There’s a lot of information about nutrition out there. Like, a LOT of info. You’d think having so much information available at your fingertips would be great, that it’d be helpful when you’re trying to shed body fat or put on a bit of muscle. Sadly, not only is there a plethora of information out there, not all of it is, well… accurate. Worse still is that some of these fitness fallacies have become a common misconception. Especially around food.
To help set you on the path of the informed reader I’d like to highlight the top myths surrounding a popular topic in nutrition – macros. In case you’re not familiar with macros, I’m talking about the 3 main food types – Protein, Carbohydrates and Fats.
Myth #1 – If you eat carbs before bed it’ll just get stored as fat
Your metabolism doesn’t switch off when you’re asleep, so it’s not like you’ll just stop burning calories at night. When you eat is less important than how much you eat over the course of a day. Some people’s work schedules might force them to eat their last meal later in the evening, which is fine. In fact, going to bed with a full stomach can be better for sleep quality than going to bed hungry. In addition, if you’re the type who prefers to workout early in the morning, then having a meal before bed can help give you some extra fuel for exercise the following morning, allowing for better performance and increased intensity during the session.
Myth #2 – Too much protein is bad for your kidneys
Not really sure where this myth came from, but while a higher protein intake may put some strain on kidneys already suffering from damage or disease, healthy kidneys should have no trouble filtering your bloodstream on a higher protein diet.
There are numerous benefits to having a higher protein intake including:
- improved muscle growth
- stronger connective tissues
- improved metabolism
- increased satiety from meals so you feel fuller afterwards
- and many more.
So ditch this myth and go eat a steak already!
Myth #3 – Low fat is better for you
In the last couple of decades our culture has taken an anti-fat outlook to nutrition. Low fat variants of nearly everything have popped up everywhere in stores.
Natural fat plays an important role in nutrition and foods that contain natural fats should not be avoided. While yes, excess amounts can end up stored as body fat, the same can be said for carbs and protein. But essential fatty acids help circulate nutrients around your body and keep you healthy.
The issue with many of the low fat products you find on the shelves is when you take the fat out of something, it tastes horrible! So what do they replace fat with? Sugar. That’s not a great trade off considering how much sugar they need to rebalance the taste of these so-called ‘healthy options’. Often they end up worse for you than the full fat version.
Myth #4 – You should cut carbs to lose weight
Now this one can be a little tricky. While I would agree that some people benefit from having a lower carbohydrate intake when trying to reduce body fat the same doesn’t apply for EVERYONE. People have different body types and their bodies respond to carbs differently. Plus carbs are our bodies’ primary energy source. If you suddenly cut them out you’re gonna find yourself feeling tired, irritable and struggling through workouts.
A better strategy might be to have your carb heavy meals around your workouts. Your body will utilise the glucose more effectively and it’ll be more likely to be used as fuel and to replenish glycogen stores rather than be stored as fat.
Myth #5 – A calorie is a calorie no matter where it comes from
Not all calories are created equal I’m afraid. While yes in terms of energy balance, if you consume less calories than you burn you will lose weight, your body will process calories very differently depending on the foods they come from. Calories from different types of foods will also have different effects on your body.
For example, calories from protein and fats will improve satiety keeping you feeling fuller for longer. Calories from carbohydrates will be converted into glucose for energy whereas proteins will become amino acids for creating new call structures. So if you’re wondering if that chicken breast is the same as that slice of cake in the fridge calorie wise, it isn’t.
I hope this has helped clear up some of the confusion and conflicting info around macros for you. If you have more questions or would like a more detailed discussion around the best nutrition plan for your body type and goals, feel free to contact the Alter Ego team – I and our other nutrition coaches are always happy to talk food!
Rob Crerar – Alterego Personal Trainer