Oooooooh, somebody wants a cookie!
You have a gym membership and you’ve possibly used it once, twice, dare I even push it and say maybe more than that!
That’s enough, right? You get your fair share of physical activity. What else is there?
As hard as you may want to pat yourself on the back, don’t dislocate your shoulder doing so quite yet…because in the grand scheme of things, if you haven’t paired your workout program with a sound meal plan then you haven’t really done shit to accomplish whatever the fuck it is you’re trying to accomplish.
Ya see, there’s more to fitness than just working out. Everyone thinks that’s all there is but there’s also food preparation and the eating of it, which falls under this itty-bitty thing called nutrition and accounts for more of your success or failure than training can ever account for simply by virtue of time and what a proper diet can, or an improper diet can’t, do for you.
How best can I explain…
*tap my fingers*
*tap my fingers*
I. The Land Of Make Believe
Sorry, but I’m still thinking how best to explain the importance of food — why you can’t outrun a bad diet — in the least confusing way possible. In a way that everyone can understand real easy-peasy like.
…with simple arithmetic!!!
After all, when has math ever made things more confusing rather than clearer? So what on earth could possibly go wrong here…
Let’s severely stretch our imagination and say you’re the overachieving gym rat who’s “dedicated” as hell. You display this “dedication” in the most intuitive way: by completely overdoing it. What does that mean? Well, you make it to the gym 7 days per week for 3 hours a pop. Once tallied, that comes up to you busting your hump 21 hours a week on the cardio floor, in the weight room, or a combination of both. That leaves you outside of the gym for a whopping 147 hours out of a possible 168. This is a seriously extreme example but it effectively shows that the amount of time spent in the gym as opposed to outside of it is a tiny sliver, even for the most “dedicated” of us.
Alright. Duh, you spend way more time away from the gym than in it! So freakin’ what?!?! Well, let’s say that you like to indulge in Cheesecake Factory’s Louisiana Chicken Pasta dish, a 2,370 calorie meal that puts you 2,370 calories over the caloric deficit you should be eating at to lose weight (something you would know had you bothered to give a fuck about finding out what that was). What that means is even with you training for 3 hours, you need another 3 hours just to burn off that meal so you don’t gain additional weight. That comes out to six hours spent working out just BEFORE you even start burning off the calories needed to make a dent in your body fat percentage!
Multiplying that single day by seven should be enough for you to see the amount of work required to counteract gluttonous behavior on a daily basis.
This is exactly why that time outside of the gym is of great importance to you, or should be, because when, where and how are those calories going to be burned that you’re eating in excess day in and day out? Huh? Huh?! I really wanna know!!!
Seeing the amount of time and effort needed to work off excess calories through exercise, your best bet is to control your inner fatboy/girl and not eat everything that isn’t nailed down on the mistaken belief that you’ll burn the calories off in the gym.
Moreover, you should view those seconds, minutes and hours away from the gym as precious opportunities to not only provide your body with the necessary fuel needed by it to perform its essential functions but to also perform optimally in meeting the added demands placed on it by you introducing it to stressors (weight, sets, reps, tempo, time under tension, rest periods) and it having to repair itself and make the desired adaptations — such as you pushing past that rep you failed at last session, your biceps growing an extra inch, you losing more fat than the previous weigh in, blah.
II. Mac Daddy
It’s because of the regular and extraordinary demands placed on the body that macronutrients, or macros, come into play. The macros known as protein, carbohydrates and dietary fat are the raw materials used by the body for energy production and recovery. Continue reading for a brief primer if you need one, get a more detailed account of macros, or just skip ahead because you’re a know-it-all.
- Protein, or amino acid, is used by the body to repair itself and make bigger and stronger muscles and shit in response to microtrauma from weight training. That’s why it’s known as the building block of muscle. And muscle is important for its role in burning fat. To drive its importance home, consider that a pound of fat burns 2-3 calories a day while a pound of lean tissue, or muscle, burns 14 even when you’re just plopped on the couch scratching your ass all day. That’s a big flippin’ deal!
- Carbohydrates are the nutrient that serves as the body’s primary fuel source, and what’s unused as energy is stored in reserve as fat for the body’s future needs. There are two kinds. Complex carbs (or starches) are long chain sugar molecules that are rich in fiber and consequently keep you feeling fuller longer. Complex carbs also provide you with long term energy due to their high fiber content causing them to digest much slower than simple carbs, which are made of significantly less sugar molecules and quickly break down into the bloodstream for immediate energy.
- Dietary fats, as everybody knows (or should), are stored by the body for later use as energy, as protection for the inner organs, and for insulation purposes. What may be lost is that they help the body absorb vitamins and are essential for proper hormone and brain function. Fat also helps cushion your joints, which is important as you begin lifting heavier weight, something you HAVE to do in order to build that natural body fat burning thingamajig called muscle. Dietary fat comes in different varieties, none of which I’m getting into here but you can find out on your own because <Jay-Z voice> Google’s your friend, bruh </Jay-Z voice>.
Yeah, protein, carbs and fat can be obtained from low quality food and you’ll still make gains, as displayed by IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros). This flexible eating approach says that you can lose body fat and build muscle by eating any type of food you so desire — ice cream, pizza, doughnuts, that Super Artery Clogger Jumbo Deluxe hamburger with a side of extra large beer-battered curly cheese fries (and diet Coke, of course) — because it’s really NOT about what you eat but how much.
III. Return To The Land Of Make Believe
Nutritional strategies in the vein of IIFYM are about moderation, like virtually any sound diet plan. What sets them apart is that food selection is left up to the user’s discretion, no matter how poor the food choice is, so long as the macros align with the person’s daily targets. While it is indeed true that you can alter your physique with crappy food because it’s a matter of calories in versus calories out, there’s a very good reason why you can’t outrun this part of your diet either.
How best can I explain why you should be more discriminatory in what you put into your mouth and down your gullet instead of, y’know, behaving like your whore of a sister and further keeping family tradition alive.
It’s pretend time!
Let’s stretch our imagination even further than before and suppose that your broke ass can afford a brand spanking new Bentley Bentayga. Yeah, I know, we’re pushing the boundaries of our imagination to the outer limits, but bear with me. Now, as the proud owner of a high-end luxury vehicle, you’re not going to put generic motor oil into it when its specifications call for premium synthetic. And if you do, you shouldn’t act surprised when the car’s performance is nowhere near what it’s supposed to be!!! Instead, because a Bentley Bentayga is a top of the line automobile, you have to supply it with top of the line fuel. None of that cheap stuff!
The human body is the exact same way: it’s a machine that will still operate when supplied with junk — much like a luxury car will when regular oil is used — but it runs at peak condition when supplied with the appropriate fuel. Heavily processed foods are not the body’s fuel of choice. They’re deficient in micronutrients (i.e. vitamins and minerals) and operating the body’s machinery on them alone adversely affects energy levels, immune health, cognitive performance, and mood — all of which impact your time in the gym by robbing you of the ability to go into Super Saiyan God mode and push through a tough workout. A diet poor in micronutrients may also keep you away from the gym altogether due to tiredness, injury, sickness, or lack of drive.
IV. If You Really Give A Crap
All of this is why you can’t outrun a bad diet.
So rather than eating craploads of crap during your crapload of time away from the gym, make moderation a part of your vocabulary. And if it is, exercise some discipline by having the bulk of your diet come from unprocessed, unrefined and nutrient-rich sources such as grains, beans, fruits and vegetables, and meat, fish and dairy goods. These plant- and animal-based products are commonly referred to as whole foods, and they can be purchased from upscale grocers like the organic food emporium of the same name or its more affordable rival, Trader Joe’s. But don’t strap on your Birkenstocks just yet because, dare I say it, your local A&P, Piggly Wiggly, and other conventional supermarket also sells that shit — just to varying degrees and they’re not pretentious about it!
Remember, what you do in the gym is a very minute (however, integral) part of the process. Contrary to popular thought, the real magic occurs outside of the gym. And depending on what you do with that crapload of time away from it, you can make the time inside it worthless or worthwhile.