The facts and the myths about diet and exercise

The Lord Mayor of Portsmouth, Cllr Ken Ellcome, cuts a cake accompanied by Tesco staff, members of Solent Mind and other local organisations as Tesco at North Harbour joined the Dementia Action Alliance. Picture: Habibur Rahman

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Are you a little confused by some of the information you are bombarded with daily to do with diet and fitness?

Me too. It’s easy to get it wrong. So I’ve decided to separate some of the facts from the myths.

I hope this helps.

Dietary cholesterol has very little effect on blood cholesterol – FACT

For so long we were told that the more dietary cholesterol you ate the worse your blood cholesterol would be.

The truth is that it is excess sugars in the blood that get converted to dietary cholesterol, so it is carbohydrate intake that needs to drop, not dietary cholesterol.

While you don’t want to eat excess cholesterol from fats for other reasons, you’ll see in point three why dietary cholesterol positively helps you get healthy and look better!

The short answer is that you need some dietary cholesterol because it is the starting point for the production of vitamin D and our sex hormones, both of which make us look and feel better and enjoy life much more.

So don’t shun dietary cholesterol – get about 10g of saturated fat each day from things like butter, offal and egg yolks.

You can get stronger and look better without putting on lots of muscle – FACT

Have you ever seen some of the gymnasts and dancers who are very strong but also very agile and lean?

Granted some are also muscular but you can get stronger and function better without adding muscle if you don’t want it.

Look at a lot of martial artists – lean and powerful. Obviously if you want to be super strong, more muscle enables you to lift more – you don’t see many skinny guys in World’s Strongest Man right?

But there is much more to strength than size. Strength, whether you want to hold a handstand or be more athletic, comes from the ability to recruit a maximum number of muscle fibres during a movement and also from the ability to control your body as a unit rather than individual parts.

A great way to build this strength is to focus on the eccentric part of a weightlifting exercise, which is essentially the part where you lower the weight, controlling it against the downward force of gravity.

For instance, when learning push-ups, take three to four seconds to complete the downward phase then one second to come back up.

You’ll notice fast improvements in strength but unless you’re doing very high volume and eating like a horse you won’t stack on muscle but instead create a leaner, firmer, stronger physique.

Fats make you fat – MYTH

This myth came out of the 1990s and led to the creation of low fat foods which were much higher in sugar instead. And look what that did for society and obesity!

The truth is that too much saturated fat and trans fat will lead to a deterioration in your health and increased body fat.

But, as explained above, we positively need some saturated fats as they help build testosterone which at a body composition level is necessary for building lean muscle and giving us the drive and energy to train hard.

There’s a whole hormonal cascade involved but basically you need fats to build certain hormones.

Your cells are also built from fats so if you’re not consuming enough your cell structure will be poor. Given that your cells are the powerhouse of your metabolic system, don’t expect to lose fat or have much energy.

The problem with low fat diets is that they nearly always come with increased sugar intake which is much worse for your body fat and overall health. So up your olive oil, oily fish, avocado, coconut oil and nuts and seeds if you tolerate them and cut down the carbs.