Every week there’s a new fitness trend, a new health no-no, and new health myths touted as being true. The point is that with so much speculation, how can you ever know what’s true and what’s not?
While it would be nearly impossible to debunk every myth, old and new, below are the ten that I find to be most prevalent in the health world. Find out why they’re myths and how they could be hindering your progress, causing injuries, and more.
Cleansing After a Binge: “You can detox your body back to health.”
After a late-night eating spree or long vacation of eating more than you do at home, your first instinct may be to jump back on the health train with a cleanse. However, your body is already hard at work ridding itself of those toxins and chemicals via the kidneys, intestines, liver, and skin.
Instead of doing a juice cleanse, that will just pump your body full of sugar, focus on eating three well-rounded meals a day with whole foods. Fill your grocery cart with lean meats (chicken and turkey), fruits, veggies, whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, faro, and whole-grain bread), and good-for-you-protein like eggs, beans, and nuts.
Water: “Drink 8 glasses a day.”
Many health myths stem from outdated scientific evidence that has since been found to be untrue. This myth is one of them. In 1945 The U.S. Food and Nutrition Board stated that everyone needed to drink eight glasses of water a day, according to the University of Michigan health clinic.
While water is good for your skin and promotes a slim figure, eight glasses a day is not necessary. Instead: drink when you’re thirsty and use your urine color as the marker for whether you’re drinking enough or not:
“Use the color of your urine as a guide. Your urine should be light yellow. If it looks like water, you are drinking more than you need.
If it is dark yellow or orange you need to drink more,” explains the University of Michigan health clinic.
Sweating: “If you’re not sweating, you’re not working hard enough.”
Sweating is your body’s way of cooling itself and has no relation to how hard you’re working because everybody is different. You can burn a significant amount of calories without sweating at all.
Instead of using sweat as a measure, focus on your physical exertion. If you want to do a hard workout, aim for your rate of perceived exertion (RPE) to be a 7 or 8 on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being you’re working as hard as you possibly can.
Frozen Food: “Fresh is better than frozen.”
Sometimes it isn’t realistic to purchase fresh produce; in many cases, it goes bad before you have a chance to eat it all and you end up wasting money. Luckily, there’s no nutritional hazard to buying frozen fruits and vegetables. The product is frozen and packaged at peak harvesting time and the freezing process locks in the nutrients until you cook it.
Eggs: “Will raise your cholesterol.”
In the late 60’s early 70’s research linked heart disease with elevated cholesterol levels. Thus, one of the most popular health myths was born. It has since been found that this is not the case. According to BetterHealth, “Newer studies have found that saturated and trans fats in a person’s diet, not dietary cholesterol, are more likely to raise heart disease risk.”
While there is a small percentage of fat in eggs, the vitamins A and D, as well as protein, still make it a smart option for your body. Not to mention the B vitamins can help boost your mood.
Workout Pain: “No pain, no gain.”
If you’re hurting in the middle of a pose or exercise, that means you’re doing it wrong—not right. Soreness is normal for one or two days after a hard workout, but you shouldn’t be in pain during the movement.
If you’re having any sort of pain, check your form. If you’re in a gym, ask one of the trainers to watch and give suggestions. Or, use ACE’s exercise library to double-check how the exercise should be performed.
If you’re still having pain, check with a health professional to make sure nothing is wrong. Pain in your knee, for example, could be an indication of tight muscles that need foam rolling and stretching.
Low-Fat Foods: “They’re healthy for you.”
I’ll give you Michael Pollan’s advice: “Anything that says it’s good for you, most likely isn’t.” His reminder is that you don’t see the bananas, apples, and broccoli covered with stickers announcing low fat, cholesterol-free, or low sodium.
If you want to buy low-fat foods, stick to whole choices and check ingredients—red flag: if you can’t pronounce it, and don’t know what it is. Remember that all produce is low fat, and can be made more filling with nut butter, healthy dips, hummus, seasoning, fresh herbs, and marinades.
Eating At Night: “Will make you fat.”
This health myth does have an element of truth to it; you don’t want to eat a large meal or snack if you’re not planning to be active afterward. With nothing for those nutrients to do—power you through your morning or give you energy in the afternoon—they’ll be stored as fat.
However, the reason why you’re eating late at night may be more important: “Eating later in the day may be directly related to eating too little earlier in the day, and it’s that pattern that leads to overconsumption,” according to Will Eating at Night Make You Gain Weight?
The first step to avoiding late-night snacking is eating enough throughout the day. If you don’t know how many calories you need, use this calculator from ACE Fitness. If you’re still hungry at night, munch on fruit or another low-calorie, low-fat snack to avoid taking in too many calories.