Today's post is co-authored by my nutrition student, Alexandra Venger. Because I'm basically elderly compared to Alex, I asked her to co-write an article on millennial nutrition with me. Kids these days... those millennials have some serious nutrition issues!
We didn't want to talk about the boring and obvious mistakes such as binge drinking, skipping meals, and not eating enough vegetables so we're focusing on a few of the more current diet fads that are trending among 20- and 30-somethings.
Low-Carb Diets and Sugar Shaming
One of the most popular fad diets making its rounds among young adults is different variations of low-carbohydrate high-fat (LCHF) diets. Atkins, Paleo, whole 30, the real only difference is the name. LCHF advocates blame carbohydrate-rich foods for weight gain, low energy, metabolic disorders and chronic diseases -- and even publicly shame the innocent little glucose molecule, much like the #sugarkills controversy started by Greg Glassman the CEO of crossfit. I mean, that's one scary tweet below:
The answer is not so simple as several factors are involved. In the case of type-2 diabetes, family history and genetics play a significant role in the onset of the disease, with contributing lifestyle factors such as being physically inactive and overweight. Excessive food intake from any source contributes to weight gain, not sugar or carbohydrates consumption alone.
Following a low-carb diet is not a magical solution and may result in unnecessarily harsh short-term side-effects such as fatigue, irritability, head fog, dizziness, headaches and constipation. "Staying strong" by suffering with these symptoms is also unrealistic and sets a bad example: see the article Why You Shouldn't Quit Sugar.
If you don't know what IIFYM is, you are likely not a millennial. IIFYM is an acronym for "if it fits your macros", and while no one knows the true origin of IIFYM, it was likely developed by the bodybuilding world to simplify the process of bulking and cutting. Bulking and cutting simply mean eating more calories to gain weight/muscle and then lose weight/water for an upcoming physique show. You'll see tech-savvy millennials hashtagging #IIFYM on Instagram and using calorie tracking apps like MyFitnessPal to track their diet and calculate the total calorie content and macronutrient distribution of their daily food intake. To follow the IIFYM plan, users set their own recommended caloric intake and macronutrient distribution, and track their food intake so it "fits" their recommended numbers.
Aside from the obvious flaw that overlooks micronutrient intake (although Iron, Vitamin A, and Vitamin C are sometimes tracked) this trend emphasizes total food intake rather than food choices. Anything can "fit your macros" if you play around with the numbers, which may lead to dangerous vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Also constantly worrying about calorie intake may create a negative psychological relationship with food, "obsessing over numbers to the very gram is unnecessary in my opinion, and could also lead to eating disorders" says powerlifter @cookiecali, who has tracked her food intake using #IIFYM for over three years.
Excessive protein intake (>2g/kg body weight)
As more than 60 per cent of Canadian adults are overweight and obese it is now statistically abnormal to lead healthy and active lifestyles. However, a growing trend among millennials is weightlifting powerlifting and bodybuilding, which has also led to an increase in protein intake. Strength training nearly doubles protein needs from 0.8g/kg of body weight for the average person to 1.6-1.7g/kg of body weight for strength athletes. Millennial males often consume amounts in excess of 2g/kg of body weight, which has not shown to be effective and may lead to the accumulation of unwanted adipose tissue (otherwise known as fat) rather than lean muscle mass.
Drake was right when he said he's "here for a good time, not a long time," and you know why? Because excessive protein intake may shorten lifespan and lead to increased problems with aging. Excessive animal protein intake displaces antioxidant-rich vegetables and fruit and whole grains, and has been shown to increase disease and cancer risk. It's also crazy expensive. There are better ways to waste money, like buying a new car or tickets to Meek Mill's world tour! #itsadrakething
Relying on social media "nutrition experts"
Instagram is the fastest growing social media platform, with over 300 million active users each month, representing a 50 per cent increase in the last nine months. Therefore it not surprising that many Insta-famous users (users with a large following) have taken to earning a living by advertising and endorsing products and services on their Instagram feeds. From photographers making up to $15,000 a day by selling their photos on Instagram, to the Kardashians endorsing teeth whitening products, the market is huge, and you would be a fool to not take advantage of the 300 million users #capitalism.
However, an alarming trend among millennials is relying on nutrition advice from unlicensed "nutrition experts." You wouldn't go to an unlicensed doctor for medical advice, so why does this not hold true for nutrition? Marketing is in part to blame, such as in the case for certain celebrites relying heavily on marketing and not medicine #miraclepillsdontexist.
Thousands of unlicensed "nutrition specialists" use terms like "clean eating" and half-naked women in bikinis because lab coats and "eat your vegetables" don't sell as well (sell being the key word). A majority of these nutrition quacks also carry and heavily endorse their own line of items such as protein powders and nutritional supplements. These can be useful and a necessity when a healthy balanced diet is not possible, but to recommend them to all of your clients is not only a conflict of interest, it is unprofessional and can even be dangerous.
Millennials need to realize that knowing the difference can make all the difference! Seek a professional, who is educated and trained with a code of practice and ethics, before finding yourself knee-deep in false information and constantly cycling from one trendy fad to another.
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