your step. Don’t be afraid.
#2. To lose fat you need to eat frequent meals
I think this strange myth has finally kicked the bucket. I read my first nutrition/diet book when I was 14—Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle by Tom Venuto. I made my mom order the e-book online and from that point on was pretty obsessed with food, macros, counting calories and this weird idea of eating like 5-6 meals throughout the day. I’ve been a walking self-experiment since that time and have played around with pretty much everything you can imagine.
The myth originated because digestion does raise your metabolism a little, so eating frequent meals could potentially keep your metabolism elevated. In theory. In practice, evidence shows that, given an equal amount of daily calories, the number of meals you eat makes no difference when it comes to fat loss. Moreover, some studies suggest that having smaller meals more often makes it harder to feel full, potentially leading to increased caloric intake.
Basically, I think your meal timing should fit your schedule as best it can. Meal frequency and timing is one of the most individual prescriptions. Everyone is so different, and may feel better or worse depending on when and what they eat in relation to their day. Whatever works for you, I say that is best. Nutrient timing for performance athletes is slightly more complex…but let’s be real, I don’t think any pro athletes are reading this.
#3. You need protein right after a workout
When you exercise, you create micro-tears in your muscle which need to be repaired. As we all know, the essential nutrient for this repair is protein. Sooo…to be strong, of course we need to slam protein shakes and repair that muscle, NOT. The anabolic window of gains is a very contentious topic.
“You need protein right after your workout” may not be a myth so much as an exaggeration. Consuming 20–40g of protein within the TWO hours following your workout may be ideal, but it isn’t necessary. What matters most is your daily protein intake.
Protein needs vary, depending on gender, age, and of course how intensely you exercise. The focus should be more on overall protein intake throughout the day…and for high level athletes, achieving those needs might be difficult without the aid of protein supplements. Shakes can also be helpful for those who just can’t find time to eat (although, I say make the time), but in reality, for the average person…slamming protein right after a workout is just not essential.
#4. Eating before bed will make you fat
I think I have spelled this out many a time, but meal timing is not nearly as important as total caloric intake. I am actually 99% sure that Oprah started this myth and the idea of eating past 7pm has perpetually scared people (women especially) from evening eating. Unless you are shitfaced…in which case, all rules go out the window and 2am street pizza becomes completely acceptable.
The reason why eating before bed got a bad name, is because a late night snack/meal could potentially just be extra calories that you wouldn’t have eaten had you just gone to bed. Late night snacking, dessert, and post dinner meals that are unaccounted for can definitely be bad news. But it’s not about eating before bed, it’s just about eating too much food.
If you are a later riser, or have a schedule that doesn’t allow you to eat dinner until 9pm, but your total daily caloric intake remains the same…you are good to go. For many people, specifically elite athletes, carb backloading in the evening and before bed can be beneficial and aid with sleep and recovery.
#5. Fasted cardio is superior for weight loss
This isn’t completely untrue…but, it’s also not really significant. This was another sweet myth I started implementing during my gr. 9 crash course in nutrition and exercise. What I weirdo kid…just crunching macro numbers in my childhood bedroom..HA.
In a fasted state, you can potentially burn more body fat, but that won’t make it easier to use body fat as fuel during the rest of the day. You’ll also burn a bit more muscle, but you’ll grow it back faster afterward, too, so it seems to balance out. Cardio suppresses appetite less in a fasted state than a fed state, but that doesn’t translate into a big impact either.
There is quite a bit of peer reviewed research out there on this topic, so if interested you can look more into it. But, from what I understand, there is little difference between cardio in a fed or fasted state with regard to fat loss, muscle preservation, daily caloric intake, or metabolic rate. What really matters is how it impacts you and your performance. Some people feel energized when they do cardio on an empty stomach, while others feel light-headed and sluggish. Some people can’t hold food down during cardio, so it’s best to remain fasted.
Once again..it’s personal preference, but little evidence that suggests great impact.
6. Clean eating means ALL or NOTHING
Now, I realize that some people struggle to find balance in moderation so they take an all or nothing approach.
But, diets are not black and white unless your training or goals are so specific that they don’t allow room for anything but perfection, it’s not necessary to eat perfectly clean ALL the time.
When you create limitations on what you can or can’t eat, that creates an unhealthy relationship with food. In my eyes, no food is completely “off-limits”. Sure, if you eat too much sugar and you want to remove sugar from your diet for a period of time, by all means, but I think cutting out foods completely (unless you are allergic), is not necessary.
What I am saying is, balance is key for long-term sustainability. Clean-eating doesn’t mean you can’t also eat things that you enjoy. If you want your wine at night…you can probably find a way to make it happen 😉
Whatever diet you follow, it should be something you can stick to long term because consistency will have a much greater impact than a 30 day challenge that ends with you going back to old habits.
I hope this clears some shit up. Maybe I will change my mind on some of these things over time, but right now, these are my opinions.