Ignoring Eating Choices Can Negate Fitness Gains in the Gym

Ignoring Eating Choices Can Negate Fitness Gains in the Gym

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  1. After almost 30 years of working out in a gym, I’m convinced that many people do more than enough in the gym to reach their fitness goals. 

    I’m not so convinced that many of us spend time thinking about how we refuel our bodies. With overconsumption of high-fat, high-salt fast food, white-flour sugary snacks made with hydrogenated oils, and a lack of regular access to fruit and vegetables in some inner-city neighborhoods, it is no surprise that one in four Americans is obese. Not surprising, adults 40-49 and 50-59 are the most obese, according to Centers for Disease Control data.

    Exercise isn’t the magic bullet that allows us to consume without control. I’ve had a 31-inch waist most of my adult life, and the question Baby Boomer or Gen X men always want to know is how to get lean abdominals. It won’t happen in the gym alone. More often than not, the eating plan needs adjustment, not the workout plan.

    I rarely talk about “diet” because it implies a short-term focus on changing how you eat for that swimsuit or to fit into a new dress. A healthy eating plan signals a lifelong commitment to how you fuel your body, including the appropriate mix of protein, carbs and fats, and eliminating certain foods from your plan. It also means knowing how to make the smartest fueling choice when faced with a host of bad ones.

    So how does a person with a relatively good level of physical conditioning get lean quickly and stay there?

    Follow the 60-40 Proposition. For me that means 60 percent of my body composition and physique is a direct result of the eating plan, so that’s where I focus attention, with the rest of the focus on effort in the gym.

    Remember “garbage in, garbage out.” You simply cannot work out like crazy, then go home and “feast” on fast food, processed foods, excessive sugar and salt, and expect anything but a soft, doughy appearance. Exercise and the eating plan work together.

    Focus on the time you eat and meal portion. Eating after 8 p.m. (I’m sometimes guilty) doesn’t allow the body time to effectively synthesize a meal before sleep, storing calories not burned as energy as fat. In addition, University of North Carolina research revealed an increase in U.S. food portion size — in restaurants and in homes — over two decades. That said, we don’t have to lick the plate clean. Why not save some for later? 

    Be truthful about what you eat and whether you use eating as an emotional response. Eating because you’re depressed, mindless snacking or overeating to celebrate a job promotion all have to be checked against what you’re trying to accomplish: a leaner, trimmer you. Try spending a week writing down everything you eat in a log and the mindless snacking often becomes apparent.

    Attention to the eating plan doesn’t mean resorting to spartan, bland choices. Eating isn’t a bad thing. Eating bad is a bad thing. Exercise requires energy, and the finely-tuned machine that is you deserves only the highest-grade fuel.  

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