Food Matters: You Can’t Out-Exercise a Bad Diet
While exercising is definitely beneficial, exercise alone is not the miracle worker most people think it is.
I’m in the fitness business. I am a certified trainer and gym owner. I teach BCx boot camp at my gym (Max Fitness) in Vero Beach, as well as lead workouts and give exercise instruction on LiveExercise.com. So, you must know, I write this with all honesty and sincerity. While I do believe in exercise, exercise alone is not the answer to your weight loss woes. I know, that’s not very encouraging to hear coming from a fitness professional, but don’t you want the truth?
Of course it’s my job to encourage people to get more active and exercise, but people need to have a realistic understanding of how exercise and eating work together so they can get the results they’ve always wanted.People need the truth, and the truth has a tendency to hurt sometimes. I always say “You can hate me now, but I know you’ll love me later”.
Now, it’s time to get to the bottom of the truth. And when we do, the truth will set you free!
Fact vs Fiction
Let’s start with addressing myths and misconceptions so we can get some of the clutter out of the equation. Sadly, we live in a world of desperate people who need to lose weight and really don’t know how to do it. They are willing to try anything claiming amazing results.
Desperate people are an easy target for the weight loss industry, and big companies will do anything to get their business – including distort truth, use a little Photo Shop, and leave out important facts. It’s not that they are all liars, but maybe they just aren’t quite as honest as I would like them to be.
As more and more people become more and more desperate, we will continue to see more companies marketing to the frustrated overweight population. In 2012 Americans spent an estimated 65 billion dollars trying to lose weight according to Market Data Enterprises. That’s a 7 billion dollar increase since 2008. However, while more money is being spent on weight loss attempts, obesity continues to rise every year. If these products worked, shouldn’t obesity go down? That, in of itself, should speak volumes.
“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If it looks like work, it probably works.”
Unfortunately, misinformation is all around us. So much so, it makes it practically impossible to figure out what is fact or fiction. Well, let me give you a really great tip. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If it looks like work, it probably works. That should clear up about 94.99% of the confusion. There goes all the weight loss pills, miracle supplements, magic weight loss gimmicks, multi-level marketing scams, fad diets and all the other crazy apparatuses claiming to give you a six-pack in six minutes. Gone!
So now that all the riff-raff is out of the equation, we can focus on what we know works –diet and exercise. I know, big surprise – but I think there will be some little surprises as you continue to read, so stay with me.
The Truth About Exercise
Exercise is a funny thing. It’s incredibly rewarding if you do it correctly, and it can sculpt your body into the most amazing shape – IF (big “if” here) you get your diet in shape too. But, putting most of your effort into exercise alone, is like detailing your car and keeping a cover on it. No one will see your hard work unless you unveil the beautiful strong machine under the fat.
Don’t quite believe me? Maybe you are thinking of that one annoying friend who brags about eating pizza and having abs. Or, maybe you know someone who actually lost weight doing some crazy workout program, but they didn’t admit to changing their diet. My goal is to convince you of the truth. Food Matters.
Food vs Exercise
If exercise really was the solution to weight loss, I should be able to run a few times a week and drop pounds, so why don’t I lose weight when I increase my cardio? Because exercise increases my metabolism, which in turn, increases my appetite. I only burn 300 calories on a 3-mile run. However, I can erase a 3-mile run in 3 minutes flat if I’m not careful. I have to really fight my body’s desire to replace those calories.
As a result, I have learned to be very protective over my calories. I look at my body’s calorie account like my bank account. I track deposits and withdrawals. Like money, spending calories (eating) add up so quickly. And, also like money, it is much easier to spend it (eat) than it is to work for it (exercise). Lastly, it really doesn’t matter how hard I work if I am careless with my spending. Is this starting to make a little sense?
So, if I want to lose weight, I have to be picky about how I spend my calories and that means I need to live on a tighter budget. I use the LoseIt app to help me set that budget, and I track everything going in and out.
I’ve tried losing weight without tracking calories and I have not been success one single time. However, when I track calories, I can get in the best shape of my life. I got the leanest I’d ever been, competing at 10% body fat and winning first place in my first NPC competition– and the only thing I did different was log my calories.
I didn’t workout harder than I ever had before. A matter of fact, I’ve worked out harder for much less impressive results. I actually felt a little guilty because I saw other competitors work much harder in the gym, but I was working my hardest in the kitchen. The key to my success was absolutely, hands down, tracking my food intake.
Let me give you some more realistic examples to put it all into perspective.
You can make much better decisions when you know “the cost”. When you shop and pick out a shirt, what do you do next? You look at how much it will cost to figure out if it’s worth the price tag. Then, you make your decision – based on information, not feeling. Depending on the cost, that shirt may go from awesome to hideous in one glance at the dollar signs required to bring that sucker home. Looking at the cost (the work required to pay for that item) helps you make your decision (based on whether or not you can afford it).
In the same way, looking at food labels for the “cost” makes decision making much easier and smarter. When you realize a hamburger with no cheese, small French fry and a small coke costs you a whopping 1,175 calories, you immediately think of how much work you would have to do to “afford” that meal. You would practically have to run a half marathon to pay it off. Now you are faced with the million-dollar question. Is it worth it or not? NOT!
Okay, maybe you are thinking to yourself “I don’t eat fast food”. I thought you might think that, so I chose a healthier meal to compare exercise with. I randomly looked up a major steakhouse and chose the first healthy looking salad and added a glass of merlot. The meal racked up 1,078 calories in LoseIt, which still would take over two hours of a really intense sweat-your-butt-of-and-cry-a-little type of exercise to erase what probably only took 15 minutes to consume. Do you get the picture? You simply can’t compete with what you eat.
So, hopefully, by now you believe me, and you are beginning to see just how much food really does matter. It matters so much so, we require our clients and boot campers to log food in the LoseIt app too. We spend a great deal of time educating our clients about food and teaching them how to eat according to their goals. We remind our clients daily (normally during the toughest part of their training, like during the middle of a million burpees) of how they can erase all their hard work in the gym in 5 minutes of poor food choices.
Our clients aren’t losing weight because we have such a unique workout program. They aren’t literally losing thousands of pounds in our boot camps because they are the hardest workout in the fitness industry. We are getting results because they realize food matters.
Be as strong in the kitchen as you are in the gym.
We encourage people to be equally strong in the kitchen as they are in the gym. We convince them to take that same discipline it takes to show up three to four times a week, and use that discipline when they are shopping for groceries and going out to dinner.
Weight loss success is a total lifestyle change. Every calories counts – in the gym and on the plate.
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Don’t just take my word for it, take it from our own clients. Brad and Valerie Ward, lost more than 120 pounds combined. Both in their 50s, they knew they had to change their normal routine if they were to lead a healthy, active life. “I would convince myself that if I ate fries at lunch, I would just run another few miles when I got home. But that wasn’t working and the ‘baby fat’ just wouldn’t go away,” recalls Valerie.
“Lose it is EVERYTHING about accountability. You can’t “lie”. Haha. It is perfect when I plug my days’ calories in BEFORE I eat so that I have my meals pre-arranged. Then, I know there is no room to add more food at the end of the day because the Lose It app holds me accountable as if to say “don’t you dare”. Lol. What’s even better is if your trainer has an eye on your logging with the premium subscription – WINK.” Valerie (pictured left)
“It really helped me stay focused. The app was also great in the grocery store, learning to shop – that little voice of reason.” Renee
“The app told me on the days my protein is higher I consume less total calories!” Lisa
“I log most of my food early in the day…but the app is most helpful to me at night…when I want to munch. A quick check on calories and macros, and I know when I need to zipper my mouth closed for the night.” – Leigh (Leigh, pictured left, lost 40lbs using LoseIt and competed in her first NPC competition this year)
“I just started counting calories today. Omg. I’m eating healthy and I’m at 1400 calories already and no dinner. Oh no.” Sheri (client discovers just how easy it is to eat high calories, even though she was eating healthy calories.)
I like how it shows under nutrients for the day the percentages of fat/carbs/protein. It keeps me from having to do a lot of calculating. – Kelley
“It truly is amazing!!! I even used the barcode to scan my mustard yesterday! Accountable for everything!” Kristen
ADDRESSING TAN & WRINKLES
I had a few questions (in comments below) about competitors wrinkles and tan. This is Valerie when she’s not all tanned up and dehydrated for competition. 😉 The tan is completely fake (airbrushed competition tan, special for competitors). The tan shows more muscle definition, but also more wrinkles – plus they dehydrate for that day so that’s why they look different on competition day. Other than that weekend, they look youthful and vibrant! 🙂
NOTE: Valerie’s skin has actually gotten tighter and smoother every month she keeps the weight off. The key to reducing loose skin is maintaining your new thinner weight.
All of our competition team is required to log calories. Why? Because it works! Our team lost over 800lbs to compete in the Galaxy Championships this year (pictured below). We received the team award and were recognized for our transformations. Most of these clients NEVER thought they could ever get on stage. Many of them were either just starting their weight loss journeys, or were just learning how to finally do fitness right. It’s never too late to start over, start fresh and get the results you have always wanted.
GREAT QUESTIONS YOU GUYS!! I JUST COMMENTED BELOW KAT 🙂
I have serious question and its not a argument… Why do they all look aged and weathered in the face they all look like working out aged them 20 years…
That is a good question and I can’t wait to see the replies but I think all the tanning can age you…..
It’s just dehydration on competition day. They look healthy and natural looking normally. 🙂 It’s part of the process of competing. In order to get the skin to tighten up for stage, you have to get the water out of the skin (and it also comes out of the face). The tan is completely fake (special competition tan), so they aren’t damaging their skin, but the same reason they tan (the dark color shows more muscle definition), it also shows more wrinkles. I have a great picture of Valerie with me – when she’s normal and she looks like a youngster – healthy and natural. I’ll add it to the blog for you to see!! 🙂
I’m 67 and recently retired. Have had to work all my life to take and keep weight off. Exercise for me burns calories, but it’s also important that I just keep moving. So I use my treadmill and a Body Gym everyday. I also faithfully measure my calorie intake–ounces, teaspoons, etc. It ‘s a lot of trouble, but the only thing that works for me. So easy to put pounds on, and so hard to take them off.
Exercise is SO important. I notice if I don’t do 1 cardio, I can’t reach my steps goal for the day. Just 1 3-mile run is all I need to get in my 10,000 steps OR I have to cut about 300 calories out of my diet!! 😉
Pretty good post, but I feel like using pictures of NPC bikini competitors at the height of their contest prep is pretty misleading. Maintaining a body fat percentage that low year-round is unsustainable for most and leaves out a very important part of the equation: a focus on building muscle and strength.
I totally agree and I am not out to look like thoses women in string bikinis.
The message here is not to compare ourselves to competitors but to be inspired that most of these people never even dreamed of getting in good enough shape to even compete at all. Of course it’s not something you maintain (while most of them are still very lean 17-20% body fat), but it just reminds us of our potential.
Not everyone wants to compete. BELIEVE ME!! My husband wanted me to compete with him for 20 YEARS and I FINALLY gave in and competed with him. I SOOOO didn’t want to get in a string bikini and stand on stage BUT I am SO glad I did. I had NO idea what my body was capable of and it really empowered me and encouraged me. 🙂 It’s not for everyone, but for me, it was the goal I needed to take my training and diet up a notch. 🙂
Muscles and Stuff (@MusclesandStuff)
When people ask me what I did to start getting shredded I always tell them to just start counting your macros. It’s simple but not always easy.
I definitely believe diet is around 70% of the results you see whereas lifting is the other 30%
I TOTALLY agree!! It’s so much more diet than more exercise!
Been logging into Livestrong for a few years now, down about 150 lbs, I’m less than half the size I started out as 🙂 Every Morning Possible, I walk, I weigh in and I do my calories for the day. It WORKS. But, you DO have to be honest with it. Weigh your food, watch the % of nutrients, but having something that does the math for you, watching the numbers on the scale go down, and now Maintenance, is wonderful 😉
HONESTY is SO important! You are SO right!!! Love it!
I logged in the 3T of sugar that I put in my coffee and it said ZERO calories! I dont think this app is accurate/
You just have to be careful when choosing the right food. Use name brands or bar codes for accuracy. Look for completed nutrition info. Most apps also use user data and I bet that’s what that was. I found it very accurate, but I stick to brands, bar codes and whole foods. 🙂 I love the app personally!