Have you ever wished that you could [fill in your fitness goal] faster? Of course you have! There's not a single person out there who wouldn't want those flat abs, chiseled shoulders, tree trunk legs, or strong back muscles as soon as possible. Our desire for quick fixes is what allows companies to flood the market with wacky exercise routines and gimmicky supplements. And diet myths are EVERYWHERE.
In fact, some of the most basic dietary "rules" we hear on a day-to-day basis have no scientific support and do nothing to promote fat loss, lean muscle-building, strength gains, or endurance. They just plain sound good. And, unfortunately, sounding good sells.
Odds are you've fallen victim to one or more of these bogus nutrition statements, or may even be following them today. Well, no more! Here are four of the worst diet myths and the truth behind them:
1. If It's Gluten-Free, It Must Be Healthier.
When's the last time you looked at a restaurant dessert menu and thought to yourself, "Well, it's gluten-free chocolate cake, so it can't be THAT bad"? Think again. Although gluten-free foods are great for people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, they're not going to help slim that waist down. In fact, gluten substitutes tend to have a higher caloric content and can contribute to weight gain. So stop convincing yourself that gluten-free = healthy! If you want chocolate cake, save it for your cheat meal and go with the regular variety.
2. Carbs Make You Gain Weight.
This is one of the most common diet myths that it should be on a throw pillow somewhere. No matter what anyone tells you, weight gain comes from consuming more calories than your body expends - and that means calories from anywhere. You can eat baked chicken and spinach all day yet still gain weight if you're taking in more than you're burning. (For the nitty gritty science behind this, check out this great piece from Complete Human Performance.)
Carbs are entirely necessary, since they serve as the body's main source of fuel. The problem is that most people follow diets very high in refined, processed carbs such as white bread, sugary cereals, candy, chips - you get the picture. Binging on simple carbs like these can contribute to weight gain. Instead, opt for complex carbs such as brown rice, whole wheat pasta, barley, and veggies. These slower-digesting carb sources are much better for overall health and won't produce the crazy sugar highs (and crashes) you'd get from refined foods.
Need some great complex carb meal prep ideas? Check out this list from EatThis.com.
3. Fasting Is Essential For Cleansing The Body.
There are any number of fad diets out there touting the benefits of fasting, whether for a portion of the day, the entire day, or even several days. Seriously, guys - our bodies already have an internal cleansing system, and it's called your kidneys and liver. Not eating for extended periods of time not only is counterproductive to your fitness goals but also can be dangerous.
When it comes to cleansing your body, you're much better off incorporating plenty of fiber-rich foods into your diet. The more fiber you consume, the easier time you'll have moving food and toxins out of the body. Eating too much refined food (see #2) will tank your fiber intake, and that's what allows toxins to thrive in your body.
4. Eating Energy Bars Instead of Regular Meals Promotes Fat Loss.
We all have very busy lives, and when things get hectic the first thing to go is usually healthy eating. It's tough to set aside time to meal prep - let alone eat multiple times per day - when you're running every which way. That said, energy bars are NOT the answer.
Many people treat them as a great meal replacement when, in fact, protein bars often carry high sugar / fat content and other suboptimal ingredients. If you're bulking and just need the extra calories, protein bars are fine as a go-to. But if you're at all interested in weight loss, you're better off ditching the protein bars for a healthy combination of veggies, nuts, yogurt, fruit, and other on-the-go snack options.