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6 Diet and Fitness Fads You Need to Forget

Wellness myths you can kick to the curb today.

by Alice Williams /
Are workouts more effective if you're in a "fasted state?" It sounds credible, but there's no scientific proof. Lucie Wicker / Getty Images/Aurora Open

In a perfect world, we would all make living a healthy lifestyle a top priority. However the reality of work, family and social commitments can tempt even the most strong-willed of us to look for shortcuts. Inevitably this leads us to the Internet, where we are inundated with countless health and fitness articles, tips and tricks. We all want to be as knowledgeable as possible when making healthy choices, but the sheer volume of information can make it seem impossible to separate fact from fad.

How many times have you seen promises to “get fit quick,” or “lose weight in 10 days or less!”? This type of message is undeniably attractive but can be misleading, and sometimes, a complete lie. When you hit that inevitable hump in your fitness journey, the last thing you need is to waste time, energy and willpower on yet another “miracle diet.”

It is essential to vet information on the internet, but we thought we’d make things easier and highlight six fitness myths that you can kick to the curb today.

1. 'Eating Clean' All the Time

Even if you don’t quite understand what it is, you’ve probably heard about clean eating. Clean eating is based on the idea of eating only whole foods which are minimally processed. The concept of clean eating is intended as a lifestyle as opposed to a short-term diet. The idea itself isn’t necessarily bad, but like any trend, it can be taken to extremes.

Extreme proponents of clean eating will cut out entire food groups, such as dairy and grains, in an effort to adhere to a strict clean diet. Not only is this unnecessary, it can be dangerous. Cutting out any food group can lead to mineral and vitamin deficiencies, and unless you have a genuine medical condition which prohibits you from those foods, there’s no need to eliminate it. Clean eating is a great way to kickstart healthier eating habits. Ensure you’re eating a balanced diet and not taking clean eating ‘rules’ to the extreme.

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2. 'Fasted Cardio' to Burn More Fat

Fasted cardio is the latest hot topic in the fitness world. Humans typically enter a fasted state 12 hours after their last meal. During a fasted state your body relies on endogenous sources of energy, such as fat and glycogen, as opposed to exogenous sources derived from food. The theory is that by performing cardio first thing in the morning, in this “fasted state”, you will burn more fat than at other times of the day.

It sounds credible, but is there any evidence to support the fat loss theory of fasted cardio? Not quite ― in 2014, a study with twenty female participants were divided into two groups. One group exercised in a fasted state while the other group ate a meal prior to exercise. Participants in both groups saw significant weight and fat loss. However, there was no significant difference between individuals who did fasted cardio and those who didn’t.

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3. Collagen Supplements for Better Skin and Athletic Performance

Collagen is the latest supplement to greet the health and fitness industry with a bang. Collagen is a naturally occurring protein which helps give structure to much of your body skin and aids in blood clotting. It’s quickly become a hot ingredient coming in the form of pills and powders. Benefits range from giving you glowing skin to improving your athletic performance. But are these benefits grounded in scientific evidence?

While collagen supplements have been shown to significantly increase skin elasticity and improve skin texture, they aren’t a silver bullet for enhanced fitness performance. “Whey is the gold standard for supporting muscle recovery and muscle growth,” explains Elise McVicar, Sports Dietitian for the University of Utah. This is because the amino acid profile of collagen and whey protein are different. “Collagen is indeed higher in glycine, which is an anti-inflammatory amino acid, however, whey is higher in branch chain amino acids (BCAAs), specifically leucine,” said McVicar. Leucine and the other BCAAs are important for those looking to support an active lifestyle because they are the kickstarters to muscle recovery and growth. McVicar points out that milk, which is high in whey protein, is in fact a cheaper and more effective option.

While collagen supplements have been shown to significantly increase skin elasticity and improve skin texture, they aren’t a silver bullet for enhanced fitness performance.

4. Carbs Are the Devil

Carbohydrates are an essential macronutrient and a preferred source of fuel for the body. Unfortunately, carbs have gained a bad reputation in recent years. How often have you heard phrases such as “no bread for me this week,” “I’m banning carbs to slim up quick”? The Atkins diet popularized the idea that eating fewer carbs would lead to quick weight loss. And it does ― but not because carbohydrates were making you fat. When you remove a whole macronutrient from your diet, you’re losing a huge source of calories. It may be an attractive short-term solution but it won’t lead to long-term weight loss.

Consistently eating a low number of carbohydrates will lead to constant fatigue, dehydration, constipation and bowel issues (from a lack of fiber) and more. Furthermore, “carbohydrates are your body’s preferred source of fuel, without them it doesn’t run as well as it should. Your brain, for example, specifically relies on glucose to function properly,” said Keri Gans, MS, RDN, CDN and author of The Small Change Diet. Brain cells are dependent on having glucose delivered due to its inability to store glucose. Your brain can use glycogen, which are broken down from protein, yet is nowhere as efficient as glucose is.

5. Heavy Lifting Is Just for Bodybuilders

It is a common assumption that if women lift heavy weights they will bulk up. It’s easy to see why ― there are countless fitness plans marketed toward women that revolve around body weight or light-weight exercises to achieve a ‘lean, toned’ look. Truth be told, heavy lifting will not automatically beef you up overnight.

Bodybuilders, who are striving to achieve this so-called ‘bulky’ look, typically work for months at a time to build substantial amounts of muscle. Furthermore, to bulk up, you need to eat accordingly. You would have to consistently eat a surplus of calories in addition to training in a hypertrophic style for several months. In fact, heavy lifting can help you shed that stubborn fat. When women lift heavy weights that challenge them, you will actually use more oxygen in the hours and days that follow. More calorie expenditure is required as well as an increased metabolic rate.

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6. Excessive Sweating Is Indicative Of a Good Workout

Sweating after a hard workout intuitively makes you feel as if you’ve worked extremely hard. And you probably have ― but how indicative of a good workout is sweat? If you’ve been basing the intensity, and calorie burn, of your workout by sweat alone, it’s time to stop.

Many different factors come into play to determine how much someone will sweat. Your age, weight and fitness level all play a role as well as genetics and temperature. Someone who is relatively new to working out may sweat more during the same workout than someone who has been training regularly for several years. As McVicar puts it, “sweat is simply a mechanism that your body uses to cool you down, the hotter you are, the more you will sweat.”

Don’t waste your time being led astray by misleading health and fitness claims. Ensure you’re conducting appropriate research and, when in doubt, talk to a registered dietitian, certified fitness professional or your doctor.

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