Debunking Some Health Myths
Fat Makes Me Fat - People tend to confuse dietary fat with the body flub that surrounds their body known as adipose tissue. Truth is, dietary fats are an essential part of a balanced diet and should make up 25 to 30% of caloric intake. Dietary fat helps dissolve vital fat-soluble vitamins in the bloodstream such as vitamins A, D, E, and K. Your omega-3 fatty acids are also attributed to a healthy cardiovascular system. The problem people run into is consuming too many saturated and trans fats, the latter of which should be avoided at all costs due to its utter uselessness in the human body.
You see, back in the 1980's fat began to develop a very bad reputation from some medical experts who believed that people were getting fat because they were eating too much fat, which coincidentally has twice as many calories per gram compared to carbohydrates or proteins. This is only partially true, as it is not fat that makes us fat, it is the calories in the fat that makes us fat. You can cut fat out of your diet completely and still become a fat cow by eating too many carbohydrates and protein (which is very apparent in today's society).
One thing to note here, is that since companies all started to jump on this "low-fat" bandwagon, they realized that their food products don't taste as good without fat (humans inherently enjoy fatty foods) so they substitute fat for sugar. Unfortunately sugar and sugar substitutes can make you just as big or bigger!
There are many reasons for humans to consume fats, we just need to realize that since there is twice as many calories per gram in fat compared to protein or carbs, that we need to eat less fat, not eliminate it completely. Needless to say, most people need to eat a lot less of everything!
Ways to incorporate healthy fats into your diet should include olive oil, avocados, nuts, fish, etc. Aim for about 60-70 grams per day (but everyone is different).
Cardio Training is Better for me Than Resistance Training - I see this all the time. Women especially head into a gym, hop on an elliptical or treadmill, etc and work away for an extended period of time, work up a slight sweat, then go home. What good is that? First of all, you are only working a specific portion of your body, not to mention not really burning a whole heck of a lot of calories. Yes, cardiovascular training is important. You need to get your heart rate up to clear the junk out of your arteries and veins to allow your heart to work more efficiently. Second, a longer, slow-burn type of cardio session can do wonders to burning fat, lowering your resting heart rate, and lowering blood pressure. EVERYONE needs to incorporate some sort of strength training into their balanced exercise plan a couple times a week, at least! Men and women a like should work all of the muscles in their body at least twice a week.
Strength training promotes stronger muscles, ligaments, bones, and tendons so that we are less prone to injury as we age. Not to mention working our core (notice I say core, not abs, as your core includes your upper thighs, hip flexors, back, etc.) helps to stabilize our bodies and prevent things like back injuries in everyday life. The biggest proponent to strength training though is the fact that a well-designed, hard-hitting resistance routine burns far more calories than a cardio routine ever will because you are using your muscles to exhaustion which burns tons of calories during and after the workout. Doing strength training properly causes micro tears in your muscle fibers which cause your body to move in a repair the damage afterward. This is what increases your resting metabolic rate for up to 48 hours after a good strength routine! That's right, after a good circuit-style strength routine, your body will be burning more calories at rest than usual...even when sleeping!
Women: "I don't want to lift weights, that's for bodybuilders!" - Related to the post above, many women are afraid of doing any serious weight lifting because they are afraid they will look like bodybuilders. No wonder women have such high incidence rates of osteoporosis, etc! The body basically follows the mentality, "Use it or lose it sister (or brother)." As we age, our bodies decay from inactivity, soooooo, if you are not using your muscles or creating a tactile load on your bones, they begin to decay away.
Truth is, majority of women don't have the necessary testosterone levels in their blood to pack on large amounts of muscle anyways! Women's bodies are built more for endurance so you get that long, sleek, toned look from weight training. Men's bodies are more built for power and speed. (In a general sense) Women should be aiming for timed circuit training or 15+ reps when training, but don't skimp on the weights, you want to push yourselves!
High Cholesterol - Cholesterol, like fat, has been victimized in the past. Cholesterol is now a household name for many as being "bad". Truth is, like fat, cholesterol is a vital part in the human body for regular cellular function as well as bile production to aid in the breakdown of foods. The confusion arises because some people have linked high cholesterol levels in our diets to dietary cholesterol which simply is not true. Studies are increasingly showing that high blood cholesterol comes from a diet high in saturated fats, while foods high in dietary cholesterol have a fairly negligible effect on high blood cholesterol. Foods high in dietary cholesterol but low in saturated fat, including eggs, shrimp, lobster, crab, clams, and other shellfish, can be safely eaten in moderation without having much effect on blood cholesterol levels.
The link between high blood cholesterol and dietary cholesterol seems to have a mixed signal here because non-seafood foods with high cholesterol also have high levels of saturated fats, which is the true root cause of high blood cholesterol. I know, it sounds confusing, but its true. The more and more something like a double cheeseburger creeps into your diet, the higher your blood cholesterol is going to climb...but its because of the saturated fats that do it!
Snacking Makes Me Fat - Remember your mom used to say to you, "Don't eat that snack, it will ruin your appetite!" Well good, ruin that appetite! People may fend off some hunger pangs, especially in the afternoon because they know dinner is coming up. The only problem with that is you then tend to overeat, and overeat very quickly by the time you get to dinner. More and more studies are showing that eating consistently throughout the day helps stabilize blood sugar levels and feeds our bodies with a constant supply of fuel.
Think back to our early ancestors roaming the countryside from cave to cave. They probably did not sit down at a McDonald's at 6pm to grab dinner, they were foraging and snacking all day on fruit and veggies that they found as traveled. This should be the same for you. Snacking does not mean a handful of chocolate or chips though, aim for something with some sustenance to it. Healthy fats such as nuts, or something with protein, or even some fruits and vegetables with fiber. Anything that will digest slowly and keep that slow fire burning in your gut rather than an energy drink or chocolate bar that will be digested and burned off quickly (or stored as fat quickly) causing you to...crave more sugar.
"I exercise, so I can eat whatever I want!" - There is a saying in the fitness industry that's along the lines of, "You can't out-train a bad diet." To live a long, healthy life, you must lead an active life with a good, balanced diet....period! Yes, there are times when we all like to pig-out on a dessert, but that should be VERY rare. You may have some friends/family members that are lucky because they have "one of those metabolisms" that help them burn calories all the time, super for them. You often see that with teenage boys/girls. Boys/men especially generally have more muscle tissue which means that those muscles are needing calories all the time. That also allows them to eat more calories and not worry about gaining weight. If you are getting older and are already fat, with little to no muscle mass, guess what, your resting metabolic rate is going to be low. Yes, you can eat treats more often if you are fit and have good muscle tone, but not all the time. Even more reason to hit the weight room...men AND women!
Drinking Water Flushes Out Fat - I have to laugh at this one. Have you ever mixed water and oil together? What happens to that oil? It pools on top of the water in little droplets. When was the last time you went pee and noticed little oil slicks in the toilet? Water does a lot of good for the body, but flushing out fat it does not. Often times, we confuse hunger for thirst, so if you are ever feeling hungry, try a glass of water first. Secondly, a dehydrated person will notice a substantial energy drop which makes your workouts suffer. Some studies have even shown a boost in your metabolism if you start your day with a cold glass of water. If that works or not, it certainly could not hurt!
I think that is a long enough blog post for this week. Please feel free to e-mail me if you have any other health myths you would like me to discuss in a future post.