The glamorous life of the fitness professional is not without its occasional frustrations. An ongoing source of tension between us and the rest of the world is the persistent blindspot the general public has regarding the role of diet in fat loss.
We know, because we have seen it hundreds of times, that if people make simple changes to their nutrition, and are consistent with them over a period of weeks and months, magic things happen. Losing a stone in your first month is pretty common. We’ve even seen people who weren’t even all that heavy to begin with lose 2 stone in about 6 weeks (while getting stronger).
If your diet is right, you will lose fat. If your diet is right AND you have a decent exercise programme to go with it, you will lose fat at a rate that will shock everyone you know. However, if you train like hell and never address your nutrition… well… you can get stronger, fitter, more flexible and generally healthier… but very little in the way of fat loss will happen.
A shockingly large portion of the exercising public have their heads buried in the sand about this one, and are desperately trying to run away from their bagels (as it were).
Folks, here’s the deal: the unwanted fat you are currently carrying came from your diet. The magical fat-fairies didn’t sneak into your room at night and plant it under your skin while you were sleeping, it was the food choices you made. It wasn’t the fact that you didn’t do enough cardio, it was all the sandwiches, fizzy drinks, pasta and alcohol. The only thing that can solve the problem is the same thing that created it: your diet.
The old saying “you cannot out-train a bad diet” is mostly true. I say “mostly” because like almost everything else, there are exceptions. A lot of people would like to believe that they are exceptions, because at some point they probably were. When you were 19 years old, you could probably out-train your diet. Sadly, you are not 19 anymore.
Everybody remembers Michael Phelps’ “bad” diet when he was training for the Olympics – about 10,000 calories per day worth of pancakes, sugar and whatever else wasn’t nailed down. As I recall, Michael Phelps was in relatively good shape at the time.
Most of you reading this probably know who Rich Froning is – 4 time CrossFit Games Champion, looks like he just stepped off the cover of a fitness magazine and frequently breaks world records without really looking like he tried. As far as we can tell, Rich mostly lives on peanut butter, strawberry jam and milk.
These guys CAN out-train their diets (in fact, at that kind of level, it’s often a case that your diet can’t keep up with your training, but that’s a different article…). Here’s the thing: if you tried to follow one of those gentlemen around and go workout-for-workout with them, you would be dead by the end of the week (assuming you made it out of bed on day 2).
That’s not me taking any kind of artistic license either – doing what these people do would literally KILL YOU, STONE DEAD.
Froning does more CrossFit workouts before breakfast than most people do in a good week. Phelps swam for miles per day at about the same speed that many people run.
From a standpoint of total intellectual honesty, the phrase “you cannot out-train a bad diet” is not true. This advice should be read as “YOU cannot out-train a bad diet”. You, as a person with a job, a commute, a desire to occasionally drink alcohol and be hungover, and without a burning desire to beat everyone else on the planet at your chosen sport, have to watch your diet.
You may not want to hear it, but you are not a special or unique snowflake, and the rules apply to you. If you want to make changes to your body, you’ve got to follow them.