Dan Martin, Performance Nutritionist November 29, 2016

1. Too much protein will damage my kidneys – FALSE

Unless you are already predisposed to renal complications, there is no reason you should avoid more protein. Traditional recommendations for protein intake have been low (0.8g per kg of your bodyweight) however a more recent approach, especially in athletic populations is an increased protein intake (2.0g.kg.bw) for maintaining composition with no damage to the kidneys.

A recent study on 11 males designed to investigate this phenomenon showed consuming a diet with very high intake >3g.kg.bw vs their regular protein intake showed no effect on clinical markers of blood lipids and kidney function [1]. Similarly, a larger scale study of 42 participants conducted on both genders reported intakes of 3.4g.kg.bw with no deleterious effects [2]. Go ahead – eat meat!

2. A high carbohydrate diet will get the most out of my endurance training – FALSE

Technically speaking, if you are well fuelled and use products such as energy gels during your training you will be likely to go for longer than if you restricted carbohydrate intake, however this isn’t necessarily the most effective or efficient way to gain adaptations.

Multiple studies have indicated that by training in a state of low-carbohydrate results in increased cell signalling for adaptations to occur such as more mitochondria [3,4] (the power stations in our muscles). The key is to refuel after your session with both carbohydrates and protein.

3. All fats are bad fats – FALSE

Not all fats are the same – saturated fats are associated with weight gain and increased risks of heart disease and should remain minimal in our diets where unsaturated fats are actually beneficial to health. Fats in foods such as avocados, nuts and oily fish and are key to optimal neural function and absorption of nutrients from foods.

Supplementation of Omega-3 is an easy strategy to ensure a consistent intake of good fats alongside your existing diet.

4. Sunlight is best source of Vitamin D – TRUE

Whilst we can obtain Vitamin D from foods such as fish, eggs and fortified cereals the best source of Vitamin D is sunlight. Due to a combination of our often cloudy and chilly climate leading us to wear long-sleeves and spend more time indoors, many of the UK are not getting enough Vitamin D.

Vitamin D plays key roles in bone health, immune function and muscle cell growth. To prevent deficiency a Vitamin D3 supplement alongside a healthy diet can certainly help.

5. Avoid caffeine at all costs– FALSE

Caffeine is available in many forms- some you should avoid, some you should embrace, and some you should strategize. Drinks such as tea and coffee are rich in antioxidants and can contribute to our antioxidant intake so a hot drink in the morning may not be such a bad thing!

Caffeine can help boost performance and the perception of fatigue during training – especially if training with low carbohydrate. Sugar-laden fizzy caffeine drinks should be avoided in favour of an espresso shot or calorie-free alternative such as Kick-Start pills or Kick-Start Gum if in need of a caffeine boost before a workout. Aim for 2-3mg.kg.bw.

6. All supplements are safe – FALSE

It is estimated that up to one in four off-the-shelf supplements inadvertently contain a banned substance [5], often becoming contaminated during the manufacturing process. These contaminations may not only be substances banned from sport, they could be hazardous to general health and wellbeing.

To help protect the health and integrity of athletes, the Informed Sport program was launched where supplements are independently ‘batch tested’ for harmful and banned substances prior to sale. Unlike most companies Healthspan Elite prides itself on batch testing 100% of its products before allowing its customers and athletes to use them.

7. I can carb-load in 1-day – TRUE

A traditional carb-load used to consist of a glycogen depletion session as much as a week before competition followed by a week of high carbohydrate intake - many still use this approach but over a shortened three-day protocol.

Using muscle biopsies to measure muscle glycogen, more informed studies show that muscle glycogen can be maximised by just one day of high carbohydrate feeding (10g.kg.bw) [6] and no need for a potentially damaging depletion session. A further two (or more) days of feeding makes no difference to stored glycogen levels!

8. Weight loss leads to loss in my strength gains – FALSE

If done properly it is possible to eat more, whilst losing significant weight, whilst maintaining (and even improving!) strength by focussing on losing fat mass and preventing lean tissue from deteriorating.

Studies conducted on athletes have shown weight-loss up to 7.7kg (17lbs) whilst maintaining and improving upper and lower body strength. How? A structured meal plan of six protein-containing meals spread evenly through the day with total calorie intake equal to your RMR [7,8]

9. I should avoid liquid and shake based diets for weight loss – TRUE

Adopting a liquid or shake based diet can be a real miserable way of losing weight. Liquid based diets fail to satisfy our appetite due to our hunger hormone ‘ghrelin’ remaining elevated leading to the feeling of hunger returning much sooner than a food based feed [9].

Relying on liquid based diets often means a deficiency in protein and micronutrient intake that we can only get from food. This means any weight loss may be from muscle, not fat loss, and a lack of vitamins opening us up to illnesses.

10. Regular detoxes and cleanses are good for optimal health – FALSE

Our bodies have two outstanding detoxifying organs, our liver and kidneys not to mention the work of our respiratory tract which prevent airborne toxins entering our body. A detox diet usually consists of a liquid, fruit and veg based intake meaning a deficiency in macronutrient intake.

Day’s worth of low fat intake can lead to an inability to focus or concentrate, low protein will lead to muscle wasting and low carbohydrate can lead to feelings of lethargy and low mood. The whole point of the detox was to increase vigour and energy – perhaps a little contradictory?

11. Green Tea is an effective fat burner – FALSE

Several studies have set out to investigate the claims that green tea holds the power to burn fat. A systematic review and meta-analysis of 1243 participants concluded that whilst there is some evidence of increases in fat loss during the trials the clinical significance of the fat lost is “modest at best” [10]. It’s also worth pointing out that during some studies increases in exercise and healthy eating were also practiced.

Green tea as a drink is an excellent low calorie, low caffeine alternative to tea and coffee so drink it up. If it does have fat-burning properties, then that’s just an added bonus!

12. Frozen fruit and veg are just as good as fresh – TRUE

In some cases, the frozen stuff may well be better! As fresh produce ripens its sugar content increases whilst its nutrient density decreases meaning not all fruit and veg have equal nutrient content! Produce which is quickly frozen retains the nutrient content whilst stopping the ripening process.

Frozen fruit and veg can be easier to work with and more versatile than fresh – throw them in to your cooking, create smoothies or push the boat out and make some sorbets.


1. Antonio, J. et al. (2016). The effects of a high protein diet on indices of health and body composition – a crossover trial in resistance-trained men, Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition, 13 (3)
2. Antonio, J. et al. (2015). A high protein diet (3.4g/kg/d) combined with a heavy resistance training program improves body composition in healthy trained men and women – a follow-up investigation, Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition, 12 (39)
3. Impey, S.G. et al. (2016). Fuel for the work required: a practical approach to amalgamating train low-low paradigms for endurance athletes, Physiological Reports, 4(10)
4. Psilander, N. (2013). Exercise with low glycogen increases PGC-1a gene expression in human skeletal muscle, European Journal of Applied Physiology, 113, 951–963
5. Sport and Exercise Nutrition Register (SENr). (2016). Supplement use in sport: Position Statement, Sport and Exercise Nutrition Register, Birmingham
6. Bussau, V.A. et al. (2002). Carbohydrate loading in himan muscle: an improved 1 day protocol, European Journal of Applied Physiology, 87, 290-295
7. Wilson, G. et al. (2012). An alternate dietary strategy to make weight improves mood, decreases body fat and removes the necessity for dehydration: a case-study from a professional jockey. International Journal Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. 22(3), 225-31
8. Wilson, G. et al. (2015). Fasted exercise and increased dietary protein reduces body fat and improves strength in jockeys. International Journal of Sports Medicine. 36(12), 1008-1014 
9. Tieken, S.M. et al. (2008). Effects of solid versus liquid meal-replacement products of similar energy content on hunger, satiety, and appetite-regulating hormones in older adults, Hormone and Metabolism Research, 39(5), 389-394
10. Phung, O.J. et al. (2010). Effect of green tea catechins with or without caffeine on anthropometric measures: a systematic review and meta-analysis, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 91(1), 71-81

Nothing beats a healthy, balanced diet to provide all the nutrients we need. But when this isn't possible, supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying supplements or herbal medicines.



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