Everywhere you look, there always seems to be someone offering something along the lines of:
“Get shredded with this workout.” or “Lose your love handles with these six moves.”
And as good as it may sound, the human body doesn’t work that way.
The truth is, losing or gaining weight and improving your body composition comes mostly down to how you eat. Training only serves to facilitate the process.
This is where the popular (and quite accurate) saying comes from: “You can’t out-train a bad diet.”
So, what can we do, then? Should we just give up?
Hell no. Today, we’ll take a look at the facts and how you should go about getting fit through proper nutrition.
The Spot Reduction Myth
Muscle growth is site-specific – you train your biceps, and they grow. So then, we assumed that the same was the case for fat loss:
You do a thousand crunches per day and voilá; you’ll sculpt yourself an amazing set of abs. Yeah, it doesn’t work that way (1, 2, 3).
To lose fat from a given area, you need to eat in a caloric deficit and lose fat all over your body (4, 5, 6).
The next time someone offers you a training program to ‘lose belly fat,’ ‘sculpt your arms,’ or ‘get rid of your love handles,’ you can rest assured that they are trying to scam you.
And on the same note:
You Can’t Out-train a Bad Diet
A lot of people are under the impression that, as long as they are physically active, they can eat as much as they want.
Well, unless you’re one of the very few individuals who are blessed with superior genetics for fat loss, this won’t work for you.
What do I mean by this?
Well, let’s take a look at a common way many people go about losing weight: running on a treadmill.
According to this calculator, a 160-pound person running on a treadmill for 30 minutes at 6.2 mph will burn… wait for it… 401 calories.
That’s not even enough to cover a Caramel Brulée Latte from Starbucks (7). Or a single Big Mac (8). And it’s not even half of the calories in a regular Chipotle burrito (9).
According to some sources, a regular guy who weights 185 pounds will burn between 300 and 450 calories in a single strength training workout.
But if he then decides to reward himself for his efforts with some calorie-dense foods, you can see how easy it would be for that person to eat back all the calories he’d burned, and then some.
So, What Can We Do?
At the beginning of this blog, I mentioned that training is there to facilitate the effort we put in the kitchen. So, we need to start with our nutrition.
Knowing full well that trying to out-train a bad diet is a silly idea, we should take control of what we eat.
If your goal is to lose some fat, a controlled calorie deficit in combination with a bit of cardio work and some resistance training will do wonders.
If your goal is to build muscle, eating in a small caloric surplus while focusing on getting stronger in the gym will net you great results.
There are plenty of good calorie calculators out there that you can use to see how many calories you’d need for either goal.
But it’s the calories that dictate how your body weight changes over time. And you might be wondering:
“Well, do I have to give up all of my favourite foods then?”
The answer is no. You don’t.
You can still enjoy some of your favourite foods, but it’s important to understand that you need to consume them in moderation and remember that calories eaten add up way quicker than calories burned through exercise.