Exercise vs. Diet: Which One Is More Important?

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exercise vs. diet

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In the iron game mythology runs rampant.

Many of these myths have persisted for decades.  Unfortunately some of them still have clout.

False Truths

Some of the mythology that is out there can sound convincing to the uninitiated.

There is the myth out there that says you must perform high repetitions to get ripped.

Then there is the myth that says you must exercise excessively and then eat like a bird in order to get lean.

Another classic myth in the game is that all carbohydrates are evil.

And then you have the myth that you must perform a ton of abdominal work in order to reveal your abs.

These myths are absolutely nothing but pure fandango.  And doing the dango will have you going nowhere fast like driving a classic Mustang (no AWD) in a Northeastern blizzard.

The Most Important Question

There is a question that I am asked often about physique development that feeds into another myth.

The question is “What is more important my training or my diet?”

This leads into the myth that your diet is substantially and exponentially more important than your training.  And that is when you start to hear about specific percentages.

You hear things like it’s “80 percent diet and 20 percent training.”

Or you hear things like it’s “50 percent training and 50 percent diet.”

I even hear sometimes that it is “90 percent diet and 10 percent training.”

The problem with these numbers is that they are all false and have nothing to back them up.

The Scenario

Think about this scenario for a second.

If you had an immaculate diet but combined it with a lousy training plan and a lack of recovery do you honestly think you will develop your ultimate physique?

When a claim is made with phantom percentages it minimizes the other equally important parts of the puzzle.

Success in the iron game is equal parts training, nutrition, and recovery.  That is 33.3 percent for each component.

Based off of what I used to see daily in commercial gyms and on the track, I would say the average trainee is only operating at 10-25 percent of his/her true capability.

This is a terrible ratio if you want to have success with building your body.

Can you imagine if that lifter was operating at a much higher level?  What if that trainee I mentioned is currently you?

To build your ultimate physique it requires a combination of a progressive training protocol, a customized nutrition plan, and proper recovery that is designed to help you reach your goals.

To do this you will need to put 100 percent effort into your training, diet, and recovery.

This does not mean that you must become an obsessive compulsive freak about it.

This does not mean you have to be perfect and never miss a meal, a rep in the gym, or an hour of sleep.

But it does mean that you will not be cutting corners and making lame excuses along the way.  Success requires consistency.

Diet Without Training

Training your body allows you to build muscle, become more athletic, get stronger, become mentally tougher, and improve your health.

When you train with passion and with a progressive plan you have the ability to change your physique in ways that you could not have imagined.

You can literally build a superhero or heroine physique.

Training is as equally important to the physique building process as your diet is.  But you may have been conditioned to think otherwise.

Let’s say you have your macros lined up like a sharp fade and you are hitting them with extreme precision every day.

Your meal timing is flawless like Mr. Perfect and you are eating the highest quality foods.

No one can match your diligence in the kitchen.

But when you get to the gym you are exposed like a skunk at a perfume convention.

Your training program has no rhyme or reason.

When you “train” you perform some lame machine circuits and rarely do any big compound moves unless you are trying to impress someone of the opposite sex.

But this makes you look worse because your partial squats and alligator arm chin ups are fooling no one.

You even attempted to squat last week but you felt fatigue building up in your legs at rep 5.  You racked the bar and quit at the first hint of struggle.

You brag in the gym to anyone who will listen about how the game is “90 percent diet” yet when you look in the mirror the reflection is someone who is looking flabby and sick.

Even though your diet is fantastic, you have not trained hard since high school football summer camp.

This truth is evident when you view your soft physique and look at your lousy numbers in the gym.

You are in denial because you have been conditioned to believe that getting results is all about the diet.

Now can you imagine the end result if you were training with passion, purpose, and a plan?

Training Without Diet

A proper diet allows you to support your muscle growth but also has a host of benefits including being in better health and helping you get leaner.

When you are consistently eating the correct foods and amounts you can finally begin to uncover your abs and begin to see your muscular definition.

But that muscle will not be fully unsheathed if your diet is not in order.

Let’s say you are training like a beast and have been told you are a modern day Rocky Balboa.

Your training protocol is progressive and you are continually hitting PR’s.

You are labeled as Jack Van Fit at your gym because it is well known that you train so incredibly hard.

But for all your efforts you still appear softer and smoother than someone who trains like you should look.

Even though your training program is spectacular, your eating habits are sub-par.  Horrendous is a better word to describe those habits.

You think that your superior training protocols give you a pass to eat like a pig.

Your pre-workout meals consist of garbage and your post-workout meals consist of more of the same garbage.

This fact shows up when you view your smooth physique.

You can feel the muscle and even see the shape somewhat but you are nowhere near as lean as you should be based on how you train.

You are in denial because you have been conditioned to think that getting results is all about training at an extreme level.

Now can you imagine the end result if you were eating correctly and doing it consistently?

Bonus: Training And Diet Without Recovery

A lifter whose training and diet is on point will see great gains.

But if that same lifter skimps on his sleep or is always stressed out, he or she will be leaving meat on the bone in terms of results.

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Sleep is the most underrated factor in the game and especially for young athletes who think they are Superman.

Sleep is the magic juice you need to recover from workouts.  Without getting good sleep you are shooting yourself in the foot in terms of your gains.

Another part of life is stress.  But it’s how you manage that stress it that will allow you to either see great progress or be stagnant.

When you show up at the workout stressing over your relationship, money, or your career, your head will not be in the game.

This will set you up for a bad workout at best or an injury at worst.

How to Combine Your Training and Diet to Create Great Results

As you can see from the above scenarios building a strong, lean, and athletic physique requires you to pay strong attention to your training program, diet, and recovery.

It simply just does not work when you overemphasize one over the other because there are downfalls to that.

Precision nutrition will leave you very healthy.  But when precision nutrition is combined with the training program of Glass Joe you are doomed to be weak and soft.

A real training program will leave you strong and athletic.  But when a real training program is combined with the diet of Homer Simpson you are doomed to be smooth and lacking definition.

A great diet and training program performed in the absence of good sleep will have lifters leaving meat on the bone in terms of training performance and fat loss.

To get the best of all three worlds you must:

1) Follow A Progressive Training Program

You can make progress on almost any training program as long as you are consistently trying to add weight to the bar, do more reps, or using less rest as forms of progression.

Take your conditioning for example.

You need a plan of action here as well.  Performing the same workout every week with no changes leads to no results.

Let’s say this week you do 5 x 100 meter sprints at 80 percent of your maximum speed with 2 minutes of rest between reps.

Next week you have to sprint slightly faster, reduce the rest, or add a rep or two to slightly change the workout and make it harder.  That is how you make progress.

You need to enter the gym or arrive at the track with a purpose to dominate!

2) Follow A Nutrition Protocol That Works For You

There are many nutrition protocols in the game today that will promise you spectacular results.

There are some universal laws that will work for everyone when it comes to nutrition, but this does not necessarily mean that what worked for Larry Lean will work for you.

For example, I have personally experimented with low-carb diets to test their effectiveness for fat loss.

I absolutely lose body fat on lower carbs.  But do you know what happens to me every time?

I get smaller very quickly (loss of muscle mass) and began to disappear like CD’s when MP3s became popular.

Does this mean that low-carb diets are trash?  Not at all.

It just means that for a genetic ectomorph like myself I need a plan that allows for days where I have a moderate to higher carbohydrate consumption to retain my muscle mass.

I can use low-carb days but they need to be based on my activity or I run the risk of muscle loss.  My nutrition protocol of choice is a daily rotational carb cycle.

Your nutrition should match your goals.

Putting 100 percent effort into your nutrition does not mean you have to eat like a bodybuilder who is prepping for a show.  That may not be your goal.

Putting 100 percent effort into your nutrition is doing whatever it takes to reach your goal.  You should always strive for your nutrition to match the goals you have for yourself.

3) Get Good Sleep

Some cats stay up till 3am trying to slide into some Phit Vixen’s DM’s.

Then these same cats wake up at 7:00am to attempt to lift before they go to work.

I have a name for this plan: a total disaster.

If your sleep is garbage, your performance in the gym and on the track will be garbage too.

4) Reduce Your Stress Levels

Let’s say Jerry Jerk was tailgating you and then sped past you with the quickness.

Your response was to try to chase him down and call him every name under the sun.

You were unsuccessful in your chase as you were forced to stop at a red light.

Because you were unable to exact revenge on him, you spent the rest of your day hooping and hollering to anyone with ears.

You were so worked up over something that you should of let go.  Ultimately him speeding past you means nothing.

We all deal with different forms of stress everyday.  The first response for most people is anger but the problem is that many of those people hold onto that anger all day.

When people hold on to negative baggage it stops them cold in their tracks.  They lose focus on what they should be doing to harp on what happened to them in the past.

When you face stresses during the day, you have to process it and move on.  I promise you that lifting or sprinting session will eliminate that stress!

5) Be Consistent With All Four

If you are consistently training hard, eating correctly, and recovering properly you will consistently have a strong, lean, and healthy physique year in and year out.

Let me share one more short story with you.

A guy in the gym a few years ago walked up to me and said “I’m mad at you!”

I was stunned because he is a good guy and we never had any issues.  Of course, I asked him why.

He stated, “Because every time I see you in here you are in shape and lean!  You are making me look bad man!”

His presentation of this was absolutely hilarious.

But his comments speak to the point of being consistent.  Consistent habits will build a consistently fit body.

Conclusion

Moving forward we will no longer say that our results are 80 percent diet and 20 percent nutrition.

We will no longer say that phenomenal results come down to 70 percent training and 30 percent diet.

Train with purpose and intensity, eat to match your goals, and get some great sleep while keeping your stress low.

That’s the success formula in the iron game.

I’ll holla at your next time.
The People’s Trainer
Fitman

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