Many people embark on a get fit campaign, joining the gym or regularly running in the morning of lifting weights. While this is beneficial to overall health and sporting performance, difficulty can arise when people neglect the importance of diet as part of a healthy lifestyle and, while working hard in the gym, neglect their efforts in the kitchen. Many argue that the kitchen is the most important part of a healthy lifestyle with 70% of progress being made there and only 30% in the gym. A good diet will always lead to a healthy lifestyle, but a gym membership will not. We look at just why diet is so important and why so many people neglect their diets in favour of simply hitting the gym and lifting big.
Why is diet so important?
The body runs on food. If our body is a car, the quality of petrol we put in it determines how well the car runs. If we put poor quality petrol in, or not enough petrol, the car will not run efficiently and eventually won’t run at all! This is the same for our body. If we don’t put enough food in to power us, we shut down, and if we put the wrong type of food in, we don’t function as effectively or have as much energy. There is a wealth of information available in terms of what to eat on a healthy lifestyle, some of which can be contradictory and it can be difficult to know where to begin. We recommend keeping it simple to start with and just aiming for a healthy diet consisting of plenty of lean protein, fruit and vegetables and healthy fats.
If we are embarking on a healthy lifestyle, it’s likely we will be doing some form of exercise as well, be it running, cycling or lifting weights. In order to do this, we need the energy to exert ourselves and push and this comes from our diet. A diet comprising of very little nutrients and a whole lot of junk food will result in a lacklustre gym performance or run and feelings of fatigue and lethargy. In comparison, a diet comprising of plenty of lean meat such as chicken or turkey, along with fruit, vegetables and healthy fats such as avocado or olive oil will fuel your body the right way and give you the energy to smash that gym session to pieces and hit that personal best. Many people fail to realise this and put all their efforts in to the gym, yet very little effort in when they get home eating a proper diet to build muscle and aid recovery. How do you expect to get a new 1 rep max on the squat rack if you fuel your body on junk food before and after the workout?
Eating a healthy meal consisting of protein, carbs and good fats before a workout is crucial to getting the best out of that workout and not flagging halfway through. Then, after your workout a clean diet is important in aiding recovering and promoting muscle growth in order to attain lean muscle mass and burn fat. This is where, more often than not, people slip up.
Why do people neglect this area so much?
The gym is the fun part, it’s measurable and you get a satisfying ache after a hard session. The kitchen may not be the fun part for some however and after a long day at work, followed by a gym session, the last thing we may want to do is cook a healthy meal, opting instead for a microwave meal with very little nutrients. Performance will suffer as a result of this however!
Some may also struggle to simply know what foods are the right foods to put into the body. As said, there is a wealth of information out there, and unfortunately some of it can be contradictory and ever changing. As we suggest, keep it simple. Calculate your daily calorie intake using an online calculator easily found from Google, then meet that calorie limit and have a diet consisting of clean foods such as lean meats, vegetables and carbohydrates such as sweet potato. As you become more familiar with diet and routine you can look at other theories of eating, start calculating macro and micro nutrients, but let’s keep it simple to start with – just eat clean and try and avoid junk food as much as possible!
Supplements may also be beneficial to some and aid in sports performance, recovery and muscle gain. Whey proteins or creatine powder can help some put on extra lean muscle by giving you a little extra push in the gym and helping to reduce the delayed onset muscle soreness that follows a hard session, meaning you can go back to the gym and hit it for another session sooner. These supplements only work however, when they are combined with a great diet and so once again, we emphasise that diet really is crucial!
To sum up
While it can be easy to neglect the diet in favour of just hitting the gym hard, then crashing out at home, to really see results we need to hit it hard in the kitchen too! A healthy diet is crucial to any healthy living plan and will help give you that extra boost in the gym. As said, if we imagine the body as a car, the wrong fuel (food) will not help the car to run as its best. The same goes for our bodies and so while many people may neglect diet in healthy living, don’t be one of them! Start small, start simple, and built up gradually! Good luck!