lime halves

There’s a lot of nutrition misinformation out there in cyberspace. Seriously! There are so many blogs, articles and memes about food and nutrition that are unclear and misleading, if not completely untrue. It’s no wonder people are confused.

It’s all about context

One of the main reasons that nutrition is confusing is that everything depends on who you are and what you want. I get lots of questions like ‘will bread make me fat?’ and ‘is a nutribullet smoothie good for me?’ and the answer to most questions is ‘IT DEPENDS!’.

  • Are you an athlete?
  • Do you have a sedentary job?
  • Are you a child/teenager/adult?
  • Are you trying to gain or lose weight?
  • How often are you having bread or smoothies?
  • What other things are you eating?

These are just some of the factors that can influence any nutrition answer. Nothing in nutrition is black and white and what works well for you probably won’t work as well for the person next to you. That is why I encourage you to question any blanket nutrition ‘fact’ or food rule.


Starting your day with a slice of lemon in warm water will aid digestion

(…treat blemishes, reduce inflammation, cleanse you of toxins)

If everything online about a ‘slice of lemon in water’ were true, then this little mixture would give you the perfect physique and cure cancer to boot!

The Truth!

  • Lemons are a citrus fruit and contain about 80-85 mg of vitamin C. This is more than double our daily requirements. So a slice of lemon might contain anywhere between 5- 20g of vitamin C, depending on how big your slice is. Nice!
  • Lemons also contain other nutrients but in much smaller quantities: vitamin B6, potassium, copper, iron and calcium to name a few.
  • Water is essential for good health. We are about 80% water and H2O is used in most of our body’s processes.
  • When we digest food our body separates all these components and they are all absorbed through a range of different processes.
  • Regardless of what we eat, our stomach remains a very acidic environment which helps us to break food down. The small amount of citric acid in a slice of lemon has very little impact on the acidity of our stomach.
  • Our body controls its temperature and pH very efficiently. Regardless of what we eat our body stays at about 37 degrees Celsius, with a pH of 7.35-7.45.

While all these nutrients are very beneficial, they don’t negate the other foods that you are eating, and a lemon water is only one small part of your diet. You certainly need more than one glass of water per day, and your body needs a lot more nutrients than vitamin C alone.

What does this mean?

A glass of water with a slice of lemon is a refreshing way to start your day. The nutrients in the lemon will be absorbed and used for a range of physiological functions. The H2O will help to hydrate you, and it’s a nice change from water on its own. Our body absorbs all of those nutrients in the same way that it would if you were to drink a glass of water and eat and lemon. It doesn’t matter what time you have it or at what temperature.

Sugar turns to fat in your body

The Truth!

  • When we eat foods that contain carbohydrate and sugar our body works quite effectively to break those foods down into the smallest usable part; glucose.
  • Glucose travels around the body and some of it gets used for energy straight away while the rest is stored for later use in your liver and muscles as glycogen.
  • The body can store a substantial amount of glycogen and releases it for energy when our blood glucose drops. One study found that men can store approximately 500g of glycogen in their liver and muscles.
  • The more muscle you have, the more glycogen you will be able to store.
  • When we regularly consume more carbohydrate and sugar than we can store as glycogen, our body will then convert that excess glucose into fat.

What does this mean?

Your body is very capable of processing carbohydrate and sugar and using it for energy. So eating a slice of cake at a birthday party is not going to equal an increase in body fat. But, if you are having large volumes of carbohydrate and exceeding your energy needs then your body is likely to be storing the excess as fat tissue.  Figuring out the right amount of energy and carbohydrate for you is something that a nutritionist and dietitian can help you with.

Having a protein shake after the gym will build muscle

The Truth!

  • Protein is the building block of most of our body tissues, including muscle.
  • While everyone’s protein requirements are different, the recommended daily intake of protein for women is 46g and for men is 64g, per day. If you are an athlete trying to gain muscle mass, your protein requirements may go up to 1.2-2g per kilogram of body weight. So a 75kg male athlete may require 90 – 150g of protein per day.
  • Most Australian are consuming well above their recommended daily intake of protein without protein supplements. Adult men consume an average of 109g of protein per day and women consume an average of 73g of protein per day (ABS, 2011-12).
  • In order to build muscle, you need an energy surplus (consuming more energy than you are expending). Even if you are having enough protein, if you do not have enough energy in your diet your body will use its stores of fat and muscle to keep you functioning, preventing muscle growth.
  • It was believed that our body was much better at using protein directly after exercise. But sports science has revealed that while this is true, our muscles remain sensitive to protein for 24 hours after exercise.

What does this mean?

Having enough protein is important for muscle growth, but having a protein shake after the gym won’t guarantee ‘gains’. You can usually meet your protein requirements with whole foods, and doing this can help you to meet your energy requirements as well. You don’t have to eat as you’re leaving the gym either. If you plan your next meal or snack to contain some protein you’re well on your way to supporting muscle growth.

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