With information on nutrition so readily available, it’s no wonder that many women have taken to following the latest health tips and trends available. However, popular misconceptions or conflicting information can cause them to be misled. Here are some common nutrition mistakes women tend to make that can actually be easily avoided.
1. Not being properly hydrated
When people think about nutrition, they often place the bulk of their focus on solid food, neglecting to consider whether their daily intake of water is ideal or even sufficient. In fact, not drinking enough can lead to headaches and dizziness, or even more dangerous long-term issues like loss of kidney and liver function, cholesterol problems, and muscle damage. Thirst can also be mistaken for hunger, leading to overeating.
Of course, all this is easily preventable if you just sip on water throughout the day. The key is to make water both accessible and appealing, for example, having a tumbler of water with lemon slices and a handful of your favourite berries within arms’ reach.
2. High-carb intake
When women consume a high proportion of carbohydrates as part of their diets, their bodies adapt to preferentially metabolising glucose rather than fat, which leads to cravings for high-energy foods often laden with fat and sugar. In fact, studies have shown that triglycerides and LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream, which increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes, increase when women replace dietary fat with carbs.
Instead of getting all your nutrients from carbohydrates, try a higher protein intake to maintain lean mass, a decent amount of healthy fat (about 35 percent of your daily intake), and a moderate carb intake (about 40 percent of your daily intake).
3. Taking the wrong kind of fat
Although there is truth in the notion that incorporating “good fat” into your diet yields benefits, the proportion and type of fat you choose is equally, if not more important. For instance, a high intake of omega-6 fat has been shown to be harmful to women because they experience a higher conversion of pro-inflammatory compounds (called eicosanoids), which have carcinogenic and obesity effects.
However, consuming the right types of fat in the right amounts is paramount for healthy living. In particular, unsaturated fats (when consumed in moderation) are beneficial in improving blood cholesterol levels, stabilising heart rhythms and easing inflammation. Under the broad umbrella of unsaturated fats, there are monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats can be found in foods like avocados, olive and canola oil, almonds, hazelnuts and pumpkin seeds, while polyunsaturated fats can be found in walnuts, fish, sunflower and corn oils, flax seeds and walnuts.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but consistency is one of the most important things to note if you’re concerned about the nutrients you’re putting into your body. Many women find that despite making adjustments to their diet and making the effort to make wise food choices, they feel and see no physical changes. Most of the time, this is due to both the discrepancies in the types of food they consume and unrealistic expectations. For example, they may have a healthy salad for lunch but not realise that they graze on oily or salty snacks throughout the day.
While it may be difficult to break old habits, you can make it easier on yourself by using the weekend to prepare home-cooked meals that you can bring with you to the workplace, and making sure the snacks that are available to you are healthier choices (such as dried fruits and nuts).
5. Lack of supplements
Many supplements, notably performance supplements like creatine and beta alanine, are often avoided by women because of the mass-gaining tendencies they tout. However, these fears are often misplaced because the supplements have different effects on men and women.
For example, a study showed men tend to gain 3 to 9 pounds of lean mass from creatine while women are more likely to experience a drop in body fat percentage because creatine improves work capacity, allowing for a better quality workout.
Similarly, beta alanine raises levels of carnosine, increasing work capacity at high intensities, making it ideal for high-intensity workouts like sprinting or CrossFit, and it has the added benefit of improving strength in older women who are at risk of reduced muscle and functional ability.
When it comes to fat-loss, women DO have a metabolic advantage over men as their hormonal profile allows them to burn more fat during bouts of physical exertion. However, this does not mean that women can afford to take the Mickey when it comes to minding their nutrition. By taking the necessary steps to optimise your approach, you stand only to gain from the effort. Not to mention you’ll look and feel better too!