Thirteen Training & Nutrition Facts We All Agree On—And 13 Things We Don’t

« | »
“Are you sure? Check Again.”    —Thich Nhat Hanh
Misinformation is the name of the game when it comes to mainstream
nutrition and training. Controversy may be more evident in the nutrition
world—after all, everyone has to eat. To help you through the
confusion, here are 13 “facts” that we all agree on that can guide us in
our pursuit of the best life. Then we have 13 lies or “not facts” of
fitness and food—think twice about listening to such advice!
Fact #1: Omega-3 Fats are “healthy fats” that are essential for the body to function properly. Get EPA and DHA in your diet every day—the most accepted source is fish oil and wild fish.
Lie #1: Canola oil is a great “heart healthy” fat that you should use regularly.
Not so! Canola goes through rather incredible processing before it makes
it into the bottle—it’s heated, washed, and treated with the chemical
hexane. It also has a poor omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. Avoid canola!
Fact #2: HIT (High-Intensity Training) can help you lose fat.
HIT programs favor the use of the anaerobic energy system, burning a
lot calories fast, raising metabolism during the recovery period, and
building muscle.
HIT training has also been found to convey the following benefits:
better brain function, depression prevention, better pain management,
improved circulation and lung function, lower blood pressure and resting
heart rate, and decreased chronic inflammation.
Not Fact #2: Aerobic training can help you lose weight and everyone should do it regularly.
If you enjoy aerobic training, please don’t let this deter you. The
point is that if you are doing it to lose fat or improve health, it’s
not your best choice.
According to scientist Stephen Boutcher, “The effect of regular
aerobic exercise on body fat is negligible.” Boutcher looks at the
short- to moderate-term uselessness of aerobic exercise for fat loss,
whereas longer surveys show it can actually lead to weight gain.
A 2006 study that tracked runners for 9 years showed that most of them
gained fat and increased waist circumference. Only those who tripled
their weekly mileage from 16 km/week to 64 km/week lost weight.
Fact #3: Squats are an excellent exercise and everyone
should be doing some form of them. They work the whole body and studies
show squatting can produce major functional benefits: better mobility,
faster walking speed, better bone strength, stronger core musculature,
faster running speed, greater vertical jump height, and better athletic
Lie #3: Squats are dangerous and will damage the knees and spine.
Lie! Squats are not dangerous if you do them correctly. In fact,
squatting is a natural motion performed by our ancestors on a regular
basis. We evolved from people who didn’t have chairs and spent their
days moving heavy stuff and tending crops and they needed to squat to
accomplish these tasks.
In addition, a number of studies show squats can optimally
strengthen the entire thigh and hip musculature so as to prevent knee
pain and dysfunction. Depending on training status, you may need to
start with unilateral split squats instead of barbell squats—but the
same principles apply to unilateral squats as to barbell back squats: Go
all way the down!
Fact #4: Sitting all day is extremely bad for you.
Research shows that people who sit for more than 6 hours a day have
greater risk of kidney disease, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and
premature death.
Not Fact #4: You can counter the ills of sitting all day by working out regularly.
Unfortunately, this is not so. Research into the effects of having a sedentary desk job show two key points:
1) Within a population that exercises at a vigorous intensity a few
days a week, the amount of time spent being inactive is dramatic and
not significantly lessened by regular workouts.
2) In just 20 minutes of sitting, your blood sugar and insulin can
get out of whack. A little longer and oxygen saturation of the muscles
drops and gene activity decreases, which directly influences protein
synthesis and the clearance of waste from cells.
Fact #5: Whey protein rules for building muscle in
conjunction with resistance training. It is “fast” digesting, making
the amino acids available quickly for protein uptake into muscle for
maximal gains. It has a superior amino acid profile of all protein
sources, and it raises the most important antioxidant, glutathione,
which is only produced inside the body to fight off disease.
Not Fact#5: Casein should always be taken with whey
because it is slowly digested, triggering protein synthesis for a longer
period after exercise.
Casein is highly allergenic. Will everyone who tries it have a problem?
No, but when compared side-by-side with whey, it produces inferior
results in terms of body composition. It’s not necessary or superior,
and most people will do best without it.
Fact #6: Eating a high-protein, low-carb diet of whole foods can help you lose fat.
High-protein, low-carb eating may be more effective and sustainable for
more people than a low calorie or low-fat diet. It’s a scientific fact
that high-protein, low-carb diets are effective for decreasing body fat
because they help sustain lean mass and metabolic rate (calories burned
at rest).
Lie #6: High-protein, low-carb diets are dangerous and don’t work.
Lie! Saying they don’t work is blatant disregard of the evidence. Same goes with saying they are dangerous.
Among the lies about high-protein diets are that they damage
healthy kidneys, cause ketoacidosis, cause nutrient deficiencies, cause
bone loss, and will cause poor brain function. The truth is, if you
prepare a high-protein, low-carb whole foods eating plan, you may find
that you have more energy, better health, and enjoy eating delicious
Fact #7: You can build amazing abs with compound lifts (squats, deads, chins, clean, snatch, lunges, presses, pulls). You can showcase those abs by maintaining a low body fat.
Lie #7: Isolation ab exercises can help you lose belly fat and get great abs.
Most readers already know this is a lie. Bulletproof abs are made in the
kitchen, with compound lifts, and the addition of sprints when
Did you know there’s research to show ab training is a waste of
time? A 2011 study showed that 6 weeks of ab training 5 days a week for
45 minutes produced no change in body fat, abdominal fat or waist
circumference. The only benefit was being able to do about 33 percent
more sit-ups!
Fact #8: The perfect diet varies for each person
and is informed by genetics. It is the one that helps you feel
energized, mobile, pain free, and with optimal body composition. If it
ain’t broke, there’s no need to fix it.
Not Fact #8: It’s okay to bash other people diets.
Obviously, not a fact and not okay!
With all the dietary confusion that is compounded by a
multi-billion dollar lying food industry, it’s tempting to start bashing
other people’s eating styles. Let’s stay positive and focus on
evidence-based education: This may be the only way to outsmart dangerous
food policy and marketing.
Fact #9: Eating berries will improve your health—and
they’re delicious! Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries,
raspberries, and cherries have been shown to counter cardiovascular
inflammation, speed recovery from intense exercise, reduce muscle
soreness, enhance brain function, and decrease the ill effects of a
high-fat diet.
Not Fact #9: Antioxidants will save us.
Not so much. The misconception that consuming antioxidants will save us
comes from an oversimplification of the body’s internal antioxidant
The truth is simple, but misunderstood: We have an internal protection
system called the Anti-Inflammatory Cascade. A substance called
glutathione, which our bodies produce, drives the Cascade. Foods that
contain what we casually call “antioxidants” help glutathione do its
work to protect us. These foods include berries, certain nutrients like
zinc and alpha lipoic acid, and other plants. The solution is to consume
whole antioxidant-rich foods in-season.
Fact #10: Eating vegetables will improve your health.
Green vegetables are beneficial for body composition because they are
filling, low energy, high in a gazillion nutrients, provide fiber, are
affordable, and are easy to eat. Eating fresh vegetables is associated
with lower disease risk in a number of studies.
Lie #10: Vegetables are good for you in any form, whether it’s processed, packaged, or added to a cake.
Not so. Look, carrot cake, zucchini bread, and ketchup may have a place
if they are homemade, but that doesn’t mean that eating them constitutes
a serving of vegetables. The perfect diet varies for everyone, but to
get the most out of veggies, stick to fresh or frozen, steamed veggies.
Fact #11: Resistance training is great for health and body composition. There’s
no downside to lifting weights: You will build muscle, improve insulin
health, become more mobile, have better cognition, improve heart, lung,
and bone health, have better reproductive function, and have greater
chance of avoiding disease. Everyone should strength train!
Not Fact: Light load training is just as good for building muscle as heavy load training.
Not exactly. Recent research shows that in untrained people, lifting
light weights to failure will build the same amount of muscle as heavy
weights. The problem is this study was widely publicized and missed the
message that after 6 months, trainees need to increase the weights to
continue making progress. Long-term results come from a carefully
planned, progressive program, not lifting measly loads.
Fact #12: Probiotics can improve gut health, improve brain function, and help you achieve optimal body composition.
A lofty statement, especially since research into the role of the
bacteria in our guts is in the early stages, but it appears to be true.
There’s evidence that overweight people can lose fat by taking a
probiotic that alters the type of bacteria living in the gut. In
addition, since the majority of the chemical transmitter serotonin is
made in the gut, probiotic appear to improve cognition and boost mood.
Not Fact #12: Yogurt is a great source of probiotics.
Not exactly. Plain fermented dairy such as yogurt is an acceptable
source of probiotics that is beneficial for the gut. But, most of the
readership is aware of two problems with this plan:
1) Yogurt often has chemicals and sugar added to it
2) Dairy tends to cause intolerances when eating chronically.
Depending on your gut situation, a probiotic supplement may be
needed, or you may be able to create a healthy gut by eating probiotic
foods (kimchi, sauerkraut, keifer) and eliminating processed foods.
Fact #13: Overeating regularly can make you gain fat.
Eating more calories than you expend can make you fat. However, this is
not very useful when we consider factors such as insulin sensitivity,
the thermic effect of food, and factors that influence resting energy
expenditure, which brings us to the lie…
Lie #13: All calories are equal when it comes to
weight loss. It doesn’t matter what you eat as long as you eat fewer
calories than you expend.
The funny thing (not funny “ha-ha”) is that there will probably a
comment to this article saying that a “calorie is a calorie!” However, a
few things show this is not so:
1) Many factors affect the number of calories you expend daily:
Something as simple as working at a standing desk versus sitting desk
can cause your body to use at least 25 more calories per hour (that’s
200 extra a day!), or doing a HIT weight workout with short rest periods
has been shown to increase resting energy expenditure by 25 percent
(354 calories) during the 24 hour recovery period whereas a traditional
strength workout with long rest periods increased resting energy
expenditure by only 5 percent (98 calories).
2) The body uses different amounts of calories to break down protein,
fat, and carbohydrates. Protein burns the most calories, followed by
carbohydrates, and then fats. The body also processes certain types of
fat differently. For example, omega-3 fats enhance the activity of
something called uncoupling protein genes that cause you to burn
calories at an accelerated rate by raising body temperature. This is why
"healthy" fats don't make you fat, but can make you lose fat.
Please, if you take away one single thing from this article, know that
all calories are not equal when it comes to fat loss. If you are
convinced otherwise, I ask you to consider what the Buddhist teacher
Thich Nhat Hanh writes about mindfulness and certainty:
“For doctors, the wrong diagnoses can kill people, so they have to be
careful. Doctors have told me that in medical school they are taught
that even if you are sure check again…Sometimes we are too sure of our
perceptions….It would make you safer to write in calligraphy, ‘are you
sure?’ and hang it in your office. That is the bell of mindfulness.
Always go back to your perception, check it again, and don’t be too sure
of it."

Speak Your Mind