“Myths are public dreams, dreams are private myths.” – Joseph Campbell
From Norse mythology to Greek mythology to Egyptian mythology—stories are powerful. Stories allow us to explain history, nature, customs and norms in a cohesive manner.
Stories that are passed down from traditions provides context and meaning into our world and how exactly we arrived at this current time in point.
I love a good collection of stories, but I also realize there’s a downside to stories. Sometimes the stories are misinformed and do more harm than good.
Fast forward to today’s world and the world of health and fitness is filled with many ideologies (often based on little validity).
With various supplement companies fabricating stories to push out their latest “miracle supplements”, and “Instagram gurus” searching for another viral hit by making outlandish claims—nutrition has become convoluted and filled with fear mongering tactics.
The barrier to entry to a healthier lifestyle is more confusing than welcoming; thus deters more people away.
Each week, it seems there are new health secrets and strategies designed to move our health in the right direction, but yet we’re only moving in the opposite direction.
Unfortunately, a few random statistics I found showed that…
- Worldwide obesity has more than doubled since 1980
- More than 1.9 billion adults, 18 years and older, were overweight in 2014. Of these, over 600 million were obese.
- Thirty-nine percent of adults aged 18 years and over were overweight in 2014 and 13% were obese.
- Most of the world’s population live in countries where overweight and obesity kills more people than underweight.
- 42 million children under the age of 5 were overweight or obese in 2013.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom. It’s not from a lack of capabilities. It’s instead from a lack of focusing on the bigger issue—our relationships and behaviors towards food. Unfortunately, we rely on rules and tactics instead of our behaviors.
Tactics are seductive and fun to discuss. With tactics, we can place all our hopes and dreams on one thing to fix the issue. But, there isn’t a simple click of the button solution to our fitness woes. Instead of demonizing foods and placing a tunnel vision toward our health that contours a one size fits all nutritional approach—let’s keep a vision toward the big picture.
There are plenty of nutritional myths that circulate around the health and fitness industry. But today, I’m going to share five myths during the first installment of the Nutritional Mythbusters series.
Myth #1: You need to go low-carb to lose weight
Carbs have become public enemy number one and are often blamed for any and every kind of health issue. Low carb diets are trendy.
Gluten is blamed for everything. Gluten is blamed for irritable bowel syndrome and other intestinal issues. However, this evidence that gluten affects everyone isn’t a definite. Only those with celiac and intestinal issues should make it a priority to avoid gluten altogether.
Let me get this out of the way: low carb diets work.
However, it’s not the only way to successfully lose weight. It’s not the low carb diet that’s important, it’s the caloric deficit that is key.
Can you lose weight quickly by dropping all your carbs?
Absolutely. However, the initial wave of weight dropped is most likely initial water weight from the change in diets (you can only lose so much body fat at a given time). The cause of the potential accelerated rate of weight loss is due to the lack of carbohydrates. Carbs are going to retain more water within your muscle cells (hence you won’t lose as much weight according to the scale).
However, the initial wave of weight dropped is most likely initial water weight from the change in diet (you can only lose so much body fat at a given time). The cause of the potential accelerated rate of weight loss is due to the lack of carbohydrates. Carbs are going to retain more water within your muscle cells (hence you won’t lose as much weight according to the scale).
Myth #2: Sugar is part of the evil empire
Cue the Imperial theme music when it comes to discussing sugar.
We’ve all heard the tagline that “sugar is as addictive as cocaine”.
Yikes, sounds scary. However, sugars reputation is largely screwed in an unbalanced context.
However, sugars reputation is largely skewed in an unbalanced context.
Sugar is a natural substance that goes all the way back to our primitive days and something our brains and bodies are naturally addicted to. Sugar is another alternative to describe the various forms of carbohydrates.
On a random note, human breast milk is mostly a sugar-sweetened beverage and no one will argue that breast milk is toxic and evil. Your brain uses close to 20% of your total energy expenditure. Not getting enough sugars (i.e. carbs) not only makes you feel crappy but will also decrease your mental performance and overall productivity.
Carbs (i.e. sugars) must be broken down into their simpler form known as glucose (i.e.the fuel for your body and brain). You also may see the word saccharide which is just a fancy way of describing sugar (picture sugar dressed in a tuxedo).
There are 3 types:
- Monosaccharides– one type of carb running solo (think glucose traveling through your bloodstream).
- Disaccharides – two separate carbohydrate links partnering up (think fruit or honey)
- Oligosaccharides – many carbohydrates partnering up (think rice, potatoes, arepas, tamales, empanadas, oatmeal, veggies, & many others)
Now you have a basic understanding that all carbohydrates are sugars, just in different disguises.
Sugar has a bad rep, not because of the substance itself, but because of the quantity of sugar (i.e. carbs) being consumed and the context in which it’s presented in (an attribute people often forget).
One person doesn’t make a kid, it takes two to tango. Sugar doesn’t create obesity by itself, it often has a partner as well (usually high fat intake or undisciplined eating behaviors).
The most important factor to weight loss is still being in a caloric deficit and supplying your body with the proper amount of nutrients.
A caloric deficit > demonizing sugar (carbs—your choice of name), fats, or anything else.
Myth #3: Meal timing
How many times have you overheard or been preached to by an annoying friend, peer, or guru about eating on the clock?
Probably once too many.
If you abide by strict meal timing, there’s various rules that state you have to eat every 2-3 hours to stoke the metabolism and this structure is broken up into six small and perfectly portioned meals that aren’t a gram or ounce off the prescribed amount.
How are you supposed to get some work done or live a rich lifestyle if you’re constantly paying attention to the clock or thinking about your eating rules?
Answer: You’re not.
The only thing that will happen is a poor relationship with foods, and a skewed relationship between fitness and living a balanced lifestyle.
Meal timing 100% up to you. The time you eat and how often you eat is trivial (especially to beginners).
What’s more important?
Eating the right amount of calories, the correct macronutrients, making great food selections, and finding an eating routine that jams with your day-to-day life.
Skipping breakfast isn’t the end of the world. Eating three meals as opposed to six isn’t going to make a difference as long as your caloric intake is under control. Eating carbs at night isn’t forbidden (just give yourself two–three hours before bed).
Myth #4: Egg yolks are terrible for you
Egg yolks raise your cholesterol and are bad for your heart and fitness goals. You should just opt for egg whites.
Egg yolks received a faulty reputation because of the cholesterol contents at face value.
However, there’s good and bad cholesterol. Before I explain those two, cholesterol is a fat-like substance that’s found in all cells of your body. Your body needs cholesterol to make hormones, Vitamin D, and help digest foods.
LDL (low-density lipoproteins—bad cholesterol) – A high level of this leads to a buildup of cholesterol in your arteries (which are vessels that carry blood from your heart to your body).
HDL (high-density lipoproteins—good cholesterol) – This is beneficial because it takes your cholesterol from other parts of your body back to your liver. Then, your liver removes the cholesterol from your body.
Eggs mostly contain the good portion of cholesterol, which subsequently raise your testosterone and provides a myriad of other health benefits (unless you have a preexisting condition, have no fear in your egg consumption).
The fat from the yolk is mostly saturated which is the same in coconut oil. Saturated fat is beneficial as it helps your brain, cardiovascular, bone, immune, and nervous system health.
Start eating the yolks with no shame plus who actually thinks egg whites taste good?
Myth #5: Brown rice is better (i.e. healthier) than white rice
Brown rice is a recent invention in the grand scheme of history compared to white rice. However, once you add some extra marketable factors such as extra fiber—it’s easy to see how brown rice elevated among the public.
But, a little unknown and often never spoken fact about brown rice is depending on how it’s processed, this can potentially cause digestive issues.
Brown rice includes phytates and lectins. Phytates (or phytic acid) are anti-nutrients that bind to minerals such as copper, zinc, magnesium, iron, niacin, and calcium; thus preventing them from being absorbed. Phytic acid prevents pepsin, a crucial enzyme needed to properly break down protein as well as preventing amylase—the enzyme that helps break down sugars (the effects to which it does this isn't fully concluded yet).
Here’s another argument from the brown rice campaign team: “brown rice is more nutrient dense than white rice”.
Comparing a side by side portrait of brown rice and white rice—brown rice has higher numbers. However, remember that brown rice has the added phytates, which are preventing those “extra vitamins and minerals” from being fully absorbed.
Lastly, you’re not going to eat rice because of its extensive nutrient profile. Compared to the many other foods in existence, rice is lacking. Rice is valuable because…
- It's damn tasty (jasmine, basmati, and I could go on forever)
- It's easily digestible and causes very little digestion or food allergies among people.
- It’s a great post-workout food because it’s easily absorbed.
Another big difference between brown and white rice is that brown rice contains the bran and germ still intact. In some individuals, the bran and germ can be irritative to the digestive tract, which can lead to leaky gut syndrome (this isn’t going to happen just from eating occasional brown rice, so don’t panic).
At the end, everyone's tolerance with food will be different.
I had many food phobias in the past and would label foods good or evil and pigeon hole myself into eating certain foods because I thought I had to. I don’t want anyone else to make healthy eating more complicated than it needs to be. Don’t force yourself to eat foods because you think you have to.
Here's a free downloadable poster of today's 5 nutritional myths.