True – or not true?

Paolo Colombani 24. September 2020

Everyday wisdom is often persistent, especially when it comes to nutrition. Nutritionist Paolo Colombani examined the veracity of 5 nutritional myths that are likely to be of interest to athletes.

1. Animal fat is unhealthy

Not true

The myth of unhealthy animal fat has been around for an extremely long time and is thus not so quick to refute. This is repeatedly justified on the grounds that animal fat contains a lot of saturated fat, which promotes cardiovascular diseases. However, this link has never been proven and the current state of research clearly shows: there is no greater risk of developing cardiovascular diseases associated with or linked to the intake of saturated fat. And irrespective of whether it is saturated or animal fat: there is no nutrient or food that is healthy or unhealthy per se. The effect on people is always a question of the amount and, above all, the frequency with which we eat or drink something.

2. People need two litres of water a day

Half true

That is partly true. People need water. However, the quantity depends on many factors. A light woman needs less than a heavy man, a physically active person more than someone who barely moves, in high temperatures you need more than in cool temperatures. The minimum amount should be about one litre of fluids per day at a moderate ambient temperature, low physical activity, and low body weight. By the way, half a litre comes from solid food if you have a varied diet. The other extreme is in the case of extremely long endurance loads. Here we can expect an average of half a litre per hour. This amount can substantially increase in humid heat and completely decrease in dry cool weather. Those who exercise little and spend their time in pleasant temperatures can get by with 1-2 litres a day.

3. Raw vegetables are healthier than cooked ones

Neither nor

Right and wrong at the same time. There are so many different vegetables with such a diverse composition of nutrients, a blanket statement is impossible. In addition, the various cooking methods not only have different effects on the nutrients, but also on the physical structure of the vegetables. In the case of heat, individual vitamins as well as secondary plant substances such as phenols can be destroyed to a significant extent. However, this does not apply to all of these substances and the extent varies from substance to substance. One thing is for sure: heat causes the cells in vegetables to weaken, so the nutrients can be released and absorbed more easily. Generally speaking, heat is therefore neither good nor bad. Much more important than the raw or cooked state is whether you eat vegetables at all. You ought to eat three handful a day, also in sports. Important for athletes: vegetables should be eaten after and not immediately before energetic activities. Due to the relatively long digestion time, you will otherwise risk gastrointestinal problems during the exertion.




4. Bread makes you fat

Half true

Just as there is no nutrient or food that is healthy or unhealthy, no food or nutrient will generally make you fat. However: bread contains a decent amount of carbohydrates (about 40-50 g per 100 g of bread) and can therefore significantly affect weight management. Carbohydrates and fats are a constant point of contention, especially when it comes to weight control. There is no dispute about one of the essential properties of carbohydrates: they supply the muscles with energy. They are therefore ideal for any sport that requires regular and proper muscle work. Conversely, however, they can become problematic if we only move our muscles sparingly. In addition to this, particularly in the case of inactive contemporaries, the lipid metabolism will slow down even after a moderate intake of carbohydrates. In people who are less physically active, carbohydrates can therefore help to ensure that the fat reserves are retained in the body and not broken down. And since bread contains a decent amount of carbohydrates…

5. Eating in the evening makes you fat

True. And untrue.

No. Or yes. You can choose the answer you want. If you eat enough food before the evening meal to meet your daily caloric requirement, then food in the evening will make you fat. But not always. Because it depends on what you eat. And if your first meal of the day is in the evening, you will hardly get flabby at all. Anyway, it is nonsense that eating in the evening generally makes you fat. There are no valid reasons for eating – or not eating – certain nutrients after a certain time. Unless you want to sell a diet. Those who do a lot of sports on a regular basis actually need to eat all day long to get enough energy and nutrients. In such cases, skipping a meal is often counterproductive and not particularly conducive to performance.

Author Paolo Colombani is a scientist and nutritional expert. Paolo Colombani is a co-founder of the wiss Sports Nutrition Society ( Today he runs his own sports and nutrition coaching and consulting company (