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10 False Nutrition "Facts" I Had to Relearn

I haven’t always been the “go to guy” in nutrition you know.

I have been in the fitness industry for 12 years, 11 of those as a Personal Trainer and Nutritionist.

As I reminisce and look back over the last 12 wonderful years of my career as a fitness professional, I want to share with you my absolute favourite nonsense nutrition “facts” I was taught by “experts” and “gurus” over that time.

It may have taken me a few years to wake up and smell the coffee but when I did, my god did that caffeine hit wake me up.

For so long I was giving people advice on nutrition when in hindsight, I wasn’t fit to.

Don’t get me wrong, I was getting incredible results with my clients which only fuelled my belief however I was getting the results for all the reasons I didn’t understand.

I was a PT that took my education seriously and I invested thousands of £££ in travelling the world to hear from those deemed the best at the time.

The issue was all I was doing was listening to other people’s views and opinions without fully understanding the why.

I was listening to these experts and believing every.single.word.they.damn.well.said, why?

Because I trusted them.

I thought that because they had thousands of fans, hundreds paying to hear them speak that they were experts.

I was wrong!

They were charlatans, all spouting their extreme views because it enticed people in, it wowed people.

And I, like numerous people in the industry (including some of today’s biggest names) fell for their bullsh*t.

That is why I relearnt everything I know.

Why I invested hours upon hours reading and studying, not only for my University studies but in my own time.

That is why I now teach fitness professionals myself, because I want to ensure they never make the same expensive mistakes as I did. To make sure they give their clients the best possible evidence based, practical advice out there.

Education and being able to teach other people how simple yet effective nutrition are my passions, I believe everyone needs educating on nutrition, no matter if you’re a pro athlete, a PT or a 7 year old child. Food and nutrition is vital to optimise health and therefore should be treated with the respect it deserves.

Anyway, here are my 10 favourite “facts” I was taught (loose term) alongside what I now know to be correct.

1. Everyone only drank black coffee…because dairy was bad for you

What I thought I knew:

Let’s start with a coffee.

Every morning up until midday I would drink black coffee, in fact all the PT’s I knew would drink black coffee. Not even a drop of milk could pass our lips because dairy was bad for you. We never drank coffee past 12 noon as the caffeine would spike cortisol (stress hormone) and that would lead to weight gain on the belly.

What I now know:

Dairy is NOT bad for you, in fact dairy is really good for you and something you would be an absolute idiot to take out of your diet, unless you have severe lactose intolerance.

Dairy is rich in calcium and other minerals necessary for bone health, protecting you from osteoporosis. It also helps with dehydration and contains a decent amount of protein.

Drinking coffee later in the day is still not advised as it keeps you awake, reducing your sleep quality which has many negative effects.

I now drink all coffee with milk, and this makes me happy.

2. Sugar was as addictive as cocaine…and made you fat

What I thought I knew:

Not just table sugar but those pesky “natural sugars” too. Sugar was completely demonised for many years and I feel it still is to some degree. The basis of this was simple…

Sugar spikes insulin (hormone which drives glucose into cells after eating) which then shuts off lipolysis (fat burning) and stores sugars in our cells (muscle and fat cells).

They also said that the insulin spike makes you crash and crave more, making sugar as addictive as COCAINE…

What I now know:

Sugar does raise insulin correct but so does protein.

Insulin is secreted after almost every meal as it is necessary for transportation of glucose into cells to be converted into energy.

Unless you are a Type 2 diabetic with uncontrolled bloody glucose levels, your insulin does not remain elevated. In fact, it peaks and troughs through the day.

Yes, your body for the short period after eating reduces it’s ability to burn body fat for fuel but that quickly returns once the insulin subsides a few hours later.

No single nutrient or food group is to blame for weight gain.

The only thing which will cause you to gain body fat is a chronic surplus of exogenous energy supply (eating too much).

And sugary sweet foods may light up the same areas of the brain as cocaine, sex and…getting a like on Instagram but it doesn’t make it addictive.

3. Low fat = chemical sh*t storm

What I thought I knew:

“If it’s low fat it’s a chemical sh*t storm”…I mean, what did that even mean?

I used to scare people off low fat foods because of this saying.

I used to say “no, low fat is really bad for you, it’s full of chemicals and added sugar, you should always go full fat” *whilst I wore my tin foil hat*

What I now know:

Some low-fat products have stabilisers and gums in them to replicate the texture.

Some will have added sugar in them to make them taste better.

Some, like quark and skyr are just naturally low in fat.

There aren’t any chemicals, all ingredients are fit for eating and seeing as fat is 9 Calories per gram and sugar is 4 Calories, the added sugar really shouldn’t be a worry to you as it’ll likely be a lower Calorie item too, which as you know helps to create a Calorie deficit.

Choose full fat Greek yoghurt or mayo for example if you prefer the flavour and texture.

Choose skyr, quark, 0% Greek yoghurt or light mayo if you want to manage your Calorie intake.

4. Carbs cause insulin spike

What I thought I knew:

Same as the sugar story, carbs spiked insulin which led to weight gain, therefore carbs were the devil.

What I now know:

Sadly, looking back, this caused many people including myself to get “carbphobia, ruining their relationship with food for many years.

Carbs actually help many people lose weight. Carbs can help us be more adherent, they taste great, can provide us with energy for performance as well as fibre for gut health.

It may be advised for some people to reduce carb intake (Type 2, PCOS etc..) but in general, they should have a part to play in your diet.

5. A calorie is not a calorie – Nutrition went all Shakespearian on us

What I thought I knew:

First of all, I never discussed Calories with clients because Calories were not fashionable. After all it was carbs and sugar that made us fat remember?

And if I ever did mention Calories I would always say “yes but a Calorie is not a Calorie” without really understanding what the hell I was going on about.

I think it was to do with the thermic effect of various macro nutrients.

What I know now:

A Calorie is not a Calorie…I’m just kidding, kind of.

When we eat proteins, carbs and fats it takes a certain amount of energy for our body to convert them into energy.

20-30% of protein, 10-15% of carbs and 0-3% of fats are used in the conversion process.

This means when we eat protein compared to the others, we burn more energy doing so which leaves less to be stored.

So consuming more protein actually “Boosts your metabolism”, even if only very slightly.

And another thing, Calories seriously do matter.

6. Fat doesn’t make you fat

What I thought I knew:

Fat was the macro-nutrient sent from the gods. This nutrient could do no wrong.

You could eat as much fat as you wanted and you would never get fat because it doesn’t spike insulin and if you don’t spike insulin you don’t store fat.

In fact, you often “needed to eat more fat to allow your body to burn fat”

When all the PT’s would meet for education days the room would be filled with PT’s eating Wholeearth peanut butter from the jar (often an entire jar) whilst sipping their black coffee.

What I now know:

If you eat all the fat you want…you’re probably going to get fat (if in a calorie surplus).

Fat isn’t magic, yes we need it for health but to suggest our body won’t store fat because there is no insulin is absurd.

If we eat more fat then our body will utilise that as it’s primary fuel source however if you overeat Calories, the excess fat will be stored.

Eating more fat to increase fat oxidation does not mean you burn more of your stored fat, simply the fat from your diet.

7. Cheat day is necessary to boost metabolism

What I thought I knew:

Ahh the blessed cheat day, Saturdays for me.

The rules were simple, it was one sitting/meal on one day where you can eat what you want.

This boosted metabolism and helped you lose more fat the next day as it tricked your body in to thinking those extra 37,000 Calories you just shovelled in your mouth were coming the day after too…lol.

Once a client of mine (English wasn’t his first language) misunderstood what I meant, waited up until midnight of his first cheat day after 2 weeks of nothing but eating meat and veg and binge ate for 24 hours solid on all the food he could because he thought he could.

What I now know:

Cheat days on their own are not effective.

First the word cheat implies you’re doing something wrong, remove the word from your vocab right now.

A cheat meal or cheat day MAY help relieve some of the psychological stress of dieting, but it won’t do anything physiologically.

If you want to reset the body and help with your weight loss and health, you need a minimum of 2 days a week (at maintenance Calories) if not up to 4-5 days.

You also don’t need to wait for a “cheat meal” to eat foods you fancy.

8. Fruit makes you fat

What I thought I knew:

Fruit had sugars in which obviously made us fat.

Fruit also contained the worst of all sugars…fructose.

Fructose made you gain weight on your belly…so you better put that very low Calorie, nutritious nectarine down.

I honestly used to avoid fruit like the plague.

What I now know:

Fruit surprisingly doesn’t make us fat nor does it make us get a belly.

For some fruit may not be ideal for weight loss for reasons I won’t go in to now.

BUT for most fruit is a great source of nutrients and vitamins whilst tasting sweet.

Fruit can also reduce protein oxidation in those with PCOS by 15% (this is a good thing).

Fruit is a low Calorie, tasty, sweet food well worth having in your diet.

I just don’t advise you drink your fruit.

9. Eat like a caveman - “Only eat it if it’s ran, swam, flown or grown”

What I thought I knew:

Here it is, THE saying of the time.

The idea was simple and based on the belief that we should eat a paleo style diet, eating only what our ancestors 10,000 years ago ate as that is what we were evolved to eat (hence the lack of dairy, grains etc...)

If it wasn’t natural, single ingredient wholefoods then you did not eat it.

It was simple and effective, if not a little exclusive of vital food groups like dairy.

What I know now:

Your diet should be based on natural foods, similar to what this saying suggests however…

Sometimes you just want to use a packet chilli mix right?

We have evolved over the last 10,000 years and therefore can’t be so restrictive.

It is hard to live like a caveman when you have temptations everywhere you look.

We also shouldn’t be removing whole food groups.

I say 80% whole foods, 20% soul foods.

10. The Alkaline Diet

What I thought I knew:

I’ve saved the most idiotic until last.

The idea was that certain foods (mainly raw green vegetables) helped to increase the pH of our blood, alkalising our blood and reducing our risk of cancer and other awful conditions and diseases.

Whilst protein rich foods like meat and dairy reduced pH making us more acidic and unhealthier.

I once did an entire week as a flipping VEGAN eating nothing but raw veg and every night drinking a glass made up of 50% olive oil and 50% lemon juice…yes that’s right, lemon juice, one of the most ACIDIC foods going.

I would just like to say I never got clients to do this, it was only myself.

What I now know:

This is utter bullsh*t.

Food does not have any long-term impact on pH in the body.

Blood pH remains between 7.35-7.45 at all times.

Our body has it’s very own wonderful system of regulating this.

The creator of this “diet” is a sick man who had numerous people end their cancer treatment to be “cured” by him only for them to die.

His alkaline IV drips he used to give them, charged at $500 a go was nothing but water and bi-carb soda…baking powder to you and I.

I believe he got in to a lot of trouble for prescribing nutrition to cure disease…the f*ckwit.

So there you have it, 10 of my favourite false facts I was once taught, believed and passed on to my clients.

Fortunately, I know a lot, lot better now and I am also in a position where I can make sure the future generations of PT’s and general population don’t fall for this kind of claptrap.



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