• Herbalife Nutrition uncovers the most widespread nutritional myths Brits believe in, and the harm they’re causing to our nation’s health habits or even our bodies
  • Dr Richard Allison, Nutritionist at Herbalife Nutrition and Head of Performance Nutrition at Tottenham Hotspur’s Women’s team debunks the nation’s biggest fitness myths

The biggest nutritional myths unveiled and debunked - and the harm they’re causing to your body

A new study by Herbalife Nutrition, the leading global nutrition company, uncovers the biggest health and fitness myths most believed, and the harm these misconceptions are having on diet and exercise.

In a poll of over 1,000 Brits, over half (54%) still believe that certain foods can help you burn fat, over one in three (36%) believe fasting can make you lose weight quickly, and a further third (29%) say egg whites are more nutritious than egg yolks.

A quarter (26%) of Brits also believe you can eat whatever you want as long as you exercise, that you need to consume protein right after your workout (26%), and that carbs are bad for you or fattening (25%). A further quarter (24%) are adamant that plant-based protein isn’t as nutritious as animal protein, and one in five (21%) view all sugar as being bad for you, regardless of where it comes from. A further fifth (20%) also state that giving up gluten can help you to lose weight.

As a result, one in three (31%) find nutrition difficult to understand, making it more challenging to comprehend than map reading (26%), or DIY (26%).

How nutritional myths can be dangerous

The report unveiled widespread confusion among Brits and showed how misinformation has led them to live by false nutritional beliefs. Alarmingly, one in 10 (9%) Brits say health and fitness myths result in them not actually knowing what they’re putting into their body or are put off eating well or exercising regularly (9%).

A further one in 10 (11%) say myths have caused them to yo-yo diet or go on fad diets, many of which can either be dangerous or are an unsustainable approach to creating a healthier lifestyle – demonstrating the importance and value of sound nutritional advice and awareness.

One in five (18%) also say myths and misconceptions make it hard to stick to a plan, a further fifth (19%) don’t know who to believe, and 17% don’t even know where to start with diet and exercise, emphasising the need to combat misconceptions that exist around nutrition.

Dr Richard Allison, Nutritionist at Herbalife Nutrition, comments: “There are many common nutritional myths that have dominated public opinion for a long time, especially around dieting hacks and fitness improvement. These often suggest or promote a ‘one-size fits all’ approach. This has ultimately created an air of confusion around proper nutritional practices. It is our mission to disprove the myths and simplify the information out there so that people can work towards a healthier lifestyle without the stress of not knowing what to believe. The fact that one in six Brits (13%) say that these nutritional myths have meant they don’t feel confident with diet and exercise is alarming, and further proof that they need to be debunked for good”

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Here, Dr Richard Allison debunks the nation’s biggest nutritional myths:

Two-thirds (66%) of Brits believe you shouldn’t skip breakfast

Breakfast is your body’s first opportunity to refuel after 8-9 hours of fasting while asleep.  You need to replenish the glycogen stores that supply your body and muscles with energy. Skipping breakfast often could lead to a reduction of physical activity as your body would be lacking the necessary energy supplies to exercise/move efficiently. But it also depends on your lifestyle. For example, someone who works out first thing in the morning might not have their first meal of the day until 10/11 am or so. Therefore, it is important to adapt your intake to your personal needs, whether this is training, work or other aspects of your lifestyle

Three in five (59%) believe fresh food is more nutritious

Fresh food such as fruit and vegetables offer up a great supply of nutrients such as vitamin C, which is especially high in freshly picked vegetables. In recent times, food often has a long journey from harvest to the table and it’s possible that some of the nutrients will degrade in that time. As a general rule, fresh food can be seen to be more nutritious, but a lot of essential nutrients can be preserved with ‘rapid-freeze’ techniques as well.

Over half (54%) believe certain foods help you to burn fat

The term “fat-burning foods” can be more accurately interpreted as foods that help stimulate etabolism, reduce appetite, and reduce overall food intake. All foods stimulate metabolism – however, some types of food, such as chilli peppers,

can have a greater impact on metabolism than others. Eating these foods may contribute to weight loss. The most important factor, however, is maintaining a calorie deficit i.e., fewer calories in than out. Certain foods can make achieving this seems easier but make us feel fuller for longer. Nuts are one of these satiating foods and are also super-nutritious as they are high in protein and good fats, which are both beneficial for off-setting hunger.

Over 1 in 3 (36%) think that fasting can make you lose weight quickly

When you fast diet, you will naturally consume fewer calories than normal or no calories at all. Reducing your calorie intake can help you lose weight, but it will also alter the way that your body burns and stores fat. This may not be sustainable in the long term, as your body risks going into starvation mode, which holds a number of risks.

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Eating six small meals a day is better than three big meals – 36%

Eating six small meals a day may be a better approach to avoiding unhealthy snacking, as you won’t have as much time between meals to be tempted into a bad decision. However, as long as the nutrient intake between three big meals and six small meals is the same, then there shouldn’t be too much difference between which is the best option. The key factor for weight loss is total calorie intake, not the frequency of meals.

Egg whites are more nutritious than egg yolks – 29%

Both yolk and egg white are highly nutritious but in different ways. Egg yolk has a higher density of nutrients compared to egg white, mainly due to egg white predominantly consisting of water. Egg yolk on its own is a high-calorie food, containing 322 calories per 100g, whereas egg white has much fewer calories comparatively.

Low-fat foods lead to healthy, fat-free bodies – 29%

Following a very low-fat diet can put you at risk of becoming low in certain vitamins and that can impact the functionality of your immune system and reduce the body’s ability to heal itself. It’s better to avoid saturated fats and make sure that your diet includes healthier fats by including more fish, nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils including avocado and olives.

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You can eat whatever you want as long as you exercise – 26%

The truth of the matter is that if you have a diet where you ‘eat whatever you want’ and consume a large number of calories very quickly, particularly when you eat processed foods with minimal nutritional value, you’ll find it incredibly difficult to burn such a large number of calories. It is an unsustainable approach to rely solely on exercise and disregard the bodily need for food with high nutritional value.

You need to consume protein right after your workout – 26%

After a workout, your body will attempt to rebuild its glycogen stores as well as repair and regrow those muscle proteins. At a time like this, it’s particularly important to take in protein because eating the right nutrients will help your body to rebuild and restore much quicker. Although ingesting protein immediately after exercise is often recommended, the body’s ability to build muscle is elevated for hours after exercise, so consuming the right amount of daily protein is the priority over timing, for most people.

1 in 4 Brits (25%) think that carbs are bad for you / fattening –

When training, it is important to replenish your core muscle glycogen storage with carbohydrates, as these stores will have diminished during exercise. Also, carbohydrates can be good for you in a variety of ways – for example, an intake of carbohydrates later in the day may help to promote good sleep. But it does really need to be looked at on an individual basis as it’s not a one size fits all approach.

Supplements don’t work – 21%

In an ideal world, we’d all get the necessary level of daily nutrients from the food we eat however this isn’t always possible. For example, Herbalife Nutrition’s food supplements are designed to help you get the right daily level of vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, fibre, and protein in your diet. Global estimates reveal that only 20% of populations meet targets for omega-3 fatty acids, and very low blood levels of these are common across Europe. Therefore, millions of Europeans are failing to achieve DRVs, let alone the intakes required for optimal nutritional status. That’s why supplements can help! There are also certain groups who might benefit from a supplement; these include people who are trying to lose weight, sportspeople, vegans, vegetarians, and pre-menopausal women.

Supplements are unregulated/unsafe – 19%

Food supplements are regulated under food law, which is based on the principle that products must be safe for consumption and not misleadingly labelled. For example, all Herbalife Nutrition supplements go through rigorous testing in state-of-the-art labs, making sure they comply with all government requirements. Before you purchase supplements from any company, check they are regulated.

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Further nutritional myths unveiled in the study

  • Plant-based protein isn’t as nutritious as animal protein – 24%
  • All sugar is bad for you – 21%
  • Supplements don’t work – 21%
  • Giving up gluten can help you lose weight – 20%
  • There’s little or no protein in a vegan/vegetarian diet – 19%
  • Supplements are unregulated/unsafe – 19%
  • You shouldn’t eat the fruit in the afternoon or evening – 11%
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