“You need to eat less fat”
“Cut out the carbs and you will be just fine”
“Don’t eat past 6pm…the food will be stored as fat”
“You don’t need a lot of protein”
“Don’t eat dairy…it is bad for you!”
If you are into your health and fitness, or have not been living under a rock for the past decade, chances are you have heard one of the above statements…if not all of them.
And if you are like most of us, you will take what you hear (and read) and at least wonder if what you are told is true. This is especially the case when the information is the result of a “new study.”
The unfortunate fact is that many of the studies conducted, and the information shared from the studies, is influenced by the underlying wants of those sponsoring the studies.
This means that most of the nutritional studies we hear of are biased towards the results that will most benefit the companies sponsoring them.
If there are some new “low fat” or “no fat” food products that a company can make a killing on selling, it will be to their benefit to sponsor (and influence) a study that finds that fat is bad for health and performance.
Do to this, there are many nutritional myths that are still circulating throughout our society that have very little evidence backing them, or are downright wrong!
Below I will go over 5 myths that have been out there for a while, and still proceed to have many of us question what we need to do to keep our bodies healthy, muscles growing and prevent ourselves from becoming a real life “Klump.”
Fat is bad and makes you fat!
The “fat is bad for you” statement has been around since the 1980s and has gone back and forth many times since then. One year fat is the worst thing you can consume, the next it is a godsend your health and performance.
So you may have heard, fat is the number one thing that will make you fat!
Or on the other side, that you should eat tons of fat, crush bacon and put loads of butter in your coffee.
Well like most nutritional extremes, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
First, fat is an essential part to a healthy diet as fat plays a major role in many bodily functions. Saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat are all useful.
Foods such as nuts, olive oils, avocados, fish, animal meats, seeds, etc. contain fats that will help us obtain the healthy body we want.
The one fat to stay away from is trans-fat, as it is a man made variation that has been linked with many health detriments.
Any product with hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils is something to stay away from, so check your nutritional labels.
But just because fat is necessary for a healthy and high performing body doesn’t mean that you should consume extreme amounts of fat day in and day out.
Not because fat makes you fat, but because too much of anything can result in unwanted side effects.
Staying with that thought, fat does not make you fat, but too much fat will make you fat!
Gaining or losing fat, first and foremost, comes down to total caloric intake.
If you eat too many calories you will gain fat. Eat less calories than your body requires and you will lose fat (and muscle if you are not careful).
But the thing you have to remember about dietary fat is that it contains 9 calories per gram. When we compare this to carbs and protein which each contain 4 calories per gram, we can see how it is easy to draw the conclusion that fat makes you fat.
Again, fat does not make you fat…too much fat makes you fat. And with 9 calories per gram, we have to be aware of how much we are consuming because it is extremely easy to eat more than we need and end up too high on the calorie count.
Oh how easy it is to eat more than 1 serving…
Lastly, low fat options, are always talked about…either good or bad depending on who you are speaking with.
The nice thing about low fat options is that they do typically provide less calories than the full fat options. The bad thing is that the fat is typically replaced with sugar so that the food doesn’t taste like straight butt.
Too much added sugar can also be detrimental to you health, performance and looks, so just beware of low fat options. There are some low fat options that are decent, so just make sure to check the nutritional label and if there is a metric crap ton of sugar, keep looking.
All in all, fats are not bad and are not the direct cause for you being a little jigglier than you want to be.
Just make sure you are consuming the proper fats (from the examples above), and make sure to keep the quantity in check.
2. Carbs are bad and making you fat!
Similar to fats, carbs have been demonized as the nutrient that causes you to take your tubbiness to the next level.
The main reason we have pointed to carbs as the perpetrator of fat gain, is that when we consume carbs, our insulin levels rise and cause us to store energy in our cells. One form of storage is fat.
The problem is that it is not the rise in insulin that causes us to store fat, it is the rise in insulin plus a caloric surplus that results in the storage of fat.
In fact, we want to store energy in order to perform at a high level. This energy storage is referred to as muscle glycogen, which is utilized during high intensity efforts…training or sports anyone?
If the calories taken in are slightly higher than maintenance levels (the amount of calories it takes to maintain weight), at maintenance levels or below maintenance levels, we will not store fat, even if insulin spikes.
Our first form of storage will go in as muscle glycogen, especially when we are depleting glycogen during training and sport (another great benefit of being active and training!).
If we do not train and deplete glycogen stores in our muscles (and liver), and/or we consume too many calories, we are likely going to store those extra calories as…you’ve got it, FAT!
So just like fat, carbs are not the issue for many of us, but too many carbs…there is the problem!
The hardest part is that carbs are EVERYWHERE!!!
Much of the food available to the American people (and many others around the world) are highly processed carbs that contain lots of calories and little nutrition.
Not only that, but because many of these foods are simple carbohydrates (think crackers, cereals, most fruity bars, breads, muffins, etc.) they do not result in a feeling of fullness…ever wonder why you could eat the whole box of rice krispies and feel like you had room for another?
So not only are they high in calories and low in nutrients, but they also do not fill you up…the perfect recipe for continued crushing of carbs.
Carbohydrate sources such as potatoes, rice, ezekiel bread, whole grain pastas, fruit, veggies, oatmeal and the like are more complex carbs that fill you up and also provide some more nutrition…so opt for those instead.
With that, the reason that many of us do well when we cut back on our carbs is simple: In doing so, we are likely to cut back on our total caloric intake.
Take that with removing highly processed foods that contain loads of sugar and you will also likely experience higher levels of energy, less systemic inflammation and a new feeling of being a badass…all good things that will lead to more activity and a healthier, higher performing and better looking body.
But beware, if you cut carbs from your regimen all together, you will likely experience decreased performance, lethargy and irritability…ya you will turn into a complete A Hole!
Eat the higher quality carbs most of the time, and make sure to consume proper amounts and you will be just fine chomping on some carbs.
3. Don’t eat past 6pm…it will all go to fat.
When you are sleeping you are typically not moving much (unless you are one of those sleep walkers) and therefore your body does not use calories.
Do to this thought process, it seems logical that food consumed later in the day would go directly towards fat storage as the energy is not being used.
But, the fact is that when we are sleeping we are repairing and many bodily functions are occurring that require energy (calorie) utilization.
Not only that, but hopefully by now you realize that the most important factor when it comes to weight/fat gain or loss is the total amount of calories you consume daily.
So it is not the fact that eating past 6pm is the reason you gain fat, but more because of the total amount of calories you have taken in throughout the entire day. Again, if you consume more than you use, you will gain weight.
The reason many have done well with this tactic is because basically they are cutting off 3-5 hours of the day where they don’t eat. This typically results in less calories taken in throughout the day, and voila, they lose fat.
The only other consideration is that some of us do not sleep well when our stomach are full. The digestive process may interfere with your ability to fall and stay asleep…but in my experience that is on an individual basis.
I personally crush a nighttime snack, and I promise you it has not resulted in fat accumulation. Not only that, but a full belly puts me to sleep.
But, I make sure to stay within the daily calories necessary for me to achieve my goals while I enjoy a little snack past 6pm.
4. You only need .8g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight
If you look up the RDA for protein you will find that the guidelines suggest an intake of .8g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight, or .36g per pound of bodyweight.
Putting this into an example, this would mean that a 150lb person would need around 54g per day.
What the recommendation does not highlight though, is that this amount is to ensure that you are not protein deficient.
Just because you are not protein deficient does not mean that you have the necessary amount of protein to support training, sport or a body that will not fold in half when the wind blows too hard.
Protein is a key player not only in repair and the assimilation of muscle, but also in many bodily functions including hormone production, immune system function, digestion and more.
And even more, those of us who are consistently challenging our bodies physically demand more protein as these activities breakdown structures that require protein to help repair and build back up.
Next, protein is the most satiating macronutrient, meaning that you will feel full for longer. This is critical to staving off hunger.
Lastly, it takes roughly 30% of the energy from protein to metabolize it…meaning when it comes to calories you are using 30% of the calories from protein to simply break it down and get it ready for absorption.
Because of the many benefits to protein, I suggest intaking 1g of protein per pound of desired bodyweight. That means if you are 150 pounds and looking to gain 10 pounds, you should consume 160g of protein per day. On the other side, if you are 220 pounds and looking to lose 10 pounds you should aim for 210g per day.
Protein is critical for health and performance and the RDA is too low for the active individual…most of us reading this!
5. Eat dairy and all kinds of bad crap will happen!
When someone told me that I was not meant to eat dairy and that it was in fact poisonous to human beings, not only was I giving them the middle finger in my head, but I had the WTF are you talking about look all over my face.
They will argue that because our ancestors did not consume dairy that human beings are not meant to have it. They say that it decreases health, performance and overall well being.
There is something called adaptation and evolution and we as humans have been pretty good at it.
So stating just because our ancestors didn’t consume dairy is like saying we shouldn’t brush our teeth because our ancestors didn’t have soft bristle tooth brushes and Crest.
Although there are some of us that are lactose intolerant and will negatively react to consumption of dairy, those of us that are lactose TOLERANT can handle dairy just fine, and in fact, can experience many benefits of the nutrients that dairy provides.
If you do a quick PubMed search you will find many studies have found correlation with dairy consumption and positive outcomes in markers of health.
So if you are not lactose intolerant, go ahead and consume dairy. You will be A OK and you will likely benefit from the nutrients dairy provides.
The Take Away
From the beginning of nutritional awareness time (made that one up), we have heard that certain foods are good, bad or purely toxic.
While some of these statements hold merit, many times when there is an extreme stance one way or another there is usually an outside influence trying to influence you for their own benefit.
Hopefully going through the above myths has helped you better understand that when it comes to nutrition, you can’t always listen to the big media stories…hell, you don’t even have to listen to me.
Just stay curious and ask questions. And if you have any thought or comments let me know.
Pass this on to those you care about, or even if you don’t care about them, you can show them that they have been fooled by these nutritional myths.
To you health and performance,
Two of the most common talked about topics in the fitness world are yoga and stretching. While there are different camps describing the good, the bad and the ugly of both, I do not subscribe to any one camp.
I feel that yoga can be good, and extremely beneficial for some. And at the very least, yoga attire is among the best…in my opinion anyway.
I also feel that yoga can be bad for many who are already lax (loose) individuals who need more strength and stability, and not the last couple inches in order to scratch the top of your head with your big toe.
Both yoga and stretching can be good, bad or, when improperly executed, it can leave you more messed up than The Weekend’s hairstyle.
The issue is that many times we are unaware what proper execution actually is, or we are instructed to perform the positions or stretch in a way that is going to cause more harm than good.
Let’s take a look at the principles that must be taken into consideration, and applied, in order to optimize yoga (if you are into it) and stretching…and to prevent what could be a nice addition to your training from becoming a form of self sabotage.
Position is first and foremost
Whether you are striking a yoga pose, or trying to stretch out your hip flexor, the position of your joints is the number one consideration.
The goal of both yoga and stretching is to attack the muscles (as well as the nervous system), but when joints are not in a neutral position to start, the muscles that surround the joints can not be targeted the way we intend them to be.
Instead, we are likely to place more stress on the passive structures of the joint including the ligaments, cartilage and the bones themselves.
For example, lets look at the cobra pose and the common hip flexor stretch.
When the lumbar spine and hip are too far from neutral (both in extension), the pose and stretch are placing stress on the spinous processes of the spine and the anterior hip capsule (respectively). This can be seen in the pictures above.
So rather than targeting the rectus abdominus and hip flexors, the pose and stretch are now placing stress on the passive structures and joints themselves. Over time these stresses on the joints can lead to degradation of the ligaments and cartilage, and can also lead to fractures of the bony structures.
2. Joints are meant to stay within certain ranges of motion
Closely related to the first point, the joints of our body are meant to stay within certain ranges of motion.
The issue is that the mindset of “more is better” is a very common belief when it comes to poses and stretches. When this approach is implemented, the joints travel too far from their neutral position and again, this will place stress on the surrounding structures.
It would take an entire book in itself to describe the proper ranges of motion for every joint in the body, but lets take a quick look at two common joints that are put into excessive ranges of motion “on the reg.”
Many of us like to stretch out the shoulders, but if you are forcing the shoulder into a position where the hands can almost touch behind your back, or you are taking a stick and “dislocating” the shoulder (just the name implies there is a problem with this one), you are more than likely forcing excessive forces through the front of the shoulder.
Again taking a look at the common hip flexor stretch, if your goal is too simply push the hip as far forward as you can, you are actually taking the head of the femur and causing it to glide forward in the hip joint. This places forces through the anterior hip capsule that will likely lead to hip instability.
The point is that if you are focused on trying to drive as much range of motion possible, you may be putting joints through a “danger zone” when it comes to tissue health and passive structure integrity.
Understand where a joint should be, and shouldn’t be, and try to avoid pushing into extreme ranges of motion.
3. Relative stiffness is key
I first heard the term relative stiffness when investigating Shirley Sahrman’s work of the human movement system.
She explains that human movement occurs over a series of joints, and are influenced by the surrounding musculature.
Since different muscles act on the same joint/joints, if one muscle is more stiff than another, it will have a greater influence/pull on that joint.
Sahrman uses the analogy of two springs hooked together, one thicker than the other, to demonstrate this point.
When you pull on either side of the connected springs, the smaller spring will stretch and the larger spring will hardly change.
Putting this back into terms of the body, when one muscle is more stiff than another, the smaller muscle will stretch more easily and the joint that both muscles act upon will shift in the direction of least resistance.
This issue with this occurs when the joint should not shift/move when there is a certain movement that is taking place.
For example, taking another look at hip flexor stretch, when the hip flexor is more stiff than the core musculature, both of which pull on the hip, the hip flexor will pull the hip down into an anterior tilt and the lower back will fall into hyperextension.
Now if the core musculature is stiffer than the hip flexor, the core will hold the hip in a good alignment while the hip flexor elongates, taking stress off of the back and executing the stretch where it is meant to take place (in the hip flexor).
So stiffening up certain muscles should be a focus of our training programs, along with desensitizing muscles that are too stiff (this is where yoga and stretching play a factor).
This principle of relative stiffness must be taken into account for every joint, during every movement, including yoga and stretching.
This principle also begs the question, do we actually need to stretch, or should we focus on stiffening certain muscles instead?
To Yoga/Stretch or Not to Yoga/Stretch
My thought is that if you can already contort yourself into a human pretzel, you likely will not benefit much from the movement aspect from either yoga or stretching. In fact, you will be more likely to end up pushing into the ranges of motion that can result in more harm than good.
No Stretching Required…
It would behoove you to focus on strengthening/stiffening certain muscles to create a better base of stability from which to move, rather than working to become more flexible.
Yoga and stretching have another huge benefit other than simply addressing the physical extensibility of a muscle(s).
Many times the focus on breathing that comes with yoga, and the systemic relaxation effect of both yoga and stretching can help you shift from a sympathetic state (fight or flight) to a parasympathetic state (rest and digest).
Anything that can help you “shut it down” a bit will help with your recovery and overall health.
So because of this, I would say that both yoga and stretching can be beneficial for everyone, but only when the above principles are taken into account!
Go ahead and practice yoga, and stretch out as it will likely help you chill out a bit and return your system to homeostasis more effectively.
But only do so making sure that every pose and stretch is performed with joints in neutral positions, avoiding extreme ranges of motion and taking the concept of relative stiffness into account.
The Wrap Up
I wish I could provide an entire breakdown of every joint, taking relative stiffness into account, but that would be hundreds of pages.
If you are taking a yoga class, or performing stretches, just make sure you understand the points discussed in order to optimize both, and prevent them from destroying your progress.
If you have any questions or comments, shoot!
And help us out and pass this along to friends and family who you know would benefit from this information.
To your health and performance,
When an athlete, whether a competitive athlete, recreational athlete or everyday athlete is looking to further their health, performance and/or looks, the most common question is, “What else can I add to my training?”
Or they may make a statement such as, “I just need to work harder!”
While I would not argue that there are some of us that do need an additional stimulus, or to simply get after our current program with a bit more savagery, I would say that for the majority of us it is not a fact of working harder, but actually the opposite that will help us get even closer to our goals.
For most of us, we do not need to work harder (although we still have to work hard), but we have to recover better.
A simple statement that has become very popular in the performance enhancement world is…
“IT IS NOT HOW HARD YOU TRAIN, BUT HOW WELL YOU RECOVER”
This statement is spot on as it doesn’t matter how much you can squat, deadlift, bench, etc. if come practice or game day you are overly sore, fatigued or so broken down that you would be more likely to catch a cold than the ball.
Or if you are an everyday athlete who has the goal of feeling and looking better, if you are not recovering well it will be hard to consistently put in the effort it takes to lose fat, gain muscle and feel great.
When recovery is lacking, energy stores are not optimal for intense training or activity (required for success in sport and to lose fat and gain muscle).
Your cognition is sub par making it difficult to react quickly or solve issues at work/school.
Hormonal levels make it difficult to build muscle and lose fat.
You are more likely to be, for lack of a better word, a complete A-hole…and no one wants to be around an A-hole!
So with that in mind, and the fact that many pre-seasons have or are about to begin, lets cover some quick points to help you better recover from the rigor of sports and life.
1.Go to friggin’ sleep!
The one thing that most of us can do better (much better) is get enough quality sleep.
Notice the two words, enough and quality.
The first part is to get enough. This may be stating the obvious, but you have to go to bed sooner!
Thanks to Netflix and DVR, you don’t have to watch an entire marathon of your favorite show in one night…so turn off the TV.
You also don’t have to chase Pokemon past 8pm, especially if you are over the age of 9 and would like to have someone actually be interested to be more than just a friend someday…so turn it off and rack out for the night.
So simply, plan on getting to bed earlier. Select a time and stick to it, shooting for 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night.
When it comes to quality, a few things you can do to help you fall and stay asleep is to:
- Turn of electronics and lights an hour before bed.
- Make the room as dark as possible.
- Keep the temperature around 67 degrees fahrenheit (give or take a couple of degrees).
- Reduce noise as much as possible and/or use white noise such as a fan or a white noise machine/app.
This is by no means a extensive list, but it gives you a few key points to consider.
2. Eat adequate amounts of protein!
In order to repair and build bodily systems, including your skeletal, hormonal and muscular systems (pretty damn important for those of us who are placing a demand on our bodies), you need supply your body with the nutrients necessary for repair.
The key nutrient is protein.
Protein plays a major role in repair, maintenance and growth of nearly every system in the body, so having a plentiful supply is key for recovery.
While the RDA recommends .8g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight, my suggestion is closer to 2g of protein per kilogram, or 1g per pound of bodyweight.
So make sure to pay attention to the amount of protein you are consuming as for many of us we are likely not consuming enough.
3. Make sure you are also getting your quality carbs, veggies and fruit, and fats.
While adequate protein is the first key to promoting greater recovery, we can’t forget about quality carbs, veggies and fruit, as well as healthy fats.
The quality carbs will help to replenish energy stores as well as help increase satiety. Potatoes (regular and sweet), rice, quinoa, oatmeal, 100% whole grains, etc. are all good options along with veggies and fruits.
And like protein, healthy fats play a major role in the production, transport and absorption of certain structures and nutrients within the body. Consuming fish, nuts, olive/coconut and other oils, etc. help to achieve levels of healthy fats that are conducive to recovery.
4. Limit processed “poopy” foods.
As an adult male who has a little bit lot of pride and likes to be thought of as a pretty manly dude, I find it hard to use the word poopy. Unfortunately my wife uses the word a lot, and I have now found myself considering certain things, well, poopy.
And when it comes to the processed food that many Americans find themselves inundated with (breads, cereals, baked goods, crackers, flavor additives, etc.), poopy is best way describe them.
The artificial ingredients result in a less than optimal environment for the body to recover. Systemic inflammation and hormonal imbalances are only a couple of ways the body is affected, and both decrease our ability to recover.
Limiting the amount of processed foods is key when trying to promote the greatest recovery possible…so try to say no friggin way no thank you.
5. Monitor stimulants.
In todays world we are constantly busy and on the run. And we need to be alert and have energy to complete our days. For this reason many of us turn to stimulants to help us do so.
Caffeine and other stimulants found in energy drinks can help us to “rev up”, but when over consumed and/or consumed too late in the day, they can have a detrimental effect on our sleep and overall recovery.
By consuming them we are putting ourselves in a state of “fight or flight” which is good for training, but when we are done we want our body to transition to a state of “rest and digest” in order to recover.
Unfortunately for many of us, we consume too much stimulant and can not transition to our “rest and digest” system. We stay wired for far too long, many times late into the night when we should be sleeping.
Monitor your consumption of stimulants and try to stick to 1-2 cups of coffee/tea early in the day if you feel like you can’t “shut it down” at night.
Also, try to stop the consumption of stimulants by 1-2pm at the latest.
Lastly, consider decaf options to replace some of the fully caffeinated options.
One of the best things you can do to promote recovery is to relax, or whoosah!
I know this is another “Well, duh!” statement, but it is astonishing how many of us do not relax at all during the day.
We are busy professionals, moms, dads, students, athletes, etc. and we don’t have to time relax.
Every second of every day we are on the go. And when we are constantly on the go, we don’t give our body a chance to simply “chill out” during the day.
When you invest a short amount of time (15-30 minutes) during the day to relax, you assist your body in recuperating the systems which will inevitably allow you to “go hard” once again, and with greater effectiveness.
I suggest trying to catch some shuteye by taking a quick nap, but even if you can’t actually fall asleep, simply staying still, being quiet and just breathing in a calm manner will help.
Block out a period of time to decompress and recover with a nap, reading fiction, meditation (or just sitting still), taking a bath, etc.
During the middle of the day is best, but if you really can’t find that time then, doing it at night works too…just dedicate that time, no matter when it is.
7. Get someone to touch you…or touch yourself.
Having some soft tissue work done by a professional (massage, ART, Graston, etc.) can help the muscles and other tissues of the body to recover more efficiently.
If you don’t have the ability to get the work done professionally, using a foam roller, lacrosse ball, tiger tail, etc. is a good way to do it yourself.
Although doing it yourself is not as effective, self myofascial work (self soft tissue work) will aid in recovery and is a good supplement to professional work.
Using both a professional and self myofascial release is ideal.
8. Use ice and elevation.
Acute inflammation is a natural process that will help us recover, but when inflammation is chronic or excessive, recovery will be compromised.
To reduce chronic/excessive inflammation you can use ice as well as elevation of the extremities.
Use ice accordingly, making sure not to apply it for too long or directly to the skin.
Use the tips above to create a more favorable environment for recovery. Without recovery, you will not only be compromising progress with your performance, but your overall health and fitness as well.
If this information helped you out, be that good dude / dudette we all want to be and send this article along to your friends and family…and always remember to ask any questions or leave comments below!
To your health, fitness and performance.