Don’t diet and exercise; fuel and train. That’s not just a cliché or a cute saying. It’s what sets apart the successful from the failures. Many people diet and/or exercise and they do so for various reasons, chief among which is to lose weight or get in shape. But weight is just a number on a scale, and it just so happens, round is a shape. Your time is your most valuable asset, so invest it wisely.
First, let’s talk about fuel: If you are going to spend your time consuming ingredients, eat for nutrition. When you eat for nutrition, weight loss isn’t the goal. The primary objective is nutrition. That is, the reason, and the ONLY reason you eat, is to nourish the cells in your body. If you are consuming ingredients for any reason other than quality nutrition, let’s talk about your priorities, because they are misaligned. Our body is a chemistry lab, and what we put into that lab, via our mouth, are chemicals. Your body doesn’t recognize a calorie from a hole in the wall. Seriously. People have been eating for millennium, but calories have only been labeled and described in the last century or so. Our bodies do not know that it takes 3500 calories to add or lose one pound of weight, nor does it care that the calories in a scoop of ice cream are roughly equivalent to a laundry basket full of lettuce. What our bodies know is that they can take carbon molecules, or oxygen molecules, or other chemicals and bond them together or break them apart in such a way that our cells can survive and thrive (or not). So we need to think of eating as fueling. And there are many different kinds of fuel. Yes, they all matter. Yes, they affect our bodies differently.
As an illustration, consider a vehicle. If this vehicle is a car, it likely runs on gasoline. Gasoline is the preferred fuel for a car. However, you can pour all the gasoline you want over a bicycle, and it will still not move. Human muscle power is the preferred fuel for a bicycle. You could also pour gasoline into a diesel truck, but it would not run properly or efficiently if at all, because diesel, not gasoline, is it’s preferred fuel. If your vehicle is a coal or wood powered train (as in locomotive) it will not run on gasoline at all. And your car, which runs quite well on gasoline, would not make it far on kerosene, or wood, or solar electricity (unless it was specifically designed for that). There are many types of fuel, and each has value in the right vehicle. Your body is a vehicle designed to run on glucose and to repair itself with amino acids. You need to provide these fuel sources if you want to function at your best.
Second, let’s talk about training. What is training, actually? By definition, training is the action of teaching a skill or particular type of behavior. When we physically train our muscles, we aren’t just moving them around. We are teaching them (training them) to move in a particular way; to respond to the stimulus (ie: weight, resistance, etc) in a predictable pattern. If you go to the gym just to say you went, don’t expect much in the way of results or definition. You need to train your muscles to move the weight, to lift, pull, push, or lower at a certain speed, with a certain amount of control, but also in a way that teaches the muscle how to recover and be prepared for the next stimulus. The goal of exercise might simply to be to walk for an hour on a treadmill. At the end of the hour, you have achieved your goal: you walked for an hour on the treadmill. But if training (rather than just exercising) is your goal, you are actually hoping to teach your muscles how to react to and recover from a stimulus, and the end result of that training will be muscle definition like you’ve never seen. By training, instead of exercising, your muscles, you are teaching them not only what they need to know to move the weight, but also how they can be prepared for the next challenge.
For peak performance, you need to fuel every cell in your body with the fuel and nutrients they need to function optimally. Stress causes damage. Food should repair that damage, rather than cause even further damage. Exercise is recognized by our bodies as stress. When we lift weights, run or walk long distances, jump rope, swim, bike, or otherwise “exercise” we are putting our bodies under stress, and the best way to manage stress is to train our bodies how to handle it. When we do, we become unstoppable, unbeatable, maybe even a little bit invincible!