If you’ve heard the saying that weight management is 80 percent diet and 20 percent working out, there’s something to it. You can’t out-exercise a bad diet, which is why your nutrition needs to be at the foundation of your goals. However, remember that what you eat isn’t just about feeding your muscles and reducing fat cell size. In fact, nutrition also affects the mind, which is why your diet can fight fatigue, help mentally get you through a workout, and get you excited about taking a new class or going up in free weights.
It really is mind of matter, and your “matter” is what you’re trying to control. It’s a great idea to work in tandem with a nutritionist and personal trainer if you’re at the start of your journey (or anywhere along the way). These experts can help you pinpoint what it is you want to achieve and map out the best way to do it. After all, if you don’t know what you want to do, how will you know the tools you need to get there?
Reducing fat cells
There’s no such thing as “losing weight” unless you get surgery such as liposuction. All you can do is reduce or increase the size of your fat cells. Everyone is born with a set amount. Diet is at the core of reducing fat cells, although it’s more complicated than calories in/calories out. Still, this is a very basic framework, and it’s important to understand the caloric content of what you’re consuming. Even more important is making sure what is within those calories to nourish your body.
Reducing the number of calories you consume will likely reduce your fat cell size. However, even with working out, you can’t target fat loss areas. Everyone also has a natural shape and often pockets of fat that are too stubborn to move. The best way around this is to contour your body by building muscle in key areas to help off-set this natural tendency. That’s where muscle mass comes into play.
Some people, particularly women, shy away from building muscle because they think it will make them look too masculine. As a woman, this isn’t possible—women simply don’t have the hormone balance to achieve a masculine look. Everyone should focus on muscle mass because sarcopenia (age-related muscle loss) begins to really kick in during your thirties and increases with every decade. Muscles are important for daily activities, protecting the body, and keeping you strong.
There’s no such thing as “toning.” Muscles can either shrink or grow. Toning usually means reducing fat cells and increasing muscle size simultaneously. However, simply strength training isn’t enough. Muscles need to be fed with protein immediately after a strength training session. Aim to consume at least 20 grams of protein right after a strength training session to kickstart the muscle healing process. If you don’t feed your muscles, and this includes the right amount of calories for you, they won’t grow. Worse, they might tear and be damaged from strength training without proper nutrition.
No matter your fitness goals, make sure diet is a critical part of the process. Otherwise, you’ll be working against yourself and will likely never see the results you crave.