The Health Myths You Need To Stop Believing

The Health Myths You Need To Stop Believing


If you want results from your exercise regime, it pays to know the facts. We asked some experts to sort the hard science from the tall stories. Covering fitness and nutrition, here’s the truth about some popular health myths.


You Should Walk 10k Steps Every Day

TRUTH: Hitting 10,000 steps per day may be thought of as a prerequisite to fitness, but experts agree it’s an arbitrary number that isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. “The 10,000-step target was first suggested in a Japanese marketing campaign in the run-up to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. A company created a pedometer device called Mapo-Kei (which translates as ‘10,000 Steps Meter’) in a bid to encourage citizens to be more active,” explains Jack McNamara, strength coach and personal trainer at Train Fitness. “But recent studies suggest the health benefits level off at around 7,500 steps a day. There’s certainly no harm in walking more, but if you’re purposely going out of your way to hitting the 10k goal, you may only be getting diminishing returns.”
You Need To Eat Protein Within 30 Minutes Of A Workout

TRUTH: “On the surface, the idea that you should race to consume protein immediately after a workout makes sense,” says Mike Molloy, founder of M2 Performance Nutrition. But early research into post-workout nutrition often relied on participants who had trained in a fasted state, says Mike, which skewers results. “When you haven’t eaten anything, your body breaks down stored nutrients for fuel, so eating immediately after a workout becomes essential in this state to maximise protein synthesis and replenish glycogen stores. However, most of us don’t do our heaviest weight training first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. What matters is what you eat before and after exercise. The anabolic effect of a protein-rich meal is three to five hours, and studies show that eating protein two hours before, or even three hours after your workout, will still benefit muscle growth.”
If You Want To Lose Weight, It’s All About Cardio

TRUTH: Yes and no, says Jack. Losing weight comes down to creating and maintaining a calorie deficit, whereas losing fat is slightly more nuanced. “When we consume fewer calories than we require to maintain our current weight for a prolonged period, the body breaks down different tissues to provide energy, and this is usually a combination of fat stores and muscle tissue. However, being able to preserve as much muscle mass as possible is key to how you’ll look when the number on the scale is lower. If you’re looking to lose weight as quickly as possible and don’t mind where that weight comes from, cardio will burn more calories and create a higher calorie deficit. But if you want to preserve muscle and keep your metabolism as high as possible whilst burning fat, make weight training a priority.”

“If you want to preserve muscle and keep your metabolism as high as possible whilst burning fat, make weight training a priority.”

Lifting Heavy Is The Fastest Way To Build Muscle

TRUTH: “The key consideration when looking to build muscle is the overall volume of work performed by the muscle, not the intensity of the lift,” says Jack. “If you want to maximise volume, aiming for the heaviest possible weight every set isn’t the most intelligent way to go. That doesn’t mean you can just grab a pair of 2.5kg dumbbells and expect to unleash your inner hulk with 50 sets of 100 reps – research has thankfully concluded there is such a thing as a minimum effective dose. The overall guidance suggests that ten sets per muscle per week is the minimum target, with rep ranges as high as 30 proving effective for muscle growth.” The weights you use should also depend on the rep range you’re aiming for. “Aim to have two or three reps in reserve at the end of every set until you get to the final, then it’s time to empty the tank with proper form.”
Running Is Bad For Your Knees

TRUTH: “The reality is: running badly is bad for your knees,” says Jack. “Numerous studies have found that running has a protective effect against arthritis, and that recreational runners have a lower risk of both knee and hip arthritis.” Problems arise when the muscles surrounding the knee aren’t strong enough to support the joint; in addition, weakness or imbalances in the core, hips, glutes and ankles can also contribute to pain. “Issues can also arise when running technique is poor. For most of us, running is something we’ve just done since we were children, so we don’t actively pay attention to posture, technique or running rhythm. The easiest way to improve your technique and reduce pain is to change your running cadence. Aim for shorter, smoother strides, which will reduce the impact on the back, hips and knees.”


Breakfast Is The Most Important Meal Of The Day

TRUTH: The question of whether breakfast is the most important meal of the day is one that has been heavily debated, says nutritionist Rob Hobson. “The research is conflicting but, in some cases, science does bust many of the myths surrounding the idea that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Observational studies have shown that people who eat breakfast tend to be healthier, but the nature of these studies means they can’t prove breakfast is the reason for this.” Rob says that breakfast eaters tend to have a healthier diet overall, but you could argue it’s the characteristics and lifestyle habits of breakfast eaters that defines their health, not the breakfast meal itself. Dr Michael Mosley, creator of The Fast 800, is a strong advocate of skipping breakfast, saying this can improve body composition, especially if you have weight to lose. “Eating breakfast later, or skipping it completely, can help reduce body fat, blood sugar levels, cholesterol, insulin resistance and give you more energy. And when you do eat breakfast, make sure there’s a good form of protein on your plate to keep you fuller for longer.”
Cutting Carbs Is The Most Effective Way To Lose Weight

TRUTH: The term ‘carbs’ has become synonymous with bread and pasta, but in reality carbs are found in a variety of foods, including the likes of oats, lentils and vegetables. “Carbs aren’t the be all and end all of weight loss,” explains Rob. “Firstly, we rarely eat carbs on their own, it’s often what you eat them with that’s the problem. For example, swapping a creamy pasta sauce for a tomato-based sauce with wholegrain pasta will provide far more nutrition. Switching to healthier carbs – i.e. wholegrain varieties – will also help control blood sugar.” True, some people lose fat on a low-carb plan, but it’s no magic bullet, adds Mike. “Cutting back on carbs, like any other food, can put you in a calorie deficit. However, whatever approach you use to lose weight will likely need to be continued for you to keep the weight off. So, ask yourself if it’s truly realistic for you to forgo carbs for the rest of your life. If it’s not sustainable, you’re wasting your time.”

“Eating breakfast later, or skipping it completely, can help reduce body fat and blood sugar levels, and give you more energy.”

If You Want To Build Muscle, It’s All About Protein

TRUTH: Yes and no. “Protein is important for the growth and recovery of muscle tissue, so alongside weight training, it will help you bulk up,” says Rob. “But you don’t need to stuff your face with it, and there’s no point anyway as the body can only take on board 25-30g at a time. As for how much, if you’re pushing weight regularly, aim for 1.2-1.7g of protein per kg of bodyweight per day – start at the lower end and see how you go. Remember timing is also key so don’t eat all your protein in a couple of sittings – you’re better off spreading your intake throughout the day.” As well as adequate protein, Mike says it pays to get enough total calories. “If your major goal is to build strength, eating enough calories to ensure you’re not in a calorie deficit is also crucial. This will ensure your muscles have the building blocks they need to make new muscle.”

A Healthy Diet Doesn’t Require Supplements

TRUTH: Most experts advocate a ‘food first’ approach. However, there are some nutrients that are hard to get from diet alone and there are days when we might not eat as well as we should. “For this reason, a good multivitamin can help bridge any nutritional gaps,” says Rob. “Plus, many of us struggle to eat the recommended two portions of oily fish per week, so taking an omega-3 supplement is good idea to keep your levels topped up. At the same time, vitamin D is impossible to get from diet alone, so you’ll need to supplement throughout the winter months regardless of how good your diet is.”
Eggs Will Raise Your Cholesterol Levels

TRUTH: Much of the confusion around eggs has stemmed from the fact egg yolks contain cholesterol. However, as Mike explains, to say that eating cholesterol will lead to high cholesterol levels is straight up wrong. Why? “Because the body makes most of the cholesterol we see in the blood. In fact, this is one of the liver’s main jobs. Studies that look at the impact of eggs on cholesterol show that when you eat an egg, your good cholesterol actually goes up, and LDL (the bad cholesterol) remains unchanged.” At present, the majority of studies show eating one to three eggs per day is completely safe. However, it’s best to cook them without adding salt or fat, as frying eggs with oil or butter can increase their fat content by 50%, which will impact cholesterol levels. Stick to poached, boiled or baked eggs and serve with plenty of fibre in the form of wholegrain carbs, fruit and vegetables for a rounded meal that won’t negatively impact your cholesterol.

For more information, head to,, Train.Fitness and The Fast 800.
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