When you look around your local gym, check out the participants of a typical group exercise class or sneak a peek at the joggers doing laps of your local park. You’ll see a whole bunch of people doing the exact same thing: trying to out-run a bad diet.
How can you make this assumption? Because in six or twelve months’ time, after all those workouts, chances are, they’ll look exactly the same as they do now. They may even be a little heavier, a little softer, a little fatter or even a little less fit.
So why is trying to run-train (or swim or cycle) a bad diet such a futile Endeavour? Good question!
Quite simply, it is much easier to ingest calories than it is to expend them. For example, if you run a mile, you will burn approximately 100 calories. This figure will go up or down a little depending on your bodyweight, the speed at which you exercise, the terrain and temperature and how experienced an exerciser you are but its close enough for illustrative purposes.
The mathematics of fat loss
So, if you want to burn a single pound of body fat in a week, which contains 3,500 calories, you would need to run 35 miles. And if you are actually eating a little more than you should and create a calorie surplus per week, you won’t actually burn that single, solitary pound. In fact, if you are overeating, all that running will merely reduce the rate at which you gain fat!
That’s a whole lot of running for not much of a result.
Of course, any exercise is also beneficial to your heart, lungs and muscles but if the quality of the food you eat is poor, you encounter another one of fitness training’s great truisms – you are what you eat.
Not only is the quantity of food you eat an important consideration, so is the quality. Back in the good old days before mass farming and gigantic food producing factories, the food you ate came from fields, orchards, trees, plants and healthy animals. It was rich in essential vitamins and minerals, untainted by pollutants and free of hormones and routinely-used antibiotics.
Fast forward 50 or so years and many people’s diets are more about chemistry than nutrition. In fact, many foods that are commonly eaten today only exist because they have been created in a laboratory by scientists!
So, not only do many people eat too much, they also eat foods virtually devoid of any nutritional value. This means that, despite exercising religiously, many will see little or no progress from their workouts as their bodies won’t be getting the necessary nutrients to fuel the process of anabolism which is science-speak for recovery and repair.
So what constitutes a good diet?
This is almost impossible to answer in a short article. In fact very thick books have been written on this subject and there is still no definitive answer. Unfortunately, for every book published that promotes a particular way of eating, there will be another one that completely contradicts it and promotes a very different approach.
For example, on the one side, you have low-carb diets like South Beach and Atkins and on the opposite side you have the Wholefood diet and the Standard American Diet which are built around carbohydrate foods. They couldn’t be more different BUT they both work for someone or they wouldn’t exist!
So, rather than worry about the specifics of any one diet, here are some golden nutrition rules that you can apply to your current diet so that you save yourself the time and effort of trying to out-run a bad diet and also take a step or two towards making the food you eat as healthy as possible…
1. Eat vegetables or fruit at every meal
These wondrous plants contain vitamins, minerals and fiber which are essential to your health. Try and eat a variety of colors at each meal to ensure you get a broad spectrum of nutrients. Where possible, eat your vegetables and fruit in the rawest state you can tolerate to further preserve the nutrients they contain.
2. Consume adequate protein at every meal
Protein is important for muscle growth and repair. Many diets place an emphasis on carbohydrate foods which is okay but protein is important too. Include a portion of meat, fish, soya, eggs or your preferred choice of protein in every meal to ensure your hard-working muscles get all the amino acids they need to fuel post-exercise muscle recovery.
3. Eat healthy fats
Fats often get a raw-deal in nutrition and are frequently labeled as unhealthy. While too much fat can make you fat, fats are actually essential for health and wellbeing – especially mono and polyunsaturated fats such as olive and fish oils. Healthy, natural fats are very important for many aspects of your health including your heart, brain and the control of inflammation.
4. Go easy on processed foods
Unless you raise and grow your own food, it’s unlikely you will be able to completely eliminate processed foods from your diet but as these foods are so nutritionally poor, it’s worth trying to consume as few as possible. As tasty as a cookie may be, all in contains is sugar, refined wheat, salt and fat. In contrast, an apple contains vitamins, minerals, fiber, water and trace amino acids and considerably fewer calories per gram. Eating more “live foods” and less processed foods is a big step toward health and fitness.
5. Exercise portion control
No food is fattening until you eat too much of it. Ice cream, cookies and chips can all be eaten providing you don’t eat too much or too often. Being very calorie dense, it doesn’t take a lot of this kind of food to contribute to a calorie surplus. By all means have a portion of the nice but naughty foods if you really want to but rather than eat the whole pack, limit yourself to a couple of cookies instead. If you see these foods as treats instead of staples, you’ll be a lot better off nutritionally.
Trying to out-train a bad diet is futile and essentially pointless. If you are taking the time to exercise and putting in the effort, surely you want to see the best results possible from your investment of sweat and time? Clean up your diet and you’ll start to see much better results from your workouts.