Not many things grind my gears like the dissemination of misinformation. Here’s a quick and dirty 5 myths that really just don’t stand up, and we’d all do better to forget about.
- Flexibility is Mobility
Flexibility and mobility are definitely not synonymous. It was inevitable that following the fitness world’s rediscovery of the barbell, thanks to crossfit (seriously, they’ve been the standard since the 1930s), and the glorification of “functional, full body movements” that enough injured, stiff, physically incompetent individuals would see value in achieving range of motion. So we got ROMwods. We started rolling around on the ground on foam rollers – we tried ten different “glute activation” drills before leg day. Being immersed in this, on the floor of a gym, trust me, the payouts for people’s efforts just aren’t there. Lasting changes in motor control and tissue just aren’t happening. Active efforts yield active results, passive efforts yield passive results. Thanks for the succinctness, Dr. Spina. My FRC certification seminar really sunk the point home. Flexibility is defined by the ability of tissue to passively be mobilized. Mobility is defined by the ability of a joint, the place at which movement occurs, to actively produce movement. Consequently, it’s entirely possible to achieve flexibility in any given tissue by applying continued, progressive, external forces, at the tissue’s end range of motion, in order to convince the body to allow movement there. These efforts do not translate to the ability of the joints involved expanding their force producing and absorbing capacity, ie. their mobility. “Lengthening” one’s hip flexors by driving the front of your pelvis onto a foam roller, will not give you stronger end range hip extension, say, at the top of your power snatch. Actively training end range hip internal rotation however, might be a good place to start.
- Fats are bad for you.
I’m a personal trainer. NOT a nutritionist. Still, people love talking to me about food. When people want to talk nutrition with me, however, and their questions reveal that they’re seeing fat as something to be avoided, I admit, those conversations rarely proceed. We’ve been eating all kinds of crazy things for the duration of our species, some with more success than others, and in the past hundred years, we’ve managed to both glorify and demonize every macronutrient (fats, carbs, proteins, fiber?) Sadly, fat still seems to be the most misunderstood, despite the relative popularity of the ketogenic diet. To be as brief as possible on the topic: fats are essential to the human diet. We lack the ability to synthesize fats from other macronutrients and therefore rely on a dietary source. Human tissue is made up of proteins and fats. Your brain in particular is essentially all fat. What kind of fat? The good ones? The bad ones? All of them. Cholesterol is necessary for the manufacture of every hormone in the body. Omega 3s? Yeah, every cell in your body desperately needs DHA, an omega 3 fatty acid, exclusively found in seafood, to achieve electrical coherence with your brain and nervous system. How are fats bad for you? Fats are bad when consumed in high amounts, in conjunction with high sugar or carbohydrate foods. Nature provides the simplest model: very few ecosystems will provide high sugar foods simultaneously with high fat foods. Giving your body primarily fat, or carbohydrates, as a fuel source, is the reasonable choice. Even then – on the high carb route, your body still needs fat for cellular repair. Finally, fats are bad for you when they’re bad fats. What’s a bad fat? Vegetable oil. I’m pointing specifically at canola oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, palm oil, and soybean oil. Highly processed, these fats are little more than economic and agricultural glut, loaded with pro-inflammatory omega 6s.
- Salt is bad for you.
Reduce your salt intake – prevent hypertension, control risk for cardiovascular disease. Whoops – looks like more epidemiologically based bogus. Thanks to the work of Dr. James Nicolantonio, author of the Salt Fix http://thesaltfix.com/ – leaders in world health are starting to revise the reduced salt recommendation. My two sense? The correlation between high salt intake and coronary heart disease might be there – clouded by numerous other factors though, like, lack of physical activity, consumption of high sugar + high fat foods, obesity, etc. A better question is – what’s salt good for? When we eat salt and fat together the trigger to our stomach and gall bladder is strong and clear – produce bile, become acidic, turn food to energy. This is absolutely critical to digestion. High stomach acidity is required for the production of key enzymes to be secreted. Sufficient pancreatic enzyme activity is required for food break down and therefore nutrient absorption. The more you digest, thanks to a fiery, acidic, stomach, the more you can absorb. The more you absorb, the better nourished you are, the fewer bottomless cravings you get, etc. Additionally, it’s worth mentioning that the majority of our water absorption occurs at the large intestine. The only way water ever makes it there, however, is when enough salt is present with the food consumed in order to assist passage and absorption of the meal in the small intestine. Think you need to eat an alkaline diet to keep your blood alkaline? You need an acidic intestinal ph in order to prevent the fermentation of starches and growth of pathogens in your guts, which provides a buffer for your blood, which is yes, ideally alkaline. Still targeting an alkaline blood state? Start practicing buteyko breathing. https://www.buteykobreathing.org/
Also – Andrew Mente, Martin J. O’Donnell, Salim Yusuf; Extreme Sodium Reductions for the Entire Population: Zealotry or Evidence Based?, American Journal of Hypertension, Volume 26, Issue 10, 1 October 2013, Pages 1187–1190, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajh/hpt148
- Fiber is necessary.
I know, I said I’m not a nutritionist, trust me, I’ve got more on exercise in a moment. What’s fiber anyway? By definition, fiber is that which is indigestible to the human body. When we eat fiber it doesn’t get absorbed in the stomach or the small intestine – it goes straight to the large intestine. Here’s where we’re told that “good bugs” living in there will digest these plant stuffs and somehow bestow good health upon us. Here’s the problem – study of the human intestinal biome is in its infancy. We have no clue what the markers of a “healthy” intestinal biome are – we aren’t even too sure what the primary inputs to changes in the gut biome are – though diet, exercise, and light are the top contenders. So before we go munching brussel sprouts and raw peppers for that bulky bug food, let’s see why else we’re told to eat fiber. To encourage bowel movements? Sure, adding more indigestible stuff to your diet will increase the mass entering your large intestine, leading to, well, bigger bowel movements. Question is – is this ideal? Epidemiology aside, this one study really makes it clear. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3435786/
Basically, patients with chronic constipation saw significant improvements in just two weeks of a very low fiber diet compared with those who made no changes. It’s definitely not my analogy, but if the problem is a traffic jam, nobody ever recommends adding more cars…
- Daily cardio is optimal for heart health
Aerobic exercise – moving your body with a heart rate elevated for long durations of time. Somehow we got ourselves convinced that this was the best thing we could offer our hearts. Let’s remember for a second that the heart is a muscle itself – involuntary, sure, but a muscle nonetheless. It plays an important job in circulating blood and keeping our cells oxygenated, allowing our mitochondria to produce energy for muscular contraction and cellular function. What do we know about muscles though? That healthy muscles contract and relax, produce and absorb force at various intensities. You want a stronger quadricep? Stress the muscle, challenge it’s present capacity – trigger a super-compensatory response, allow adequate time for recovery and try again, odds are you’re stronger. Why would the training of cardiac tissue be any different? Asking the heart to function at elevated output for extended periods of time might be a great way to trigger hypertrophy and improve aerobic respiration. Repeating the same effort day after day? Sounds like overtraining. Nobody lifts the same weight every day, performing the same exercise, hoping to challenge a skeletal muscle to grow. The heart absolutely needs a similar window of time for recovery. Sure, low intensity steady state cardio sessions can happen everyday, and as long as they’re easy enough, won’t lead to overtraining. Is this the best strategy for optimizing cardiac output? VO2 max? Aerobic respiration? Not quite…
Get in touch with me if you’ve got any questions!