Common Diet Myths Explained (part 1)

Which diet should you choose?

Ever suffered from information overload when deciding what diet to try?
What can we believe when the advice seems to change from one day to the next?
Are you

Outlined below are a few common myths that we tend to hear about different diets, to help you choose which – if any – is right for you.

The Low Carb Diet

What is it?

The Low Carb diet aims to achieve fat loss by limiting carbohydrate intake per day, without limiting your intake of fat and protein.

Why is it recommended?

Carbohydrates are made up of glucose molecules, and glucose is broken down in our bodies by a hormone called Insulin. When we consume more calories than our body needs, insulin stores the excess glucose (carbs) as fat within our cells. The theory behind this diet is that a reduced amount of carbohydrates will reduce the likelihood that fat will be stored in the body due to a reduction in the amount of insulin required to break down our food.

The Low Carb Myth-Buster

This is in fact incorrect. Insulin has not been proven to promote long-term fat storage in the body as people assume. Low carb diets can also be difficult to adhere to day -to-day and result in low mood and energy is not undertaken safely. Carbohydrates are our the preferred energy source for our brain and bodies, so if you’re engaging in any type of physical activity, consuming carbohydrates around training sessions is likely to actually improve your performance, endurance, and recovery.

The Low Fat Diet

Why eat low fat?

Low fat diets have been popular and widely advocated in recent years. Fat tends to be demonised in the fitness industry because of all of the macro-nutrients we consume (carbs, fats and proteins) it is more calorie dense. By this we mean that one gram of fat yields nine calories (units of energy) whilst one gram of carbohydrate yields on four calories. 

It is also widely publicised that a diet high in saturated fat is likely to raise blood cholesterol and increase the risk of heart disease and other associated conditions.

The Low Fat Myth-Buster

Focusing on the calorie difference between fats and carbs in itself is problematic as the energy from fats and from carbohydrates perform very different functions within the body.

Additionally, the findings of a recent study in the Lancet contradict the popular opinion that that a diet high in saturated fat is likely to raise blood cholesterol and increase the risk of heart disease. They found that diets low in saturated fat increased the risk of early death by 13% over those getting a higher percentage of their total caloire intake from fat. It was also found that eating a diet rich in fats actually reduced mortality by up to 23%.

A summary:

The NHS guidance for optimal health is that fats should contribute around 35% of daily calorie intake and carbs around 50% to stay in the sweet spot between the two extremes. While low carb diets can result in rapid weight loss, this is more likely due to a reduction in water-weight due to the fact that 1 gram of glycogen (carbohydrate molecule) is stored with up to 3 grams of water. S by reducing carbs you are reducing the associated water storage also. This means that high-speed weight loss is usually only maintained in the first few days. Long term comparisons of low carb and low fat diets find no significant difference in weight loss over one year. 

Choosing a diet is not as difficult as it looks!  It boils down to choosing a diet that, above all else, works for you and your lifestyle. Make sure to check back for part 2 when we’ll discuss other diets, such as the Ketogenic Diet, the Alkaline diet and the Paleo diet!

Disclaimer: if you have any pre-existing medical condition, or are pregnant, please seek the advice of your GP before starting any self-administered diet. 

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