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I originally learnt about nutrition in 2007 when studying to become a personal trainer and also in more detail in 2008 -2011 while completing my Exercise and Sports Science degree. I was taught a lot of things which I now know aren’t true! Unfortunately, it’s like that in the field of science.

Here are three ‘facts’ we were taught which I now know are myths:

Myth 1: Saturated fats are the worst type of fat and should be avoided.

Actually, trans fats and refined polyunsaturated fats are the worst and should be avoided. Saturated fats are natural, highly-beneficial for our health, and don’t cause heart disease. For more information on the latest on fats, read this fantastic article by The Natural Nutritionist here.

Myth 2: Fats should only make up a very small portion of our diets. To help achieve this, buy low-fat products such as milk and yoghurt, avoid fatty cuts of meat and only eat the egg whites, not the yolks.

Oh, how I cringe when I think back to how I used to repeat what I had learnt to my family, telling them to buy skim milk and low-fat yoghurt!

There are two problems with choosing low-fat products. Firstly, they are more processed than the original version of the food. Processed foods are not good for us! Secondly, natural fat is very good for us and does not make us fat. We are missing out on lots of health benefits by avoiding it. Please just eat real food, and all of it.

The skin on the chicken (only if it’s organic, like humans the toxins of animals are stored in their fat).
The yolk in the egg (one of the most nutritious foods on the planet!).
Grass-fed butter instead of margarine.
Full-fat yoghurt if you can tolerate dairy.
The fatty cuts of grass-fed beef rather than just the lean ones.

For more on why fat is good for us, read this article by Charles Poliquin.

(How did this low-fat message start? In the 1950s, a scientist named Ancel Keys manipulated the data he obtained from a study to make it look like there was a link between a high-fat diet and heart disease. You can read more about it here.)

Myth 3: You should eat every two-and-a-half to three hours to increase your metabolic rate and enhance fat burning.

It’s fair enough if you want to eat regularly for other reasons (ie. to prevent you from getting ravenous and being tempted to make poor nutrition choices, or to keep your blood sugar levels more stable if you have trouble with this as I do) but don’t think eating small amounts regularly is ‘keeping that metabolism firing’ and ‘turning you into a fat burning machine’!

A lot of people like to believe this myth because it sounds like a nice idea, but there’s no good evidence to support it. The truth is, you lose weight by being in a calorie deficit. It makes no difference if your daily calories are spread between three meals or six meals.

Some research does suggest meal frequency can affect muscle loss, gain and maintenance. If your goal is to increase muscle mass or even maintain muscle mass (which can be a challenge when in a calorie deficit) then I recommend eating at least four meals a day to provide an optimum environment for protein synthesis.

I like to eat four to five meals a day, because:

  • It supplies me with a steady supply of energy
  • It prevents me from feeling ‘starving’ and turning ‘hangry’
  • It’s less preparation than six meals
  • It’s more satisfying and filling to eat larger meals
  • If in a fat-loss stage, I know it’s going to help prevent me losing muscle.

However I know people (particularly quite a few males) who are quite happy just eating three to four large meals a day and maintain great physiques. I recommend you listen to your body and eat in a way that fits in with your lifestyle and makes you feel good. If you really like eating six small meals, that’s absolutely fine, but don’t kid yourself thinking you’re doing something superior to the person who only eats three meals.

Holly x

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