Losing The Misconceptions
By: ~countrymouse~
15 February 2007

First of all, I am NOT a Doctor, Personal Trainer, Nutritionist. This article is for informational purposes only. Consult your physician before beginning any exercise program or changing your diet.

Many folks seem to have misconceptions when it comes to diets and fitness. The purpose of this and subsequent articles is to address some of these misconceptions and put more facts on the table. Our first topic will cover diet. Let’s begin.


Many folks regard a diet to be a strict adherence to a restriction of food for a specified amount of time. This is the main misconception regarding diets. A more appropriate definition is that a diet is the food you eat on a daily basis…day in and day out. Some diets are healthy, while others are not.

Within a healthy diet, the percentages of fats, carbohydrates (carb(s)) and proteins are within balanced proportion and caloric intake is less than or equal to caloric output.

Lets break down a healthy 1400-calorie diet.

This diet includes 4 meals per day, each meal being consumed approximately 3 hours (and no more than 4 hours) after the last one. (i.e.…7am, 10am, 2pm, 6pm). This is to keep the body fueled continuously through out the day.

1400 calories = 216 fat calories + 832 carb calories + 352 protein calories

1400 calories = 4 meals x 350 calories per meal

350 calories per meal = 54 fat calories + 208 carb calories + 88 protein calories

To break this down to match food labels…

350 calories = 6g fat + 52g carbs + 22g protein

To break this down into percentages…

15.5 % fat, 59.5 % carbs and 25 % protein

Regardless of the amount of calories you are consuming daily, the percentages listed lastly are typically followed for nearly every ‘diet’. With these percentages, your calories are balanced between fats, carbs and proteins.

The breakdowns above show just what a healthy meal consists of. The make up of each meal is important to ensure that the body functions properly. This is especially important when striving to lose weight.

Now, lets breakdown each component of each meal.


Another common misconception is that a fat-free diet is the way to lose weight. This is quite incorrect. In reality, you must consume fat to burn fat. Fats fuel the body, help absorb some vitamins, are the building blocks of hormones and they insulate nervous system tissue in the body. However, the type and amount of fat you consume is rather important to your health. Below are the different kinds of fats.

Unsaturated fats may be good for your heart. These are found in protein-rich meats, fish, nuts and olive, peanut and canola oils.

Saturated fats can raise cholesterol levels and increase risk of heart disease. These are found in meat and other animal products such as butter, cheese and all milk except skim. They are also found in oils like palm and coconut, which are used in most store-bought baked goods.

Trans fats can also raise cholesterol levels and increase risk of heart disease. These are the hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils found in margarine, baked goods and fried foods.



Yet another misconception is that carbs should be eliminated or severely restricted in any diet to lose or maintain weight. Again, in reality, your body needs carbs to function. The one thing to keep in mind when choosing food is the difference between good and bad carbs. Simple carbs are bad, while complex carbs are good.

The difference is that simple carbs are digested quickly and easily and cause a rapid elevation in blood sugar levels…resulting in a ‘spike’. Your body produces insulin to move sugar from your blood to cells where it’s used as energy. As long as the blood sugar levels are high, your body will produce insulin. When your blood sugar levels cannot meet the energy needs of your activity level, your blood sugar levels drop…resulting in a ‘crash’. When you eat again, your blood sugar levels will spike, though not as high as before and when you crash again, it will be worse than before. This cycle will continue with spikes and crashes until you break it by eating proteins and/or complex carbs. (i.e.…white sugar, lollipops, candy bars)

However, complex carbs are digested at a slower rate and do not cause such spikes or crashes in blood sugar levels. Since complex carbs are processed slower, they give you energy over a longer period of time. Also, with complex carbs, you are not hungry as often as with simple carbs. (i.e.…whole grain breads and cereals, pasta, rice)


Yet another misconception floating about is that excessive protein is needed to build muscle and burn fat. Protein is the main component of muscles, organs, glands, every living cell and all body fluids, except bile and urine. Below are the two different types of proteins.

Complete proteins are all meats, fish and other animal products like eggs, milk and milk products.

Incomplete proteins are grains, fruits and vegetables. However, plant proteins can be combined to form a complete protein (i.e.….beans and rice, milk and wheat cereal)

The difference between complete and incomplete proteins is the number of essential amino acids they provide. The human body needs 20 amino acids to process proteins. However, our bodies only produce 13. These are non-essential amino acids since we produce them and they are not gained from an outside source. However, there are 9 essential amino acids, which are found only in food, our bodies cannot make them.

Complete proteins provide for all 9 essential amino acids, while incomplete proteins lack 1 or more of the 9 essential amino acids.

Excessive protein, especially from meat, can lead to high cholesterol and even gout. Excessive protein can also put a strain on the kidneys since the extra waste matter from the metabolism of protein is excreted in the urine.

The best protein comes from lean meats, skinless poultry, fish, dry beans, lentils, legumes, eggs and peanut butter.

Ok, we have the components of our diet. Now, let’s talk about calories a bit.


Quite a number of people believe that by severely restricting the total number of calories eaten daily they will lose weight. This is much more fiction than fact. The reality of this is that the body needs a certain amount of calories to function…just to simply stay alive.

When the proper amount of calories to keep your heart beating, keep your lungs breathing and keep your brain functioning is not met, your body goes into starvation mode. Any food you put in, your body is going to store to provide energy for the above bodily functions to continue as well as stop all other ‘non-essential’ functions. This is your body’s way of surviving. When your body feels that it’s not going to get enough food to keep your basic life sustaining functions going, it will begin to use muscle tissue as fuel.

For women, the minimum amount of calories consumed is 1200 daily. Typically the minimum for men is 2000 daily. However there are formulas you can use to determine just how many calories you should be consuming daily.

For women…

655 + (9.6 x weight in kilos) + (1.8 x height in centimeters) - (4.7 x age in years) x activity multiplier below.

For men…

66 + (13.7 x weight in kilos) + (5 x height in centimeters) - (6.8 x age in years) x activity multiplier below.

If sedentary (little or no exercise, desk job) multiply by 1.2

If lightly active (light exercise 1-3 days a week) multiply by 1.375

If moderately active (moderate exercise 3-5 days a week) multiply by 1.55

If heavily active (hard exercise 6-7 days a week) multiply by 1.725

{Note: 1 inch = 2.54 centimeters and 2.2 pounds = 1 kilo}

The formulas above will give you the calories needed to maintain your current weight. Remember that each pound of weight is equal to 3500 calories. So to lose 1 pound of weight a week, you would need to reduce your calories by 3500. This can be done by either consuming 3500 less a week or by a combination of consuming fewer calories and burning extra calories in extra exercise.

If you were looking to gain weight, you would simply increase the amount of calories you are consuming by 3500 per pound you wish to gain over time.

You can also use the formulas above to determine how many calories you need to reach a specific weight goal. Simply use that weight in place of your current weight.

I hope this helps clarify why fad diets simply do not work for the long run and why your body needs a healthy balanced diet to function properly.

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