Layne Norton, PhD Nutritional Sciences, recently said:
“I have been wrong many times. I will be wrong again in the future most likely. But being wrong is a beautiful thing. If I’m already right about everything, then there’s nothing I can improve upon. So being wrong is beautiful because it means there’s room for improvement.”
As a fitness trainer, I have been wrong many times too. But I always tried to maintain an open mind instead of letting existing prejudices and confirmation biases influence my thinking.
If I see enough evidence to change my mind, I change my mind instead of going all nah, I think these fifteen studies are bullcrap and keto is still superior to all the other diets because it worked for me.
So here are some of the nutrition and training things I have changed my mind on over the years.
Branched-chain amino acids improve muscle growth
Remember when I said BCAA could teach supplements that suck how to suck? Well, in the past, I believed it improves muscle growth.
However, a lot of new studies came out and pretty much said no this sexy colorful water doesn’t increase muscle mass when protein is sufficient so go buy some protein powder to meet your daily protein requirement.
Sugar makes you fat and hinders fat loss
My thinking was that sugar inhibits fat oxidation and thus prevents fat loss from occurring. Little did I know that fat oxidation is not the same as body fat loss. Nor does it have special fattening properties.
Sugar simply gets the blame for being part of ultra-processed foods that are hyper-palatable which often leads to calorie over-consumption. Somehow, fat and salt get a pass ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (a mix of sugar, salt, and/or fat makes the food to be hyper-yummy-I-can’t-stop-eating-it).
Further reading: Yes, Goddammit, You Can Eat Sugar and Lose Weight
Insulin prevents fat loss
Nine or ten years ago I ate in a way that wouldn’t raise my insulin levels. Because I thought it inhibits fat oxidation or something. Fast forward a long ass time and I’m not doing it anymore.
When looking at the data, we see that under hypocaloric conditions aka matched calorie deficit between the groups (in healthy subjects), insulin response has no influence on fat loss. Thus, I’m currently at stage 5 I don’t give a shit about insulin.
Further reading: Insulin Hinders Fat Loss (Except That It Doesn’t)
Glycemic index is a good way to determine carbohydrate quality and improve weight loss
I’m also at stage 7 I don’t give a shit about the glycemic index (a measure of a food’s ability to raise blood sugar).
Unless you have a medical reason for tracking GI the whole GI thingy is pretty much useless. Most long-term studies show no benefit of a lower-GI diet for weight control. So GI can can eat merde.
Further reading: Complex Carbs Aren’t Better Than Simple Carbs For Fat Loss
Low-carb diets are better than higher-carb diets for weight loss
The quickest summary ever: Low-carb diets don’t cause greater weight loss compared to higher-carb diets. Now let’s move on.
Further reading: Carbohydrates Don’t Hinder Fat Loss (So Stop Avoiding Them)
Artificial sweeteners are dangerous
Social media is full of posts that want you to believe that artificial sweeteners are evil but that’s way too much fuckery to cover in this short post so let’s just say that they are wrong.
Randomized controlled trials consistently show that replacing sugar with artificial sweeteners supports weight loss.
You might go all what about all those cancer studies in rats, Egis? That’s right, in rats. Rats are not humans. So they are safe.
Unless, of course, you will wake up one morning and decide to go drink-coke-until-I-blow-chunks mode. I’m talking about 20+ cans of diet coke per day. In other words, it’s very difficult to consume enough artificial sweeteners to risk any kind of health effects unless you are a goddamn rat.
Starvation mode causes you to gain weight
Scroll through Instagram fitness accounts and it won’t be long before you find an influencer warning you about the “starvation mode” and how you are not losing weight because you are eating too little.
If you are not losing weight, you are not in a calorie deficit. You cannot violate the First Law of Thermodynamics. You might be holding onto more water than normal, underreporting calories, overestimating calorie expenditure, binging and not talking about it, etc. but you are most definitely not in “starvation mode.” Because it’s not a thing.
Cheat meals or days boost metabolism
A cheat meal/day is the antithesis of a healthy relationship with food. Yet I used it in my diet in the past. And now that I look back to those days when I would eat as much as I could every Saturday evening… I can tell you confidently that those days were more like scheduled binges than cheat days.
If you have read somewhere that a cheat meal/day will boost your metabolism, sorry to tell you but uhm… er… the increase is minor and it only lasts for like 24 hours.
And if you ever hear the argument I use cheat days to increase leptin which increases metabolic rate and appetite, please know that it’s a shit argument. It takes at least 1-2 weeks of eating at maintenance to reverse the downregulation of hormones, including leptin. One cheat meal or day won’t do anything.
You have to count calories
I have spent many years counting calories and macros but that’s another story or five. My point is that since it worked so well for me I thought everyone should do it too. Kinda how keto diehard’s thinking operates these days.
But once I started working with people I realized the importance of individualization. Some people thrive on calorie counting while others don’t. Just like keto, intermittent fasting, etc., calorie counting is just a TOOL to create a calorie deficit. And if it’s stressful and time-consuming for you, don’t do it. For many, focusing on the right health behaviors can do wonders.
Further reading: Hate Calorie Counting? You’re Doing It Wrong
You need to take an anabolic window seriously
The so-called post-exercise anabolic window is a time after a workout when you need to eat ASAP—fast-absorbing protein and carbohydrates preferably—to enhance muscle recovery and growth. To say that back in the day I took it very seriously is to flirt with understatement.
Based on the current evidence, an anabolic window is not really a thing, and hitting your total daily protein target should be your top priority which is evident in the following quote from the 2013 meta-analysis:
“These results refute the commonly held belief that the timing of protein intake in and around a training session is critical to muscular adaptations and indicate that consuming adequate protein in combination with resistance exercise is the key factor for maximizing muscle protein accretion.”
Intermittent fasting causes muscle loss
Fasting always has been frightening to me. If you don’t eat every few hours when dieting, you will lose muscle. That is how my brain was wired. How is this for a brilliant brain, huh?
Recent time-restricted feeding studies have demonstrated that the most popular 16:8 fasting protocol shows no threat of muscle loss when resistance training is utilized alongside (study one, two, three). Longer fasting windows might have an impact on muscle loss though.
Further reading: STOP Doing Long Fasts — A New Study Reveals
Eating fat and carbs together is no good
Like many of you, I held the belief that eating fat and carbs together will cause an insulin spike preventing fat loss from occurring and storing fat in the fat tissue.
With knowledge gleaned from Alan Aragon’s Research Review, I learned that it’s nonsense and that I had an insectoid IQ back then:
“The amount of body fat you carry is determined by the chronic/ongoing net balance of fat oxidation (fat-burning) versus fat storage. If you are burning a greater amount of fat than you are storing, on a sustained basis, your body fat mass will decrease. It doesn’t matter which point (or points) in the day that fat storage occurs, as long as by the end of the day – or the end of the week – more fat is burned than is stored.”
Cast your mind back to the title of the article where I said “Pt.1.” It means that I’m tired and ready for a good sit-down. Come back in a coupla of days for the training stuff I have changed my mind on.
If you want to bypass all of the nonsensical weight loss information and avoid common beginner mistakes, apply for the 1:1 Coaching Program where my goal is to be at your side the entire way, helping you to avoid scams and pitfalls that most people fall into.
Originally published by me on Medium on January 28, 2023