This is the third part of a short series collecting together nutrition myths that we’ve seen doing the rounds this year along with a brief explanation of why they’re nonsense (and what you can do instead). You can find the Part 1 and Part 2 here.
It’s a shame that the media perpetuates these myths and makes it hard for people to know what is actually going to help them, but that’s where we come in!
So without further ado, let’s launch into this list of nonsense:
You can’t drink alcohol when dieting
Alcohol is a poison in your body, but you can drink alcohol when dieting. You need to understand that it’s probably going to slow down the speed at which you reach your goals because of the calorie content, the effect it has on your hormones and the effect it has on your sleep – but if having a few drinks a week keeps you on track with the rest of your goals for a longer period of time then by all means have a drink! Anecdotally, the best way to drink while dieting is to reserve it for 1 day a week as your body will only need to process the perceived threat once rather than repeatedly – so if you’d usually have a glass of wine 3 nights a week, try have 3 glasses on 1 night and see if you feel better for longer in the week. There’s also some interesting stuff that happens on the scale when your body has to process alcohol – if you drink on a Saturday night then the scale will usually drop a few pounds on the Sunday but then bounce up on the Monday and Tuesday before settling down again around where it started (or slightly higher).
Gluten makes you fat
This is something that is tied to the carbs making you fat myth. Some carbs (mainly wheat, rye and barley based ones like pasta and bread) contain gluten. So some people mistakenly lay the blame for their weight gain on gluten, when it’s actually just the excess carbohydrates that are making them fatter. The only people who can’t eat gluten are those with coeliac disease – and as the allergic reaction they have to gluten is very inflammatory they wouldn’t get fat eating it either (they’d probably in fact lose weight as they dash to the toilet and fail to absorb any other nutrients from their food). The not-uncommon report of some people feeling bloated after eating bread is often explained by people avoiding bread for weeks and then having loads of it all at once. Maybe just eat a bit every now and then if you like it instead of saving it all up for a blow out that might make you feel bad?!
Plant based diets are the only way
If you make a decision to be vegan (or plant based) based on ethical reasons then it’s not our place to try and dissuade you of that. But if you truly feel that basically dropping a whole macronutrient and having to be sharp with your supplements is a route to health and fitness then we need to talk.
Most people who fell for the vegan propaganda film, Game Changers, weren’t eating many plants before they abandoned meat. This instantly led them to increase their overall consumption of a whole range of vitamins and minerals, and consequently they probably felt better.
Deciding to go vegan instantly means being more aware of what you’re consuming so a lot of processed foods like chocolates and snack foods are missed out. This probably led to a bigger calorie deficit than they expected so they lost more weight initially than they could’ve hoped for.
There is a danger inherent in only choosing from a very narrow range of foods though, and that is over relying on things you know are vegan without considering the nutritional value of them – for example Oreos are vegan, but you’d have a hard time convincing anyone that eating 2000 calories of Oreos would leave you looking better than eating 2000 calories of a balanced diet that included meat and fish products as well as copious amounts of fruit and vegetables. A vegan meal of tomato based sauce on pasta is virtually devoid of protein and fat so is definitely not a balanced meal.
All that being said, do we recommend that people eat more fruits and vegetables? Yes – eat plants because they are tasty, they are full of nutrients and the fibre content will help keep you regular. But please eat them as part of a varied and balanced diet.