Back in high school and college, I could eat whatever I wanted and stay a size 4. I was an athlete and my metabolism was on fire. After lacrosse practice, I would hit the dining hall- hard. After hours of running, drills, and strength training, my body needed to be refueled. I was in college and could get away with it; but since then lifestyle has changed and no longer am I working out at that intensity. As you age, your body changes just as your exercise routines will evolve. Reality check: even with working out daily, maybe twice a day, you can’t change your body composition if you’re indulging in ice cream and trying to counteract it with SoulCycle. I’m a strong believer that abs are made in the kitchen and unfortunately, all the cardio in the world won’t be able to help if you’re maintaining an unhealthy diet.
1. You are not a professional athlete
Now you’re a regular person who enjoys exercise and still a bad ass athlete – which is totally fine! Exercising isn’t a full-time job for most of us and our days aren’t spent training. Finding a balance between workout routines and eating can be hard. It’s difficult to justify regular take out meals simply because you are going to CrossFit in the morning. #WOD. But be realistic about the calories you’re expending in a workout v. how many calories you are consuming. Just because you worked out doesn’t necessarily mean it should be rewarded with food. Instead, choose to prepare home-cooked, lean meals and save that penne alla vodka as your post-race celebration meal. Don’t get me wrong, special indulgent meals are fine once in awhile; but don’t try to justify it with an intense sweat session you may have had earlier in the day.
2. Not eating enough means you won’t have energy to exercise
Not all diets are healthy- be careful with low-calorie and low-carb diets especially if you are hitting the gym hard. Your body needs to be fueled properly in order to sustain yourself throughout that lifting session or cycling class. Restricting your eating can leave your body searching for a source of energy to complete your workout. Unfortunately, restrictive eating plans often only leave your lean muscle mass as a source of energy. There are essential fats and certain nutrients your body may be missing, and as a result it could inhibit your body’s ability to build lean body mass. Make sure to eat prior to exercise to help your body perform at its best; this is also important to avoid feeling dizzy or having your blood sugar drop too low.
3. Calories in v. Calories out
Simple, right? We gain weight due to a lack of physical activity in combination with overeating. So fix it by eating less and exercise more. Yes… but no. All calories are not created equal- fried zucchini is not the same as spiralized zucchini noodles (yum!) The same way broccoli and cupcake calories are not the same. Foods contain different nutrients which cause various physiological effects within your body; what you eat can signal your body’s hormones to burn fat, boost metabolism, build muscle, OR it could create the opposite effects. If your nutrition is sub-par, you can keeping exercise all you want but still struggle to lose weight.
Bottom line: Make sure you are being honest with yourself when it comes to your nutrition. Honest about what you’re eating and being realistic about how that balances out with your exercise routine. Making good choices without restricting yourself will allow you to make lasting nutritional changes.