FOOD

8 Diet And Exercise Myths Busted By Health Experts

Many of us are guilty of believing these.

18/07/2017 6:50 AM AEST | Updated 18/07/2017 6:58 AM AEST

When we're looking to lose weight and get into shape, it's temping to try all of the diet and nutrition fads which promise quick results -- whether it's to cut carbs, cut fats, restrict calories or train multiple times a day.

However, fad diets and quick weight loss methods don't teach us healthy habits, nor are they effective in the long-term.

Here are eight diet and exercise myths which health experts wish didn't exist.

1. Myth: cutting carbs will make you skinny

For many, cutting carbs is a go-to method for quick weight loss, but this can actually have the opposite effect as people tend to "make up" for the lack of carbs/energy later in the day.

"Carbs have gotten a bad rap for causing weight gain and hindering weight loss, but this is not necessarily true," nutritionist Zoe Bingley-Pullin told HuffPost Australia.

"Very low carb diets can cause poor energy, low mood, insatiable appetite and poor gut function (including bowel movements) long-term."

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Even if you do experience quick weight loss by cutting carbs, it's most likely water weight, not fat loss, personal trainer and founder of Flow Athletic Ben Lucas explained.

"Eating little to no carbs will actually hinder your weight loss progress. Most of the weight you lose initially on such a plan is just from shedding water you are carrying, as opposed to fat loss."

Instead of cutting carbs completely, focus on eating an appropriate amount of the right carbs.

"Carbs can be enjoyed as part of a healthy, balanced diet. It's about eating the correct amount that your body needs and choosing the right kind of carbs (for example, slow-release complex carbs)," Bingley-Pullin said.

"Carbs can also assist weight loss, as carbs support thyroid gland function, assist energy production when working out and, if eating fibre-rich carbs, help to regulate appetite."

Rosette Jordaan
Opt for complex carbs like sweet potato, whole grain bread and crackers, rolled oats and wholemeal pasta.

2. Myth: having a six-pack means you're fit

For many, having a six-pack is an end goal, but Chris Feather -- trainer, founder and gym manager of 98 Riley Street Gym -- explained this goal is not as helpful, attainable or accurate as we think.

"Clients see pictures of extremely lean people from the health and fitness industry on the front of magazines, Instagram and at the expos, and think this is the epitome of health and fitness. The reality is all it means is that you have a low body fat," Feather told HuffPost Australia.

"There is too much emphasis on the aesthetics of fitness and not enough on actually being fit. This can be damaging as people are striving towards a 'look' that doesn't actually match their overall health and fitness goal. Some of these people on the front of the magazines are a million miles from healthy and fit."

3. Myth: eating fat makes you fat

Yes, foods high in healthy fats are higher in calories, but they also keep us full for longer and help control junk food cravings.

"Fat contains more calories (kilojoules) per gram compared to carbs and proteins and therefore has a reputation as being fattening. However, healthy fat is important for increasing satiety, supporting a healthy mood, reducing food cravings and supporting metabolism," Bingley-Pullin said.

"Fats, especially essential fats, are a necessary part of our diets. Instead of fearing fats, just like carbs, take a balanced approach, educate yourself on the right kind of fats to be eating and what portions you feel best eating."

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4. Myth: the longer you spend in the gym the better

Although it seems counter-intuitive, spending hours and hours at the gym, or training multiple times a day, doesn't equal better results.

"You don't need to spend hours in the gym to achieve a 'good' workout," Feather said. "Training needs to be good quality (technique and intensity) with a clear direction and objective. Without these factors your training just becomes 'junk' work."

5. Myth: no pain, no gain

"For starters, this is not true. But it also doesn't take into account the numerous other benefits of exercise, including improved mood and reduced stress," Bingley-Pullin said.

"If under a lot of stress, our body may be better supported with low-intensity exercises or mindfulness-based training. The 'no pain, no gain' myth sets up unhealthy expectations of what our workouts need to be to see results, and if you push too hard you can end up injured or give up on exercise altogether."

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There's a difference between challenging and painful.

6. Myth: a workout gives a licence to eat poorly

It's a tempting situation: you've worked out hard and reward yourself with a pizza because "the calories won't count". Unfortunately, you can't outrun a bad diet.

"A lot of people think a workout entitles them to eat poorly for the rest of the day. However, if weight loss is a goal, this belief will not support your weight loss goals because, unless you are an athlete, it is unlikely your workout burns an excessive amount of energy," Bingley-Pullin explained.

"It is more important to focus on adequate refuelling to assist muscle recovery for your next workout, which will also help keep appetite in check."

After all, our weight comes down to 80 percent diet and just 20 percent exercise.

"Exercise is important for health and wellbeing. However, running for an extra 20 minutes to attempt to outrun a doughnut doesn't teach us good eating habits," nutritionist Fiona Tuck said.

"Our weight is mainly determined by what we eat -- it comes down to 80 percent food and 20 percent exercise."

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7. Myth: women will get bulky lifting weights

One fear many women have is becoming "bulky" from lifting weights. However, resistance training results in lean muscle mass and increased metabolism.

"The reality is exactly the opposite. Lifting weights will help women get lean," Lucas told HuffPost Australia.

"Not lifting weights long-term will lead to a decrease in muscle mass, and therefore metabolism, and could lead to weight or fat gain."

8. Myth: you need to cut out food groups to lose weight

Whether it's dairy, gluten or fruit, cutting out any group of food without medical supervision is not recommended.

"You should only cut out certain foods if recommended by a medical professional, not because some celebrity say that they do. By cutting out food groups you can hinder your fat loss," Lucas said.

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Don't fear resistance training.

Instead, use these diet and fitness tips as guidelines for long-term, healthy weight loss and/or weight management.

1. Think about the big, long-term picture

Rather than go hard in terms of diet and exercise for just a few months at a time, organise a nutrition and fitness plan which you can follow for the long-term.

"I think it should always be looked at long-term. Short-term fixes are not my thing. They don't last. You need to think, 'could I stick to this for the rest of my life?'" Feather said.

"Too many people want the instant gratification of the 'quick fix'. Get in it for the long game."

As Bingley-Pullin explained, figure out and know your reason "why".

"A 'better body' is unlikely to be enough motivation to sustain long-term loss. Weight loss requires commitment and usually an overhaul of your diet, routine and mindset," Bingley-Pullin said.

"It is not something that happens quickly and you will need motivators, such as improved health or wanting to do something for you, as motivators along the way."

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Work towards making healthy eating and exercising part of your lifestyle.

2. Start small

"I always try to encourage people to start small. Cutting something small from your diet or adding some extra movement to your day can make a massive impact over a decent amount of time," Feather said.

"Cutting sugar from coffees is a prime example. Three coffees a day with one sugar in equals 5.46kg of sugar a year. Five-and-a-half bags of sugar a year less is going to make a big difference.

"Another is adding 30 minutes of light cardio to your day, three times a week. This may feel like nothing, but at the end of the year you will have been exercising for an extra 78 hours a year -- over three days. Small things make a big difference."

3. Focus on a whole food diet

"The most effective way to lose weight is changing the diet to a balanced whole food diet full of nutrients," Tuck explained.

"Eat a little bit of everything and not too much of any one thing. Deprivation, starvation and fad diets are not sustainable long-term and can result in weight gain."

Need nutrition help? Here's a library of diet and nutrition tips and information, and check in with an accredited nutritionist or dietitian.

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4. Take a holistic approach

Instead of focusing on just intense exercise or one diet, shift your perspective and look at your lifestyle as a whole. How's your sleep? What's your relationship with food? Are you managing stress? Are you moving every day?

"Retraining eating habits, changing lifestyle habits such as increasing exercise, relaxation techniques, and becoming mindful of what and why you are eating plays a big role in weight management," Tuck said.

"Focus on your relationship with food. So many people looking to lose weight neglect this and find they spend years in a bad cycle of restricting and bingeing, thinking that something is wrong with them," Bingley-Pullin added.

"You are unlikely to sustain healthy weight loss if you have a poor relationship with food. A healthy relationship with food means understanding which foods nourish you and make you feel best, not feeling stressed or out of control around food, and knowing that you can enjoy all foods as part of a healthy diet."

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Introduce 5-10 minutes of meditation per day.

5. Increase incidental exercise

The healthiest communities in the world are active throughout the day doing meaningful, incidental exercise like walking to a friend's place, gardening or kneading bread.

"Increase incidental exercise. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk to the shops instead of driving. Dust off the push bike and ride to work. You will be surprised at how soon this extra energy burned leads to results," Lucas said.

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