The Biggest Lies About Diet and Fitness Fads
It seems like new headlines pop up on a daily basis to warn us about how unhealthy some of our favorite foods and workout routines are. The articles make great clickbait, but are these claims even accurate?
We've combed through the web to debunk some of the most common lies about diet and fitness trends. Achieving a healthy diet and exercise routine is possible, you just have to know the facts, first.
Eggs Cause Heart Disease
One of the more recent studies invading our newsfeeds suggests that eating eggs can increase your risk of heart disease. The new study claims that the cholesterol found in egg yolks elevates heart health risks. They even said it elevates the chances of dying early.
According to the American Heart Association, eggs are hardly the threat headlines claim they are. Eggs are one of the most nutritious foods on the planet, packed with nutrients and antioxidants. For people who live with diabetes, it's wise to pay attention to cholesterol, but eggs aren't the major threat headlines are claiming.
The Bowflex Is An Entire Gym In One Machine.
If you've ever stayed up late watching infomercials, then you've likely seen ads for Bowflex. The Bowflex advertises itself as "the entire gym in one easy-to-use machine". According to their advertising, you can finally cancel your gym membership and get ripped at home with your fancy new Bowflex.
Here's the problem with their machine, and any other all-in-one home gyms: they limit the range of motion. The Bowflex challenges the user with resistance rods instead of weights. For a better workout, free weights are ideal for strength training and offer a broader range of motion.
Carbs Should Be Your Biggest Food Source Of The Day
If you ever checked out the base of the old food pyramid, you'd see that bread and grains were the most important food in your daily diet. In fact, the pyramid instructed us to eat carbohydrates in greater quantities than any other food group.
But that's not the greatest idea. If possible, you should be limiting the amount of bread, pasta and bagels in your diet. Carbs can spike levels of blood glucose since they're digested slower than other foods. Keep portions in mind and aim for grain-based bread for a slightly more nutritious indulgence.
Doing A Lot of Crunches Will Give You Abs
A solid six-pack is a goal for most fitness junkies, but do you know the right way to get them? If you check the web, you’ll find countless stretches, crunches and electric belts that promise results. But there are really just two main things you have to do to get that chiseled look.
The reality is you have to decrease your percentage of belly fat and build your core muscles for defined abs. Abs start to become visible at 10% body fat and under in men and 20% and under in women. Building your core strength through compound movements are most important for developing the desired muscle group.
Low-Fat Foods Are Good For You
If you're going on a diet, instinctively you think cutting out fats will benefit your fitness journey. Food corporations are very aware of this, and stack grocery aisles with 'low-fat' and 'fat-free’ foods. These fatless foods are meant to help your diet, but beware.
The reality is that foods without fat would taste terrible, so manufacturers add a whole lot of sugar and other ingredients to help the taste. The truth is, healthy fats can be beneficial to your health, especially when you're working out. So dig into avocados, fish and tree nuts, and avoid foods labeled 'fat-free'.
Small Meals Throughout The Day Is The Key To Weight Loss
There are diet trends of all kinds, but this one is pure science fiction. Some have claimed that eating smaller meals throughout the day will send your metabolism into overdrive. That way, you can quickly burn the calories you consume, and digestion will go faster somehow.
This one really makes no sense. While it is true that eating slightly raises your metabolic rate, your metabolism doesn't move any faster if you keep feeding it. In fact, your metabolic rate is impacted much more by meal size than frequency of meals. Meal frequency does not affect the metabolic rate and has no impact on weight loss.
Vibrating Shake Weights Will Help Build Muscle And Lose Weight
In 2010, 2 million Shake Weights were sold to folks hoping to tone their arms with its oscillating technology. The inventor raked in a cool 40 million dollars while promising all of us his novelty fitness device worked. Let's be clear: It doesn't.
A Consumer Report study released in 2011 proved that the device's exercises were far inferior to conventional exercise. The report also concluded that the shaking motion didn't do enough work to increase muscle strength in any of the target areas. If you’re looking to build muscle, your best bet is to use conventional free weights to work out your arms and chest.
If You Work Out, You Can Eat Whatever You Want
If you're hitting the gym and going to fitness classes to lose weight, you might think it's ok to snack on whatever you want. It sounds like a solid system: work out a lot so you can eat anything you desire. Sadly, if you're looking to stay in shape, that's not the case.
If you burn 600 calories on the treadmill after an hour, you can gain them back real fast if you have one dark chocolate bar. Diet and exercise are both important for meeting long-term weight loss goals or keeping a solid physique.
Avoid Dairy Entirely Because It Doesn’t Have Nutritional Value
An entire generation of children was slammed with advertisements telling them to drink milk. According to the ads, they would gain strong bones and grow real tall if they kept up their daily dairy intake. But then the conversation shifted, and people have been ditching dairy for fear that it's too fatty and has no real nutritional value.
For starters, dairy can be a great source of many key nutrients like protein, potassium and calcium — if you make sure to buy organic. Additives to dairy products can make them less nutritious. So don't be afraid to indulge in dairy products, just be sure to keep your diet balanced with leafy greens and nuts.
Stretching Before Workouts Prevents Injuries
Before going on a run or kicking your workout into high gear, conventional wisdom suggests you should stretch to avoid injury. But does stretching actually prevent injuries? While stretching does increase your flexibility it actually doesn't decrease your chances of getting injured.
Flexibility is the neuromuscular state that limits your movement to prevent injury. Your nervous system actually responds to stretches as a potential injury, which is why your muscle stops you from going further. The best advice for stretching with workouts is to save them for after your exercise to relax your nervous system.
Running and Cardio are Great Fat-Loss Workouts
If you're trying to lose weight, the natural workout choice is to lace up your sneakers and head for the treadmill. Cardio and weight loss appear to go hand in hand, but research shows that simply doing cardio doesn't guarantee major fat loss results.
When you burn energy during a cardio workout, it does support your weight loss efforts. But you aren't trying to burn calories, which is what happens when you do cardio, you're trying to lose fat. So you can't rely solely on cardio, you've also got to curb your diet and diversify your workout routine.
Fruit Has Too Much Sugar
Eating too much sugar is bad for our health, that's a given. When we learned that high fructose corn syrup was too sweet for our own good, companies decided to cut the additive from some of their products. Here's where things get confusing: Fruits are very sweet, too, so are they also bad for us?
For starters: There are good sugars and bad sugars. Natural sugars exist in many foods we eat, especially fruits. Fruits carry a lot of nutrients that are good for the body, including fiber, which slows digestion so you can process the natural sugars better. If you're craving something sweet, your best bet is to reach for fruit.
Superhero Celeb Workouts Can Work For You, Too
In almost every Marvel Universe movie, male superheroes are in superhuman shape. And it takes training. Like, a crazy amount of training. The actors that play the parts sometimes gain a crazy amount of muscle in a short period of time. For us mere mortals, this is totally unrealistic.
Research shows that extreme fitness regimens practiced over a short amount of time can be very dangerous. Working out too much in a short period of time may actually undo the benefits of regular exercise. Extreme fitness programs can increase your rate of injuries and even decrease life expectancy.
The Less You Weigh, The Healthier You Are
If you're trying to shed some weight, your goal shouldn't be to simply weigh less. First and foremost, the number on the scale does not define you. A new fitness journey should not just be about losing fat, but also about building muscle.
When you work out, you generally will build bigger muscles in your body. Muscles are denser and weigh more than fat, so don’t be surprised if you suddenly weigh more as a result of working out. Ultimately, you will be leaner because fat takes up more volume than muscle.
Instagram Fitness Models Provide Positive Inspiration
If you're looking to get in shape, Instagram feels like a great place to explore routines and results. There are countless "Instagram fitness" influencers that regularly share selfies of their chiseled bodies. But research suggests these inspirational posts may be doing more damage than good.
These perfectly posed selfies from influencers can cause unhealthy body image issues for their followers. And having great self-promotion doesn't mean they also have legitimate health advice to offer. Being a good coach and a great Instagrammer are two very different skill sets, so take their advice with a grain of salt.
Trendy Fitness Fads and Diets Are Great For Quick Weight Loss
There are so many trendy diets and fitness fads out there (Orange Theory, Whole 30, juice cleanses) that it's hard to figure out which one is right for you. Yes, there can be health benefits to these diets, but no two bodies are alike. It's possible you may wind up doing more damage than good if you don't listen to your body.
Nutritionists counter that diets shouldn't be used to lose a few pounds and then dismissed. A diet should instead be a new way of eating that leads to long term results for your health. Before starting any new diet, be sure to research where you'll get all of your necessary nutrients from.
At-Home DVDs are Safe Fitness Tools
Everyone remembers Billy Blanks as the charismatic creator of Tae Bo, the cardio workout that incorporated martial arts moves. His idea became one of the most successful at-home workout videos of all time, and there are plenty more out there.
But researchers warn you to be careful when working out with a fitness video of any kind. Remember, you're on your own when you're watching those clips, so no one experienced is around to help with technique or injury prevention. That can be pretty dangerous, especially if you're doing a bunch of Blanks' kicks and punches.
Follow the Food Pyramid
Thanks to the US Department of Agriculture, generations of Americans are aware of the food pyramid. It was originally designed to offer guidelines on what a balanced daily diet should look like. But the original version made some pretty unhealthy claims.
In the 1990s, an updated version was released but was later revealed to be influenced by dairy and corn lobbyists. They also weren't separating white bread from whole grains or good fats from bad ones. If you're looking for a healthy food guide today, check out Harvard's Healthy Eating Plate from 2018.
Weight Loss Supplements Can Help You Lose Weight
If you're looking for help with weight loss, supplements may seem like a great idea. They're easy to take and don't require much effort besides shelling out some extra cash. Here's the major problem with weight loss supplements: They don't have to work.
Weight loss supplements are categorized as dietary supplements, not as prescribed drugs. And according to the FDA, that means manufacturers don't have to prove how effective they are. Most workout supplements are completely bogus, but are still allowed to advertise that they can help you lose weight.
You Can’t Build Muscle Without A Lot Of Protein
If you ever thought about bulking up at the gym, a common companion to lifting is consuming protein. Lots of protein. The powders, the shakes, the bars. The belief is that the more protein you eat, the more muscles you'll develop.
The truth is, your body can only use so many amino acids for building muscles with protein. Consuming too much protein contributes to dehydration, weight gain, weak bones and overworked kidneys. So make sure to not go overboard next time you reach for a protein shake.
Saturated Fat Causes Heart Disease
When searching for the culprit of heart disease, one of the most common suspects is saturated fats. Saturated fats come mainly from animal sources, like red meat, poultry or dairy products. And it was long believed that they were "bad fats" that put your heart at risk.
This is not true, according to a 2014 analysis in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Newer studies suggest saturated fats don't cause heart disease. Eating saturated fats can even raise the levels of good cholesterol in the blood. Trans fats, on the other hand, were linked to a higher risk of heart disease.
Milk Has More Calcium Than Any Other Food
Milk's biggest selling point is that it provides your body with calcium. Dairy companies capitalized this concept, selling us milk’s calcium-related benefits for decades. But should milk really be your go-to for calcium, or are there other foods out there with equal (or higher) calcium levels?
It turns out there are several options for people disinterested in a daily glass of milk. Servings of almonds, figs, kale, tofu or bok choy all have equal or greater calcium content than a glass of milk. If you're thirsty, you can even reach for a glass of orange juice as an alternative.
“No Pain, No Gain!”
"No Pain, No Gain!" is a common phrase uttered in fitness classes. It supports the assumption that you have to put your body through harmful workouts to achieve desired results. It seems to make sense, but it's bogus. You don't have to suffer your way through your workouts.
While it's likely you'll feel strain and soreness for a few days after working out a specific area, your pain level shouldn't go beyond that. There's a difference between discomfort and pain. If you're working your body to the point where you are in constant pain, you're doing more harm to your body than help.
Skipping Meals Will Make You Skinny
If you're trying to lose weight, skipping a meal or two may seem like an obvious option. If you aren't eating, your body will shrink. Seems logical. But it's actually counterproductive to weight loss and dangerous to your health and well being.
Eating regularly throughout the day supports a higher metabolic rate so you wind up burning more calories. If you skip meals, you'll see a slump in your mood, lower energy and may even have trouble thinking clearly. Worst of all, skipping meals can slow down your metabolism, making it harder to lose weight.
Thighmasters Reduce Fat in Your Thighs
Suzanne Somers is a fitness marketing genius. Her signature Thighmaster machine was an infomercial success in the 1990s and continues to sell online. But similar to most workout trends that claim to offer great results with minimal effort, this device is no quick fix.
The Thighmaster falls under the category of "spot reduction" fitness machines, which is a total myth. If you're trying to reduce the fat cells in your inner and outer thighs, working their muscles will not give you the results. You need to combine your workouts with a healthy, active lifestyle that goes beyond flexing a Thighmaster.
High-Fat Foods Will Make You Fat
Fat is the stuff underneath our skin that can make us look soft and larger when we have a lot of it. That's a given. So people have naturally assumed that eating a lot of fat will add more fat to your body. That's why there's such a large market for low-fat and fat-free foods.
The low-fat diet craze, especially the one in the '90s, unfortunately, got it all wrong. If you curb foods with healthy, natural fats, you're likely substituting those with foods that are high in sugar or carbs. These are often larger contributors to weight gain, particularly fat. So dig into healthy-fat foods and avoid sugary substitutes.
You Can’t Ever Eat Out on a Diet
Let's face it: It's fun to eat out at restaurants. It's social, it's less work than cooking your own food in the kitchen and people bring you what you want. But trying to stay true to your diet can be difficult when restaurants offer a select number of menu options.
You don't have to be as concerned about dining out these days, as restaurants are trying to cater to everyone's palette and dietary preferences. For starters, you can do a little research online to find restaurants that won't interrupt your diet. And don't be afraid to ask questions about menu modifications. It's your meal, after all!
Your Weight Depends on Diet and Exercise Only
Throughout this piece, we've emphasized that diet and exercise are both necessary if you want to see results. The two go hand in hand. But this combo isn't complete without the missing ingredient: Sleep.
The amount of sleep you get has a direct impact on your weight. People who lack sleep tend to weigh more and have trouble losing the weight. Not sleeping enough can also impact your stress levels, making it more difficult to control your appetite. So be sure to get plenty of sleep during a diet, and in general!
Diet Soda is Great Beverage for Diets
When you go on a diet, finding comfort foods that won’t impact your diet can be tough. That's why so many food brands offer 'diet' versions of your favorite indulgences, including soda. Diet soda has been a go-to for people watching their calorie intake, but that's not the best idea.
If you look at the ingredients list on diet soda, you may think you're in a chemistry class. There's a lot of chemicals in diet soda that have the potential to impact your metabolism negatively. Your best bet is to avoid reaching for sodas in general and stick to more organic beverages.
Looking Lean Equates to Looking Healthy
When you picture an ideal healthy body, you may picture someone very lean and toned. With a little willpower and rigorous training, you'll be sure to achieve your body goals. Hard work and a well-balanced lifestyle are super important, but it's also important to know that every body is built differently.
Not everybody is capable of achieving the lean look. And don't forget that professional fitness models who look super lean may also have the help of professional photo shoppers. Plus,achieving that lean, chiseled look takes years of training. Being healthy doesn't mean you have to devote your whole life to looking leaner. Know your limits and take care of your body as you go.