Have you ever used your workout to justify eating something that you know you shouldn’t? Once in a while it’s okay but if you’re doing this regularly you’ll soon realize that it’s impossible to out train a bad diet.
A lot of people think that if they exercise it gives them a free pass on what they put into their body. Unfortunately, this is not true. Physical activity requires proper nutrition in order for it to be effective. You could be training your butt off but if you’re not feeding yourself with high nutrient food your body doesn’t have what it needs to recover properly and get stronger. Pizza, nachos, cookies and other processed high sugar foods will cause your performance to suffer and you’ll suffer too.
Our body needs exercise. Have you ever gotten up from your desk after hours of working and felt stiff and sore? Sitting for long periods of time is not what the human body was meant to do. In order to build strength and keep mobile without pain we need to move every single day. Also, regular exercise reduces the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, dementia, and some cancers by at least 30%.
Here’s something to consider: in the last 30 years, the percentage of people who exercise regularly hasn’t really changed that much. BUT the percentage of people who are overweight and obese has skyrocketed! The problem? Poor nutrition!
Why has nutrition been so poor? Over the past 30 years the number of processed foods have increased dramatically. Processed foods are very low in nutrition and are filled with artificial ingredients, sugar, preservatives and chemicals. A healthy body cannot be built with these ingredients. Unfortunately, these processed foods are super convenient and super addictive. No wonder a lot of us want to use exercise as a means to justify eating poorly.
If you are trying to lose weight, exercise alone will not be enough. Exercise is what sustains weight loss, but without proper nutrition you won’t lose the weight you want to lose. If you’re trying to be healthy exercise is not enough. What you put into your body is what your body is going to use to recover and rebuild – if your nutrition is substandard your body will be substandard.
1. Not all calories are created equal. If you’re thinking that in order to indulge in high calorie junk foods all you have to do is burn off that amount of calories, I’m sorry to tell you that it doesn’t actually work that way. Also, most people highly underestimate the amount of calories they’re actually eating. It’s not as simple as calories in vs. calories out because different types of calories affect our hormones and metabolism differently. Of course over consuming calories whether healthy or not can lead to weight gain but you first want to focus on the quality of the food you are consuming.
2. You can’t fuel your body with junk and expect it to perform. What happens when you use low grade fuel to fill your gas tank? Your car doesn’t run as well. Same with your body! Your body needs certain building blocks in order for it to be able to perform optimally. If you want to see results and feel your best (at any age) you need to eat quality protein, fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, and the right amount of carbohydrates for your body and activity level.
3. Lack of nutrients will backfire on you. Don’t be tempted to cut our healthy macronutrients in order to lose weight. Cutting out too many calories and/or carbohydrates will leave you without the energy your body needs to train consistently. If your nutrition plan is super restrictive and you’re doing some hardcore training, you could be doing yourself some real harm and you won’t get stronger – you’ll get weaker. If you don’t feed your hard working body enough high quality nutrients your body will start to use muscle mass for energy. If this happens on an ongoing basis not only do you get weaker and are more prone to injuries, but your metabolism slows down making it harder and harder to keep weight off.
4. Doing one without the other will leave you feeling unmotivated. Ever notice how when you eat well, you are more motivated to move, and when you move you are more motivated to eat well. Eating junk leaves you feeling tired and bogged down. The last thing you want to do when you’re feeling that way is exercise. Nourish your body properly and enjoy your workouts.
5. Injury and illness. Poor nutrition can lead to a weakened immune system as well as micronutrient deficiencies and increased inflammation throughout your body. These will result in you being more susceptible to illness and injury leaving you unable to train. Studies have shown that not getting an adequate amount of healthy fats into your diet may raise your chances for overuse injuries (such as stress fractures and tendonitis).
I know nutrition can seem confusing so for now don’t get bogged down with all the numbers. Start making small changes in your diet such as cutting out processed foods the majority of the time and adding more whole foods. Start with small changes that you’re comfortable with and move on when you’re ready. If you let yourself get overwhelmed you won’t stick with it. And don’t make the mistake of telling yourself you’ll never eat your favourite, not so good for you foods ever again – this will only make you want them more. I like the 80/20 rule – eat well 80% of the time and indulge in your favourite treats 20% of the time.
1. Eat protein with each meal. We need protein! Protein is made up of amino acids that are the building blocks for muscle. Women want to aim for 1 palm size portion (20-30 grams) and males 2 palm size portions (40-60 grams) with each meal.
2. Eat 1-2 servings of non-starchy vegetables with each meal. Non-starchy vegetables are high in fiber and packed with phytonutrients. Eat them raw or only lightly steamed to get the most nutrient value out of them.
3. Eat starchy carbohydrates after your strength training sessions. If weight loss is a goal of yours have your starchy carbohydrates (yams, sweet potatoes, potatoes, etc.) in the meal that follows your training session. If optimized performance is your goal, you may want to add in starchy carbs at each meal. Play around with it a bit to see what your body reacts best to. A starting point for women would be approximately ½ - ¾ cup and for men 1-1 ½ cups. You will likely need to adjust based on how you are looking, feeling, and performing so I’d suggest keeping a journal. You don’t hear this a lot but when it comes to carbohydrates LESS IS NOT ALWAYS BETTER!
4. Invest in a nutrient dense shake. Shakes have come a long way over the years and they can be a great post workout meal if you don’t have time to make a whole food meal. Because it’s liquid your body is able to absorb it more easily since it doesn’t need to break it down as much. Shakes can also be a great breakfast idea if you don’t like eating solid food first thing in the morning or if you’re having one of those days where you don’t have time to sit down to lunch and need to take it with you on the road. Not just any shake though. Make sure your shake has all the nutrients you need with no artificial flavours or colours. Even though shakes have come a long way there are still some really junky ones out there. Price is a good clue. If it’s cheap it’s because the quality of the nutrients is low which is why the manufacturers can afford to sell it so cheap. Don’t cheap out when it comes to nourishing your body because in the end it’s not worth it.
Eat Well, Train Well, Live Well
Being fit and healthy isn’t complicated but it does require balance. You need to eat right, exercise regularly, get enough sleep, manage stress and have the support of friends and family. It takes a bit of effort but isn’t it worth it to have a body that moves with ease and energy to keep up with life?