Proper Exercise Nutrition is the Key to Getting Great Fitness Results
Exercise nutrition is probably NOT something many people concern themselves with, even if they are starting a fitness program. It’s not an exciting topic, but it is critical if you are serious about maximizing your results. Look, you want to exercise not just to be fit–you want to LOOK fit, too. What’s the point of all your hard work if you still look like a fat slob in the end? (Although rare, it’s possible to be fat and fit.) Are you going to be motivated to do painful core exercises if your abs of steel are hidden under layers of flab? Of course not, but unless you get your exercise nutrition dialed in correctly, that’s what is going to happen.
I learned the hard way how critical exercise nutrition, specifically clean eating, is. On my first round of P90X, I got very good results. I gained muscle mass and lost fat. I was happy with the program, but I wasn’t 100% satisfied with myself because I wasn’t ripped. Although my abs were beginning to emerge from the melting fat, I wanted more. I wanted to become one of those amazing transformation stories I saw on the infomercials.
Where did I go wrong? Poor exercise nutrition. Like almost every other Beachbody fitness program, P90X came with a nutrition guide. In my haste to start working out, guess what I did with the nutrition guide? Nothing. I glanced over it once and didn’t touch it again for months. I thought I already knew enough about exercise nutrition and eating healthy. In my first round, I actually worked out harder than I did at any time in my life (except in the Marines). I thought I could get awesome results with just sheer intensity and muscle power.
I was wrong. Even though I trained very hard and didn’t miss a single workout, I didn’t get the awesome results I was looking for. On my second round of P90X, I got smarter. I followed the nutrition guide more closely. I watched my carbs, protein, sugar, and fat intake. I also started paying attention to how many calories I was eating and where each calorie was coming from. The results of my second round were much more pronounced and satisfying.
The difference was exercise nutrition and following the P90X Nutrition Guide. I wish I hadn’t wasted the prior three months flailing around without a clue on exercise nutrition while thinking I knew so much, but I offer my mistakes for you to learn from. The bottom line is that your exercise nutrition must be calibrated just right for you to be able to achieve and maintain the ripped look. You cannot out-train a bad diet. About 70% of your body composition is determined by what you eat. You can work out every day until you collapse, but you won’t get awesome results if you don’t keep bad exercise nutrition habits in check. Check out the video below to see how dramatic your results can be if you follow an exercise nutrition tracking plan.
The Most Important Rule About Exercise Nutrition is to Track What You Eat
This sounds obvious, but most people will get it wrong, or they don’t do it at all. Yes, keeping a record of everything you eat during the course of the day is tedious as hell at first, but it needs to be done. Studies have shown that people who keep a journal of their eating habits will shed twice as much fat as people who don’t. If you have a computer with internet connection, the task of tracking your eating habits becomes easier. If you have a smart phone, then it’s a no-brainer. There are so many tools at your disposal to record your nutrition intake that it’s just goofy not to take advantage of them.
Track Your Exercise Nutrition with MyFitnessPal
I’ve briefly discussed exercise nutrition in this earlier post. My tool of choice for keeping track of my exercise nutrition is MyFitnessPal. I hate counting calories and plotting nutrition data as much as the next person, but this is the way to do this if you have a smart phone. MyFitnessPal is a free app that can keep track of the amount of carbs, vitamins, minerals, fat, sugars, calories, etc. of everything you eat. It even has a bar code scan feature for popular food items. Put the bar code label up to your phone’s camera and SHAZAM, instant nutritional info. Did I mention that the app is FREE?
Anytime I put a food item in my mouth, I reach for my smart phone and log it into MyFitnessPal. This helps keep me accountable. Not only will I know how many calories I ate each day, but whether those were good calories or crap. MyFitnessPal is practically idiot-proof because it’s aware of over 1.1 million foods and their nutritional content, including chain restaurant menu items. Even my protein supplements and Shakeology are listed.
Use MyFitnessPal to help you stay on track of your exercise nutrition goals. Another free app is the DailyBurnTracker. I used it for a year until I switched over to MyFitnessPal. If you are looking to maximize your results for that ripped look, you need to get one of these apps.
In Order to Make Progress Towards Your Fitness Goal, You Must Track Your Exercise Nutrition Habits
If you’re not making progress in your fitness program, then you need to know what to fix to make things right. If you’re not keeping track of your eating habits as you would the number of reps you’re doing or how much weight you’re curling, then you’re missing half the picture. This lack of attention to detail might be the only thing holding you back if you’re not progressing. Do you really want to take that chance?
I used to be one of those people who scoffed at the idea of tracking food intake. As long as you’re eating healthy and don’t pig out on the portions, that should be good enough I thought. Wrong. Guesstimating your calories or measuring with your eyeballs are fine if you just want good results. If you want awesome results, you need to get serious and start tracking. The people who complain that tracking food is not practical are almost always the same ones who claim they can’t shed fat “no matter what they do.”
The bottom line is you can’t just keep a running tally of your food intake in your head. That’s impossible to do without cheating. We tend to ignore the nibbles here and there that can add up over the course of the day. When you take an accurate account of the things you eat, you feel more conscious of your action and consequences. You’re not going to be able to kid yourself that you’re doing great exercise nutrition wise when MyFitnessPal is telling you that you’ve been larding up every day with 2,000 calories of nutrition-free crap.
Tracking food intake is a critical part of learning about exercise nutrition. You will never be able to create a perfect eating plan, one that really works for you, without knowing how to keep track of calories, carbs, protein, and fat.
Will You Have to Track Everything You Eat for the Rest of Your Life?
No. Once you establish good habits and eating patterns, tracking your eating habits become less important. It’s part of the learning process about how your body responds to food. The longer you keep a detailed food journal, the better your habits become over time. Eventually, you’ll settle into a rhythm, and keeping a detailed food journal of every morsel of food becomes unnecessary. Especially if you’re like me. I eat the same types of food for a long time. My lunch is almost always the same three or four types of meals, so it’s not really necessary to record it religiously. You won’t have to track everything you eat for the rest of your life once you learn what to feed your body to get the best results. However, if you ever start heading in the wrong direction again, you need to go back to tracking to learn what has gone wrong and correct yourself.
Six-pack abs don’t happen on their own. You can be like me in round 1 of P90X, working out hard and sweating my ass off and hoping for the best results, or you can do what I did in round 2 and get serious about monitoring my daily eating habits. Do you want to ensure success or hope for it?
- Establish your baseline and Calorie Needs
You need to figure out how many calories you will need to eat to keep your body humming. This is your Basal Metabolic Rate (“BMR”). This is the formula for determining your BMR:
Female BMR = 655 + (4.35 x weight in pounds)+(4.7 x height in inches)–(4.7 x age in years)
Male BMR = 66 + (6.23 x weight in pounds)+(12.7 x height in inches)–(6.8 x age in year)
Team Beachbody has a cool online tool for calculating your BMR that takes into account your activity level, gender, age, height, weight, health goals, etc.. The results will be more accurate because additional factors are considered. If you’re not a Team Beachbody Club member, you can sign up for a FREE account to use it.
- Create a FREE Account with MyFitnessPal and start tracking. If you have a smartphone, download the free app.