There are quite a few aspects of the “fitness diet” are accepted as absolutes for everyone. There are several things that ring true for everyone, like get enough protein, eat a balanced diet, get plenty of water etc etc. In many cases though, something that is true for one person may be entirely false for a different person with a different goal or body type. Often, our diets are so regimented and repetitive, that even a slight adjustment, done over time cane lead to a tremendous change in the way we look, feel and perform. Many of the dietary “sure-things” are in regards to when and how much fats and carbs we should all eat. While protein is an absolute, and we need ample (but not excess) protein regularly throughout the day, fat and carb intake is much different and varies much more from person to person with different body types and different goals. Below are five myths about fat and carb intake that you need to know:
Eating often increases your metabolism – This is not entirely true. EATING increases your metabolism, eating more increases your metabolism more. While it’s important for fitness and muscle-minded people to eat often, it’s more because our body can’t store protein and amino acids for very long and subsequently we need them often, not so much for metabolism reasons. The amount of metabolic response from eating is much more a result of how much you eat than how often you eat. Eat a giant meal and you may start sweating and your heart may start racing, divide that meal up in to multiple parts and not so much.
Eating carbs and fats in the same meal makes you store fats- Not true. Eating an excess of total calories makes you fat. Our body is incredibly efficient at converting the macros we eat into what we need and can easily turn carbs into body fat if we fill our glycogen stores then eat more on top of that. Whether we eat 500 calories from fats, 500 calories from carbs or 250/250 of carbs and fats respectively at a particular meal isn’t a huge issue pending we aren’t creating a surplus, it’s much more relevant how much we eat total than the breakdown. We would be much more likely to store fat by eating 1000 calories of carbs in a meal than 400 calories of carbs and 400 calories of fat.
You always need post-workout carbs – This is dependent on the goal and the person. If you are a hard-gainer and have a lightning quick metabolism, plus your goal is bulking, then yes, you need to eat as much and as often as possible. However, if your goal is to stay lean and hard, or even to put on lean mass in many cases, post workout carbs can work against you and you would be better served eating just protein. The reason for this is two-fold. For one, recent studies have shown that eating carbs with your protein post workout does not aid in protein synthesis. In fact, by eating carbs with your protein, it will actually slow down how quickly your body can get the protein into your muscles and begin rebuilding. Also, immediately post-workout we are generally very glycogen depleted and our body will turn to other sources of energy, like body fat. By feeding ourselves just protein it spares our muscles from being a target and the body will draw its energy requirements from fats instead. Try having just a quick acting protein shake post workout and a full meal 1-3 hours later.
We need a good amount of fats in our diet – Not always true. We NEED a good amount of essential fatty acids, which are much different than normal fats. We do not NEED a lot of other fats unless we are exceptionally lean. Our body is always either storing fats in our fat cells or pulling energy from them. The more body fat we have, the more capacity we have to draw from them. So someone with a high body fat % needs very little fats (excluding EFA’s). Further, our body can’t really tell the difference between fats we get from our diet and fats it pulls from our stored body fat. Once they are released in the blood stream, they are the same thing. For most people with body fat percentages that aren’t extremely low, taking dietary fat intake very low can often greatly accelerate fat loss as the body is forced to pull it from body fat stores. For more on this see Trim the fat: Why dietary fat intake is overrated
Always eat carbs at breakfast – Much like post-workout carbs, this depends on the body type and the goal. For those of us looking to get/stay lean, eating just protein for breakfast can have multiple benefits. Mainly, it will allow us to leverage our depleted state to continue for another couple hours to draw from body fat stores. Add these two hours to the two hours you are glycogen depleted post workout and that’s 4 hours per day or 28 hours per week extra that you are drawing from fat, which adds up real quick. The key is to ensure adequate protein intake to stop the body from targeting muscle.
All in all, various strategies are going to work for different people. With that said, play with your diet with some autonomy and figure out what works for you as opposed to following the lead of the masses. What needs to be taken into consideration the most with your diet is what your ultimate goal is, and what your body type is. Often, it is necessary to think outside the box and force the issue with our bodies to get the desired results.