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Thursday, 5 February 2009

Is nutrition or training the most important?

The dawn of the internet seemed to signify the beginning of instant access to all the best fitness advice the planet could deliver.

Unfortunately it didn't bring the 100% fat loss results across the globe that should be possible! Instead we just had greater access to Britney Spears' private life, anonymous marketers selling products they never tried simply by adding a link to their blog and a Nike desktop dancer on your laptop.

None of these cleared up the issue of whether training or nutrition makes the biggest difference in a fat loss program!

So here are the arguments in black and white.

There are quite a few arguments for nutrition being the most important factor. The increasing levels of anorexia and other eatinng disorders highlight why it is so important.

You cannot out train the dinner table.

An extremely hard workout lasting an hour may burn around 800 calories if you really have the drive to push yourself. A typical evening meal can easily account for that nevermind the rest of your meals through the day, leaving you flabby and frustrated despite working hard!

The thermic effect

Certain foods can increase your metabolic rate significantly and as you eat food all day (or you should) many changes will occur inside and outside of your body when you switch to a diet consisting largely of lean protein, healthy fats and vegetables. These will help keep you satisfied, maintain muscle and stimulate your metabolism without piling in excess calories.

Fuel in the tank!

You cannot train properly without the right fuel! By manipulating carbohydrates so that you have enough to fuel your workouts and recover afterwards, your energy levels, body composition and training performance can improve almost instantly!

High energy

Sustained energy levels can only be achieved through a clean diet with very few additives or added chemicals. Without consistent energy levels, all elements of your lifestyle will suffer leaving you down in the dumps and exercise will be the last thing you want to do! Pour sand in a Ferrari and it won't move very fast!

Poor nutrition leads to bad sleep

Eating the traditional big family meal in the evening is likely to leave you bloated and with digestion problems which will prevent you getting to sleep as your body will be in work mode! The added sugars in many processed foods will also give you an energy high just at the wrong time!

Too little food can also prevent sleep though! Going to bed hungry may well leave your brain short of sugars to keep functioning so you are likely to keep drifting in and out of sleep as your brain keeps reminding you it needs some fuel!

No excuses!

Nutrition can still be done well when you're injured. That means it has more potential long-term.

Illness prevention

Finally training may not matter when your nutrition is likely to leave you with heart disease, diabetes, cancer and immune system deficiencies anyway. If you're just fighting a losing battle there may not be much point hitting the gym everyday!

There are a few arguments which support training as the most important factor. Consider them carefully!

More muscle, more calorie burn!

The right kind of training - weight training and short intervals - will build muscle. More muscle means a greater metabolic rate both during training and at rest. This will make the fat burning process much easier and faster!

Training burns calories, simple as that. Or maybe not. Intense weight training can leave your metabolism elevated for 24-36 hours after the session whereas low intensity cardio won't, so the choice of training method is important!

Heart strength

Putting pressure on your heart will cause it to adapt and become stronger. The use of interval training in particular will help prepare your heart to cope with the sudden ups and downs of daily life. If you die of a heart attack due to a weak hard, surely the nutrition doesn't matter?

Feel good baby!

Exercise gives you the feel good factor and will generally encoourage people to eat better as they don't want to undo all their good work in the gym! An enthusiasm for health and fitness is what prevents short-lived January fitness kicks!

Physical ability

Exercise gives you strength and physical abilities, if done correctly, which nutrition won't. A weak body is no fun and could leave you depressed as you feel incapable of doing anything without getting tired quickly. This is likely to lead to comforting eating, ruining any carefully planned nutrition regime.

Skinny minny isn't nice!

If you only eat healthily and don't exercise, the chances are you will just end up skinny. Having low body fat is great but having no muscle to go with it can make you look ill despite having an apparently healthy lifestyle.


Training used the right way can improve your posture and prevent niggling back aches and injuries. Such issues can put an fat loss routine on hold. Poor posture can also affect internal functions which will play havoc with your fat loss attempt!


Our bodies need strength training throughout life to prevent the effects of ageing. No amount of vegetables can prevent a stooped posture and loss of physical capabilities. This should be considered!

It is clear that this argument could rage all day.

The truth is that there is a very simple solution which we all know but few actually implement in their life as a regular habit.

You must do both! Yes you know that but you're not doing it!

There is always some excuse for why you couldn't eat properly or get to the gym.

The more I progress as a trainer and coach, the more I see that great results can be achieved with short exercise sessions so long as they are intense enough. However, these sessions can't be maintained week after week without a solid nutrition plan which is carried out every single day, bar the odd blip!

If you truly want to see your body change for the better, you must accept that a clean diet and well-structured, challenging exercise routine cannot be mutually exclusive but must be part of a holistic approach.

With as little as 20 minutes exercise 4 times per week and 10 minutes per day preparing food you could see your entire life change for the better. You just need to make the commitment today!


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