We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – diet and exercise go hand in hand for a healthy lifestyle. As a fitness expert, I am constantly hearing inaccurate information about food and exercise. Here are a few of the most common myths and the facts to help get things straight.
Myth 1: If you exercise, you need to take in massive amounts of protein.
While protein is extremely important for growth, hormone production, and muscle health, there’s such thing as too much. An average of about 20 percent of total daily calories from protein is a good target for most active adults. Get the facts from our previous protein post.
Myth 2: It’s best to work out on an empty stomach.
While it seems like it makes sense, working out on an empty stomach is the last thing you should do. Where’s the energy for the workout going to come from without food? The best food option will depend on when you typically exercise. If you have 3 or 4 hours before a workout, eat a regular, balanced meal. If you work out first thing in the morning or it’s been more than 4 hours since your last meal, go for a small snack made up of mostly easily digestible carbohydrates like a banana, a nonfat yogurt, or a low-fat granola bar. These foods will give you quick energy and won’t upset your stomach during exercise.
Myth 3: Certain foods “burn fat.”
As great as it sounds, specific foods don’t have the power to melt away fat. Regular exercise, frequent meals and a balanced healthy diet are the best ways to keep your muscles toned and metabolism going strong.
Myth 4: Protein shakes are the best way to get protein.
Too many active folks make the mistake of believing that fancy protein powders are a must. Many of these supplements (that’s really what they are) are pricey, too high in protein (see myth #1) and loaded with potentially dangerous ingredients. Not to mention, nutrients like protein are always absorbed better from food. A plain whey or soy-based shake here and there is fine, but pay attention to the extra calories, drink them post-workout, and have no more than one per day unless you have specialized needs.
Myth 5: You need to use electrolyte beverages like vitamin-enhanced drinks or coconut water to hydrate.
Enhanced waters and sports drinks made our list of Healthy Foods to Skip and though coconut water is super-trendy nowadays, it isn’t worth the extra cost (read our full analysis of coconut water). Long duration activities and hot weather may call for the occasional sports drink, but for the most part, you are better off sticking with good old H20.
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Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. See Dana’s full bio »