(This article was featured at Muscle and Strength.)
In the fitness game, there are many myths that have persisted for decades.
Myths like you must perform high reps to get cut.
Myths like you must exercise excessively and then eat like a bird to get lean.
Myths like carbohydrates are evil.
Even myths like performing a high number of abdominal movements to get your abs to show have still persisted to this day.
These myths are absolutely nothing but pure fandango. And doing the dango gets you going nowhere like driving in a Northeastern blizzard.
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 to the point where you get these percentages thrown at you.
Most folks have these phantom percentages in their mind.
80 percent diet and 20 percent training.
50 percent training and 50 percent diet.
I even hear it is even 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.
Think about this scenario for a second. If you had an immaculate nutrition plan and combined it with an extremely lackluster and non-progressive training plan do you honestly think you will develop your ultimate physique?
When a claim is made with percentages like this it minimizes the other equally important part of the puzzle. Based off of what I see daily in gyms and on the track, I would say the average trainee is probably only operating at 25-50 percent of his/her true capability to have success based on his/her training style and eating habits.
Can you imagine if that trainee 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 and a customized nutrition plan designed to help you reach your goals. To do this you will need to put 100 percent effort into your training and 100 percent effort into your diet.
This does not mean that you must become an obsessive compulsive freak about it.
This does not mean you have to perfect and never miss a meal or a rep in the gym.
But it does mean that you will not be cutting corners and making excuses along the way. Let’s talk about the importance of both factors.
Diet without Training
Training your body allows you to build muscle, become more athletic, get stronger, become mentally tougher, and a host of other fantastic benefits.
When you train with passion and with a progressive plan you have the ability to change your physique in ways 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.
Imagine this scenario. You have your macronutrients lined up and are hitting them with extreme precision every day. Your meal timing is perfect like Curt Hennig 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 in your legs and you quit at the first hint of struggle. You brag in the gym to anyone who will listen 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 fact shows up 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 also 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 the correct amounts you can finally begin to uncover your abs and show off your muscular definition for the world to see. But that muscle will not be unsheathed fully if your diet is not in order.
Imagine another scenario. You are training like a beast. You are a modern day Rocky Balboa. Your training protocol is progressive and you continually are hitting PR’s and making astounding progress.
You are labeled as John 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 subpar.
You think that your superior training protocols give you a pass to eat like a pig. Your pre-workouts meals consist of garbage and your post-workout meals consist of more garbage.
This fact shows up when you view your smooth physique. You can feel the muscle and even see the shape somewhat but you just are not as lean as you should be. 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? Check out my video on the importance of training and diet below.
How to Combine 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 and your nutrition habits. 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 combined with the training program of Glass Joe then you are doomed to be weak and soft. A real training program will leave you strong and athletic but when combined with the diet of Homer Simpson you are doomed to be smooth.
In order to get the best of both worlds and put 100% effort into your training and nutrition to create your best physique you must:
1) Follow a progressive training program
You can make progress on almost any training program as long as you are constantly using more weight, using more reps, or using less rest as forms of progression.
Take your conditioning for example. You need a plan here too. Performing the same workout every week with no changes leads to no results.
Say you run at 75 percent of your max speed for 100 meters and you do 5 reps this week with 2 minutes of rest between reps. Next week run slightly faster or reduce the rest or add a rep or 2 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 or the park with a purpose to dominate!
2) Follow a nutrition protocol that works for you
There are many nutrition protocols out in the game today. But it does not necessarily mean that what works for Larry Lean will work for you. For example, I have personally experimented with low carb diets to see their effectiveness.
Do you know what happened to me? I got smaller very quickly 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 me, the genetic ectomorph that I need a plan that allows for higher carbohydrate consumption. My nutrition protocol of choice is a daily rotational carb cycle.
And also your nutrition should match your goals. Putting 100 percent 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 into your nutrition is doing what it takes to reach your goal. You should always strive for your nutrition to match the goals you have for yourself.
3) Be consistent with both
If you are consistently training hard and eating correctly then you will have a consistently strong and lean physique year in and year out. Let me share a short story with you.
A guy told me the other day in the gym “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 are in shape and lean.” This was hilarious to me with the way he presented it but it speaks to point of being consistent. Consistent habits will build a consistently fit body.
Moving forward we will no longer say that our results are 80 percent diet and 20 percent nutrition. Or 70 percent training and 30 percent diet or any other percentage scheme.
When you put 100 percent effort into both of them you will receive the results that you are looking for. You do not have to be perfect but your effort needs to be high.
Train with passion and intensity and eat to match your goals. End of story.