The world and media has made nutrition and eating way more complicated than it needs to be. New types of dieting techniques are popping up every few months telling you what you can and can´t eat with new supplements and products flooding the market. Quite frankly it´s exhausting, confusing and completely unnecessary, as nutrition is actually quite simple.
That´s why I´m going to make it easy for you by breaking down some of the most common nutrition mistakes so you don´t fall victim to marketing. This will hopefully help you better understand how to manage your own health and nutrition and take away some of the confusion.
15 of the most common nutrition mistakes:
1) Paying more attention to calories than to food quality
Calories are not all equal. Counting calories do not mean you are eating healthier and does not ensure you are getting enough nutrients from the food you eat. The same amount of calories can be found in a Big Mac and a balanced homemade nutrient-rich meal but you are definitely not receiving the same amount of nutrients and will have a huge difference on the function of the body.
Rather focusing on the quality of the food you are eating and the composition of the food, instead of calories alone, can help you meet your daily nutrient requirements and benefit from your diet.
2) Overestimating your water consumption per day
To avoid this, use a jug or water bottle to help measure the amount of water you drink each day to ensure you are drinking enough. Fruit and vegetables will help contribute to your water consumption. A state of dehydration will only contribute to muscle fatigue and a reduced functioning of the body´s organs, which will require more energy to perform at the same intensities.
3) Not eating enough protein
This does not mean eating a steak with every meal and can be achieved on a vegan diet. The easiest way to achieve adequate protein each day is to ensure a source of protein with every meal and snack. Plant-based protein sources are best consumed when combined together within each meal to maximise protein absorption and increase the amount of essential amino acids needed to create a complete protein.
4) Eating something sweet & refined when you need a boost
This will only contribute more to the vicious cycle of energy highs and lows throughout the day. Cravings of sugar and greasy foods are heightened when blood glucose levels are low, which is why we often reach for a chocolate bar when we feel tired in the middle of the day for a quick fix. This will only create imbalanced blood glucose levels causing irritatbility, moodiness and irregular energy.
Instead aim to eat carbohydrates in combination with protein and healthy fat. This will help break this cycle and keep blood glucose levels stable, therefore, keeping energy levels constant. Good snack examples include an apple or banana with nut butter or a slice of cheese with seeded bread.
5) Cutting carbs during big training blocks or in stressful periods
During times of high stress or increased training loads, your body´s cortisol levels are naturally increased. As carbohydrates can help to reduce cortisol levels, adpting a low carb diet during these times will not only contribute to the body´s stress response and maintain an increased high level of cortisol but will also reduce your ability to maintain high intensities and increase your feelings of fatigue.
6) Getting nutrition advice from non-experts or documetries
Social media and Netflix are having more and more of an influence on the nutrition world. To be clear I am not talking about documentaries that show the truths of the food industry, I find this highly important to expose the disgusting manner animals are treated and how foods are manipulated with chemicals and GMOs. I am referring to influencers who give people nutrition and health advice who are not qualified to do so and documentaries that misinform the masses with false science. Aim to seek advice from qualified practitioners to provide you with evidence-based and individualised help.
7) Going >4 hours without food before a workout
To ensure you have enough energy to not only complete your workout but get the most out of it, you need to ensure your body and muscles have enough energy and reserves to prolong your stamina and power. Eating a combination of carbohydrates and protein before a workout will ensure your blood glucose levels are stable. Low blood glucose levels can leave you feeling lightheaded, nauseous, shaky and fatigued.
8) Overconsuming natural sugars & syrups
The hype of natural sweetners for baking and creating sweet treats has grown over the past few years. You can now buy rice syrup, coconut sugar and agave nectar, which people think they can eat without the consequences. However, at the end of the day sugar is sugar in the body and much like other syrups, they are digested in the same way as any other sugar. On top of this, syrups are all processed in the same manner.
9) Waking up with a coffee first thing in the morning
For people in a high stress period or who suffer with anxiety it is highly recommended to avoid drinking coffee first thing in the morning, especially on an empty stomach. This will only enhance feelings of anxiety and stress and can cause irritability and the shakes. Aim to rather have your first coffee mid morning after breakfast.
10) Drinking coffee after 16:00
Again this may not be the case for everyone but drinking coffee late in the day can negatively influence your ability to fall asleep and your sleep quality.
11) Skipping meals in the day & binge eating at night
This is quite common amoung those with a busy non-stop lifestyle, when there´s just no time to eat breakfast and lunch is simply forgotten about in the middle of all the chaos! Unfortunately, this is not helping you in any way. This is one of the most common causes of weight gain, digestive issues and low energy.
See a post on how to keep healthy on a busy schedule to help you make a few simple changes to avoid skipping meals.
12) Not reading the ingredients on food products
With so many food products on the market with false marketing and claims to be healthy, it is extremely important to have a good knowledge of what you are eating. This means reading the ingredients of each product thoroughly before purchasing it. This is also useful if you are looking to avoid supporting the use of certain ingredients such as palm oil or unnecessary preservatives.
13) Cooking with vegetable oils (e.g. sunflower, rapeseed, brat oil)
Vegetable oils have a much lower heat resistance than butter or coconut oil. When heated the oil goes through a series of chemical reactions such as oxidation. These reactions as well as reheating pre-heated oil can cause the formation of carcinogens such as aldehydes. These have been shown to be a large contributer to the development of illnesses and diseases such as cancers.
14) Drinking fruit juice concentrates without dilution
Undiluted fruit juice is just as high in sugar as sodas. When diluted, the sugar content is more than halved yet is still just as flavourful and will last twice as long. Fruit juice concentrates should be diluted with at least 50-75% water.
15) Purchasing cheap low-quality supplements
Always be careful of the supplements you choose to take. Many people take supplements without any knowledge of what they are taking, why they are taking it and what it consists of, which is not helping your health and may just be a complete waste of money. Low quality supplements are most commonly cheaper, can be purchased online and in supermarkets, contain different fillers and may not contain what they say they do. Reading the ingredients and doing your own research of the brands or asking an expert for advice will help you make an informed decision and hopefully ensure the quality and standards of the supplements you take are high.