Laura Williams

At the time of year when people are most aware of the havoc too much festive excess can wreak on the body, it’s important to separate fact from fiction.

1. Eating late at night makes you gain weight:
Eating more than you’re burning off is what makes you gain weight – the time of day you eat is irrelevant. Eating late at night may cause you to look and/or feel bloated as the body struggles to digest food properly while you’re asleep, but this isn’t weight gain – bloating soon disappears.

2. Muscle turns to fat when you stop working out:
Muscle and fat are two entirely different types of body tissue so it's impossible to turn one into the other. What does often happen, though, is when you reduce the frequency of your workouts, or stop exercising altogether, and don’t adjust your calorie intake accordingly, is that you gain weight in the form of fat tissue – but that fat tissue didn’t used to be muscle.

3. If you eat more protein you’ll get bigger muscles:
Although protein is essential for muscle repair and growth, it is definitely a case of too much of a good thing can go bad. If you overdo the protein (the RDAs in the UK for protein intake are 56g for men and 45g for women; that’s 2 and 1.5 chicken breasts respectively) you run the risk of making your kidneys work too hard and subsequently getting dehydrated – especially if you’re exercising hard.

4. Lots of crunches will give you a flat stomach:
Definitely not true. A washboard tum comes from seriously low body fat levels which are achieved by restricting your calorie intake and taking plenty of exercise, particularly aerobic exercise such as running, rowing, spinning etc – this is the stuff that really helps to burn belly fat.

5. Yoga is good for back pain:
Not necessarily. If your back pain is muscle-related, the most basic yoga poses may be useful in relieving symptoms but if your back problem involves the discs or vertebrae, or includes symptoms such as sciatica, yoga could definitely make it worse. If in doubt, definitely avoid the backbend and deeper Cobra poses and seek expert advice.