Updated: Jul 30, 2018
Most people have heard the sayings that “abs are made in the kitchen”, “70% is diet and 30% is exercise” and “you can’t out-train a bad diet”. If you haven’t heard of these before then you're probably better off saving yourself the time of looking all the memes online.
Before you read on I should point out that this post will not be addressing nutrition in terms of what you should and should not eat - I’ll save that for another day. It will however highlight the importance of nutrition and the effects it can have on your training and everyday life.
This can be broken down into a pyramid, and we can look at elements such as; sleep/recovery, training methodology and nutrient timing. Today we’re simply going to look at two elements: nutrition and training.
Imagine that you are building a house. If you apply this principle I think you’d agree that you'd start with the foundations and the supporting structure. These foundations need to be dug and filled in with copious amounts of concrete and left to set before the ground floor can even start being built.
If we look at the concrete and think of it as your balanced meals i.e. lean meats, fish, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, healthy fats, small amount of fruit and very little sugar. By complying with that list there is a plethora of opportunity to have varied meals that tick most of, if not all, the boxes of a low Glycemic Index (GI). A diet like this is sustainable but can also provide energy (calories in) to keep your body functioning well. Avoid processed foods, which I know is easier said than done.
Now if we look at those foundations again and think of using sand to fill in the base instead of the concrete. That sand could easily be left for days, weeks or even months and it wouldn’t make much difference to its consistency. If the ground floor was then built on this it might well sit on those foundations quite comfortably at first, but the question is for how long? Ultimately over time the sand foundations would subside, maybe a little, or maybe catastrophically. People just wouldn't build their house on top of sand.
Let’s now look at the sand and think of it as junk food meals i.e. fast-food, microwave ready meals, sweets, sugary drinks and highly-processed foods. If you look at the packaging on a lot of these foods you’ll realise they tend to have one thing in common: saturated fats and sugar. These are two things the body doesn’t really need. Notice how on packaging if the values are high they tend to be in red. Think of these labels as a traffic light system- green is good and red is bad.
Referring back to the opening paragraph about how “you can’t out-train a bad diet” or how “abs are made in the kitchen”, I hope that this blog post has given you a little bit of insight into how important it is to have good nutritional foundations.
If you train like crazy, smashing multiple sessions per week but aren’t seeing the results you think you should be, then maybe it’s time to take a look at your diet. People enormously under-estimate how important these building blocks are. That’s why a PT’s first question with struggling clients tends to be “what’s your diet like?” or “can you do me a food diary?”.
As a final note, I’ll leave you with this. Each building block depends on the level below it. If your nutrition sucks, you will not be where you could be if it were more solid. Focus on your nutrition and see the results.