5 myths that is sabotaging your fitness goals

#1 Breakfast is the most important meal of the day

This is one of the most oft-quoted health advice I hear and is probably the biggest culprit for the increase in insulin resistance and obesity.

Breakfast is actually the most important meal of the day because you are breaking fast, and if you get it wrong, you can throw off your energy balance for the entire day.

It should not, however, be the largest meal of the day. If you want to burn fat, then get up and move in the morning before refuelling. Force your body to use your fat stores for energy rather than switch them off by putting sugary breakfast products into your system. Even 20 minutes of moderate movement will boost your metabolism and circulation to the point where your endocrine system is balanced and ready for the day.

If you don’t have the time for 20 minutes, then fast for two to three hours upon waking to ensure you are still scavenging from your fat stores.

Having a spoonful of healthy fat like coconut oil or Udo’s 369 will help keep hunger at bay while giving you an energy boost.

That is why Bulletproof Coffee has become the breakfast of choice for so many athletes and health fans over the past few years.

#2 Don’t exercise on an empty stomach

Some experts believe that exercising on an empty stomach makes you weaker and can cause dizziness or fainting. This is true if you are hypoglycaemic or have a habit of snacking before movement.

However, I recommend you try to gradually move over to exercising on empty and train the body to burn its fat.

Exercise is a simulation of hunting and gathering. What motivates animals to move and hunt?

Hunger! In fact all animals perform better when they are moderately hungry, especially predators.

When the digestive process is dormant, more blood is available for the brain and muscles, enabling us to move faster and be more effective hunters.

#3 Fasting and low calorie diets will slow down your metabolism

The idea that regular eating will boost your metabolism is completely retarded and goes against both common sense and science.

Movement boosts your metabolism. If you work in an office, then you should not be eating the same food types or portions as a manual laborer.

I cannot stress enough the importance of daily exercise for office workers or people who sit all day.

Dr James Levine, director of the Mayo Clinic in the United States, coined the phrase “sitting is the new smoking”. Sitting for extended periods kills the metabolic rate, and people who sit often and don’t moderate their food intake will rapidly gain weight and increase their likelihood of contracting diabetes, heart disease and complications of the gastrointestinal system.

So, exercise and move to build an appetite and earn your lunch.

If you are sitting for three to four hours and haven’t exercised that day, then stick to low-energy foods like a small portion of vegetables and lean meat.

Remember when you were at school and at the end of a lesson the bell goes and everyone jumps up and comes to life? Remember how much energy you had back then?

Set an alarm or get an activity tracker. Every 45 minutes, get up and move around like you did back then. Breathe deeply and get some air, boost your circulation with some simple exercises like climbing stairs or star jumps.

Not only will it improve your physical health, but this tip will also increase oxygenation to the brain, enabling you to function better and work more efficiently

#4 Running is the best way to burn fat

This myth is a little complex. Yes, running and low-intensity aerobic work uses body fat as fuel, while high-intensity anaerobic exercise uses sugars and glycogen.

The problem is that the body always replaces the fuel you use in anticipation of the next event. The best way to use up your fat stores and stay slim is to cut out all sugars from the diet and train at an intensity that burns sugars.

Then the body is forced to resort to using its fuel reserves from the fat cells.

At the next meal, the body will replace its glycogen stores as best it can, but not the fat reserves.

This is why low carb diets and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) work so well together and are the go-to formula for so many trainers and health professionals

#5 Counting calories in versus out is the best way to lose weight

Unfortunately, the systems of the body are so multidimensional that there is little benefit in using a calorie-counting approach to weight loss unless you are a highly trained professional.

The two master systems in the body that control weight and energy transfer are the endocrine and the nervous systems, and they have no idea what a calorie is. Weight and fat loss is determined by the type of foods we eat and how they are prepared, and not by how many calories they have.

For example, sugars (100 grams of white sugar has 388 calories) lead to an insulin response, and insulin is a fat storage hormone.

Coconut oil (100 grams has 862 calories) has more than double the calories, but stimulates satiety hormones like adiponectin, which make you feel full. The oil also contains medium chain triglycerides, which encourage a fat burning response in the body.

However, calorie awareness does work when comparing foods in the same group, such as the following examples for protein: 100 grams of lean beef has about 143; 100 grams of pork loin has about 242 calories.

Once you are aware of which foods are the best value calorie-wise, then you can ensure you stay away from the higher calorie-laden foods under each category of carbohydrates fats and proteins.

One of the best charts you can work with is the glycaemic load (GL) chart, which is excellent and not to be confused with the glycaemic index (GI), which, by comparison, is very misleading.

The advice here is an indication of how to build daily habits to make you leaner and healthier.

Build them into your programme slowly and see the positive changes in your energy levels, mental alertness and waistline. Habits take time to adapt to, so don’t rush into wholesale changes, especially if you are hypoglycaemic or have insulin resistance and other health issues.

Work with an expert nutritionist or health coach and gradually start rearranging your daily schedule of activities.

The first few weeks will be tough as your metabolism shifts to a new cycle, but stick with the programme and you will begin to feel the benefits of life as a hunter-gatherer!

Remember, no one else is an expert about your body. All we can do as health coaches is to help interpret the communications and symptoms you are experiencing, like pain, fatigue and weight gain, and make the recommendations for change to bring balance and healing back to your body.

Then together we can look at setting health goals and improving your quality of life.

 

Liam Harkness is a qualified sports therapist with certificates in Active Isolated Stretching and Strengthening (AIS), visceral manipulation and holistic lifestyle coaching. His two current goals are to help Malaysian athletes beat Singapore and help combat the rise of non-communicable diseases in the country.
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