Recent studies have shown that people who think they’re eating healthy foods are actually consuming foods with significantly more calories than they think. Plus, research has shown that when people are trying to lose weight, they tend to eat less food when they’re told they’re doing better than the average dieter. Our brains let us know when we’re doing better than others, but not when we’re not, because our brains think that “I’m doing okay” means “there’s nothing wrong with me”.

In a recent study, researchers looked at how effective nutrition information is in changing people’s behavior. They found that while people do tend to act on what they learn from nutrition information, it’s the messages they hear from people close to them, such as friends and family, that are more influential on their health.

It’s no secret that most of us obsess about our weight. We vow and vow to eat better. We tell ourselves we’re going to start exercising and lose weight, or we make a New Years resolution and lose 10 pounds in the first month. We’re all told, “Eat less, move more.” We’re all pressured into running or taking some ridiculously expensive fat burner pill. We desperately try to lose the weight we want to lose. We’re told over and over again how it’s not our fault we’re fat, but we don’t believe it. We think that if we just keep trying, eventually the weight will miraculously disappear. We try all kinds of diets, we buy all kinds of ‘miracle’ products, we do. Read more about why is nutrition considered difficult to study and let us know what you think.

Nutrition is frequently viewed as a set of beliefs. In other words, rather than genuine data or the scientific process, the response to the question “What should I eat?” is frequently based on religion, magical thinking, emotional attachments, and/or what seems “truthy.” Nutrition will get more perplexing, not less, until we address this.

(Check out the video below to observe PN Supercoaches Robin Beier and Jon Mills discuss this article in further depth.) If not, please scroll above the video player or go to the next section by clicking here.)


Roundtable discussion with PN coaches Robin Beier and Jon Mills about the impact of viewing nutrition as a belief system.


Consider the results of a Google search by someone who wants to eat healthier.

They might wish to slim down. Alternatively, you can put on muscle. Alternatively, they could get a little healthier so they can spend more time with their grandchildren.

As a result, they might look for terms such as:

Eating well is important.

A balanced diet is essential.

Good nutrition is essential.

What’s the end result? Well…

I had 63.6 million alternatives when I searched for “healthy eating.”

I saw 188 million alternatives when I typed in “healthy diet.”

And the phrase “good nutrition” yielded a whooping 213 million results.

I notice something when I look at some of these search engine results.

Each of these websites has a different story to tell about whether diet, supplement, food, or nutrition practice is the best.

Many of these tales are diametrically opposed to one another.

But they all have one thing in common: the authors treat nutrition as if it were a collection of beliefs that they could pick and choose from.

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Unfortunately, “nutrition” is sometimes misunderstood as a set of beliefs.

Beliefs, on the other hand, aren’t always linked to facts.

We choose to accept something as true when we believe it, which may or may not have anything to do with factual certainty.

This “believing” method is commonly used in the field of nutrition.

As in:

“Sugar, I suppose, is poison.”

“I don’t think humans were designed to eat grains.”

“I exclusively eat natural and organic foods,” says the author.

In other words, rather than science, the answer to the question “What should I eat?” is frequently based on faith, magical thinking, emotional attachments, and/or what feels “truthy.”

Nutrition, on the other hand, is not a belief system.

Nutrition is a science in and of itself.

I’m a certified nutrition consultant and strength coach.

(I completed the Level 1 Certification in 2013 and am currently enrolled in the Master Class for the Level 2 Certification.)

I spend the most of my time working with professional and amateur athletes. And it’s my responsibility to help my customers achieve their goals through nutrition (along with strength and conditioning).

When a multi-million dollar deal is on the line, there is no place for “hoping” the nutrition will work.

I can’t rely solely on faith. My clients’ careers are truly on the line if I do a good job for them. As a result, my practice is guided by the scientific method rather than beliefs.

My client Ronda Rousey, a mixed martial artist, model, and actor, for example, doesn’t care what I think about eating. She is only interested in what I know about the effects of nutrition on her body and performance.


As a result, I need to make sure that my nutrition advice is based on measurable, precise data. Concerning science. Based on the best evidence available at the time.

Physiology is physiology, after all.

Believing something to be true, desiring it to be true, or feeling it should be true is not the same as believing it to be true.

Physiology (like chemistry and physics) follows well-established rules.

That’s why we study macronutrients, hydration, and supplements, among other things. That is why we are interested in learning more about the biochemistry of digestion and metabolism. That’s why we study things like osmotic gradients and cell and molecular physical structures.

It’s for this reason that we pose queries like these:

And we employ a certain strategy to come up with the answers.

Of course, these are only a few examples. As you might expect, scientists have a lot of questions about optimal nutrition, and some of them have been answered more completely than others.

In brief, we’re attempting to learn everything we can about the biochemistry of digestion and metabolism, so we obsess about topics like osmotic gradients and cell and molecule physical structures.

We may provide evidence-based recommendations to generate a recognized physiological effect by understanding the research underpinning the subject.

Is it possible for honey and cinnamon to “rev my metabolism”?

This is what some people believe (or want others to believe it).

However, no one knows.

Is creatine monohydrate going to help me increase my power output?

Now we’re having a conversation.

Because it has been professionally investigated, we know a little bit about creatine monohydrate and its effects on the body.

The molecular structure of creatine monohydrate is well-known.


The mechanism of action of creatine monohydrate is well understood. It boosts your muscle’s phosphocreatine reserves. This can then be used to make more ATP (energy), which is a critical fuel source for power, heavy lifting, and anaerobic events.

We know this because we’ve tried and scientifically measured the results. We’ve also repeated those findings numerous times.

Have you seen how that turned out?

One claim is based on rumors regarding blood sugar and metabolism, as well as a few research on cinnamon as an antioxidant (I’m thinking).

The other is a fact based on a physiological effect that has been documented.

The major issue is that most consumers begin their search on the internet.

Are you stumped as to what to put in your smoothie? What should you eat before working out? How much bacon should you consume?

Google has a wealth of information, not to mention Facebook and Instagram.

You don’t have to look far to find a charismatic someone with a great body and a compelling sales pitch who is selling their own views as a “protocol” or “system.”

The following are common features of these systems:

  • A list of meals and/or supplements to consume. (Like hand-picked acai berries at sunrise.)
  • A list of foods to stay away from. (There isn’t anything a caveman wouldn’t eat.) There isn’t anything that isn’t “natural.” Nothing that has been purchased, sold, or processed.)
  • There are rules for how much to eat, when to eat (or not), and even where to dine. (After 6:30 p.m., no food!)

It can be quite tempting to trust a belief system (or the person who invented it) if the belief system (or the person who invented it) is compelling or “truthful” enough.

After all, many of these “systems” have several reasons to believe, such as:

  • Promises that are too good to be true
  • Inventive branding
  • Photos, graphics, and other forms of visual “proof”
  • Celebrity endorsements and/or testimonials
  • Personal stories with a lot of impact (“If this guy can do it, so can I!”)
  • Appeal to the sex
  • Scholarly citations referring to research that are poorly planned, fatally biased, or have yet to be repeated (a characteristic of — you guessed it — true scientific truth)

Before you know it, you’ll be unable to recall the last time you ate oatmeal without honey and cinnamon… as well as yogurt…and tea

We can’t blame ourselves if we wish something were true.

Sometimes, like Fox Mulder, we want to believe.

It’s truly rather human.

Belief systems can provide us with a sense of security. For those of us who find nutrition difficult or stressful, following a clear set of rules can be a big relief.

Belief systems can also help us feel like we’re part of something: a group with similar values, goals, and wants. We may experience feelings of significance, identification, and belonging.

Plus, we’re getting closer to our objectives… together!

Furthermore, these ideas frequently offer the things we most desire, whether it’s sparkling clean health, bright skin, freakishly fantastic performance, the body we’ve always desired, or all of the above.

We seek assistance when we adopt a belief system. We want to make a change or finally solve a situation that has been bothering us for a long time.

That’s very normal and understandable.

People who begin or share a belief system are also not terrible. The majority of them are nice, honest, and upbeat people who are only trying to improve the lives of others.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to believe once more.

Alternatively, hoping that certain things were true.

The issue arises when we make our own health decisions based on emotional bias or philosophical rules… They either disregard what science has to say about the facts, or have no idea if they exist at all.

Science is far from simple.

If there was a single chemical that could cure cancer or a single workout that could get you ripped, that would be fantastic.

However, neither physiology nor science are straightforward. Nutritional science, in particular.

You may be able to locate a study to back up almost any nutrition-related idea. This is especially true if the study was small or funded by a certain interest group (like a supplement company).

This is something that people who read research are aware of. They know how much weight each piece of information carries and where it falls in the nutritional significance hierarchy.

However, a new trainer in the profession, a mother seeking to get back in shape, or a man just diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes may not be aware of the distinction. They may believe that if something has been proven in one study, it must be true.

This isn’t how science works, and it’s certainly not how the truth is found.

Did you know that consuming alcohol causes muscle tone to increase?

Still don’t believe me?

Imagine I’m telling you this while shirtless, with a six-pack, and a gleaming white smile on my face:

“In 2013, a double-blind clinical experiment indicated that a little dosage of alcohol raised testosterone by 17 percent in men. Another study published in 1987 reported similar testosterone-increasing outcomes. Finally, a study from 2000 found that alcohol raises testosterone levels in women.

Knowing that alcohol boosts testosterone, and that as testosterone rises, our muscle growth and power rises with it, I’ve come to the conclusion that we should all get drunk to get jacked! (Your mileage may vary.)”

But, of course, this isn’t true, is it?

Because that would be neglecting the following:

  • Other evidence suggests that alcohol suppresses testosterone, whereas two studies show that it has no effect.
  • Data about the negative effects of alcohol on our health and fitness.
  • The fact that alcohol has 7 calories per gram, which adds up quickly when you start drinking (particularly if you mix it up), and then boosts appetite shortly afterward, leading to further snacking. (Anyone for some street meat?)
  • The fact that I always tell clients things while completely clothed.

Rather of picking one study, you must examine all studies on the subject to determine where the overall weight of the evidence rests.

But let’s be honest.

People are preoccupied.

Clients in the health and fitness industry rarely have the time, experience, or motivation to pore over research. They have lives and jobs.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of treating the conclusions of one or two studies as gospel, especially if they’re delivered by a compelling speaker with a large body. Buff Booze is my new supplement.

What harm can there be in believing?

The term “scope of practice” is used in the’s Certification programs. It’s critical for health and fitness professionals to be able to:

  • Know what they know and don’t know about them.

To put it another way, to develop appropriate, evidence-based nutrition recommendations, it’s not enough to simply:

  • Have you made significant changes to your body? (such as losing weight, or succeeding at a new sport).
  • On the back of the toilet, keep a stack of health and exercise periodicals.

These are a fantastic place to start. When I first started in the field, I didn’t know much either. That is why we must study and practice… as well as practice and learning… after which you should practice and learn some more.

However, relying on those methods of “research” — i.e., believing rather than understanding — might be hazardous.

There’s an old adage that goes:

You’ve got just enough knowledge to be dangerous.

For instance, unsupported beliefs can lead to actual injury.

The incredible potential and possibility of nutrition to profoundly influence the human body’s systems is why we coaches adore this profession.

The disadvantage is that doing the incorrect things can cause our bodies to change in unfavorable ways.

Wilbur Atwater, a Yale agricultural chemistry Ph.D. holder, lived in the mid-to-late 1800s.

He analyzed the calories and macronutrients in hundreds of meals and came to the conclusion that the only two factors that humans need consider when planning their diet were:

  • protein as well as
  • calories in total

He wrote newspaper columns, spoke, and spoke out about his convictions to everyone who would listen. He was certain that this was the answer to human hunger and even poverty.

He was a well-known scientist who was conducting serious research in a lab. He didn’t, however, have all of the information he needed to make the best decisions.

Instead, he advised people to eat fewer vegetables (because to their low calorie and protein content) and more fatty pork.

Isn’t it true that a little information might be dangerous?

Atwater’s diet excludes:

We now know, according to study, that each of these plays a distinct role in health. It’s harmful to eliminate all of these nutrients.

Perhaps this is an extreme example.

However, devotees to some of today’s most popular belief-based diets adjust their eating choices in unusual and/or erroneous ways. They:

  • Give up all grains, beans, and legumes.
  • Remove all fat from your diet.
  • Only eat raw foods.
  • They eat only one type of food (e.g. grapefruit, cabbage)
  • Avoid solid foods at all costs.
  • Only consume “detoxing” liquids.
  • Limit their daily calorie consumption to a “magic” figure, such as 600 calories.
  • Bacon should be used to replace all carbs.

These diets either employ research selectively (for example, a study in rats showing that grape juice protects tumors — time for the magical anti-cancer grape juice diet!) or they don’t use research at all. can become fixated on minor details while overlooking the overall picture.

Furthermore, unsupported beliefs might stymie growth in the health and fitness industry.

The majority of people who work in the health and fitness business chose to do so because they want to assist people alter their lives for the better.

Confusing ourselves (and our clients) with these strange belief-based “systems” does not help us achieve that aim.

We don’t simply hold ourselves and our clients back when we choose conviction over evidence. We stifle the entire industry.

Let us all make a commitment to enhancing our dietary knowledge.

As trainers, our goal is to help people become the healthiest and happiest people on the planet.

How do we go about doing that?

Treating nutrition as a science rather than a belief system is a significant step forward.

As is continually pushing ourselves to learn more and look critically about our beliefs.

The field of nutrition science is vast. We can’t know everything at once, and we certainly can’t know everything all at once.

We may, however, commit to setting our beliefs aside and committing to a lifetime process of learning, studying, critical thinking, and applying evidence-based analysis to every decision and recommendation we make.

What to do next: Here are some suggestions from.

1. Develop an attitude that is both open and critical.

It is insufficient proof to propose “it” to another person only because “it” worked for me.

Keep an open mind. Pose inquiries.

Examine the evidence that supports a particular viewpoint. Understand why nutrition science is so difficult. Request scientific references, and then carefully examine them.

And, by all means, test yourself (we call this writing your Owner’s Manual in Coaching).

Experiment with different options. Keep track of the consequences.

Over time, that has proven to be a valid method of knowing. (However, keep note of your progress and revisit it frequently – bodies change!)

2. Adopt a middle-of-the-road attitude.

Extremes are uncommon in biology. “Always” and “never” have relevance only in extremely narrow settings (for example, true diagnosed Celiac illness).

So be wary of terminology like “always” or “never” in nutrition discussions.

Instead, use phrases like “some people,” “occasionally,” and “it depends.”

A coach, for example, would urge that everything be “100% natural” or else it’s horrible. However, just because something has been processed does not always imply that it is inferior.

Processing can increase the desired effect and/or nutritional profile in some circumstances. For example, a study published in 2011 in the Journal of Nutrition found that without supplements or fortified foods:

  • 100% of Americans would be deficient in vitamin D.
  • 93 percent of people are deficient in vitamin E.
  • 88 percent of people are deficient in folate.
  • Vitamin A deficiency affects 74% of people.
  • There isn’t enough thiamin in 51% of people.
  • Vitamin C deficiency affects 46% of people.
  • Vitamin B6 deficiency affects 22% of the population.

Sure, there may be a “perfect” diet out there, but for the most part, include a few fortified foods and even synthetic vitamins in our diet is definitely a good idea. Not so good is a diet high in processed foods, fortified foods, and synthetic vitamins.

3. Pay attention to how words and concepts make you feel.

Most belief-based dietary systems are wrapped in marketing that aims to agitate you, perhaps by addressing your traumas, fears, or ego (the current “clean eating” frenzy is an excellent example).

Recognize when you’re being “drawn” by an idea.

Consider whether you’re considering this “system” for the correct reasons. Is it because I’m sad/frustrated/lost/stressed today that I’m looking for a “easy” solution?

4. Examine any statements that are linked to monetary gain.

Consider the following scenario:

“You can eat everything you want and still lose weight!” (This is a true story used to promote a diet book.)

“In 1 minute, I had ripped abs!” (This is a true claim.) This time, it’s a DVD workout.)

“Control insulin levels, blood sugar levels, metabolism, LDL cholesterol levels, belly fat burning, and hunger suppression!” (These are genuine claims made by the makers of a cinnamon supplement.) Cinnamon, to be precise.)

I wasted a lot of my hard-earned McDonald’s money on ineffective testosterone boosters and nitric oxide items when I was a teenager.

I was getting “jacked,” believe me.

In this union of beliefs and profit, science was absent from the event.

5. Be wary of one-size-fits-all solutions.

Trying to suit everyone’s requirements and goals with the same macronutrient ratio (for example) is a warning indicator that a coach needs more expertise and/or has an emotional attachment to the plan.

Humans are intricate, one-of-a-kind systems. As such, they must be treated as such.

There is no one-size-fits-all diet. Any strategy should be evidence-based and tailored to the client’s specific lifestyle, goals, and requirements.

6. Hire a professional coach.

Consider locating a Certified coach or enrolling in the Certification yourself if you don’t feel comfortable reading research or comprehending the science.

Knowledge is a powerful tool.


To see the information sources mentioned in this article, go here.

“Muscle Hypertrophy, Hormonal Adaptations, and Strength Development During Strength Training in Strength-Trained and Untrained Men.” Ahtiainen, J P, et al. 7 May 2003, European Journal of Applied Physiology, US National Library of Medicine

“Alcohol as a Risk Factor for Type 2 Diabetes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” Baliunas, D O, et al. Diabetes Care, 1 Nov. 2009, U.S. National Library of Medicine

“The Effects of Acute Alcohol Consumption on Recovery after a Simulated Rugby Match,” by M J Barnes and colleagues. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Journal of Sports Sciences, 15 December 2011.

“Testosterone Dose-Response Relationships in Healthy Young Men,” by Shalender Bhasin and colleagues. American Physiological Society, American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metabolism, 1 December 2001.

“Alcohol Abuse and Streptococcus Pneumoniae Infections: Consideration of Virulence Factors and Impaired Immune Responses,” by M Bhatty and colleagues. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Alcohol (Fayetteville, N.Y.), 1 Sept. 2011.

“Effect of Creatine Supplementation on Body Composition and Performance: a Meta-Analysis,” Branch, J D. 13 June 2003, U.S. National Library of Medicine, International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism.

“Effect of Acute Post-Exercise Ethanol Intoxication on the Neuroendocrine Response to Resistance Exercise,” by L P Koziris et al. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Jan. 2000, Journal of Applied Physiology (Bethesda, Md. : 1985).

“Effects of Acute Alcohol Ingestion on Pituitary-Gonadal Hormones in Normal Human Males,” by J H Mendelson et al. The Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, 1 September 1977, US National Library of Medicine

“Acute Ethanol Administration Enhances Plasma Testosterone Levels Following Gonadotropin Stimulation in Men,” by W R Phipps et al. 2 June 1987, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Psychoneuroendocrinology.

T Sarkola and C J Eriksson, T Sarkola and C J Eriksson, T Sarkola and C J Eriksson, “After a Low Dose of Alcohol, Testosterone Increases in Men.” Clinical and Experimental Research on Alcoholism, U.S. National Library of Medicine, April 27, 2003.

“Acute Effect of Alcohol on Androgens in Premenopausal Women.” Sarkola, T., et al. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Alcohol and Alcoholism (Oxford, Oxfordshire), 22 January 2000.

“Effect of Moderate Alcohol Consumption on Plasma Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate, Testosterone, and Estradiol Levels in Middle-Aged Men and Postmenopausal Women: A Diet-Controlled Intervention Study,” by A. Sierksma and colleagues. Clinical and Experimental Research on Alcoholism, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 7 January 2004.

“Testosterone Concentrations in Women Aged 25–50 Years,” by MF Sowers and colleagues. Oxford University Press, Oxford University Press, Oxford University Press, Oxford University Press, Oxford University Press, Oxford University Press, Oxford University Press, Oxford University Press

“Alcohol and Liver Cancer: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Prospective Studies.” Turati, F., et al. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Annals of Oncology: Official Journal of the European Society for Medical Oncology, 14 Mar. 2014.

“Sex Hormones and Adrenocortical Steroids in Men Acutely Intoxicated with Ethanol,” by M J Välimäki et al. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Alcohol (Fayetteville, N.Y.), Jan. 1984.

R. M. Ylikahri, R. M. Ylikahri, R. M. Ylikahri, R. M. Ylikahri, R. M. Ylikahri, R. M Journal of Steroid Biochemistry, 12 Dec. 2002, Low Plasma Testosterone Values in Men During Hangover

If you’re a coach or wish to be one…

It’s both an art and a science to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy food and lifestyle adjustments in a way that’s tailored to their individual body, tastes, and circumstances.

Consider the Level 1 Certification if you want to learn more about both.

Each day, countless humans wake up and go to sleep with the intent to live a healthier, happier life. Yet, the numbers of those who rely on healthy eating as a lifestyle choice is much lower than those who regularly participate in organized fitness events and regularly engage in a healthy diet. Why? Many people see nutrition as a choice, whereas others see it as a scientific concept that takes into account not only how food nourishes your body, but also how the food you eat acts as a catalyst for a healthy lifestyle. Even more, someone who has a healthy lifestyle that focuses on exercise and healthy eating has a better chance of success in life, as will their children.. Read more about which of the following has expedited confusion in nutrition science and let us know what you think.

This article broadly covered the following related topics:

  • why is nutrition considered difficult to study
  • why is nutrition science so confusing
  • nutrition questions and answers
  • why is there so much conflicting information on nutrition
  • which of the following has expedited confusion in nutrition science
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