People are finally starting to understand that strength training – not cardio – is the best way to build the shape and definition you want. Hurray! So many hours on the elliptical, saved!
Well, now we’re here to tell you that nutrition is even more important than strength training when it comes to seeing results. How can that be?
You may have heard the saying, “Abs are made in the kitchen.” Or, perhaps, “You can’t out exercise a bad diet.” These rules of thumb survive the test of time because they’re true. But what exactly do they mean?
Your food won’t magically build muscle without you having to lift a finger; only resistance training can do that. But in order to see that hard work you’re putting in at the gym, you need to focus on what you’re putting in your mouth.
Strength training builds lean muscle, which is important for building shape, but also balance, strength, and maintaining your metabolism. To see the physical changes, clean eating will do more to melt away the layer of fat than strength training ever can.
How, what, and when you eat controls almost everything about your body. Food is fuel for your body to do what it needs to do: run, jump, breathe, grow. Protein is what your body uses to repair your muscle fibers after you rip them to shreds during your strength training workouts. You can work out all day long, but if you do not eat enough protein to properly repair that muscle, the strength and size will not improve, negating your workouts. Your muscle mass also controls your metabolism: the more muscle you have on your body, the more calories you burn around the clock. Not eating enough protein will inhibit muscle growth and thus, slow your metabolism making it easier to store fat.
Clean eating is broadly defined as eating nutritious, whole foods, as directly from the source as possible. Avoiding processed foods, foods with labels, or food with more than one ingredient are good, realistic guidelines to follow to ensure your diet is as clean as possible: rich in fresh fruits and veggies, lean proteins, whole grains and healthy fats.
Eating a healthy diet is like feeding your body the cleanest, most powerful fuel you can find. In addition to ensuring you get enough protein to maintain and build muscle during your strength training workouts, clean eating eliminates bloat, especially in the belly area, regulates hormones like cortisol, ensuring your metabolism and other body functions are running at maximum capacity, and flushes out any junk left in your system.
Bonus: The cleaner you eat, the less you have to count calories because everything that goes into your body serves a purpose, and is used for fuel.
Conversely, unhealthy foods burn like dirty fuel, even when consumed in the same quantities as the healthy stuff, and won’t provide you with the nutrients your body needs to run properly, while causing you to store fat, feel gassy and bloated, low energy, have food cravings and trouble concentrating.
Strictly aesthetically speaking, if you do nothing but eat clean, you’ll lose weight, unbloat and lean out, although your metabolism and body composition will suffer. If you do nothing but strength train, eating junk (even assuming you get enough protein to sustain muscle mass) you will build muscle but your tone and definition will be lost under a layer of body fat. A combination of the two is ideal for a lean, shapely physique.
Living a healthy lifestyle means paying attention to the choices you make not only during your one hour at the gym, but the rest of the 23 hours a day. Be mindful of what goes on your plate- it dictates what you see in the mirror.