Losing weight is a difficult enough task as it is, without the added confusion of inaccurate advice and dramatic dietary claims.
I sat down with Nick English from Barbend and trainer and fitness expert Jordan Syatt to debunk the biggest diet and nutrition myths and misconceptions.
Myth: Carbs make you fat
If you are cutting carbs from your diet and not replacing them with anything else, you will be consuming fewer calories, leading to weight loss.
However, for many people, dropping carbs means dropping fibre (perhaps the best natural appetite suppressant there is) resulting in eating more calories.
Plus, carbs are often great sources of nutrients and fibre also has links not only to weight loss but also to lower risks of bowel cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and more.
There are plenty of reasons to limit refined carbs like sugar and white flour — they are not filling and very low in nutrients and fibre — but it is important not to go to extremes when it comes to cutting out carbohydrates.
Myth: Eating before bed makes you gain weight
Fortunately, this is not true. One of the easiest ways to dispel the myth that eating before bed makes you fat is to look at the research surrounding intermittent fasting.
People basically save most of their calories before they go to bed, and it is consistently found that as long as you are in a calorie deficit, you will lose weight.
Ultimately, a calorie is a calorie at 8am and 8pm; it does not matter what time you are eating, it matters how much you are eating.
Myth: Eating fats makes you fat
The idea that eating fats makes you fat is incorrect, as many people eat extremely high-fat diets, like the ketogenic diet, and still lose weight.
However, fat has more than twice the calories of protein or carbs, with nine calories per gram versus four calories per gram. So, ten grams of fat will make you ‘fatter’ than ten grams of chicken breast, if you are already eating over your daily calorie burn.
But that does not mean you should eliminate fat altogether: it serves essential functions like maintaining hormonal health and improving your absorption of essential nutrients, like Vitamin D.
Myth: Detox diets are key to a healthy lifestyle
The harsh reality is that detoxes and cleanses have no benefits and zero research to support them. When people claim detoxes are scientifically-backed, it is usually because:
- It contains antioxidants, which help the body to fight free radicals, which contribute to ageing — some like to call free radicals ‘toxins.’ Or,
- It contains milk thistle.
Some studies have found that people who are hospitalised with liver issues might experience a slight improvement in some symptoms in conjunction with other treatment methods when supplementing with a little milk thistle.
Marketers will see these studies, conclude that milk thistle helps your liver work, your liver helps you filter waste, and therefore milk thistle detoxes you. There is no evidence of this for people with a healthy liver.
Myth: Keto makes you lose fat faster
When people do keto diets, they tend to lose weight faster, especially initially, because nearly eliminating carbohydrates causes the body to lose a lot of water weight.
So, they see radical weight loss initially but hit a wall a few weeks later – because now they are not just losing water weight, they must lose fat now.
The reality is, to lose fat, you need to be in a calorie deficit. Many keto advocates claim that keto causes the body to burn more fat for fuel, and while this may be true, this does not seem to promote more weight loss when calories are controlled, according to a meta-analysis of thirty-two trials that compared carbohydrate intake.
Ultimately, you can do keto and see great progress, or you can follow a different diet and see great progress. As long as your calories are in check, you will lose weight over time.