Exploring A Runner’s High And Other Myths

Runner's high

A runner’s high seems pretty spectacular. All of your aches, pains, and emotional baggage just vanish after a kick-ass workout.

For many years, people believed that exercising for long periods of time helped release endorphins and provided a “morphine-like effect on the body” (webmd.com). In the 1980s, scientists even published this research in the US National Library of Medicine. Well, this myth supposedly dates back to our ancestors who lived in the wild and had to run away from predators. Now, that was some kind of runner’s high.

And, while the endorphin increase isn’t necessarily backed by facts, it is a fact that those who work out more frequently are healthier mentally. This is because they are focusing on moving their body during a given task, which can put them in a calm, meditative state.

To us, this myth is proven.

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No pain, no gain

Sometimes, we have to suffer through something painful in order to achieve the benefits, right? Well, that’s what we are supposed to believe with the motto, no pain, no gain. This goes back to the 1700s when Ben Franklin wrote, “There are no pains without gains” in the Poor Richard’s Almanac: The Way to Wealth.

While it’s essential to feel some discomfort during a workout (your muscles should burn so you know you’re working them), and it’s normal to be sore the next day (thanks to building lean muscle), too much pain (like a sharp, sudden attack) is not a good thing. This could mean you injured yourself and continuing your workout might worsen the blow.

So, this one is mildly proven: some pain = gain.

Alcohol makes you warm

Feeling a little chilly? You better drink up. According to this myth, alcohol can help heat up your body temperature (the perfect excuse for a drink on a cold night, right?). This myth might have started in the 1800s when St. Bernard dogs were first depicted wearing barrels of brandy around their necks, which was used to warm up victims of avalanches. Then, in 1949, Punch magazine published a cartoon with the description: “Of course, I only breed them for the brandy.”

Here’s the scoop: When you consume your first glass of alcohol, your skin grows warmer which makes you feel nice and toasty. This is because warmer blood is moving closer to the skin’s surface. But, this warm sensation doesn’t last long since booze actually lowers your core temperature. Brrr.

Myth debunked.

Don't eat and swim

When you were a kid in the summer, chances are you had to wait 30 minutes after eating before you could return to the pool. Your parents probably told you swimming right after you eat can cause cramps and result in drowning. Talk about a buzzkill, mom and dad.

This old saying might be contributed to the 1908 Scouting for Boys publication. In this publication, it said eating before going in the water can cause such severe cramps that your body will tense up and you will go under. While cramping can occur if you swim right after you eat (thanks to the blood and oxygen flow in the digestive system), there is no proof that you will drown on a full belly.

Myth debunked.

Shaving hair makes it thicker

It’s been said time and time again that shaving makes your hair grow in thicker. Where this originated is unknown, but nonetheless, many people still believe it.

And, guess what? It’s not true.

It seems this myth was first debunked in The Anatomical Record published in 1928. It stated shaving didn’t cause hair to grow back thicker. What actually happens, then? The hair that grows in after you shave appears to be coarser, but it just has a blunt tip that gives it an illusion of being thicker. Once the hair grows, it will soften to how it was before.

Caffeine dehydrates you

When you’re thirsty, you might reach for a bottle of water instead of a caffeinated beverage. And, the reason behind that is you believe caffeine will make you dehydrated. This could date back to a study from 1928 published in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics showcasing those who drank more caffeine had to urinate more frequently.

Good news: There is no proof that caffeine dehydrates. The bad news: It can make you run to the bathroom more because it has a “mild diuretic effect” giving you that heavy bladder sensation (mayoclinic.org). Studies have also shown even star athletes who consume caffeinated drinks show no sign of dehydration. Just remember, too much caffeine can make you restless at night, interrupting your sleep. And, that is no lie.

Myth debunked.

Sugar makes kids hyper

Many parents keep their kids away from sugar because they think it will make them hyper. Back in the 1970s, the Feingold Diet propelled this myth into parents’s minds thanks to allergist Benjamin Feingold, M.D. and his 1974 book, Why Your Child is Hyperactive.

However, sugar might not be as bad as parents think. A 1994 research study had parents monitor their kids on high-sugar diets. The results showed no signs of exceeded hyperactivity. What seems to get kids overly excited is the anticipation of having fun, such as gearing up for a friend’s birthday party, and that’s well before any cake has been ingested. But, some parents still believe this myth. According to findings in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, those who believe kids behavior is associated with sugar will perceive them as hyperactive after consuming a sugary treat.

We’ll say this one is debunked for now.

Milk gives you mucus

When you’re sick with a bad cold, you probably reach for that can of chicken soup and stay clear of the dairy. That’s because dairy, especially milk, is supposed to make your body produce more mucus—that thick white stuff dripping in the back of your throat. While it’s said drinking milk can possibly make the phlegm thicker, it won’t help produce more of it.

This myth has been around forever, stemming back to traditional Chinese medicine, and in a recent study (bbc.com), it states people still believe this because their doctors still tell them to avoid dairy when sick. Why? Milk may irritate the throat for some, which can cause discomfort.

Myth debunked.Ew, did this generate a lot of unease in your stomach while reading? Want to know more cringeworthy words in the English language? Brace yourself . . .

An exposed head = sick in bed

This one has been a common thought for years and probably stems from a 1950s US Army Survival manual that said “40 to 45 percent of body heat” is lost when you don’t cover up your head on a cold winter day. This was during those times when military researchers conducted experiments in freezing temperatures.

Fast forward to more recent years, and newer studies have shown that we only lose 7–10% of our body heat from an exposed head. Studies also show that you lose heat wherever skin is exposed. Slipping that knit cap on before heading out is still a good idea if you want to keep warm, but so is wearing a coat and pants.

Myth debunked.

Oil in pasta water will prevent sticking

When you boil pasta, how do you make it? With a touch of oil, right? This is said to help the pasta from sticking together. In 1984, Alfredo Viazzi’s Spaghettini Cacio e Pepe recipe was published in The New York Times with the suggestion of adding oil to whole-wheat pasta to “prevent sticking.”

However, there’s no proven fact for this one, and it’s unknown why it’s still so common for cooks in the kitchen to reach for the oil.

It does help a heavy noodle like rigatoni from boiling over in the pot since the oil sits on top of the boiling water. But, for other types of pasta, it’s said adding oil to the water can make the noodles too slimy for the sauce to stick.

Myth debunked.

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