From strength-training to carbohydrate consumption, guidelines and quick fixes have popped up around the globe promising that if we follow a few “rules,” we’ll be sporting a slimmer physique in no time. But, how many of these are true? We reached out to some of the top nutritionists and health coaches in the country to get to the bottom of what really helps us shed the pounds and what’s actually hindering our health.
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If You Eliminate Gluten, You Will Lose Weight
Gluten, most commonly found in carbohydrates, has recently had a target on its back with millions of women believing it was the cause of their weight gain and quickly removing all traces of it from their diets. However, celebrity nutritionist Kimberly Snyder says we’re looking at the wrong culprit. “The truth is, carbohydrates are necessary and can absolutely promote health and beauty,” she explains, adding that when we don’t get enough carbohydrates, our bodies suffer. “Your brain won’t feel like it’s working right, and you might start feeling more and more irritable and stressed out. Carbohydrates require less digestive energy and convert to energy more efficiently than dietary or body fat.”
“Personally, in both myself and clients, avoiding carbohydrates often leads to low energy, sluggish brain/thinking, digestive distress and skin issues,” says Snyder. She explains that it’s imperative to focus on the on healthy, complex carbs (think: unrefined amaranth, quinoa, millet, and buckwheat; root vegetables like yams and sweet potatoes; and other healthy starches like winter squash, beans, lentils, and brown or wild rice) and to avoid overprocessed carbs that can actually lead to addiction and cause you to become overweight. “Carbs are not the enemy; processed foods are.”
Strength-Training Will Bulk You Up
Health coach and holistic nutritionist Kelly LeVeque explains that recent research proves that cardio and strength-training both activate genes (called the PGC‐1 transcripts) in human skeletal muscle. “Cardio stimulates growth of new blood vessels and increased endurance while strength-training also activates blood vessel growth and encouraged muscle growth,” she says. “Biologically speaking, this form of exercise does promote muscle growth, however, strength-training is also the exercise that maintains my clients’ weight better than any other exercise by increasing metabolism, increasing insulin sensitivity and giving them a more efficient after burn.” While strength-training does leave your muscles toned, in no way does it “bulk you up.” Instead, this type of training spikes your metabolism and allows you to keep burning your calories after you’ve left the gym.
Eating Foods Containing Fat Will Make You Fat
Snyder explains that fats play an important role in our bodies—they protect our vital organs, help control immune function and growth, keep our skin soft and supple and keep our joints lubricated and moving freely—but fat is still fat. “Eating too much fat can be congestive, especially if eaten with protein-rich foods, creating sludge in your system (this is because fats slow the secretion of hydrochloric acid, which is needed to efficiently digest protein),” she says, adding that our best bet is to limit fats to those obtained naturally in the foods we eat (such as avocados), and if we must add fats, like coconut oil, to our food, we should be moderate and ideally consume even smaller amounts with protein for easier digestion. So while we shouldn’t completely avoid fats (see benefits above), we should be mindful with the types of fats we are consuming on a daily basis.
You Should Only Eat Egg Whites; Yolks Are Bad For You
LeVeque explains that while yolks have been demonized because of their dietary cholesterol, they also deliver a healthy dose of vitamins. “Research and studies have proven that egg yolks favor the formation of larger low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, and high-density lipoprotein, or HDL, (the
good kind), reduce insulin resistance and provide a large dose of B vitamins upon consumption.” The next time you’re whipping up an omelet, don’t feel obligated to only use the whites; keep the yolk in for an early morning vitamin boost.
Paleo Is the Ideal Diet
While we know that protein is a vital component of our diets (it is needed to build muscles and body tissue, create antibodies and hormones and keep our electrolytes balanced), Snyder explains that just because we consume more protein, does not mean we are healthier, adding that the American Heart Association discourages high-protein diets like paleo because some of them restrict foods that provide essential nutrients and don’t provide the variety of foods needed to adequately meet nutritional needs, leaving some dieters facing some potential health risks. “When we consume too much protein by following a diet that focuses on it as the main component, we can have problems such as constipation, headaches and hair loss. These are signs that our digestive system is bogged down and we have sludge in our systems! Even worse, people who follow high-protein diets may suffer from heart problems, kidney damage, osteoporosis and even death,” says Snyder, adding that she often sees dark circles under the eyes of those who consume too much protein, which is a sign of kidney exhaustion and water imbalance.
“Sheer grams of protein in your diet are not nearly as important as getting a wide range and quality of amino acids,” Snyder explains, adding that of the 23 amino acids that our bodies need, only eight are not manufactured by our bodies. “Those eight must come from our diet, and fortunately, they are all found in plant foods. As long as we enjoy a varied diet, we will get all of the amino acids that our bodies need to be healthy.”
You Shouldn’t Eat After 7 P.M.
Because we all start and end our days at different times, LeVeque explains that putting a time stamp on when you should stop eating is ineffective. “Stopping at 7 p.m. is irrelevant, as some of my clients hit the hay at 11 p.m. while others
are in bed by 9,” she says, adding that it is more important to me that we maintain a 12-hour window between dinner and breakfast, instead.