Hello everyone. Today’s article is a guest post from Brett Warren who develops sports supplements for Force Factor and enjoys leading a healthy, active lifestyle.
There is nothing like a good friend to tell you when you are doing something foolish. Hence the development of broscience, which the Urban Dictionary tells me is “the predominant brand of reasoning in bodybuilding circles where the anecdotal reports of jacked dudes are considered more credible than scientific research.” (“Broscience,” The Urban Dictionary)
I’m not one to tell you that broscience is always wrong. But, in a world where cutting edge health advice changes from day to day — and from the release of one new study to another — those jacked dudes are occasionally a little behind the times. Here are a few commonly held fallacies you might hear from the bros — and what is so insidious about these particular fallacies is that they sound so right! Each contains a nugget of truth and a dose of fantasy.
Fallacy: Soybeans are bad for you, especially if you are a man, because they contain — wait for it — estrogen.They’ll mess with your hormones, according to the bros. Stick with a nice juicy steak, for the sake of your sperm count.
Nugget of truth: Soybeans contain a substance called phytoestrogens, which are similar to estrogen.So do plenty of other foods that the soy scare artists don’t ever get around to mentioning, such as flaxseeds, garlic, hummus, peanuts and sesame seeds.
Fantasy: The idea that phytoestrogens can mess with men’s testosterone levels, men’s sperm counts, or that they can give men “man boobs” — and the converse idea that red meat has no hormonal effects on the human body. First of all, both men and women naturally have both testosterone and estrogen in their bodies — just in differing amounts. Estrogen is not kryptonite to men! Quite the contrary, since some studies show that phytoestrogens in the diet may offer some protection against breast, uterus and prostate cancer. Phytoestrogens have even been found to cause some tumors to grow more slowly. (For just one example, see “Soy May Stop Prostate Cancer Spread,” Science Daily, Nov. 9, 2010. Then follow the trail through Science Daily‘s archives for many more related stories.) Moreover, technically, since you are more likely to gain weight eating red meat than eating soy, eating meat is more likely to give you high estrogen levels than eating soy, because gaining weight increases the amount of estrogen in your body (fat cells are involved in the production of estrogen).
The bottom line: Soybeans eaten in moderation should not cause you any health problems and may actually benefit your health overall.
Fallacy: Fiber is always good for you.
Nugget of truth: Fiber is certainly helpful for many health conditions, especially digestive conditions such as constipation and diarrhea.
Fantasy: The idea that fiber is a magic cure for all digestive woes or that there is no such thing as too much fiber. More important than the amount of fiber you consume is the balance of soluble fiber, insoluble fiber and water in your diet. Soluble fiber attracts water and becomes a thick gel in the intestines. Insoluble fiber bulks up the stool. But if you have too much fiber and not enough water in your diet, stuffing fiber into your body will only constipate you.
The bottom line: Look carefully at the amount of soluble and insoluble fiber in your diet, especially if you are having digestive problems. Find out the recommended amount of each type of fiber for a person of your age and weight and then keep a food diary to figure out how much fiber you are actually consuming. Look closely at your water intake, as well and consider your individual situation. When it comes to fiber, as with so many other dietary issues, one size does not fit all. Like Goldilocks, you need neither too much nor too little, but just the right amount.
Fallacy: You can’t go wrong with cruciferous vegetables, like cauliflower and broccoli.
Nugget of truth: Cruciferous vegetables are powerhouses of nutrition.
Fantasy: The idea that any food is so good for you that you could eat it day in and day out with no ill effects. Cruciferous vegetables can affect the balance of thyroid hormones in your body. Few people eat them in vast quantities at several meals daily, but if you were to, for example, eat a kale salad with broccoli for lunch and dinner, every day for several months while dieting, you might find your blood thyroid levels moving in the hypothyroid direction.
The bottom line: Moderation, even when it comes to cruciferous vegetables, is key.
Fallacy: Fruit can’t make you gain weight.
Nugget of truth: People who go on raw vegan diets often find that fruit becomes their nutritional mainstay. In that situation, eating tons of fruit probably does make sense, because raw vegan diets are low on calories and raw vegans need whatever calories they can get.
Fantasy: The idea that non-raw-vegans, people who include plenty of cooked food and even, possibly, calorie dense foods such as meat and cheese in their diets, could bulk up on fruits and not expect to gain any way from the calories that fruit sugar is packed with.In particular, people who eat a lot of bread and fruit can develop problems with yeast and gas in their intestines if they eat the bread first and then the fruit, as bread digests more slowly than fruit and will create a plug preventing the fruit from being digested as quickly as it otherwise could be. All that fruit sugar can then sit in the intestines and slowly ferment the bread.
The bottom line: Know your own diet and know whether or not fruit is a good choice for you personally.
Fallacy: You can’t drink too much water.
Nugget of truth: We all need to drink plenty of water and most people don’t drink enough.
Fantasy: The idea that the more extreme the sport, the more water you should consume. Extreme athletes in some situations, are vulnerable to hyponatremia, a condition in which your electrolyte levels (and particularly your sodium levels) begin to drop, the body’s water level rises and cells begin to swell, causing edema and potentially death.
The bottom line: If you exercise moderately, drink to assuage your thirst and you will probably be fine. But if you are an extreme athlete, know the symptoms of hyponatremia and make sure to drink small amounts of water at a time. Drink a sport drink to replenish your electrolytes and during a long race or long workout, do not take anti-inflammatories such as aspirin, ibuprofen or acetominephin, as these drugs can make you more susceptible to hyponatremia.
For all these fallacies, the bottom line really is: know thyself. Know your body, your workout level and your nutritional status and make healthy, sensible choices based on that — and forget whatever your friends and family may be telling you that you can’t live without. Remember, it’s still your body — take care of it.
About the Author:
Brett Warren is a biochemical research scientist based in Boston, Massachusetts. He puts his expertise to work on a daily basis by developing sports supplements for Force Factor. Brett loves weightlifting and working out at the gym almost as much as he loves his job. In addition to his work with Force Factor, Brett spends lots of time with his family hiking, biking and enjoying the outdoors.