Hi all and welcome back for another week of Get Constructive!
This week is a fun, quick-fire style post to mix things up following the long narratives of the last few weeks. Today we are busting five of the most common myths I hear from those starting and progressing on their health and fitness journeys.
Call them bro-science, old wives tales or antiquated heuristics of days gone by- some of these ideas still have a lot of traction in the cluttered and confusing health and fitness world and it is time to cut the crap and help you all build an approach based on facts, science and above all- some real practice and experience. So let’s go!
For Myth #1, I am simply going to list the term ‘Fat Free’. This is a watered-down, misleading marketing term that is now plastered over everything from dairy products to sausage varieties and it has become the nutritional North Star for the general public trying to make ‘healthy’ choices in the grocery isle.This is a problem on two levels;1) The misconception this has created around dietary fat Dietary fat is not ‘bad’. Even today, it is commonly misconstrued that eating eggs, red meat, bacon and other natural saturated fat sources is bad for our cholesterol and should be kept to a minimum. In a great article from Chris Kresser (link here) the ancestral health, nutrition and integrative medicine expert goes about systematically debunking the link between saturated fat intake and high cholesterol and he drills down into what the numbers really mean when we get our cholesterol checked at the local GP.With this in mind, as a rule- trans fats/hydrogenated oils are nasty and should be avoided and despite the importance of keeping some dietary fat in our daily food plans as outlined in my previous article, Diet: Level 2 (link here) the amount consumed needs to be monitored and kept in line with our goals.2) The process and additives that are required to produce fat-free food varietiesIn making low fat varieties of dairy products, desserts, meat products, condiments and the like- in many cases, hydrogenated vegetable oils take the place of natural animal fat and despite the lower net fat content, these trans-fats can end up being counter productive to our goals in body composition and general health.In addition to this, sugars are often significantly increased to maintain the palatability of foods without natural fats present. You can see an example of this as simply as comparing full and reduced-fat milk varieties and observing the spike in carbohydrates in the skim products.
Myth #2 – Carbs are the enemy
Similarly to fat, carbs have a bad reputation and the bust for this one is much the same. Carbs are not bad. The now popular low-carb diet protocols get a lot of attention these days and some do have their merits but for most of us, carbohydrates are still the primary source of energy and are essential for those of us engaging in heavy physical activity on a regular basis. It is important to note however, that being a powerful source of energy, if a large surplus of carbs is consumed in combination with a low total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) we can easily see another recipe for fast fat gain.
It is interesting to note here that the large majority of delicious foods we see cramming our Facebook and Instagram news feeds are this combination of salty and sweet or fat and carbohydrates in the form of pulled pork pancakes; salted caramel donuts; banana bacon milkshakes; and duck confit burgers that really are everything good and bad in the world. This is where fats and carbs combined in high, processed doses can become a major issue so as you would expect, these food options need to be saved for special occasions and only calculated amounts of the two macronutrients should be consumed daily.
In wrapping up Myths 1 and 2, the simplest way forward is to keep some natural fats and your choice of carbs in the daily diet to a level relative to your goals, food preferences, situation and level of activity. I suggest a scroll back through my intro to diet (link here) for a roadmap on exactly how to put together your own individual plan.
“The best food on the planet has always come from the poorest communities. The real currency we are talking about is knowledge”
Further to this; the Aldis, Asdas and Lidls of the world are now providing some top quality fresh food options with grass fed beef and other such products available at great prices. These will never be quite up to the same standard as the country butcher or farm kill but they are the next best thing.
Let me assure you- you are not going to accidentally get ‘too big’ by engaging in some heavy resistance training and as always, with your personal goals in mind- a structured resistance training regime can actually produce some of the most efficient and sustainable results in body composition of all the disciplines (link here). The results derived from training with weights depends largely on what is done outside the weights room in terms of diet and additional activity (or lack of) and if practiced correctly it can be a tool that allows you to progress towards your desired results in fat loss and muscle gain at your own pace; at a time that suits your schedule; on your own; and at a relatively cheap price.