The Truth: You can easily out-eat your exercising. It’s essential to both workout and eat right for successful weight-loss and to maintain good health.
A lot of people seem to think putting in the hours at the gym entitles them to eat whatever they want: After all, they're working out — so they must be healthy, right? To put it bluntly, this is just plain WRONG and dumb if you ask me — let me explain why.
Weight loss is about calories in versus calories out. If your goal is to lose weight, you should be counting and logging the calories you’re consuming and the calories you’re burning on a daily basis — aiming for a calorie deficit by the end of the day. So, if you work out on the treadmill for a hour and burn 500 calories and then chow down on more than one slice of pizza (at least 500 calories) — well it’s a total wash. You ate just as many calories as you burned. Plus, you’re refueling your body with refined carbohydrates and will probably be hungry again in the next hour or two.
Your diet has a strong influence on your health. Working out on a regular basis has many health benefits, but it can't erase the overwhelmingly harmful effects of unhealthy foods. The most dangerous are trans fats (aka hydrogenated oils), which are found in deep-fried fast foods and certain processed foods made with margarine or partially-hydrogenated vegetable oils. Trans fats increase the risk of heart attacks, heart disease and strokes, plus they contribute to increased inflammation, diabetes and other health problems. Steer clear of margarine, chips, crackers, baked goods and most fast foods. Click here for a quick printable list of other food do’s and don’ts that will help you maintain a clean diet to support rather than negate your exercise efforts.
You can’t "spot-reduce" fat. When you eat fatty foods (like the ones mentioned above), there’s no way to turn that fat into muscle. Building muscle and losing body fat are two completely different processes. You burn body fat and build muscle, but there is no way to convert one into the other. To tone those problem areas, you have to reduce your overall body fat — which means high-intensity training combined with clean eating.
The Bottom Line: Don’t eat your way through your exercise program! Yes, exercising helps to keep your body in shape, but if you’re eating crap 24/7, the positive effects from your fitness methods are being counteracted by your bad eating habits. The key to a healthy lifestyle is eating whole, real foods and exercising on a regular basis (three to four times a week).