The internet is an amazing thing, full of all the information you could ever need.
Sadly, some of that information isn’t true.
To enable you to understand how your body functions, some of the most common myths and misconceptions surrounding diet and exercise need to be exposed.
#1 Starvation Mode
Firstly, the widely believed “Starvation Mode” myth.
Online, people speak about this as if it’s solid, scientifically proven knowledge.
However, it’s a much disputed theory.
“Starvation Mode” is essentially based around the 1200 calorie figure.
People claim that if you go below this, your body will hold onto all fat and you’ll find it impossible to lose any weight. If this were the case, people suffering from anorexia would not lose weight.
The primary issue with going below 1200 calories is that it’s much harder to get your body’s required macro/micronutrients and you may also struggle with enough energy to exercise.
#2 Spot Reduction
Go to any website about health and fitness and you will see the pop-ups, adverts and articles stating you can “lose 10lbs of belly fat in a week with this simple exercise!”
The truth is, you cannot effectively spot reduce.
If you want to see your abdominal muscles, you need to lower your body fat through a calorie deficit, increased muscle mass or cardio exercise.
Of course, you do need to work on your abdominals through exercises including crunches and planks, but the only way you’re going to see them is by reducing your total body fat.
#3 Women Bulk Up From Weight Lifting
This is another widely believed myth.
It is believed that if a woman uses dumbbells that weigh more than a couple of kilograms, she will end up “bulky” and looking “manly”.
However, this is not the case.
The only way to get bulky is to dedicate a massive amount of your time to strength training, eat an incredibly strict diet or take testosterone supplements.
Alternatively, they could indeed be a genetic miracle.
The average woman will not get bulky from lifting weights because she simply does not have enough testosterone in her body to create that much muscle mass.
Men have an average of 40 times more, hence they can build muscle faster and more effectively.
Lifting weights will, however, create beautifully toned muscles, which in turn will burn more calories while you are sedentary.
Muscle is also denser than fat meaning you will look leaner, even if you weigh the same.
Don’t be afraid of lifting some heavy dumbbells, swinging a heavy kettlebell or squatting a barbell.
You’ll lose inches you didn’t know you could lose and look fantastic for it.
#4 Myth: Low Fat Diets Are Great
The massive low-fat fad is still booming thanks to the low-fat movement of the 1980s.
In the UK alone, the dieting industry is worth £2 billion and much of this comes from low-fat products that are purported to help you lose weight.
Your body needs fat.
Certain macro/micronutrients cannot be processed by your body if you are limiting your fat intake to low levels.
Studies have shown that low-fat diets can also cause problems like gallstones.
Low-fat products usually switch out the fat for sugar.
Sugar is much worse for your body than fat (it is believed to be more addictive than cocaine).
However, fats don’t have this effect on the body, and new studies are showing that even saturated fats are not bad for you.
Of course, this doesn’t mean a fat free-for-all, eating fried food and trans-fats.
Your body needs good fats, from nuts, oils and fish.
However, some low-fat products might well be okay if you’re on a very strict calorie controlled diet.
Check the full-fat and low-fat products against each other, and if there isn’t any additional sugar or strange ingredients in the low-fat product, buy that one.
#5 Carbs Will Make You Fat
You can eat that slice of bread, it’s certainly not going to kill you or make you fat.
Weight gain is (apart from in people with health conditions such as hypothyroidism) simply a matter of excessive calories for your size and level of activity.
If you’re not moving and eating above your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) you will gain weight, whether you’re eating too many biscuits, too much meat or too many nuts.
It doesn’t matter where the calories come from, whether it’s carbs or fats, if you eat too many of them, you will gain weight.
Your body uses carbs for energy unless you follow a ketogenic diet.
Typically a ketogenic diet (low carb) consists of 75% fat, 20% protein and 5% carbs.
Some people are fine on low-carb diets and can continue exercising optimally.
For other people, they can’t cope with super low-carb diets.
Everyone is different. You need to find what’s right for you, not work on other peoples’ plans.
Some websites do a macronutrient breakdown based on a percentage of your calorie allowance.
For example, if you’re allowed 1400 calories and allocate 50% to carbohydrates, you’ll be eating 700 calories worth of carbs which equates to (based upon 4 calories per 1g of carbohydrates) 175g and you can see which is best for you to work with.
Then you can monitor how your body responds to different splits, such as 50 percent carbohydrates, 20 percent protein, 30 percent fat.
It’s a great way to learn how to eat for your body to perform optimally, and understand how your macronutrients affect the function of your body, even in day to day activities.
As with fats, there are good and bad carbs. Added sugars are just empty calories which would be better substituted for nuts, fruits or vegetables. However, the occasional treat is definitely important to keep you sane, especially on a calorie-controlled diet.
Don’t believe everything you read online.
If you’re unsure about certain things you have read, it is best to speak to a well-informed, qualified dietitian or personal trainer!