Health and fitness myths... what you need to know

June 27, 2018
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It's hard to know what to believe and what not to believe when it comes to the internet, health and fitness, and the new fads or trends. There's so much advertising and opinion that it's like searching for a needle in a haystack when trying to decipher fact from fiction. I've picked a few common health and fitness myths around training and nutrition, which might give you some clear insight.

Myth 1: "Sugar-free," "Calorie-free" soft drink is better than regular soft drink and can make you lose weight.

This is a big one. We're seeing more and more products being produced along the soft drink line that claim to be sugar or calorie-free. After a number of companies such as Coca Cola were exposed through media and movies such as "That Sugar Film," people are more aware of what they put into their bodies through a single drink. In fact, many countries now have an extra tax on those sugary drinks.

So, what are the calorie and sugar-free versions doing to our bodies? Avoiding sugar and replacing it with artificial sweeteners will NOT help you lose any weight. A research study of over six hundred people over eight years by the University of Texas Health and Science Centre found that those who were drinking diet soft drink (even minimal amounts) didn't lose weight and were more likely to become overweight than those drinking regular soft drink. Why? There isn't a certain answer to this; however, scientists believe that artificial sweeteners cause your body and brain to get confused. The brain acknowledges it's having something sweet, but the stomach is asking "where?" and, therefore, the hormones that regulate our appetite struggle to regulate the amount of calories consumed. We also may start to crave the "real" sugar from elsewhere.

Myth 2: Carbohydrates make you fat.

Carbs have had a bad run for a few years now. They very quickly became the enemy, and low carb diets were apparently everyone's savior.

Carbs aren't exactly the enemy, but there are good and not-so-good (or "bad") types of carbs, and we need plenty of the good ones to have energy. Bad carbs are also known as simple carbs or refined carbs. These are the ones you find in the aisles of the supermarket in processed items such as white bread, pastries, white pasta, white rice, sugar, fruit juices, and so on. Good carbs, also known as complex carbs, are unrefined and unprocessed. These are usually found in the fresh produce area – vegetables, fruit, legumes, potatoes, quinoa, whole grain pasta. They are generally healthy foods and are full of fiber and nutrients. Bad carbs tend to spike your blood sugar levels, which later results in a crash and then a craving for more high-carb foods. Numerous studies show that excess consumption of refined carbs can lead to multiple health problems. However, eating high-fiber carbohydrates ("good" carbs) in sensible quantities can lead to a healthy metabolism and lower the risk of various health problems.

So think wisely when you're next shopping – first of all, don't leave carbohydrates out altogether, and secondly, think about what type of carb you are picking up and putting into your basket and the effect it will have on your body and health.

Myth 3: Lifting weights makes you bulky.

We hear this time and again, usually from women, this fear that if you pick up a dumbbell, you're quickly going to resemble Arnold Schwarzenegger. In order to gain that amount of muscle, it would firstly take a LOT of training and discipline every day for many months, if not years. It would take a huge amount of calories which you'd actually have to go out of your way to eat – and I'm not talking about eating a tonne of chocolate and junk food, as muscle needs lots of nutrients to grow. The fact is, that through weight training, your body loses fat and gains lean muscle tissue, which acts as a built-in furnace to burn more calories through everyday activities.

Myth 4: Eating less instead of exercise is all I need to lose weight.

Wrong! The healthiest and most sustainable way to lose weight and keep it off is to have a healthy and balanced diet combined with regular exercise. As mentioned before, doing some resistance training can help build lean muscle tissue, which then leads to more efficient calorie burning even while you're resting. Fad diets which have reduced a person's calorie intake dramatically may show fast results, but likewise, an even faster weight regain, often resulting in a higher weight than pre-diet. This is due to a lack of exercise and lean muscle, as the weight that has been lost has usually been lean muscle tissue and not fat. Metabolic damage occurs due to the extremely low caloric intake, and can take a number of months to rectify through steady calorie increases.

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