Viewpoints presented in this blog reflect opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect positions or policies of ACSM.
It's a new year, and you're embarking on some new health and fitness goals. It seems like every magazine and news program is offering tips and tricks to lose the fat or build more muscle, but what should you believe? And what should you leave in 2017?
Below are some common fitness and nutrition myths debunked.
Myth: More protein means more muscles.
Fact: Protein is important to help build muscle, but more is not always better. Protein needs vary person to person based on age, physique, training program, goals and more. Recreational athletes should aim to get 1.1 - 1.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (about 75 - 95g/day for a 150-pound athlete). More serious athletes need more, and could benefit from 1.2 - 2.0 g protein/kg body weight per day. Research shows that eating about 20 - 30 grams of protein (or 10 g of essential amino acids) during exercise or the recovery period encourages muscle protein synthesis. However, higher doses (i.e., greater than 40g of protein at a time) do not further augment muscle protein synthesis.i Another key point is the protein source - high-quality proteins, like eggs, milk and beef, are more easily digested by the body and contain all the essential amino acids needed to build muscle.ii
Bottom Line: When trying to build muscle, think quality, quantity and timing - not more is better. Aim to eat 20-30 grams of high-quality protein foods within 2 hours of exercise to help muscle protein synthesis.
Myth: Fat can be targeted and reduced in specific areas of the body.
Fact: Also known as spot reduction, the ability to pick and choose where one is to lose fat is completely false. There is a large genetic predisposition to where an individual may carry fat, as well as the fact that diet and exercise in combination are factors that determine body fat percentage.
Bottom Line: Performing 1000 crunches with the intent of revealing a six-pack of abs won't work without a change in diet and some sort of cardio or resistance exercise to accompany the fitness plan.
Myth: Whole egg vs. egg white, raw egg vs. cooked egg - it's all the same!
Fact: Eggs are a good source of high-quality protein. However, many myths have seeped into pop culture about the benefits of egg whites or raw eggs, but the claims are not science based:
- Where is the protein in an egg? One large egg has 6 grams of protein - 57% of the protein is found in the white while 43% is in the yolk.iii So, don't toss the yolk if you want all 6 grams (and other important nutrients, as well)!
- Whole egg = Better for muscle growth: In a recent study, young men had greater muscle protein synthesis after resistance training when they ate 18 grams of protein from whole egg versus 18 grams of protein from egg white. The scientists speculate that components in the yolk, such as the fats or antioxidants, may be a cause for the findings.iv
- Cooking eggs improves protein digestion: The availability of egg protein is 91% with cooked egg and only 50% with raw egg.v That means if you eat a whole egg raw, you're only getting about 3 grams into your system versus eating a whole cooked egg which would provide almost 6 grams of protein.
Bottom Line: To maximize the protein from eggs, eat the whole egg, cooked!
Myth: Machines are safer than free weights.
Fact: Although both have their merits, they also both have downfalls. Machines are not designed for all body types, nor are they always the most functional when it comes to activities of daily living as they frequently focus on single-joint training. However, machines can typically take a novice through a series of targeted exercises, or assist in specific muscle strength enhancement. Free weights on the other hand, are more easily adaptable to most body types and can be used more functionally for both performance and activities of daily living.
Bottom Line: There are benefits and risks with using both machines and free weights.
Myth: Recovery nutrition, like a high-protein snack, is always necessary after exercise.
Fact: Recovery nutrition needs to be personalized, and it looks very different for an elite versus recreational athlete. Elite athletes who are training multiple hours per day or throughout the week would likely benefit from formal recovery nutrition; however, it's not necessary for the majority of recreational athletes. Another thing to keep in mind is an athlete's goal. If a recreational athlete is working out for weight management or weight loss, then a post-exercise snack could quickly neutralize or exceed total calories burned.
Bottom Line: Before grabbing a sports drink or protein bar, think about the amount of exercise you're engaging in and your goals. If you are exercising one hour or less on days with the intent to lose or maintain weight, then a recovery snack is likely unnecessary.
Myth: High intensity training is the best way to burn calories.
Fact: All exercise requires calories, or energy to sustain the body. This means that fat, carbohydrates and protein are used as fuels as we exercise during both low (aerobic) and high (anaerobic) intensity training. Generally, the harder you work, the more calories you will burn during the workout. The most efficient way to incorporate both aerobic and anaerobic exercise into a fitness program is through progressive overload using interval training. This way, the body can adapt to the increased demands over a period of time. This also allows the body to increase calorie burning as the exerciser is able to withstand both longer and harder bouts of exercise.
Bottom Line: A combination of both low and high intensity exercise is ideal for safe, effective fat loss through exercise.
iAcademy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine Joint Position Statement. Nutrition and Athletic Performance. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 2016;48:543-568.
iiCampbell B et al. International society of sports nutrition position stand: protein and exercise. J Int Soc Sport Nutr. 2007;4:8
iiiUS Department of Agriculture, Agriculture Research Service, Nutrient Data Laboratory. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 28. Basic Report: 01125
ivVilet S, et al. Consumption of whole eggs promotes greater stimulation of postexercise muscle protein synthesis than consumption of isonitrogenous amounts of egg whites in young men. Am J Clin Nutr. E-pub ahead of print.
vEvenopoel P et al. Digestibility of cooked and raw egg protein in humans as assessed by stable isotope techniques. J Nutr. 1998.