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Have you ever overheard an enthusiastic person shouting ‘No Pain, No Gain’ during a workout? Or maybe you’ve been repeatedly told that eating carbs makes you fat? It’s difficult to remember where we get our health information from and misguided advice about feeling good can become so ingrained it’s hard to shake loose, even when we’re presented with compelling evidence.

It shouldn’t come as a shock that studies have shown exercise reduces the inflammation that occurs with ageing, making it vital to helping your body stay young. When making decisions about how you want to live a healthier life, it’s important to do your research and separate fact from fiction. Make sure you’re listening to reputable sources.

Today, I want to set the record straight about five of the many myths about exercise and food.

1. No Pain, No Gain

I want to start with one of the most famous exercise mottos: No Pain, No Gain. Nobody can deny the benefits of pushing yourself when you exercise and extending the limits of your stamina, but, it’s 100% false that a vigorous workout should leave you feeling awful the next day. This myth has been tackled by researchers, doctors and even the TV show MythBusters.

“Some muscle soreness is unavoidable, especially if you are new to exercise,” says Dr Brian Parr, a certified Clinical Exercise Specialist for the American College of Sports Medicine. “The idea that exercise should hurt is simply wrong—muscle pain during or following exercise usually suggests an injury.

Challenge yourself when you exercise, but if you experience severe pain, stop. As well as damaging your body, you’re probably killing any desire to ever work out again!

2. Eating Carbs Makes You Fat

Many of the latest fad diets and accelerated fat loss regimes are obsessed with cutting out carbohydrates. However, things are not that simple. You need to make sure you are striking a healthy balance.

“A Pop-Tart (carbohydrate-rich) and a pear (also carbohydrate-rich) are not the same things,” says Las Vegas-based registered dietitian Andy Bellatti. “The problem is refined and highly-processed carbohydrates, which can trigger cravings.”

If you get most of your carbs in the form of sugar, you’re consuming something high in calories and fairly low in nutritional value. By eliminating carbs altogether though, you won’t enjoy the health benefits of whole grain foods. Choose natural sources of carbs, that aren’t highly-processed and focus on your food’s nutritional value.   

3. The More You Sweat, the More Calories You Burn

Are you always soaked after your run or gym session? Well done! I hope it’s because you’re pushing yourself and nailing your workout goals. Unfortunately, lots of sweat doesn’t always mean you burned any more calories.

“The truth is, no matter how much or little you sweat, it doesn’t always correlate to calories burned or how hard you’re working,” says Jessica Matthews, Senior Adviser on Health and Fitness for the American Council on Exercise (ACE). The reason you’re sweating can be down to the weather, the temperature of the gym, or even the fact you just sweat more than the average person.

4. All Sugars are the Same

Even though it occurs naturally, not all sugars have the same effects on our bodies. There are different types of sugar, and studies have shown that large doses of certain kinds of sugar, especially high-fructose corn syrup, can have a devastating effect on our health. While it is undoubtedly best to cut back on all types of sugar intake, there is a difference in how the body processes glucose and fructose.

The consumption of sugar releases insulin and a diet chronically high in sugar can lead to the development of insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes. Also, as your body metabolises sugar, it creates an inflammatory process that harms skin cells and turns off your natural defence against skin damage and ageing. 

Choose sugars that have a low G.I. (glycemic index), such as stevia, palmyra jaggery or coconut palm sugar. Get the lowdown on sugars to choose which one is best for the foods you eat.

5. Stretching Before Exercise Prevents Injury

Full disclosure before I talk about this last myth – it’s a contentious issue and you can find many articles which are pro and anti-stretching. I think the real problem arises because people mistake ‘stretching’ with the importance of ‘warming up’.

It is crucial to warm up properly before you exercise, but studies have shown stretching on its own pre workout has no benefits in preventing injury, and could ultimately hinder your performance.

Concentrate on starting your workout with a proper warm up, one that heats and loosens the body.

The science is clear: Maintaining a healthy weight, through eating the right food and exercising properly, is vital to not only living a longer life but making sure your body is in the best possible shape to enjoy those years.

Remember, research into what we know about exercise is ongoing. If you read or hear a claim that doesn’t sound right, make sure to do quality research. Look for studies and reputable sources to support the allegation. You will probably encounter a lot of contradictory information, so it’s important to approach any new claims with both a healthy dose of scepticism and a willingness to let go of any pre-conceived opinions.

Finally, it should go without saying that if you encounter significant pain with your exercise regime, or worrying health issues with your dietary choices, you should seek the advice of a trained medical professional.