Following These 8 Diet Myths is Making You Fat

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Woman lifting weight
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Reality Check: Without the proper fuel you won’t be able to work out for as long or as hard as you need to if you want to see a difference in your body. What’s worse, fasted workouts can cause low blood sugar and lightheadedness, which can be dangerous when you’re breaking a sweat. Plus, when you’re running on fumes, you’re going to be ravenous after your workout. That means you’ll be more apt to make poor diet decisions—like downing an entire pizza—after you get home. On the contrary, the proper fuel before your sweat sesh can actually increase your gains: “A whey protein shake before a workout has been shown to increase muscle synthesis,” Jim White, RD, ACSM, and owner of Jim White Fitness & Nutrition Studios tells us.

Paleo meal with steak on a bed of greens
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Reality Check: It’s no shocker that Paleo is one of the most-Googled diets in recent years. Bacon and steak for weight loss? Yes, please! But the Paleo diet may be too good to be true. Although protein-rich diets help pounds fly off initially, eating a low-carb, high-protein diet can actually cause weight gain in the long-term, according to a study published in Clinical Nutrition. In fact, the Spanish researchers found that those who follow high-protein diets have a 90 percent greater risk of gaining more than 10 percent of their body weight over time than those who don’t go heavy on the meat. To reap the weight-loss benefits of the Paleo diet–without paying for it later–nix the processed junk and oils as the diet suggests, but keep the protein in check. Men should get no more than 56 grams a day and women should aim for 46 grams. Take in more than the recommended amount and the excess will likely be stored as fat.

Woman choosing apple over sugar-filled pastry
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Reality Check: Eating 300 calories of chicken is not the same as eating 300 calories of cake. The body uses and stores calories differently depending on the nutrients each food is comprised of. For example, getting your protein from plants has actually been found to increase feelings of fullness more than when you consume the same amount of protein from meat. University of Copenhagen researchers found that when participants ate a legume-based meal, they consumed 12 percent fewer calories in their next meal than if they had eaten meat—which could promote weight loss long term. The study authors believe the increased satiety is due to the fact that plant-based proteins contain more belly-filling fiber than meat. It’s just another example of how the macronutrient quality of your food can actually trump the idea that “a calorie is a calorie.”

Woman looking in refrigerator late at night
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Reality Check: Eating too many calories throughout the day, not nighttime munching, causes weight gain. In fact, “eating the right type of bedtime snack actually boosts metabolism and aids weight loss—not the opposite!” explains Cassie Bjork, RD, LD of Healthy Simple Life. “When you don’t eat before bed, blood sugar levels dip so you don’t sleep as well. In turn, you crave more sugar- and carb-laden food the next day. If this happens often enough, it can cause weight gain. On the flip side, eating the right snack can help keep blood sugars stable so the fat-burning hormone glucagon can do its job.” So what should you be eating? “I suggest pairing a natural carb with a healthy fat.” Apple slices and almond butter, berries with heavy cream, and carrots with guacamole all fit the bill.

Avocado sliced in half
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Reality Check: Avocados, oatmeal, nuts and their creamy, delicious butters are indeed healthy, but low in calories they are not. Sure, you’re better off eating 200 calories of oatmeal then 200 calories of sugar-spiked cookies made with the grain, but that doesn’t give you free rein to eat as much of the stuff as you want. The bottom line: Nutritious or not, portion size counts with every food. If you find that you have trouble sticking to reasonable portion sizes for some of the more caloric healthy foods in your diet, look for portion-controlled packages. Emerald makes 100-calorie almond and walnut packs, Wholly Guacamole sells 100-cal guac, numerous brands sell small oatmeal packages and Justin’s has a line of individually-portioned nut butters. Buying mini sizes in lieu of bigger tubs of food helps keep calories in check and teach you what a proper serving looks like.

Protein powder smoothie
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Reality Check: Although packaged protein products can be a part of an all-around healthy diet, they aren’t any better than a sit-down meal comprised of similar nutrients. However, depending on which bars and shakes you pick up, you could actually be putting your health at risk. Many popular products are filled with bloat-causing additives like carrageenan and whey in addition to caramel coloring, which has been shown to cause cancer in humans. A number of the pumped-up foods also use artificial sweeteners in lieu of sugar, which can increase cravings for sweet treats and cause weight gain over time. Our advice: If you want to include bars and shakes in your diet, opt for one of our Best Protein Bars for Weight Loss and whip up your own protein shakes at home using fresh fruits, veggies, milk or water and a low-sugar protein powder.

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