Nutrition can be a confusing world to navigate.
While the principles of nutrition are fairly simple, it seems like gurus everywhere have found the “secret” to shortcut results. In nearly every case of “fringe” nutrition advice, the guru has some product or supplement to sell. To help make sense of nutrition, here are 8 mistakes I see well-meaning gym goers make on a regular basis.
1. You’re asking exercise to do what nutrition is supposed to do.
Working out has a whole host of benefits for your cardiovascular system, longevity, sleep quality, and productivity but it will not give you the physique. Body composition is 80% nutrition and 20% exercise. Don’t ask exercise to do what nutrition does.
2. You’re eating bars, shakes, and juices.
I get it. We’re all busy. The convenience of a bar or shake is tempting and the marketing sure makes it seem healthy. Unfortunately, grabbing convenience items generally leads to a calorie surplus. Instead of drinking a smoothie, try chewing its individual ingredients. You’ll consume less calories. Which brings me to…
3. Calories matter.
This is where the bro science intersects with actual science. The first law of Thermodynamics states that, in a closed system, energy cannot be created or destroyed – only transferred or transformed. In the case of the calories you consume, they are transformed into fuel and transferred into your toilet. Of course you will feel better and have better micro nutritional intake if you opt for broccoli over candy bars. But, you’ll still gain weight if you eat 5,000 calories of broccoli a day.
4. Your diet has a name.
Humans have this innate need to label things. Paleo, keto, plant-based, counting macros, Atkins, and South Beach. I think it helps us make sense of and identify our place in the world. As a general rule, named diets are inherently unsustainable. Eating plenty of vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats, good carbs, and minimal sugar isn’t nearly as sexy as proclaiming “I’M PALEO” but it is certainly more sustainable. Inevitably, there will be treats in the office, holiday parties, and going out with friends. In each of these scenarios, you’ll “fail” your named diet. But if you eat reasonably and sustainably the majority of the time, there will be no failure when life happens.
5. You’ve done more than one “challenge”.
Related to #4 is the diet “challenge.” I’m not completely anti-challenge by any means. A good challenge, like a good approach to nutrition change, needs to involve habit. Want to do a 30-day “nutrition” challenge? Wake up 30 minutes early, go for a walk, and make your bed. This has nothing to do with nutrition per se but you’ll finish with better tools for sustained nutrition after a month of making your bed than you will living by a list of “good” and “bad” foods.
6. You eat Health Foods instead of healthy foods.
Ever hear someone say that eating healthy is expensive? Head to Aldi to buy some chicken breasts, broccoli, a bag of rice, and a bag of beans. How much did you spend? Around $20 for 8 meals is my guess. Healthy food is not expensive. Health Food is. Anything that needs a marketing department to proclaim a product’s healthy qualities is a gimmick to extract money from you. Steer clear.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news here. If you’re eating healthy, working out, but still not seeing desirable results you may need to look at your alcohol intake. Because alcohol is a toxin, your body will prioritize its metabolism over the burrito bowl you just ate. Translation: your food will turn to fat. The calories in the drink itself matter, but not as much as the metabolic interruption it causes. So drink what you like but keep it to 2 or 3 drinks a week.
8. Fruits are not vegetables.
We tend to talk about fruits AND vegetables as if they’re the same thing. From a nutritional standpoint, they absolutely are not. Well meaning people will gobble up tons of fruit thinking they’re doing good with nutrition, but end up in a caloric surplus (weight gain). Shoot to eat 4 cups of veggies to every 1 cup of fruit. Save your fruit for dessert and be sure to chew, not drink it (see #2).
Are you making any of these common mistakes? Fear not, you’re in good company. Armed with good information, you’ll be able to see past the bro-science, “health” foods, and gurus to make some long-lasting change.