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Six Mainstream Nutrition Myths

We’ve all seen it before…

Whether it’s your co-worker at the office that fills her gallon jug with fresh water every morning, forcing herself to finish it by day’s end… Your gym buddy that’s been waking up in the middle of the night to load up on chicken and turkey to build muscle… Or your sister thats excited because she’s found gluten-free cookies, we’ve all be exposed to these myths.

The fact of the matter is, if you’re thinking about adopting some of these “healthy” habits you see on the internet and hear about at the water cooler, you’d better think again.

Myth #1: Eating late at night will make you fat.

Fact: Calories are calories–no matter what time they’re eaten. There is no magic hour in which your body decides that incoming calories must be stored as fat.

If you routinely overindulge after dinner, it’s the overindulging that’s sabotaging your weight-control efforts, not the hour on the clock. For some people, the “no calories after 8 p.m.” rule is an effective diet strategy because it means they take in fewer calories and less saturated fat over the course of a day.

But what if dinner is late or you’re hungry before bed? By all means, eat. Feed and fuel your body. No harm is done if you’re balancing your calories over the day and not scarfing down junk food.

Finally, if you train in the evening, eating at night is not optional, it’s a NECESSITY: You must to replace the nutrients you’ve just lost.  Depending on the activity, you’ll need water, electrolytes, carbohydrates and protein.

Bottom Line: What you eat–and how much–is far more important than when you eat it. But do make a point to spread your food intake out over the day to sustain your energy.

Myth #2: Eating extra protein builds muscle.

Fact: To build muscle, you must have three key components: adequate calories, a good intake of protein and a good (consistent) strength program. The crazy thing is though, without enough calories some of the dietary protein will be used as an energy source. Likewise, if protein intake is beyond your dietary needs will either be stored as fat or burned for energy.

One this is for certain though, the timing of your protein is rather important. After resistance training, consuming a source of protein, such as whey, along with some carbohydrate has been shown to build muscle.

Bottom Line: To build muscle, you need to eat a healthy diet, which includes a normal amount of protein, and strength train regularly. Start by consuming (.8) grams per pound of body weight and watch the gains appear 🙂

Myth #3: Cholesterol-free foods are heart-healthy.

Fact: While it’s a good idea to limit egg yolks, whole milk, liver, and other high-cholesterol foods, it’s just not that simple.

Even more detrimental to your blood-cholesterol levels are the amounts of certain types of saturated and trans fats you eat. There are plenty of supermarket shelves that contain no cholesterol, but are rife with artery-clogging trans fats. Scrutinize the nutrition facts panel carefully to see what’s in your cholesterol-free margarine, shortening, cookies or crackers. Chances are good that they’re loaded with either trans fats, hydrogenated oils, or both.

The FDA allows a product to claim cholesterol-free on its label if there are no more than 2 milligrams cholesterol and 2 grams saturated fat per serving, but there’s no limit on trans fat. And your portion may be bigger than the listed serving size, so your meal could be serving up a not-so-healthy dose of fats.

Bottom Line: Load up on nature’s heart-healthy foods–whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds–to avoid artery-cloggers. And read a product’s nutrition panel carefully.

Myth #4: Eating fish is the only way to get heart-healthy omega-3 fats.

Fact: The omega-3 family is credited with myriad health benefits, ranging from promoting brain development in infants to improving cognitive function in the elderly, but it is perhaps most recognized for its role in shielding the heart from disease.

Fish and marine-based supplements are the only ways to get EPA and DHA, two important omega-3 fatty acids.  However, walnuts, flaxseed, canola oil, soybeans and some other plant foods offer ALA, a third omega-3 fatty acid. You need all three types of omega-3 fats for optimal health.

Plant-based omega-3 fatty acids offer distinct benefits you won’t get from fish. Without ALA, you’d have scaly skin and problems with hair growth and wound healing. There is even evidence that diets rich in ALA decrease the risk of fatal ischemic heart disease (the result of narrowing or hardening of the arteries, which impedes blood flow).

Fish or marine-based fatty acids, EPA and DHA, are recommended by many organizations, including the American Heart Association, to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease because of their strong triglyceride-lowering effect.

In addition, it appears that the marine-based omega-3 fats are especially important in aiding cognition. Based on the evidence the scientific community has at this point, we (Frequency) recommend that people include all omega-3 fatty acids in their diets.

Bottom Line: For optimal health, include both fish- and plant-based omega-3 sources in your diet.

Myth #5: Athletes don’t get osteoporosis.

Fact: Your sport of choice and training style may determine your risk for osteoporosis. Osteopenia (low bone mass), which precedes osteoporosis (bone loss) is fairly prevalent among women who participate in sports that place a significant emphasis on excessively low body weight, such as long distance running, gymnastics, and dance.

When athletes (females specifically) over-exercise and limit their calorie intake, they frequently lose their menstrual cycle. When these three things occur together–called the female athlete triad– women are at a high risk of developing osteoporosis and calcium won’t do any good. The triad has been reported to occur in 12 to 15 percent of elite athletes and at least 5 percent of normally active females. Although both running and strength training decrease the chance of osteoporosis, they won’t protect against the disease if the triad occurs.

Also, there are many nutrients beyond calcium important to bone health including vitamin D, vitamin K and magnesium.

Bottom Line: It’s all about balance. Avoid over-exercising, and eat a healthy diet with enough food and calories to fuel your body. Proper diet, regular exercise and normal hormonal levels all work together to support healthy bones


Myth #6: Dark breads are more nutritious than white breads.

Fact: You can’t judge a bread by its color, and although most of you aren’t having bread right now as you complete this nutrition challenge… You need to read the list of ingredients and look at the nutrition facts panel, wheat bread isn’t whole wheat bread. You have to dig a little more to discover just what your sandwich is made of.

The first ingredient listed should be 100 percent whole wheat or other whole grain (such as barley or oats). “Enriched wheat flour” is the long way to say white flour. Sometimes darker breads will have caramel or other coloring added, so you’re getting nothing more than a colored white bread.


Bottom Line: Choose breads with the first ingredient listed as 100 percent whole wheat or other whole grain–such as barley or oats.

So as you get ready to step out into the unknown (a.k.a finish the summer shred challenge) make sure that you do a double take before you get fooled by the amount of fiction that is out there 🙂

You should now have the knowledge to be successful and get the most out of your training in the gym! But as always, if you have any questions… PLEASE don’t hesitate to ask!

All the best,

Riley Phelps, MS CSCS