Top 5 Fitness Myths: Nutrition Edition

I’m back! As many of you know, I spontaneously moved to Boston last week with my husband. I’ve got to admit, I didn’t do much in the way of going to the gym, but I certainly got my exercise moving everything!

In this edition of Top 5 Fitness Myths, I’m going to address some nutrition errors many people make without knowing they’re making them. Because the fitness industry isn’t regulated, any product can claim that they’re “healthy,” without proving anything. I encourage all of you to read your labels, weigh your food, and most of all, use common sense; if it tastes like candy, it is candy, and if you feel like you’re dying, you’re probably not on a “healthy” diet.

1. Protein Bars Are Good Meal Replacements

When you’re strapped for time and cash, sometimes grabbing a $2 protein bar is tempting. It definitely has enough protein to keep you fueled, right? It’s about the right amount of calories for a meal anyways, right?

Something to keep in mind is that all of the ingredients (unless you make them yourself, in which case, go you!) in these bars are highly processed. Because of this, they don’t take a lot of energy to digest, so you actually retain more of it than you would eating, say, a piece of chicken and some mashed potatoes (which would have a similar calorie and protein profile). The ingredients in protein bars do not provide any naturally occurring vitamins, and rely on supplements to bolster their numbers. This is a great example of why you should always read the label!

It’s fine to eat protein bars, but consider them only one step up from a candy bar–not a food you want to be replacing too many meals with.

2. Calcium is From Dairy Only

This is simply not true! Lots of non-dairy foods naturally contain calcium. Look to white beans (191 mg per 1 cup, also a great source of iron), canned salmon with bones (232 mg per 1/2 can, the bones hold all the calcium on this one), sardines (321 mg per 7 filets), turnip greens(197 mg per 1 cup cooked), and many other options.

3. All Vegetables Are Created Equal

Most naturally occurring food contain useful vitamins and/or minerals, but in different amounts, and with different calorie loads. Keep in mind that it’s rare to find produce that hasn’t been bred to be bigger, sweeter, and more colorful than it’s ancestors. Both broccoli and turnips are nutritious, and bananas and raspberries are both valuable to your body, but you can’t swap one for the other without having to recalculate your calories. Though a lot of programs such as Weight Watchers allow unlimited amounts of fruits and veggies (which on the whole is a good thing for the average person battling their weight), once it comes down to the last few pounds it’s necessary to be a bit more choosy.

4. Detox Diets Cleanse Your Body

There are an incredible number of “diets” (or lack thereof) that claim to “detox your body.” These diets generally consist of drinking juice, which aims to gather the nutrients from produce without all that silly fiber.

I’ll be brief on this (but keep your eyes open for a real post on this topic). What these diets do:

  • Prevent you from eating junk food, or food that you may think is healthy but doesn’t actually get along well with your body (Wheat, lactose, various animal proteins, excessive fiber consumption, processed foods of any kind, legumes, etc.). In place of these you are only consuming the very easiest things to digest. This can make a lot of people feel really good, since they are no longer eating whatever doesn’t agree with them.
  • Get you to partially fast. Your calories will drop dramatically, usually under 700 a day. This will have you dropping pounds quickly, but will make it hard to keep them off once you start eating normally. Fasting has some great benefits, and has been proven to basically have the same effect on your neurons as exercise has on your muscles, so this aspect of “cleanses” is a real benefit.

What these diets do not do:

  • “Detox” anything. There really is no science (peer reviewed and unbiased) supporting that this can be done through diet apart from the first point above.

Essentially, these diets are a friendly way to introduce yourself to fasting without going headfirst into a water fast. The juice keeps your blood sugar from plummeting too quickly, which means, essentially, it doesn’t suck as much. But you won’t get quite as many benefits from it.

5. All Alcohol Is Bad For You

This one is the most fun! Alcohol is an anticoagulant, which means that it essentially works similarly to blood pressure medication. Never try to self medicate, but a moderate (8-12 ounces of beer or wine, or one shot of liquor) amount of alcohol won’t do any harm. Unless you’re binge drinking, alcohol is fine to indulge in–just remember to account for the calories that come with it, and try to avoid the super sugary drinks (mudslides, anyone?).

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One thought on “Top 5 Fitness Myths: Nutrition Edition

  1. Erica says:

    Thank you for the Calcium myth. I cannot tell you how many people give me lip service for being dairy-free. “what about calcium” and i’m like… uh trust me I’m fine… lots of legumes, green leafy veggies and salmon!!!

    Ditto on the protein bars… I don’t eat them. They are processed and sweet as heck.

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