Vince Gironda, a famous bodybuilder from the turn of the last century, used to say that bodybuilding was 85% nutrition. While this sounds like a nice formula (especially for those of us who don’t want to spend hours in the gym), we wanted to find out if this was really accurate.
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As far as weight maintenance and/or body building go, nutrition and training go hand-in-hand: you can’t get in shape without either one. If you diet but don’t exercise, you’ll lose weight but you won’t develop any muscle mass or tone. If you exercise but don’t diet, you may build muscle but you’ll have a harder time losing the fat. To effectively lose weight and build muscle, you need to find an optimal balance of both exercise and nutrition.
To get even more specific, you can break it down into 3 different parts: cardio, weights and dieting/nutrition. Each one is important to your success and shouldn’t be neglected.
However, in regards to what Vince says about 85% nutrition, it really isn’t possible to apply a uniform percentage to everyone. Each person is unique and, therefor, requires a different blend of nutrition, weight training and cardio exercise.
All 3 of these components are important but, at times, putting a stronger emphasis on one or two areas can help you achieve larger improvements than by placing the same amount of effort into all three.
For example, if you’re just starting out and you know nothing about nutrition, then getting a handle on your diet should be higher on your priority list than training. You don’t want to put the effort into training if you’re just countering all of your gains with losses due to eating improperly. If you immediately cut out or minimize your bad habits (sodas, chips, pizza, etc) and replace them with good habits (water, veggies, fish), you’ll notice immediate gains from the reduced caloric consumption and the increased nutritional value of your food. Additionally, if you are someone who skips breakfast and doesn’t eat until lunch, just adding a healthy breakfast and mid-morning snack can dramatically increase your metabolism. This increased metabolism will help your body start burning fats and losing weight.
Another example is if you’re trying to gain muscle mass but aren’t eating enough protein then you can add protein to your diet (chicken, turkey, salmon, supplements) and you’ll build muscle much more quickly than if you weren’t eating enough protein.
The bottom line here is: you’re just spinning your wheels if you’re working out but not providing your body with the proper nutrition. Beginners especially will see rapid gains just from making changes to their diet. Additionally, experienced weight lifters, runners, cyclists, athletes, etc who don’t eat properly will all see almost immediate gains from making these small changes to their diets.
As a beginner, you may start a workout program and see immediate results but this is only due to the fact that your body is in shock from the new routine and will adapt to a certain extent. After a while, if your diet remains unhealthy, your success will plateau and you will stop seeing gains.
Additionally, with nutrition, there is only so much you can do. Adding protein to a protein rich diet won’t increase muscle gains; reducing fat from an already low-fat diet won’t help you lose more weight. There is a point of diminishing returns where you won’t be able to customize or tweak your diet any further. At this point, consistency is key. The longer you stay with it and the better you become about realizing what you need, your body will take care of itself.
If you’re an intermediate or advanced weight lifter or athlete and you have your nutrition down but want to increase gains, you have to start getting very scientific about what you eat. You need to start calculating the exact amounts of calories in the forms carbs, proteins and fats that you take in each day and figure out how to best use these to your advantage. If you’re a long distance runner who is trying to run further before hitting the wall, you may want to adjust the amount and types of carbs you’re taking in. If you’re a weight lifter who wants to add 10 lbs of muscle, you would want to adjust the amount of protein you’re consuming. It will vary from person to person and sport to sport.
Once you’ve gone as far as you can with your nutrition, it’s time to look at your training program. Are you working out enough? Too much? With the right amount of intensity? If you’re diet is close to perfect, what changes can you make to your exercise routine to get you to the next level?
Many athletes do the same thing over and over again without realizing that their bodies have completely adapted to the routine and their gains will be minimal at best. You need to consistently change up your exercise plan to keep your body guessing and from becoming complacent.
To sum it all up, nutrition is extremely important but more-so during the beginning stages or for the person whose nutrition program is still not conducive to their goals.
Start a diet and exercise routine by focusing on your nutrition as you ramp up your exercise. Then, as you start to see results, tweak the diet so that it works best for your body and goals.
If you don’t have a good diet, then your workouts will be wasted.