Doesn’t it seem like nutrition info is constantly coming at you from so many different angles? TV, websites, social media, YouTube, word of mouth, etc., etc. With the overwhelming amount of info, it’s easy to get confused. Heck, sometimes I’m confused! That’s why I’ve put together 10 sports nutrition myths that I hear all the time and the real facts you need to know.
Myth #1: Coconut water works as well as a sports drink.
Don’t get me wrong–I love coconut water, but sports drinks are formulated to keep athletes hydrated during activity that lasts longer than an hour. They contain fluid for hydration, sugar to replenish glycogen stores (carbs used during exercise) and electrolytes (sodium and potassium) to replace the ones lost in sweat. Coconut water is missing two important things–sodium and the right ratio of carbs. Therefore, it won’t help with performance like a sports drink. Read more about how coconut water compares to sports drink here or find out how to make your own sports drink here!
Myth # 2. Fruit has too much sugar.
This one drives me crazy. Your body needs natural sugar, primarily for the brain to function and for the muscles to perform exercise [read more about natural versus added sugar here]. Sugar, in general, has gotten a bad rap because of the stuff that is added to many processed foods. But the natural sugar found in fruit is paired with so many other beneficial vitamins, minerals and nutrients. For instance, bananas have potassium, blueberries have antioxidants, and mango is loaded with Vitamin C. Embrace the fruit!
Myth # 3: Eating after 8pm makes you fat.
I don’t know where this magic time came from. If I eat at 8:01pm, will I instantly gain 5 pounds? In all seriousness, the most important factor for weight gain and loss is not when you eat but what you eat. One study actually found that consuming a protein or carbohydrate drink right before bed boosted the metabolism of active young men the next morning, aa compared with a placebo.
Eating nutrient dense foods, like lean proteins, whole grains, fruits and veggies, will fill you up without weighing you down. But, if you eat a very rich and calorie dense meal at 8 p.m. and hit the sheets an hour later, you’ll most likely experience indigestion and hold onto some of those unwanted calories.
Myth #4: Marathon training is a license to eat whatever you want.
Unfortunately, I can tell you from experience that this is not the case. When I trained for the NYC marathon in 2016, I gained a few pounds. And yes, I’m a Dietitian and I should know better. Marathon training will definitely cause you to feel hungrier and eat more, but you need to choose the right types of calories. To learn how to do so, read this post!
Myth #5: Fat-free foods are better for you.
While fat definitely has more calories per gram than protein and carbs (9 calories per gram versus 4 calories per gram), it’s not the enemy. In fact, one study found that the “good fats”, like those found in nuts, avocados and oils, may actually help keep you full throughout the day. That means you might actually eat less after eating some “good fats”! Another observational study suggests that replacing 5% of your total calories from saturated fat with unsaturated fat actually decreases death rates by 27%. In other words, it’s time to stop buying the fat-free stuff. Read more about good fats here and grab my walnut romesco sauce recipe.
Myth # 6: Side stitches and cramps are the same thing.
That annoying pain in your side is not the same thing as a muscle cramp. A side stitch actually has a scientific name, exercise-related transient abdominal pain (ETAP), and it’s brought on by a variety of different factors, like bad posture, eating or drinking right before exercise or irritation of the abdomen lining. To learn how to prevent side stitches, click here.
Myth # 7: Some fruits and veggies cause inflammation.
Thank you Tom Brady for perpetuating this weird myth. Fruits and vegetables are packed with antioxidants, which actually FIGHT off the free radicals that cause inflammation. Even though some fruits and veggies are acidic–tomatoes, citrus, eggplant, peppers–that doesn’t mean they cause inflammation. I created a whole video on this topic, for your viewing pleasure.
Myth # 8: Caffeine is bad for you.
I’m delighted to say that it’s not. As a matter of fact, there is a ton of research showing that caffeine may help with things like dementia and athletic performance. Plus, coffee is loaded with good-for-you antioxidants. So go ahead and start your day with a cup of joe and enjoy this blog post on the benefits of coffee.
Myth # 9: Vegetarians and vegans can’t get enough protein.
I definitely struggle to get enough protein some days (especially when traveling), but it’s not IMPOSSIBLE to get enough protein on a vegetarian or vegan diet. There are plenty meatless sources of protein, like dairy, tofu, beans, legumes, whole grains, seeds, nuts… and the list goes on. You better believe I’ve written about this topic here!
Myth # 10: Drink 8 glasses of water each day.
I’m a huge proponent of hydrating properly for a workout and everyday life, but it’s a common misconception that you should drink 8 glasses of water per day. Because everyone varies in their age, size, gender, activity level and health status, there isn’t one fluid recommendation to suit everyone’s needs. Instead, the best way to know if you’re properly hydrated is to check your urine output and color. If you are producing a sizable amount of urine and it’s pale yellow in color, you are properly hydrated. If you only put out a small amount of dark colored urine (like apple cider vinegar), you are dehydrated. Continue to drink enough until you consistently get to that pale yellow color, and that’s the right amount of fluid for you!
If you want more insider tips about fueling for running, make sure you sign up to receive info about The No-Brainer Nutrition Guide For Ever Running. It’s coming soon, and it’s packed full of amazing RD-approved sports nutrition info. And as an added bonus, I’ll also send you a FREE copy of my Race Day Nutrition Pocket Guide!