The True Importance Of Your Diet
Updated: Dec 9, 2019
Saturday night I found myself in an all too familiar position; 11 pm, copious alcohol consumed, and someone has to ask the 'drunk diet question' to the PT in the room.
The 'drunk diet question' is where someone who can barely put a sentence together manages to conclude that now is the time to make diet changes in their life, so they ask you, their perceived fitness expert, what they should do.
I was mid-bite into a chocolate chip brioche slice when this skinny fellow I met that night eloquently asked ‘so, like, how important is diet?’
Which is akin to asking ‘so, how important is money?’. The answer is, it always matters somewhat but how much greatly depends on what you want to do with it. If you’re happy to live a humble life, you don’t need as much. If you want to fly first class to The Maldives, probably need a bit more.
Coming back to the diet question from my newfound student, I first resisted the urge to slap myself in the face, then answered.
I told him its importance is based on each person's goals. It looks like this:
The diet importance hierarchy
If your goal is fitness: Diet doesn’t actually matter all that much. This may seem blasphemous coming from a PT, but it’s the truth. Eat crap all day but then do a 90-minute run and you’ll still get fitter than a healthy eating couch potato.
If your goal is muscle: Diet matters more to gain muscle than to increase fitness. We have new tissue to be built which needs extra energy — calories, as most people now are familiar — and undereating won’t help that. However, in the early stages of training diet doesn’t matter as much as those who have been training for muscle building for longer.
If your goal is weight loss: Diet now becomes the most important factor with dropping KG’s. If we go back to example 1 in the fitness goals, you run for 90-minutes a day but cool-down with 30 minutes at a buffet you won’t be dropping any weight. Exercise helps insofar as burning more calories, but your diet will be the main determinant of weight changes.
If your goal is toning up/ gain muscle + lose fat: This last goal is often the holy grail of results. Most people don’t want to lose weight and be ‘skinny-fat’ nor do they want to gain muscle to only look ‘bulky’ or ‘bloated’. If you’re going to pull this feat of magic off, both diet and training need to be on point.
How you train and what you do with your diet to achieve this is different to each person, so it’s beyond the scope here of going into every method. For most, it’s dialling in your calorie intake slightly below maintenance, a deficit, then getting structured with your weight training to progressively overload your muscles to gain or at least maintain muscle.
Anyhoodle, again, that enters into quite in-depth explanation territory, so let’s take away this: diet matters, but it largely depends on your goal exactly how much.
If your fitness and training is going strong but you aren’t seeing results, chances are your diet is the next place to look. If both your diet and exercise has some room for improvement, ask yourself what the most important goal is to identify if you start with exercise or diet.
I’ve seen occasions where people can work on both simultaneously, but there is an old expression worth remembering ‘the man who chases 2 rabbits catches neither’. For a lot of people tackling either their workout routine OR diet first would make it a lot more sustainable. And if it isn’t sustainable it doesn’t matter what you’re doing because it won’t last.
Have a think about your goals and what to prioritise, especially if you’re planning on making 2020 a better year for your health and fitness.
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