The science has changed, but the beliefs about nutrition, weight loss, and fitness haven’t. In many ways we’re stuck in the nutrition world that existed 30-40 years ago. The fault rests in many different industries and my goal with this post isn’t to point fingers. Rather I want to help you gain a better understanding about how to fuel your body in the most optimal way possible. And to do that, ‘were going to blow a few myths out of the water.
#1 A Calorie is a Calorie
Okay, yes. A calorie is a measurement of energy. So in that sense a cookie with 200 calories is the same as 580 grams of broccoli. They both provide the same number of calories. However, that’s where the similarities end. Your body burns these foods, these calories, differently. The calories from the broccoli will be burned more slowly because of the fiber.
You’ll also gain an abundance of nutrients from the broccoli that your body can use to repair cells, make energy, fight inflammation and so on. The cookie will burn quickly. It will spike your blood sugar and it provides limited nutrients.
Additionally, when you choose cookies instead of broccoli on a regular basis, you’re going to experience weight gain, inflammation, insulin resistance, and more. So while the measurement is the same, the fuel you choose to provide your calories matters. One choice, whole foods, leads to health. The other choice, junk/processed foods, leads to illness.
Does that mean you can never choose the cookie? Of course not. However, your daily intake of foods need to be whole, unprocessed, foods if you’re hoping to feel great now and live a long and healthy life free from chronic disease.
#2 Exercise What You Ate
Ugh. I cringe every time I hear someone say, “gotta work off that _____, I ate last night.” There are so many things that are unfortunate about this saying and this belief that you can work off your food choices. First of all, exercise rarely burns the calories that you consume. It just doesn’t. Unless you’re a professional athlete or you’re going out to run a marathon, you’re not going to burn off your donut.
Exercise is not a punishment for what you ate. Exercise is a way to celebrate what your body is capable of and to push it a little harder so you’re capable of more tomorrow. It’s a way to strengthen, improve, and ensure your body is able to move the way you want it to well into your senior years.
Food is not a reward. Going out and running a 5k doesn’t mean you should “reward” yourself with a sugary coffee drink. Exercise is exercise and food is food. They’re connected in that the healthier your diet, the better your exercise results. But they are neither punishments or rewards.
#3 You Need to Consume Food After You Work Out
Many people engage in post workout fuel. They bring their protein shake to the gym and down it after they workout. Again, in most cases these calories aren’t necessary. People don’t generally burn as much as they think they do at the gym. If you’re hungry after you workout, fine. Take a look at your nutrition and your meal timing.
Make sure you’re consuming regular meals. If you exercise before breakfast, then your post workout nutrition is your breakfast. Instead of a protein shake, how about a smoothie with lots of fruits and vegetables? If you’re exercising between meals, you should be fine to wait until your next meal for nutrition.
If you’re hungry after you workout, consider shifting the timing of your meals. For the majority of us, those who are not professional or competitive athletes, we don’t need to consume additional calories after we workout.
There are, of course, dozens of other nutrition beliefs that are false. Starting with these three will help you get more bang for your exercise buck and better nutrition from your meals. Start with whole foods, exercise, and go forward with your lovely life.