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Diet Advice You Shouldn’t Follow

A Few Bad Apples

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Over the years I’ve been unfortunate enough to have the opportunity to read and listen to nutritionists and dietitians give out horrible nutrition tips, much of which has been flat out untrue, while other advice reflects a poor understanding human physiology. Either way, it is bad advice. Here are some common tips you may have heard that could be keeping you from eating a healthy diet and losing weight.

Make your sandwich healthier and save calories by replacing half the meat with vegetables

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The crux of this advice is the antiquated idea that meat is unhealthy and loaded with calories, while vegetables are healthy and contain very few calories. This would be the case if you were eating a Spam sandwich, but in that instance, you should be more concerned about revamping your food choices and not just upgrading your lunch.

In a typical turkey breast sammie, the worse thing for your health is the bread, not the protein. Gram for gram, veggies are a more nutritious source of carbohydrates than what they’re sitting on, so why not throw away at least one slice of bread while at the same time piling on as many vegetables as you want. This trick saves calories and carbs and makes you feel fuller and more satisfied.

Eating too much protein will make your bones brittle

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This statement is unfortunately plastered inside of nutrition textbooks. The first problem here is that “too much” is rather vague. Someone might hear this, think they are eating too much protein, and then cut out all protein at breakfast and lunch—bad idea! The other issue here is that the relationship between protein and your bones is complicated, as you also need to consider how much calcium you’re eating.

In order for your protein consumption to potentially have a negative impact on your skeleton, you’d need to be eating 2.5 times the recommended daily allowance for protein (that’s 171 to 190 grams if you’re following a 1,800- to 2,000-calories diet) and taking in less than 60 percent of your recommended calcium. As the chances of both of these are very slim, this “advice” is more a nutritional scare tactic used to get people to eat less protein and more carbs than anything else.

Glucose (sugar) is your brain’s primary source of fuel and it needs 120 grams per day to function, otherwise you'll feel groggy and foggy

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Most bad nutrition advice centers on an incomplete understanding of carbs and their role and function in the body. Sugar isn’t the only way to fuel your brain. Your grey matter runs rather efficiently using compounds called ketones, which are basically the biochemical leftovers from fat breakdown. When your body is actively and aggressively breaking down fat, it produces lots of ketones that your brain can then use to do all the things it needs to do.

You see, the brain and body are very adaptive. If you want to fuel your noggin via a higher-carb, low-fat diet, then it will run on glucose. But if you want to reap the metabolic advantages of eating a low-carb, higher-fat diet, then your brain will adjust, use ketones, and perform very well.

A calorie is a calorie, and in order to lose weight you just need to eat fewer of them

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It is amazing how many times you hear people say this in 2012 despite countless clinical trials showing that reducing carbohydrates, not fat, leads to more efficient and effective weight loss. In addition to that we eat food, not calories. Food contains different components such as fat, carbohydrates, and protein. At a very basic level, fats and proteins stimulate feelings of satiety and fullness, while carbohydrates create a hormonal environment that makes fat burning very difficult for our bodies.

Reducing calories is important to lose weight, but you need to take into consideration where those calories come from—fat, carbs, protein, etc.—and the hormonal and physiological responses our bodies have to those components.

You’ll lose more weight on a low-carb diet, but that is because you lose a lot of water weight

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It is true that you lose an appreciable amount of water weight when you begin a low-carbohydrate diet. A quick science lesson: The hormone insulin stimulates the kidneys to retain fluid. When you cut carbs, your body produces less insulin, causing your kidneys to flush out excess water. In addition there is a decrease in the sugar stored in your muscles, which is stored with water.

Despite these additional losses from H2O, you still will lose more body fat following a low-carbohydrate diet compared to a low-fat diet. A 2010 study published in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research showed that adults who combined weight training and a low-carb diet lost more than 15 pounds of body fat in 12 weeks, while those on low-fat diets didn’t lose even half of that. So in actuality, you lose more weight on a low-carb diet because you are losing more fat.