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Health myths #2

Published by
April 23, 2019

Health has become a topic that more and more people are starting to engage with in their free time. There is a growing focus on health and how a healthy lifestyle can help us prevent diseases, achieve physical and mental well-being and have a beautiful and strong body. For many, a healthy diet and regular exercise become part of their identity. In the pursuit of healthy living, we come across many claims about how to do it right or wrong. It is not always easy to know what is true and what is just a scam to boost the sales of certain health products.

Many of the myths debunked in this and the following articles are based on the book "100 myths about exercise and weight loss" by Bente Klarlund Pedersen and Morten Zacho, who are highly experienced in the field of sport and health.

You can eat whatever you want as long as you exercise?

That would be great if it were true. But unfortunately, it's not. Sure, we burn a lot of energy when we exercise, but it doesn't take much to get that amount of energy back with food. For example, if we go spinning in the gym, which is an hour where we give it all we've got, we burn around 600 kcal. That's what's in a bar of chocolate or 100 grams of salted peanuts, for example. So what takes an hour to burn on the spinning bike can easily be consumed again in less time. So it requires that you keep an eye on what you eat even if you are exercising.

You get more injuries from training with free weights than with machines?

The reason why you might think that you get less injuries from exercising with machines is that you are pressing or lifting weights in a more controlled direction. However, whether you train with machines or free weights, you can get injured by, for example, lifting too heavy or using the wrong technique. In 2010, a large American study was published that looked at all weight training injuries over a 17-year period. It found that more injuries had occurred during training with free weights. However, the majority of these injuries were not caused by poor execution of the exercise itself, but by people dropping weights on themselves and injuring themselves.
Whether strength training with free weights or with machines, the risk of injury is much lower than in many other sports.

Diet soft drinks are unhealthy?

Many people avoid diet soda because they believe that the added sweetener is harmful to the body. Often this is the sweetener aspartame. Aspartame contains the same amount of calories per gram as sugar, but as it is about 200 times sweeter than sugar, only a very small amount is added to achieve the sweet taste. It is an artificially produced sweetener made up of 2 types of amino acids, which are protein components found in meat, eggs, vegetables and other foods. Aspartame has been extensively studied in various experiments and has been approved for safety and is not harmful in the permitted amounts. The conversion of aspartame to methanol in the gut has been a concern for some, but the amount is so small that there is no measurable increase in blood methanol levels. This means that diet soft drinks can be a good alternative when trying to reduce calorie intake.

You eat more with large portions?

We have a tendency to want to finish our food. So if we are served a larger portion of food in a restaurant, we will eat more than if we were served a smaller dish. Similarly, if a large pot of food is placed on the table for dinner, we eat more than if the pot was not there. The same applies to the pack sizes of the food we buy. We drink more soda if the bottle is big than if it is small, and we put more pasta in the pot if the package is big rather than if the pasta bag is half the size.
Our body is not able to detect fluctuations in our daily energy intake of less than 20%. This means that we can, for example, consume 200 kcal too little or too much per day, if our energy needs are 2000 kcal per day, without feeling super hungry or too full. For this reason, you can quickly gain a few kilos without noticing that you are eating more than your body needs.

By Josefine Huusom