The rise of millions of fitness accounts on social media has led to the exponential growth and spread of misinformation when it comes to health, exercise, and weight loss. We tackle some of the most common health myths and explain why they could be sabotaging your weight loss efforts.
1. Myth: Healthy food is expensive
You've probably seen the above image in one format or another, especially if you frequent fitness pages on social media. The truth is, it's a complete myth that eating healthy is more expensive than eating junk food.
Have you ever tallied up exactly how much money you spend on food in a month? It's probably a lot more than you realise. Raw fruit and vegetables from the supermarket can cost as little as 50p and healthy canned goods such as kidney beans, chopped tomatoes, and chickpeas can be even less, only 30p per can at some supermarkets.
The myth that healthy food is more expensive than junk food derives from the fact that many prepared salads and fruit boxes are indeed expensive. However, this is because you are paying for the convenience, not the healthy food. If you cook all of your meals from scratch, you will save heaps of money and you will soon find that eating healthy is actually less expensive than junk food! A homemade salad could easily cost as little as £1 to make.
When have you ever only spent 99p at McDonald's? Yes, there are a couple of items on the menu that cost less than £1, but you'd be left feeling very hungry if that's all you ate. You have to be honest with yourself and really keep an eye on the money you are spending on food. It won't be what you expect.
2. Myth: You need to eat more to lose weight
One of the latest trends on social media is to tell women they are not losing weight because they are not eating enough. There's a heavy pressure on women to lift heavy weights and do zero cardio in order to 'tone up' and lose weight. Sadly, this is a myth. If you eat more calories than you burn, you will gain weight.
If you eat 2300 calories a day, have a BMR of 1500 calories (the calories your body burns just to stay alive), and burn zero calories through exercise because you're not doing any cardio and live a sedentary lifestyle, you will gain weight because you are in a 800 calorie-a-day surplus.
This myth is propagated by the theory that you need to eat a calorie surplus in order to build muscle. While this is true to an extent, most of the general public live a sedentary lifestyle, sitting at a desk all day, and only exercise maybe 1 hour each evening. The average lifestyle does not allow you to eat 2300 calories a day because you won't be burning them off. You would have to lift a lot of weights and live a much more active lifestyle in order for this calorie surplus to be used to build muscle instead of being stored as fat.
It's important to remember that these Instagram fitness gurus do not live a sedentary lifestyle and therefore what works for them will not work for you.
3. Myth: Your friend is losing more weight than you/is naturally slim because their metabolism is faster
If you've been beating yourself up because you can't lose weight while your friend is sailing through their weight loss journey, don't worry, it's not what it seems. While it is scientifically possible to have a slightly faster or slower metabolism than someone else, it would not be enough of a difference to mean you are 10lbs heavier than your friend even if you eat the same.
People who are 'naturally' slim are this way because they eat less and do more activity. If you were to pay very close attention to what your slim friend eats in a day, it is a guarantee that it will be less than what you eat, even if they claim they eat a lot.
Everyone has a BMR which is a Basal Metabolic Rate and this indicates how many calories your body burns just by being alive. This is affected by your age, your gender, and your current weight. Everyone also has a TDEE which is your Total Daily Energy Expenditure. This figure takes into account your daily activity, as someone who does a very manual job and moves a lot will burn more calories on a daily basis than someone who sits at a desk all day.
Everyone's BMR and TDEE will be different and therefore the amount of calories you need to eat will be completely different to that of your friend. It won't be because they have 'good genes' or are 'naturally slim', it'll be because their TDEE is higher than yours, meaning they burn more calories on a daily basis than you.
4. Myth: A juice cleanse/detox is a quick way to lose weight
You may have heard by now that doing a 'detox' is not really a thing, as your body naturally detoxifies itself daily anyway. If your body was full of toxins, you'd be incredibly ill and you'd certainly need more than a juice cleanse to help you.
The way juice cleanses or detoxes work is that your daily calories plummet and you lose water out of your muscles. You become very dehydrated and the number on the scale goes down. You may well lose some fat too as you are consuming so few calories, but it can't possibly last.
Not only this, fruit juice is full of sugar which could make you moody, spotty, and generally just a bit cranky. You won't be getting enough protein so you'll feel very tired and fatigued, and you'll be missing out on vital nutrients.
5. Myth: Everyone should lift heavy and eat more protein
You will have seen a lot of images on Instagram that propose lifting weights is superior to doing cardio and that everyone should be eating copious amounts of protein in the form of 'protein bread', 'protein oats', and now even 'protein yogurt'.
The truth is, it depends entirely on your personal goals and daily activity. If you are training for a marathon or triathlon, these are both entirely cardio-based activities. Of course you'll need to do cardio! Cycling is also a very cardio-heavy activity, but professional cyclists are far from skinny and unhealthy.
Most people do not need a sky-high amount of protein in their daily diet because they live a sedentary lifestyle and their body won't utilise it. Unless you live a truly active lifestyle and lift heavy weights or do strenuous sports 6 times a week, you don't need a ton of protein in your diet.
This new myth comes from a shift in attitudes towards body types and the new obsession with 'booty gains'. These days, being slim is seen as bad and everyone wants to look like the Instagram fitness gurus. However, there is absolutely nothing wrong with cardio, and you probably do it more than you think. In fact, doing regular cardiovascular activity is vital for keeping a healthy immune system, lung function, and heart health.
When you think of 'mindfulness', what comes into your head? A monk-like figure, sitting crossed legged in a garden, spending their days meditating and generally being totally zen? At Mindful Bites, we strongly believe that it doesn’t have to be that extreme. We can all fit mindfulness and meditation into our lives in a real and accessible way.
Some of us are able to allocate a proportion of our day to dedicated meditation and we’re sure that the benefits of that are amazing. But if that’s not for you or you don’t have time, it doesn’t cut you completely out of the picture. In every action or choice we make there is an emotion to experience. We see a beautiful tree that triggers a childhood memory of a neighbour’s tree-house, we hear a piece of music and it takes us back to a holiday romance, or we experience something new for the first time and it creates a new memory, a new perspective on the world. Taking a moment to meditate on these things, to reflect and create a connection is an important tool of mindfulness and will ultimately reap huge rewards. We can all fit these moments of meditation into our day and we can all be more present.
What is mindful eating and what are the benefits?
What better opportunity to take these meditative pauses than when we eat? There is a misconception that mindful eating is just sitting quietly or chewing slowly. Some of the latest trendy diet books may even have us believe it’s a weight loss tool.
At Mindful Bites we don’t buy into this. For us, mindful eating is a real art; it’s not about the health of the individual. Isolating yourself and purely thinking about your own health isn’t mindfulness and it isn’t going to get you very far. We must allow ourselves to be part of the bigger picture. We must connect to our food, where it comes from, and also the people we are sharing our eating occasion with.
We should be examining where our food comes from, how it gets to our plates, who was involved in putting it there. We should be finding out if any of these processes have been harmful to the planet. By eating this particular food are we contributing to the solution or the problems facing the food industry? By taking this moment to meditate on these thoughts you will be able to make your choices count; you will make them mindful.
How to practise mindful eating
We have broken this down into a simple process for you. With each food we choose to eat, we ask ourselves questions:
- What is our intention?
- Are we actually hungry?
With so much choice on offer to us these days, it’s easy to confuse our ingrained hunger signals.
Attention: What am I actually eating? How will it interact with my body? Will it nourish me adequately and in a positive way? Will it fuel me well for whatever I’m planning on doing next – be that a workout or writing an important essay?
Gratitude: What can I be grateful for in my choice of food? Where have the ingredients come from? By paying attention to not only the choice of ingredients but also how and from where they are sourced, there should be a good reason why you chose this over another food or product.
Pleasure: Last but not least, you should always enjoy your food! Otherwise, let’s face it, what’s the point?
So, if meditation has always seemed out of your reach, why not try this approach? Just ask yourself those questions each and every time you eat something and see what happens. Amazingly, by shifting our focus from ourselves and our own weight/nutrition/body fat percentage to the wider issues of sustainability and high quality ingredients, our bodies will naturally benefit and so will the planet.
About the author: Stephanie Peritore is the founder of Mindful Bites. She actively campaigns for the future of food and a fair, more sustainable and secure food system.
Metabolic Efficiency refers to the measure of how well the body utilises fat as an energy source. The human body is able to store around 1,200-2,000 calories in the form of carbohydrates (glycogen) split between the liver, muscles, and blood. These stores would allow us to exercise at a low to moderate intensity for around 2 or 3 hours.
However, there is another source of energy that the human body can store that could provide up to a staggering 80,000 calories: fat. What would happen if we were able to teach our body to use fat stores for energy instead of depleting our carbohydrate resources?
The benefits of Metabolic Efficiency Training
Metabolic Efficiency Training was a concept developed by Bob Seebohar in 2003 and refers to teaching our body to use fat as a primary energy source. This has a number of positive implications:
- If the body is able to use fat to produce energy, racing athletes can become less dependent on carbohydrates.
- Less carbs means a lower probability of GI distress (stomach cramps being a common issue among endurance athletes).
- More fat burnt means less body fat and a leaner frame, a positive impact on performance for endurance athletes.
It's key to understand when the body uses fats or carbohydrates as its primary energy source. Typically, short-duration exercises will use carbohydrates, while longer endurance exercise will cause the body to start burning fat. This happens during aerobic training when the intensity is close to the aerobic threshold or lactate threshold.
In order to be 100% accurate, Bob Seebohar described a lab test known as “crossover point”. This is the exact point during an aerobic session when the body stops using fat as an energy source and moves to burning carbs as its energy source.
How to achieve Metabolic Efficiency
As not everyone has access to a lab where this test can be performed, there is a way to teach the body to be more efficient. There are a few rules that everyone can follow. This is best performed at the beginning of the training season, when the athlete is building an aerobic base.
- Avoid high-calorie carbs such as pasta, rice or white bread. During this period, all carbs should come from vegetables and fruit. Also during this phase, more good fats (omega 3 or 6) and proteins should be consumed.
- Avoid sport supplements such as gels or bars which are high in carbs.
- Practise training in a fasted state, building up the duration of the training sessions slowly until you're able to complete up to 3 hours on only water. These session must be endurance-based and performed at a low intensity.
- After training, avoid recovery drinks and high glycemic index carbs. If the training session was easy, theoretically the body used fat as its primary fuel source and so carbohydrates won't need to be replenished.
By following the aforementioned rules, the body will become more efficient and better at using fats as an energy source.
Which foods to eat when training for Metabolic Efficiency:
- Protein: poultry, tuna, salmon, mackerel, eggs whites, whey protein or plant protein.
- Low glycemic carbs: spinach, tomatoes, kale, lettuce, cauliflower, carrot, beans, sprouts.
- High glycemic carbs: oats, quinoa, potatoes, whole wheat bread, rice, pasta.
- Fats: avocado, coconut oil, olive oil, egg yolk, nuts, peanut butter, almond butter.
About the author: Cesar Martinez is an Ironman athlete.
I want to talk a little about my training with arthritis. To be specific, my arthritis is Inflammatory Arthritis and I also have another autoimmune disease called hemochromatosis – this is where I have too much iron in my blood and can’t get rid of it.
The combination of both diseases results in having to adjust my training according to how I am feeling on a daily basis. Some mornings I wake up shattered; one effect of these conditions is that sleep is quite hard at times. There have been nights I would be tossing and turning for hours even if I go to bed early and then when I wake it’s like I had no sleep.
How do I manage to train for triathlon and marathon running with arthritis?
I get asked a lot how I train and how I manage to do triathlon or run a marathon with these conditions. It’s not easy but with the right frame of mind and support it can be done.
This season I made three goals:
- Not to be last in any race
- To complete my first marathon
- To lose weight
I wanted to take this season more seriously and to see if I could push myself without making myself sick.
In my initial few years of triathlon, completing the race was the only goal. I did a few races and finished when they were taking everything down and people were going home. While this was fine as I was still finishing the race, it was getting to me a bit. I am competitive (mainly with myself) so finishing last or close to last was bugging me.
This year was my marathon challenge so that obviously meant running more than I would have normally. Just to put into context: running is my worst discipline by far due to the fact I have no cartilage in my left ankle and my right ankle is also damaged, so for me running is very painful. In fact, it’s bone on bone painful.
I also have the small issue of needing a new right hip too. I was officially put on the waiting list in January.
Why do I do it?
If I were reading about someone doing this, I too would think that the person is mad. The reason is that this could well be my last chance to run a marathon, as when I get my hip replaced I will really have to cut back on my running. It's now or never.
I try to plan my training weekly and I don’t have a coach as I just don’t know how this would work in terms of structure. A coach will design and structure training for your “A” races, but my main issue is missing sessions due to fatigue, illness and just not being able to do the session.
I would typically plan on a Monday as Monday is my rest day. I would write it out and try to stick with it.
I am a member of Pulse Triathlon Club in Dublin, Ireland and they are just simply brilliant. There are many training sessions open to me with Pulse. I mainly get to the swim sessions as I also juggle being a dad of three who need a lot of driving around so that adds another challenge to my training.
How I train
As mentioned, my training this season focused more on the running side of things. I would run in the mornings before work and as I struggle with running I settled on lots of shorter runs rather than a few longer runs.
I would get the early train into the office wearing my running gear, drop off my bag, and head out for a run before the work day begins. I work in the Grand Canal area of Dublin so my course was around the Quays which was a nice route. I started doing 3k and some days 4 or 5k.
I would try to get 3 runs in during the week, one swim or bike session, and at the weekends I would do my local Parkrun. When I wanted to extend the weekend run, I would run to Parkrun and then run home again.
I get infusions every 6 weeks for my arthritis and this basically turns off my immune system, so the weeks I have my infusion, training needs to take a back seat for about 3 days. I also have a pint of blood removed every 8 to 10 weeks for my hemochromatosis and again this sets me back for 2 or 3 days depending how I am feeling.
How did I cope with training for a marathon with arthritis?
Juggling training sessions with my hospital visits was tricky. What I tried to do was have a heavier week of training the week before a visit and then the week of the visit try to get the appointment early in the week so I could take my days off and get back to training towards the end of the week and weekend.
Training wasn’t easy this season. I got hit with a few injuries and illnesses, one of which was in September and put me out for three weeks. This was not great timing as the marathon was at the end of October and I was looking at increasing my mileage in September but obviously couldn’t.
When I got back to training, I needed to be careful not to relapse so could only slowly build the mileage back up so I only got one “long” run in and this wasn’t too good as my hip really was not happy that day. At one point I was giving up completely as I was getting nerve pain into my knee and was reduced to walking a bit. I stretched it out and walked a bit and eventually it eased and allowed me finish off the last 5k. If I hadn’t been able to finish this run I would have quit, but to be honest I had put in a lot of effort and gone through a lot of pain and discomfort to get to the start line so I had to give it a shot.
I also completed three triathlons this season, all sprint distance and I am pleased to say in the three of them I hit my target of not being last or even on the last page of finishers.
Running the marathon
There is still a lot of room for improvement but I was happy with how I managed myself this season. My swim has improved a lot and my bike was a bit better. The bike will be a discipline that I will look to build on when I get back from my hip operation.
The marathon itself was an amazing experience. I had promised my wife I would not kill myself out there and if I needed to, I would stop. I decided on a few plans, the main one was to run for 5 minutes then walk 2 and to walk all the hills (hills hurt both my ankles and hip) so walking hills, although slowing me down, benefited me more by allowing me to run on the flat better.
I employed the plan and managed to get to just over the 16-mile mark before running out of energy. After that I was running on empty.
It was here I met a man who was also walking and he told me not to panic, just keep walking at the pace I was at and get to the next few feed stations so that I could get the drinks and gels into me. So this is what I did: we walked a few miles until some energy came back and I started to jog, shuffle, walk to the finish line.
I finished in 6 hours 40 mins. I know this is slow but I kept my promise of not destroying myself completely I was fine when I finished and I recovered quite quickly too. Although the next day was just pure awful but that’s to be expected.
I saw some horrible things out on the roads with people in aid tents in a bad way, people sitting on the side of the road in cramp and tears and others trying to run only to stop with cramp 20 yards down the road. This never happened me, I was out of energy but kept going.
Oddly, while I said I would not run again I was back out a week after the marathon. I also signed up to a 5-mile run last weekend which I really enjoyed as well as finishing under my target time.
I hope to have my hip operation done early in 2019, so until I get over that and see how things are I won’t be making any 2019 plans just yet. Watch this space.
About the author: Ken Byrne is an Ironman athlete and Sundried ambassador.
Many people have heard of SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder – which refers to the low mood often experienced in winter. Short days, lack of sunlight, and a temptation to eat more 'comfort' food can all contribute to feeling low. But is it actually making us ill? And is taking a Vitamin D supplement the answer? We take a look.
Why do people get more ill in winter?
Do you feel like you're constantly ill over the winter? Coughs, colds, and even the flu make the rounds every year and it can really get you down if it feels like it's constant. But why do we get more ill in winter? There are several factors that cause it but there are also easy ways to combat it.
Drinking less water
If you're someone who regularly drinks plenty of water, it can be hard to believe that some people never drink plain water and exist solely on soft drinks, juices, teas, coffees, or just the water their body gets from food.
In summer, the heat causes people to drink more water because it makes them sweat and makes them feel thirsty. However, in winter it can be easy to 'forget' to drink enough water due to not sweating and feeling cold. Your body needs water to stay healthy and as such, a reduced water intake in the winter could be the reason you are always falling ill and catching colds.
Eating more junk food
It's no secret that the majority of us eat a lot more junk food in winter. Comfort food as it's often called helps us feel warm and comfortable in the dark evenings and something like a salad can be very unappealing in winter. However, surviving solely on junk food can mean reduced intake of vital nutrients and as such your immune system will suffer and you'll fall ill more easily.
Lack of sunlight
Vitamin D is an important vitamin that helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body and a Vitamin D deficiency can lead to weak bones and even deformities. In the summer months, we get all the Vitamin D we need from sunlight as our body is able to create this vitamin when we have sunlight on our skin. However, in winter it is pretty much impossible to get your daily intake of Vitamin D. You can supplement your intake with certain foods such as oily fish, red meat, and eggs, however it can be a good idea to take a Vitamin D supplement.
Why you should be taking a Vitamin D supplement
During the autumn and winter, you need to get Vitamin D from your diet because the sun isn't strong enough for the body to make Vitamin D. But since it's difficult for people to get enough Vitamin D from food alone, everyone (including pregnant and breastfeeding women) should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10mcg of Vitamin D during the autumn and winter.
Between late March/early April to the end of September, most people can get all the Vitamin D they need through sunlight on their skin and from a balanced diet. You may choose not to take a Vitamin D supplement during these months, however if you do take one you may well find that you get ill less frequently (if at all) and that your mood is greatly improved.