a bit of a cliche innit? It gets said a lot, in the gym and on blogs and so on.
It’s actually true by the way, but I want to expand upon it a little. In fact I want to change it a bit so lets start over again. Ready?
You cannot out train an UNSUITABLE diet.
This is an important distinction because… ok obviously if you have a “bad” diet of lets say too much junk food that leaves you in a caloric surplus… you aint gonna lose weight even if you’re in the gym busting your arse on the treadmills every night. Lets say your maintenance amount of calories is 2000, the display on the treadmill tells you you’ve burned 400 calories… but due to bad food choices you’re actually consuming 2500 calories a day… you’re still 100 calories into weight GAIN territory, right?
That’s what people mean when they say “you cannot out train a bad diet”.
Here’s the deal though. In the gym, on my blogs, in conversation… people are always complaining to me “oh i should have lost more weight by now. I should be [insert whatever goal weight here] by now”. Sounds familiar am I right? I always want to know, exactly WHY do you figure you should be at that particular weight? Because you’re busting your arse in the gym? Refer back to the paragraph above.
Just training hard doesn’t guarantee (or even contribute greatly towards) hitting your goal weight if your nutritional habits are not also suitable to your goal. In many cases people are also training in a manner that is not conducive to their goal, so for example if you are under-eating while on a training program that isn’t even suitable to your goal… well what hope have you got really? I’ve talked a lot about under-eating and over-training on the blog recently so I’ll leave it at that for now.
The bottom line is: bodyweight is determined by total amount of calories consumed on a consistent basis.
Read that subheading again. It isn’t down to training, or eating “clean” foods and avoiding junk.
Training is going to help you have a higher percentage of muscle at the expense of body fat, remembering as well that muscle takes up less space than fat, so you’ll appear smaller even at the same bodyweight. Avoiding junk is better for your health and also helps you be satisfied with fewer calories over all… but to hit a goal weight requires one thing more so than any other factor. You have to be consuming enough calories (not too much, not too little) to support that particular weight, while taking into account how physically active you are. In other words, the more you do, the more you gotta eat. It’s quite the opposite of what most people do which might be “eat even less and do an extra hour on the treadmill”.
Intuitive eating vs calorie counting.
So… to achieve a specific goal weight or just to reduce to a healthy weight range, we need to consume the right amount of calories. To get the best results from training, we need to consume the right amount of calories. If we are training more intensely or more often, we may need to further increase our intake in order to recover, adapt and refuel for the next session.
Ideally we’d be able to get this right just through our intuition. The way I see it, if you’re in a healthy weight range and getting results from training, this implies that your intuition is pretty good! Maybe you could see even better results with a more strict and scientific nutrition plan but you’re on the right track. But if you’re NOT in a healthy weight range, not seeing the results you expect from training… clearly, your nutrition plan is not right and you’re either eating too much, or not eating enough.
The main problem with calorie counting is … well the main problem is that people don’t want to do it. The other main problem though amongst the people who do actually start counting calories is that they look up “what is the minimum an adult should consume” and assume that that’s what they should be on. Remember, it is about eating the appropriate amount to maintain your goal weight and achieve the best results from training, not just “surviving on as few calories as possible”. If you’re hitting the weights, doing your cardio, participating in other activities and generally keeping busy throughout the day… how can you expect to thrive on minimal rations?
If you wanna be a MACHINE, you’re gonna need some FUEL.
This should be obvious for the guys (and girls) trying to build up and get bigger. You gotta put in more than you burn off! For the weight loss people, you still gotta eat THE RIGHT AMOUNT.
So, it’s real simple. Start counting calories for a while. Get a feel for what amount of food makes up what amount of calories, and which foods make it more or less easy to end up at your target. After a while it becomes intuitive, so if you don’t want to count calories forever, you don’t have to.