Fad Diet Myths – Trends that may keep you from achieving your goals

Karlee Handy BSc and Dr. Lowell Greib MSc ND CISSN

Fad diets are everywhere. Have you been falling into the quick fix ‘trap’?  With social media influencers touting the next greatest trend or television hosts discussing their miracle diets, it is easy to fall into the vortex of ‘paleo’, ‘intermittent fasting’, ‘macro’, ‘beach body’, ‘gluten free’ or ‘keto’. As trained clinicians who deliver care based on the most current scientific evidence, it is difficult even for us to keep up. We, on occasion have our interest perked by “University Google”. Our goal is to debunk some of the confusion that currently exists and provide some solid scientific facts about how you can achieve looking and feeling your best self this  year. 

Fuelling is defined as the act of supplying or powering an industrial plant, vehicle, or machine with fuel. Think of your body as a highly intricate, multi-system and complex machine, and food is the fuel that makes things work. Just as a vehicle runs optimally on a full tank of premium gas, our bodies are the same.

There is great value in consistency when it comes to daily fuelling. Keeping on track with meeting nutritional demands that our body has will lead to ongoing improved performance of our bodily ‘machine’ throughout the entire day – both in sport and in other aspects of life.  Consistency is the first key to fuelling success and achieving your nutrition related goals.

Here are a few common myths that sports nutritionists frequently come across with clients due to misinformation in the media. 

  1. Carbohydrates are the devil and will make you fat.  This could not be more untrue, however numerous fad diets over the years base their entire meal plan off of this concept. Sure, foods such as pasta, donuts, and white bread need to be consumed in moderation but this doesn’t mean that there aren’t a wide array of quality carbohydrates out there for us to consume at little to no risk. Vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains are all examples of carbohydrates we should lean towards when decision making in the carb department.
  2. Fats will clog your arteries and give you heart disease. Certain dietary fats are, in fact, essential for a variety of functions; energy, cell growth, nutrient absorption, and hormone function, to name a few. When choosing what types of fats to consume, pay attention to saturated fats & trans fats vs. monounsaturated & polyunsaturated fats. Olive oil, avocado, and oily fish are great examples of healthy fats whereas foods such as bacon, margarine, fried food, and commercial baked goods can increase your risk of chronic disease2.
  3. Logging macronutrients will ensure optimal health. Trendy diets have the tendency to attempt to make fuelling overly simplistic.  By logging ones ‘macros’ there is the ability to control caloric intake. This, in turn could lead to body composition changes.  But what about the ‘micros’ – the vitamins and minerals that each of us need, on a daily basis, to optimize our biochemical performance?


In a time where finding clear & direct information is scarce, we will leave you with this: 3 easy tips to properly fuel your inner athlete. 

  1. Have frequent varied meals. Intermittent fasting is a hot topic in sport nutrition, however recent studies show that periods of fasting and/or malnourishment promote cortisol release in the body. Cortisol is one of our stress hormones and when it’s produced our body goes into survival mode. This can lead to inflammation, fat storage, profound loss of muscle mass, altered circadian rhythm, and ultimately disruption in our hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis3,4. By increasing variety in your diet, you will help ensure that all of your requirements are being met to help ensure you body is functioning optimally.
  2. Stay hydrated. Whoever said that 8 glasses of water a day was the perfect amount for everyone was wrong. Listen to your body – if you’re thirsty, drink more. Mild dehydration can present as dry lips and mouth, thirst, and low urine output. Exercise dehydrates the body substantially so be sure to hydrate before, during and after your workout. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, as little as 1% body weight loss can impact mental and physical performance significantly reducing blood volume and disrupting electrolyte balance5. Ensure proper hydration by checking the colour of your urine. Generally, the lighter the colour the more hydrated you are. Pale yellow to clear is normal and indicates that you’re well hydrated6.
  3. Ensure adequate protein. Next to water, the majority of your body should be composed of protein (muscle, bone, skin, hair, etc.) Your body requires protein for building and repairing tissue and synthesizing hormones and enzymes. Different sources of protein include meat, dairy, fish, soy, eggs, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds.  By improving our protein intake at every meal, this will allow for quicker recovery, muscle building, and curbing hunger. Everyone’s daily protein intake requirement is different, however protein should be the main priority in every meal & snack. This becomes even more important as we age!

These simple tips are the basis for daily fuelling.  Along with clear, concise information guided by science, you will be better positioned to offer your body the nutrition it needs for ongoing, optimal performance both in and out of sport.

The customized ‘Fuel your Inner Athlete’ program offered at The SportLab has been constructed to allow active individuals to achieve their goals. With complete body composition analysis and metabolism assessment, you are provided with a personalized fuelling plan that is simple to follow and easy to implement, allowing for ongoing success.

1. Recovery Nutrition – Sports Dietitians Australia (SDA) [Internet]. Sports Dietitians Australia (SDA). 2019 [cited 27 June 2019]. Available from: https://www.sportsdietitians.com.au/factsheets/fuelling-recovery/recovery-nutrition/

2. A Healthier You – Chapter 8. Fats, Added Sugars, and Salt [Internet]. Health.gov. 2019 [cited 27 June 2019]. Available from: https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2005/healthieryou/html/chapter8.html

3. Bergendahl, M. (1996). Fasting as a metabolic stress paradigm selectively amplifies cortisol secretory burst mass and delays the time of maximal nyctohemeral cortisol concentrations in healthy men. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 81(2), pp.692-699.

4. Braun, T. and Marks, D. (2015). The regulation of muscle mass by endogenous glucocorticoids. Frontiers in Physiology, 6.

5. Kerksick C, Harvey T, Stout J, Campbell B, Wilborn C, Kreider R et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: Nutrient timing. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2008;5(1).

6. Exercise and Fluid Replacement. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 2007;39(2):377-390.

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