5 Nutrition Myths: Busted!

nutrition myths

There has been an advancement in nutrition science, but there are still some old myths that we are stuck with that refuse to go away. Today, we hope to bust them all, with Geetali Nagpal.

A myth is a harmful bit of information that needs to be explained clearly for people to understand the truth. All those who enter the field of fitness are initially subjected to the wrong information that’s available on nutrition, which results in poor training and dietary habits. Today, we hope to bust some of the most important myths in fitness and nutrition, and we got in touch with Geetali Nagpal, a Registered Dietician with a Master’s Degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from Pune University and a Certified Diabetes Educator (under the International Diabetes Federation) to understand more about it. Geetali is also a certified yoga instructor from Kauvalyadham, a certified dance instructor from Shiamak Davar’s Institute for Performing Arts and a certified Pilates instructor from FSSA. 

Myth 1- Eating after working out means that the food you have consumed has been burned because your body is still burning calories. 

Your post-workout Meal is one of the most important meals for achieving your health and fitness goals. Even though your metabolic rate and calorie-burning capacity is high post workout, if you eat a meal that doesn’t complement your workout, you may actually end up consuming a higher percentage of carbohydrates, protein or fat, which will, in fact, get stored in the body’s fat cells instead of being utilized.  During a workout, muscles undergo different levels of microtrauma (the breakdown of muscle fibres) depending on the intensity and type of workout. Muscles are primarily made from water and protein, so your post-workout meal needs to be protein rich (average 20-30g). Although muscle glycogen (stored carbohydrates) gets depleted after a workout and carbohydrates (10-20g) are needed to replenish these, only carbohydrates or fat cannot provide the necessary raw materials needed for muscle recovery or muscle building. Therefore, your post-workout meal requires a calculated combination of nutrients, especially good-quality protein, some carbohydrates, and antioxidants from vitamins and minerals depending on your fitness goals and workout regimen.

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Myth 2- Eating fat makes you fat.

Fat is a highly misunderstood nutrient. Your body requires fat for various purposes such as cell membrane functioning, absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, brain functioning, reproductive hormones, retinal functions etc. All these require the right type and right quantity of fat. However, fat is a calorie-dense nutrient providing 9 Kcal/g, more than twice that is provided by Carbohydrates or Protein. Therefore, eating only “excess” fat is very likely to lead to weight gain.

It is important to understand that anything that is “extra” or in “excess” over the body’s energy and nutrient requirements could lead to weight gain. So if you consume extra carbohydrates or proteins in a meal through food or through supplements, these too will, in fact, get stored in the adipose tissue as fat.

Myth 3- Eating small meals boosts your metabolism

Your metabolism is a sum of all the chemical reactions that take place in the body. A good metabolic rate is desired for optimal health. More than the quantity and frequency of the meals, it is the quality and composition of meals that plays an important role in boosting metabolism. Protein dense foods such as meat, fish and poultry, and fibre rich foods such as whole grains, sprouts, broccoli, bell peppers have a higher contribution to the thermic effect of food (amount of calories burnt while digesting food, which boosts metabolism) in comparison to carbohydrates and fat. Therefore eating small meals containing protein or fibre can help to boost your metabolism.

However, simple carbohydrates or fat-rich meals even in small quantities will not end up boosting your metabolism and could, in fact, increase your total calorie intake.

Myth 4- To build muscles, you need to eat protein and avoid fats/carbs

It’s true that your muscles are primarily made from protein. Ideally, you would need anywhere between 1-2g of protein/kg fat-free mass through the diet for muscle building. However, your muscles also contain glycogen which is the main fuel for the working muscles and the storage form of glucose. It is this glycogen which is actually used to produce glucose for powering your weight training session. Your glycogen levels drop drastically after a workout. Therefore, in order to replenish these glycogen stores, you need to eat adequate carbohydrates, especially after a workout.

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Secondly, carbohydrates trigger the release of insulin, a hormone which stimulates the uptake of amino acids from proteins into the muscle cells. This is what stimulates maximum recovery and muscle building immediately after a workout. Also, Fats provide energy during rest and low-intensity exercise. Without adequate fat and carbohydrates, the body will rely on protein through food or from the muscles for energy, thus making it unavailable for building muscles.

Therefore, all three – carbohydrates, proteins and fat – are absolutely necessary for building muscles.

Myth 5-Avoiding processed sugar means we are completely off sugar

Most of the food we eat contains carbohydrates. Sugars or “saccharides” form the smallest unit of carbohydrates made from carbon hydrogen and oxygen.

  • Fruits contain monosaccharides called Fructose and Glucose.
  • Milk contains a Disaccharide called Lactose which breaks down to a monosaccharides Galactose and Glucose.
  • Cereals contain Maltose which ultimately breaks down to Glucose.

Processed sugar or “Table sugar” is a Simple Sugar called Sucrose which comprises Glucose and Fructose. This provides “empty calories” and increases blood sugar levels instantly. On the other hand, most fruits (like apple, pear, and guava), cereals, whole grains, pulses, and dairy contain complex carbohydrate structures, which increase blood sugar levels at a slow, sustained rate that is healthy for the body. Therefore, it is apparent that most foods we consume – be it cereals, pulses, dairy or fruits – contain sugar in its simple or complex form.

We hope this detailed article helped you understand the truth behind some of the common misconceptions when it comes to nutrition.

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