Top Five Nutrition Myths

The field of nutrition is full of pseudoscience and misleading claims. Everyone seems to have an opinion when it comes to nutrition. You’ll hear that too much protein will rot your kidneys. Dietary fat will make you gain fat. Gluten is the root cause of all health issues, and so on.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of nutrition “experts” making these claims. Main stream media is flooded with this false information. Fortunately, I am going to break down the top five nutrition myths and debunk the lies with science for you below!

1. A High Protein Diet Causes Kidney Damage – The kidneys role in the body is to filter waste out of the blood for excretion. A high protein diet has never been linked in research to put extra stress on normal functioning kidneys. Your body is very resilient and adaptive. It can handle the extra protein one may consume. Consuming an adequate protein diet is very beneficial for weight loss and those engaged in a strength training protocol. What can put extra stress on your kidneys is alcohol consumption. If you are looking to give your kidneys a break then I would recommend limiting alcohol to three drinks or less per week.

2. Eating Carbs At Night Causes You To Gain Fat – This is one of my favorite myths to de-bunk. There is absolutely nothing scientific behind this claim! Meal timing is irrelevant when it comes to human metabolism. There is not a physiological switch in your body that turns on past a certain hour of the day to shift all carbohydrates consumed into stored body fat. Eating carbs is OK at night, especially if you exercise in the evening! Your personal preference should always dictate meal timing and frequency. Where most people get into trouble is an overconsumption of excess calories at night time, thus putting themselves into a calorie surplus for the day. Some may argue that consuming carbs late at night turns to stored fat due to a perceived reduction in metabolic rate when you sleep. The reality is your metabolic rate does not differ much at night compared to during the day. [1,2]  Being in a caloric surplus causes weight gain, not eating carbs at night.

3. You Need A Protein Shake Immediately After a Workout – There is a theory called the “anabolic window” of time post workout. The pseudoscience claim states that if a high protein drink is not consumed immediately after an intense workout, the muscle tissue is unable to properly heal and repair itself for recovery. This is complete nonsense. If you are consuming adequate protein throughout the day, an immediate post workout shake is not only unnecessary, it may be redundant in most cases. Let’s say someone has a whole food protein of about 40g (8 oz chicken breast for example) about two hours pre-workout. The body is in what is termed post-prandial or post-absorptive state of this meal even after the workout occurs. The body is obtaining sufficient amino acids from the whole food protein even after the workout. As long as you get adequate protein throughout the day, you can skip the post-workout shake if you desire.

4. Eating Fat Makes You Fat – Dietary fat and stored adipose tissue (body fat) are two completely different chemical structures. Choosing the right types of fats can help keep your body full and satisfied for longer periods of times and does not automatically turn into body fat. The best types of fats are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated plant based sources such as extra virgin olive oil, avocado, nuts, seeds, and natural nut butters. Saturated fats likes those found in egg yolks aren’t the enemy, but I recommend limiting those compared to the plant based sources listed above. The research has shown that moderate amounts of fat in the diet is more beneficial for weight loss than low-fat diets. [3,4] Combining healthy fats and a lean protein makes an excellent satiating meal combination.

5. Net Carbs – This term is nothing more than a pure marketing tactic. It is used to describe the total amount of carbs in a product after the quantity of fiber and sugar alcohols have been removed. The claim states that not all carbs are equal to your body and that these two should be subtracted from the total number of carbohydrates. It is true that dietary fiber contains less metabolizable calories than starchy carbohydrates due to it’s incomplete absorption. [5] However, these calories still count towards your daily totals. This has lead to the claim that you do not need to concern yourself with calorie intake when consuming higher fiber foods.  Even though the net calorie gain is smaller on a high fiber diet, the fact remains that you could still consume an excess of calories if you fail to control the quantity of food consumed from fibrous carbs.

With nutritional science, very few absolutes exist. As always everything in moderation is OK and the best approach for nutrition is the one that you can stick to long term!

1. Seale JL, Conway JM. Relationship between overnight energy expenditure and BMR measured in a room-sized calorimeter. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1999 Feb;53(2):107-11.

2. Zhang, K., Sun, M., Werner, P., Kovera, A. J., Albu, J., Pi-Sunyer, F. X., & Boozer, C. N. (2002). Sleeping metabolic rate in relation to body mass index and body composition. International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders: Journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity, 26(3), 376-383.

3. McManus, K., Antinoro, L., & Sacks, F. (2001). A randomized controlled trial of a moderate-fat, low-energy diet compared with a low fat, low-energy diet for weight loss in overweight adults. International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders: Journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity, 25(10), 1503-1511.

4. Shai, I., Schwarzfuchs, D., Henkin, Y., Shahar, D. R., Witkow, S., Greenberg, I., … & Stampfer, M. J. (2008). Weight loss with a low-carbohydrate, Mediterranean, or low-fat diet. New England Journal of Medicine, 359(3), 229-241.

5.Buchnolz AC and Schoeller DA. Is a calorie a calorie? Am J Clin Nutr,  2004:79(suppl): 899S-906S.