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Nutrition is More Important than Exercise

Not long after I became certified as a personal trainer in Toronto I began to wonder if I should have been a nutritionist instead.

If you read the title of this post you've probably guessed why.

Its because nutrition plays a huge role in whatever fitness goal you are attempting to achieve. Some estimate that the role is as high as 90% nutrition / 10% exercise. And the reason is because without proper nutrition, regardless of whether your goal is weight loss or muscle gain, you won't reach your goal anywhere as quickly as you would if you were eating properly for that specific goal.

So for example if your goal is weight loss then you want to cut back on carbs and sugars, avoid toxins entirely, and you want to limit your diet to approx 1800 to 2000 calories daily while taking in lots of vitamins, nutrients, minerals, protein and fibre.

If your goal was muscle gain you would want to do the same thing, but up the percentage of protein (possibly by using supplements) in an effort to match your weightlifting regimen.

Now you might think its possible to achieve great results without changing your diet. And depending on your current diet, that might be possible, except most people in North America probably eat a lot more calories than they realize. Try counting all your calories for a week and keeping a daily record and you would get a better idea of what you are really eating.

Lets say for example you had two twins named Jeff and Greg and they both do weight lifting and exercise the same amount daily.

Jeff eats healthy, gets lots of veggies and makes certain he is getting enough protein for his weightlifting regimen by drinking 3 raw eggs every morning Rocky Balboa style.

Greg meanwhile eats lots of greasy food. He is still getting some protein, but comparatively little, and his intake of nutrients / minerals from fruits and veggies is almost non-existent.

Which one do you think will get the most muscle gain and which one do you think will have some belly flab? The answer is pretty obvious.

Here's another anecdote, this time for weight loss.

I know a colleague who is also in the fitness industry. She lost 45 lbs back in 2004 by making some drastic changes to her diet and coupled that with running 3 - 4 times per week.

She later became a personal trainer here in Toronto, and took up weight lifting and a variety of other exercise activities to stay in shape, but her initial weight loss she credits completely to the lifestyle change with respect to her diet. She admits the running helped, but it was the dietary change that made the big difference.

Lets stop and calculate how many calories she was consuming and burning while running.

Before she changed her lifestyle she had a yo-yo diet and when she wasn't on the latest fad diet she was consuming 2500 to 3000 calories per day. So lets average that out to 2750. So by changing her diet to 2000 calories per day she cut out 750 calories per day and stabilized her diet. Thanks to that change she prevented herself from gaining 1.5 lbs per week.

Next she started off weighing 185 lbs and ended up at 140. So her average weight during that training period was 162.5. So if I feed that into a calorie calculator and estimate that she did an average of 5 km in an hour each time she ran then she burned an average 382 calories per run.

And if she did that 3.5 times per week she burned 1337 calories per week... which is a little over one third of a lb.

Now imagine if she had NOT changed her diet and was still eating an extra 5250 calories per week. Even with all her running she still would have been gaining weight because she hadn't changed her diet.

By changing her diet she cut out a lot of extra unneeded calories and began a fat burning process.

In her own words:

"I had not done any weightlifting yet and the idea of doing physical activities for fun still had not registered in my brain. In retrospect I can guarantee that it was not all the running that helped me to shed all of that weight in under a year. It was changing my diet and my lifestyle!"

Research now supports that nutrition plays a much larger factor in weight loss success. Don't get me wrong, exercise is certainly necessary and important and speeds up the process. And exercise will help you to tone up so that when you lose weight your skin will be tighter and not loose or saggy. Not to mention, you won't get a hard-body or six pack by nutrition alone!

So far in my career as a personal trainer I have found that many people not only underestimate how much they eat, but don't have a good handle on food quality. The  real trick to eating really healthy is to make the most out of your daily caloric intake by looking for foods that are highly nutritious - or making more nutritious choices even when choosing a tasty snack. It's a huge difference in both the quality and the quantity of food, and thus creates a better overall nutritional profile.

If you're having trouble shedding weight through your exercise regimen, the answer to your weight loss problem may be rooted in the nutritional choices. The extra calories you are consuming are holding you back from your dreams.

It only take 21 days to make a new habit, so changing your lifestyle doesn't really take that long to change.

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