As the new year rolls around, so do the nutrition “influencers”, gurus and salespeople trying to get you to buy their program and eat just like them. Sometimes it just seems too good to be true – and most of the time it isn’t true at all! We want you to enter the New Year educated and able to navigate through the noise by teaching you how to spot bad nutrition advice (and find the right nutrition to get you to your goals!).
What are some Nutrition Red Flags?
The internet has a ton of great resources to help you on your fueling journey and a ton of “not so great” as well. It is important that as an athlete or active adult, you are able to navigate the advice to find the right info for you! Nutrition is something very individualized and it is important that you follow the RIGHT nutrition information for you! Here are some of the red flags to look out for when reading nutrition advice.
1. Advice Comes from an Unqualified Source
The first thing to do when looking for nutrition advice online is to make sure that you are analyzing the source of the information. It is important to think about WHO is recommending or explaining the nutrition advice. Is it a qualified source?
A great way to see if someone is qualified to give nutrition advice is to look for advice from Registered Dietitians. Registered Dietitians have an ‘RD’ or ‘RDN’ following their name. This means they are a Registered Dietitian and have completed a degree, nutrition residency, and completed a nationwide certification exam. Looking for this credential or reaching out to ask if someone is a dietitian is a great way to help weed out unqualified or unreliable sources.
2. Sounds Too Good to Be True
I hate to break it to you, but if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. A huge red flag to me is when a source or a brand is selling a product that promises a magic cure or a “one size fits all” approach.
Nutrition is extremely individualized and everyone should approach it differently. Sustainable long-term change takes time and won’t happen overnight and/or with a single product or supplement (and yes, this includes Ozempic).
3. The Focus is on Selling a Specific Product
If someone is trying to sell you something (especially if sounds too good to be true), this is a huge red flag. Multilevel marketing companies like Herbalife, Advocare, Arbonne, Juice Plus+ recruit people that work off of commission and are focused on sales rather than proper nutrition! They will tell you everything you want to hear, just so they can sell it to you. Don’t fall for it and do research on what the product actually is. Some of these companies do have quality products but it is important to do your research first. If you are still interested after that, great!
4. Use of Blanket Statements
If someone tells you “everyone” should do something or use the word “all”, this is a red flag! Nutrition is very individualized and an “all size fits one” approach is not proper nutrition advice. An easy example is to look at elimination diets that focus on eliminating certain foods or food groups. Not everyone should cut out dairy and gluten, only people with intolerances should. Cutting out whole food groups without a medical diagnosis or reason can leave you under-fueled from an energy perspective and also missing out on specific essential vitamins and minerals.
Where Can You Find Good Nutrition Advice?
My favorite place to recommend athletes get good nutrition advice is from Registered Dietitians! It can be through Instagram, 1:1 coaching, or any other platform that they may reach you. You can find Registered Dietitians running college sports nutrition pages, blogs, and podcasts that give factual, realistic nutrition advice.
Nutrition Myth vs. Fact!
Now that you have learned about some red flags when it comes to navigating nutrition advice, let’s put it to the test and see if you can pick out the good from the bad! Here are some of my favorite myths I get asked about.
“Fat Makes You Fat”
Fat is actually involved in many functions in the body, and believe it or not, it is not associated with body fat! This essential macronutrient is used as a long term energy source, insulation/protection, necessary for vitamin absorption, an anti-inflammatory tool, and hormone prodcution. Dietary fat alone will not cause an increase in body fat and not consuming enough can have many detrimental side effects like hormone imbalances and abnormal mesntrual cycles.
“Intermittent Fasting Will Help You Reach Performance Goals”
Fasted workouts are NOT better. I tell my athletes all the time that pre-workout fuel prepares your body with adequate energy to be able to go 100% the whole practice. If you train fasted, that just means you have less energy to work with and you will fatigue earlier than you would during fueling training. This will do the opposite of what you want and you won’t be able to complete the entire training. So, fuel before training!
“Carbs are Bad”
Our body needs carbohydrates to function. It is our bodies’ (specifically our brains’) favorite source of fuel as it is easily broken down. If we have fewer carbohydrates in our diet, protein and fat (which have their own functions) will be broken down for energy. If you are missing out on one macronutrient, it usually means your body will make up by breaking down another.
I hope you walk away from this post knowing how to navigate through the good and the bad when it comes to nutrition advice and recommendations. Not everything you see on the internet is true (but also not false!). Crazy right? It may be easy to fall into the belief that your favorite influencer is doing everything right and telling you all the right things, but just remember there is a lot more that goes into your nutrition than what tiktok says.
If you are looking for more nutrition education that is from a reliable source, I recommend our RBSN Library. From our RBSN Athlete Cookbook to our Beginners Guide to Sports Nutrition have hundreds of handouts and educational resources for sports professionals, athletes, and dietitians that are from science backed and from credible soruces.