top of page
Search

From Social Media to Evidenced Based: Sports Nutrition Myths Debunked

As sports dietitians and professionals working with athletes, we live in this constant fight against what has been researched and is supported with evidence, and what a friend, coach, Instagram, Tik Tok, Google Search, or a company marketing said. I would say we spent a good 20% of our work helping athletes unlearn and the other 50% educating them on what is supported to help them boost performance and recovery!


Today, I will bring to you some sports nutrition myths I encounter daily and a little rationale of WHY the might not be real. Actually, I am TRYING HARD to debunk all of them and help you UNLEARN that information, but let's keep that among us!


Myth # 1: Carbs make you gain weight


Weight is a broad term. If you care ONLY about the number on the scale as an athlete, we have to take a step back. Yes. Carbs make you weigh more. No. Not necessarily they make you gain fat mass. Fat mass gains will come from consuming a caloric surplus. Eating carbs will replenish GLYCOGEN STORES. For every gram of 'carb' stored, 3 gr or mL of water are held. So yes, your weight on the scale will go up when you are on a REFUELED state, and it will come down, when you DEPLETE glycogen stores. Do not fool yourself into thinking your DEPLETED weight is your real weight. YOU WANT A FULL TANK. That will sustain performance and recovery.


Myth # 2: Refined Carbs or Simple Carbs are bad.


We love to generalize, don't we? There is a time, a place and an amount for every nutrient. There is a nutrition strategy for different sports and objectives. But in general, there is SO MUCH to learn about carbs. YES. Refined carbs will increase blood sugars. And YES, you want blood sugars to increase to support training. How do you think you get to "HITTING THAT WALL"? Glycogen stores depletion combined with lack of circulating energy resources! Now, there is a time and a place for everything (and if you have chronic conditions such as Diabetes, this might need to be adjsuted), but, around training we want to consume SIMPLE CARBS: easier to absorb, gentle on the gut, best source to replenish stores. The rest of the day, you can work with complex, higher fiber carbs. If you are carb loading or have a hard/long session the morning after, you might want to stay SIMPLE. And, yes! GELS are full of "simple carbs", YOU WANT THEM to be that way to support your intrafueling. So, EAT YOUR CARBS, and crush your workouts.


Myth # 3: If I train FASTED, I will burn this "belly fat" (Kill Me)


Let me destroy your DREAMS here. NO, YOU WILL NOT. The only way to decrease fat mass is to be on a caloric deficit. Most people, who come from unorganized, unplanned, uncontrolled nutrition eating patterns, wake up one day and decide they want a change. WHAT IS GREAT. Now Rome was not built on a day. Sorry my friends, what happened in 20 years, does not get reversed in one week. Nutrition and body composition changes take LEARNING, WORK, PATIENCE and CONSISTENCY. When people decide to change, they usually pick a QUICK/FAD diet (KETO, INTERMITTENT FASTING, "THE CUCUMBER DIET") to see quick results. Of course coming from chaos, ANYTHING that gives you some source of structure will work, SHORT TERM, with most likely a YO-YO effect and some consequences. Well, same results, sustainable over time, can be achieved with proper nutrition education and planning. Reach out to a professional (not trying to sell myself)- TO ANY SPORTS DIETITIAN that can help you learn and achieve long term results.


Myth # 4: ALL I NEED IS PROTEIN, as much as I can eat.


Protein and Veggies. Such a common eating pattern when attempting to "lose weight". Again, each nutrient plays a role in the body. Carbs and Fats are energy sources, Protein is an structural source. Not eating energy sources, will redirect protein to be used as an energy source via a VERY INEFFECTIVE WAY that will leave you with inadequate energy to perform, make it hard to recover, and affect muscle repair and synthesis. EAT YOUR ENERGY SOURCES to allow protein to do its work in the body.

In terms of the amounts, that is specific to the athlete, specific body composition goals, and the sport (including type, volume, intensity). Recent reserach compared eating a LARGE AMOUNT of protein vs a SMALLER amount and its effect on muscle protein synthesis. You can read it BUT, my take, is EAT protein EQUALLY DISTRIBUTED THROUGH THE DAY. Break down muscle and Repair it. Find a balance between CATABOLISM (exercise or fasting) and ANABOLISM (refueling). Aim for 20-40 grams every 2-3 hours combined with energy sources. Time it around training.


MYTH # 5: EXTREME CALORIC RESTRICTIONS are needed to LOSE WEIGHT


AYUDA. No, no, no. When you extremely underfueled, your body HAS TO ADAPT. It does this by adjusting your basic metabolic rate, increasing hunger signals (hello CRAVINGS), and in the long term, raising CORTISOL levels (stress hormone) what is a CATABOLIC hormone (breaks down muscle, makes the body retain more fluid, and deposit fat tissue). Additionally, underfueling will redirect energy to support vital functions to stay alive while taking it away from areas that are not ESSENTIAL such as reproduction. With a decrease in reproductive hormones, BYE BYE health, performance and adaptations to training ( I can talk all day about this, but that is another story for another day)


MYTH # 5: THE LIGHTER/LEANER I AM, the FASTER I WOULD BE


Double ayuda. Let's think about this (not considering sport specific recommendations, cause I want to see CRIT CYCLIST competing at a very light weight-good luck pushing watts on a flat terrain). Let's say you are a runner. To be faster, we need to overcome gravity. Yes, lighter technically will help you (the force of gravity from the Earth will have a lighter magnitude). Now, another way of overcoming gravity, is the application of FORCE against gravity. A force that is greater than the force of gravity (hello running power).


SO HERE IS THE REAL QUESTION: how much lighter you can get without compromising health (and without breaking muscle mass- what technically will compromise your ability to overcome gravity) VS how much muscle and muscle power you can generate to overcome gravity. Yes, THAT IS WAY, STRENGTH TRAINING has become a KEY contributor to performance in almost every sport. Food for thought- GO LIFT.


MYTH # 6: CAFFEINE DEHYDRATES


Yes and No. It all comes to HOW MUCH you consume. The average and recommended intake to boost performance usually does not dehydrate. However, caffeine has a diuretic effect when consume in quantities >500 mg daily (6-7 cups a day) what will not only dehydrate you, but probably bring in some gastrointestinal issues and effects on sleep.


Caffeine itself, in the right amounts and at the right time, it is one of the main ergogenic aids. Again, each athlete is UNIQUE. Tolerance to caffeine is genetically determined. If you cannot fall asleep when drinking coffee after 3 pm, your are probably on the "SENSITIVE SIDE" and might need to control intake a little more!


MYTH # 7: CREATINE CAUSES KIDNEY and LIVER ISSUES


Unless you start taking creatine with chronic kidney disease, this will not be the case. Also if you draw blood after training, AST enzyme might be elevated. DO NOT cut creatine because of this. Maybe, next time draw blood after some hours of rest!


Creatine is another proven ERGOGENIC AID with multiple benefits for athletes in many sports. It is a subtance made from Amino Acids in the body that support high intensity training, muscle repair and build up. NO, IT WILL NOT BULK YOU UP. There is a lot more variables that come into place to gain muscle. IT IS HARDER TO GAIN MUSCLE THAN TO BURN FAT. Yes, read that AGAIN.


MYTH # 8: VEGAN EATING PATTERNS are inadequate


No. We work with many plant based athletes. It just required a little bit more planning. It will require a higher protein intake to meet leucine requirements to support muscle protein synthesis. It might need supplementation in certain cases to prevent micronutrient and essential amino acid deficiencies if there is an overly restrictive eating pattern until we are able to educate athletes on optimal nutritional intake. BUT YOU CAN BE A PLANT BASED ATHLETE and support health, performance and recovery.


MYTH # 9: NUTRITION DOES NOT MATTER when it comes to SPORTS. All I need is TO TRAIN


I DO NOT CARE HOW MUCH YOU TRAIN. If your TANK goes EMPTY, your performance WILL GO DOWN THE TOILET. Proper training is done on and off the course. The same attention you pay to completing your workouts, the same attention you should pay to the "SILENT TRAINING". Yes, eat, sleep, manage stress, train, and repeat. If you cannot eat enough, then you cannot train more. LACK OF NUTRITION IS ONE OF THE MAIN LIMITATIONS to PERFORMANCE. Please let nutrition be a TOOL and NOT A LIMITATION.


MYTH # 10: ALL I NEED is SODIUM to REHYDRATE.


Sodium alone does not rehdyrate. When we SWEAT we lose water first, then electrolytes. So technically, we are on a HYPERNATREMIC STATE when water is lost (high sodium in blood). If we only take sodium, this will not replete fluid! Remember, water first, chase it with sodium. Get to know your body. Do a SWEAT RATE TEST during different times of the year to build a GOOD HYDRATION STRATEGY.


Some take home messages in CAPITAL LETTERS:


  • EDUCATE YOURSELF.

  • DO NOT BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU HEARD OR SEE.

  • WORK WITH A RELIABLE SPORTS DIETITIAN.

  • FIND YOUR OWN FORMULA.

  • PRACTICE NUTRITION EVERYDAY.

  • CHANGE YOUR PERSPECTIVE FROM RESTRICTION TO PERFORMANCE.

  • LISTEN TO YOUR BODY and DO NOT NORMALIZE EXTREME FATIGUE OR HEALTH ISSUES.

  • EAT ENOUGH. EAT ALL MACRONUTRIENTS. DO NOT FORGET ABOUT MICRONUTRIENTS. TIME IT PROPERLY. FUEL DURING. SUPPLEMENT IF NEEDED -FUEL FOR THE WORK REQUIRED!



48 views0 comments

Comments


bottom of page