After weeks of holiday indulgences, many runners are ready to start the New Year on a healthier foot, and often that means shedding pounds. But even the most health—savvy runners can get caught up in diet myths that sabotage their goals. "Weight loss is so complex and confusing because there is so much conflicting information out there," says Leslie Bonci, M.P.H., R.D., director of sports nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. With our experts' help and the latest research, we've dispelled six myths so you can start slimming down for good.
Myth #1: No Sweets Before Noon
Most runners who want to lose weight assume they have to forgo dessert. But not only can you have it, you can have it for breakfast, according to a study published in March 2012 in the journal Steroids: Researchers found that participants who ate a 600-calorie, carb-and protein-rich breakfast that included dessert, such as chocolate or ice cream, lost more weight over four months (and kept more off the following four months) than a group that ate a low-carb morning meal. "Dessert for breakfast sounds so sinful," says Bonci, "but if you allow yourself a tad more indulgent breakfast, you might eat less during the day instead of trying to be really 'good' and overcompensating later."
Make it work: Eat a 600-calorie or so breakfast rich in vegetables, fruit, protein, and carbs, and add a sweet if you crave it (try these Healthier Breakfast Tweaks to help you slim down.)
"Avoid calorie bombs, like mega chocolate chip muffins," says Bonci; "instead, have a shake made with vanilla yogurt, banana, peanut butter, and a little chocolate, or a banana muffin with almond butter."
Myth #2: Added Fiber Keeps You Full
High-fiber foods, like fruits and vegetables, take longer to digest and hold more water, which is why they fill you up and aid weight loss. Companies have capitalized on this by adding fiber to everything from yogurt to snack bars. But do these fibers work? University of Minnesota researchers had participants replace two meals a day with a low-fiber snack bar or one that contained 10 grams of added fiber. The results, (published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics,) show the added fiber had no effect on fullness and caused more bloating than the low-fiber bars. "Everyone in the food industry is jumping on the fiber bandwagon," says Bonci, "but as this study shows, not all fibers are created equal."
Make it work: To quell hunger, Bonci recommends sticking with foods naturally high in fiber-whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables. They tend to be lower-calorie and take up more room in the stomach than processed foods with fiber.