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4 Nutrition Myths That Are Hurting Your Fitness Results

U.S. News & World Report - Health logo U.S. News & World Report - Health 2/17/2017 K. Aleisha Fetters

gym group eating © (Getty Images) gym group eating Bust them for better workout performance, muscle gain and weight loss.

Spinning your wheels at the gym? It might be time to rethink what you’re putting in the tank.

After all, while it’s common knowledge that you can’t out-exercise a bad diet, a lot of exercisers assume their diets are healthier than they really are. They believe the nutrition choices are working toward their exercise results. In reality, however, they are doing anything but – contributing to lackluster workouts, caloric surpluses and fat gain.

Want to lose weight? Here's what not to do.: You've taken the first step: vowing to eat well, starting now. Many dieters are so determined to finally lose that weight that the pounds will indeed start to whittle away. The problem, though, is that many haven't learned from their mistakes – and within a month or so, they've returned to their poor eating habits.Here are seven of the most common dieting mistakes: 7 Diet Mistakes Sabotaging Your Weight Loss

Here, top nutritionists share the four most common nutrition myths that work against your fitness gains.

Myth 1: You Should Avoid Carbs to Lose Weight

While eating too much of any macronutrient – whether carbohydrates, protein or fat – can contribute to weight gain, you still need to consume enough carbohydrates to support your workouts.

“Your liver and muscles store carbs as glycogen for immediate fuel, which is what makes your body hum most efficiently during exercise,” explains nutrition scientist Lisa Davis, chief nutrition officer of Terra’s Kitchen healthy recipe delivery service. Without enough carbs on board, exercise performance suffers (even though your workouts feel just as hard, if not harder) and progress stalls.

Instead of taking a low-carb approach to weight loss, Davis recommends taking a smart-carb approach. Fuel your days with balanced meals containing about 40 percent of your calories from whole, unprocessed carbs such as quinoa, fruits, vegetables, oats, and whole-wheat bread. And lay off of the added sugars such as white pasta, baked goods, candy and sugary drinks like soda and fruit juice.

Whittle down your choices and your waistline.: <p>When you're ready to <a href="http://health.usnews.com/best-diet/best-weight-loss-diets">lose weight</a>, finding an effective, doable <a href="http://health.usnews.com/best-diet/">diet</a> that fits your food preferences, lifestyle and budget can be daunting. The choice also depends on whether you're looking for long-term weight loss, <a href="http://health.usnews.com/best-diet/best-fast-weight-loss-diets">quick results</a> or both. To make it easier, here's a glimpse at the top 15 weight-loss diets, as ranked by U.S. News and evaluated by nutrition experts.</p> 15 Best Weight-Loss Diets at a Glance

Myth 2: All Protein Bars Are a Good Source of Protein

Just because the label says “protein” doesn’t mean the wrapper contains much of it. In actuality, many protein bars contain fewer than 5 grams of protein along with more sugar than a candy bar and the calories of a full meal.

In certain situations – like when you’re hiking for hours and need plenty of fuel without stuffing multiple sandwiches in your pack – you need a lot of simple carbs, calories and relatively little protein. But when you’re looking for a quick, healthy snack, or a boost of muscle-building protein after a workout, some of these bars aren't ideal and can easily counteract your workouts, Davis says.

To give your muscles the protein they need, whether before, after or hours away from your workout, she recommends opting for a bar with at least 15 grams of protein. Sugar content should be below 5 grams per serving.

Battle of the Bars: <p>You don't want your protein bar to be glorified candy any more than you want to be eating a chalky equivalent of a dog treat. Unfortunately, that's what you get more often than not.</p><p>Taste preferences aside, you generally want to "avoid all bars with artificial colors, flavors, or sweeteners that are higher in sugar (listed in many ways, such as brown rice syrup, agave nectar, coconut nectar, high fructose corn syrup, etc.​)," says Julie Burns, M.S., R.D., founder of <a href="http://www.sportfuel.com/">SportFuel Inc</a>.®, a Chicago consulting firm, which offers personalized nutrition counseling to athletes including the Chicago Blackhawks, White Sox, Bears, and Bulls. She adds: The ideal range of macros, however, all depends on your goals. But here are some guidelines all men should follow:</p><p>- <strong>Before a workout, the type of carbs matter most. </strong>"You want slow-releasing carbs, which you can use before any type of workout," Burns says. For weightlifting, powerlifting, and endurance workouts, slow-release complex carbs, like modified starch and fiber, give you sustained energy; you won't need as much if you're doing HIIT or circuit training.</p><p>- <strong>Split any of the more calorie-dense bars in half for a snack.</strong> Just be careful; you don't want to down bars in place of food or you could gain unwanted weight. </p><p>- <strong>If you want a bar to serve as a meal replacement, you want at least 10-15g of fat</strong>—too little will prevent you from staying full. "We fully support a higher-fat diet as long as the quality and type are top-notch and it matches demands and goals," Burns adds. (The one time you don't want fat is immediately before or immediately after a typical hour-long gym session; research published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism shows a high-fat meal can blunt the production of growth hormone. It can also disrupt digestion prior to workouts and slow down digestion after.)</p><p>- <strong>You can subtract the fiber grams from the total amount of carbs to get net carbs</strong>—that's the total amount of carbs minus the fiber content and sugar alcohols, which your body can't digest. It'll give you a better idea of what you're eating.</p><p>Check out how Burns and SportFuel Inc.® sports nutritionist Alexandria Cotie ranked 13 protein bars on the market right now. Their criteria: Bars closest to real food that have quality protein sources and the most natural ingredients. That's why some bars, higher in natural sources of sugar, like dates, are higher on the list compared to ones with artificial sweeteners. </p><p><a href="http://www.mensfitness.com/nutrition/what-to-eat/best-superfoods-building-muscle">The best superfoods for building muscle </a> </p> The best protein bars, ranked

Myth 3: You Should Eat Immediately After You Leave the Gym to Recover Properly

You do need a blend of carbs and protein (most experts say a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio of the nutrients is best) following exercise for the body to recover and to get the most out of your workouts. But sucking down a shake as you exit the gym isn’t necessary, explains Chicago-based registered dietitian nutritionist Victoria Shanta Retelny. She points to 2017 research published in PeerJ that found that the post-exercise anabolic window (when you need to eat protein after your workout to build the most muscle) is much longer than previously believed – as long as several hours or more following exercise.

So while you’re going to build muscle whether you eat a snack immediately following your after-work workouts or you wait until dinnertime, doubling up could potentially result in overconsumption of calories, partly explaining why many people gain weight after starting a workout routine.

Try scheduling your regular meals around your workouts, she says. That way, you can make sure to get in plenty of post-workout nutrition without accidentally eating more food than you really need. As long as you eat a complete meal – with a combination of whole carbs, healthy fats and about 20 to 30 grams of protein – within a few hours of leaving the gym, you’ll give your muscles what you need.

Nurture your body.: While staying lean is a big part of good health, <a href="http://health.usnews.com/best-diet/best-weight-loss-diets">weight lost</a> doesn't always equal health gained. That new diet helping you fit into your swimsuit could be harming your health if it cuts out entire food groups, promotes supplements with little scientific backing or doesn't allow for adequate daily calories. That's why U.S. News' <a href="http://health.usnews.com/best-diet/best-healthy-eating-diets">Best Diets for Healthy Eating</a> rankings weigh nutritional completeness and safety to bring you the most sound approaches. Here's a look at the top 10:<br> The 10 Best Diets for Healthy Eating

Myth 4: Fasted Exercise Burns More Fat

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Exercising on empty, like first thing in the morning, tends to burn a greater percentage of calories from fat. But that doesn’t mean a greater number of total calories or even calories from fat, for that matter.

It all comes back to those levels of glycogen, or stored carbs, housed in the body’s liver and muscles, Davis says. During the night, the body burns through much of its glycogen reserves. So when you exercise first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, the body is forced to get more of its energy from fat than it would if your glycogen reserves were topped off. However, the body cannot exercise at as high of intensities when it runs on fat as opposed to carbs, and, at lower intensities, you burn fewer total carbs. Fun fact: You actually burn the greatest percentage of calories from fat when you’re sleeping, and no one’s calling that a workout.

A better morning workout strategy: Consume a small, carb-rich snack such as a banana and peanut butter or a fruit-filled protein shake, Davis says. It will give your body the carbohydrates it needs for you to exercise at a higher intensity, thereby burning more calories, including those from fat.

Copyright 2017 U.S. News & World Report

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