You Can’t Out-Train a Bad Diet

You Can’t Out-Train a Bad Diet

The single biggest factor in successful weight loss takes place in the kitchen, not the gym. No amount of working out will compensate for a bad diet. Even if you eat conscientiously most of the time, if you fall into the trap of rewarding yourself every time you get a workout in, you’re probably taking two steps forward, three steps back.

It’s easy to slip into this habit. How many times do we tell ourselves something like, “I earned this donut; I worked out hard this morning!” If, heaven forbid, I stop at the grocery store on the way home from the gym, I can justify throwing almost anything into my cart (and eventually my mouth). Snack cakes? I had a PR! Candy corn? I did cardio too today!

Even well-intentioned post-workout smoothies and shakes can add too many calories to your daily intake.

Are Your Rewards Sabotaging Your Progress?

The truth is, even if you were putting in a lot of effort, it’s very likely you didn’t work out hard enough to burn off the equivalent amount of calories in your “reward.” Consider this example: If you’ve ever run a marathon, you know it takes a lot of work. A marathon entails running for anywhere from 3 to 6 hours, over a distance of 26.2 miles. Estimates suggest running a marathon will burn over 2,500 calories. Say you decide to celebrate your race by eating lunch at your favorite burger joint afterward. You order a big, delicious, sloppy 8-ounce cheeseburger with a side salad, a beer, and a piece of chocolate cake for dessert–because you ran a marathon, for crying out loud! Well, unfortunately, with that one meal, you’ve now taken in more calories than you burned off running for 26 miles—and you didn’t even have fries! Ugh.

Sobering, right? Now apply that to your daily exercise routine. Even if you put in a hard, sweaty 45 minutes running on the treadmill or row/jump/throw your way through a WOD that leaves you dry heaving, you’ll barely be working off the dressing on your dinner salad, let alone that Frappuccino you’re rewarding yourself with.

If you’re working out consistently and eating well but can’t seem to get your weight under control, take a look at how your rewards may be holding you back. Be realistic about the calories you’re expending and the calories you’re taking in. Ask yourself if splurging on a post-workout calorie bomb is a worthwhile trade-off for all the effort you put into your workout. If the answer is no, driving past the drive-through will be easier.

Treat–Don’t Reward–Yo’self

Now, don’t misunderstand me . . . I’m not saying you should give up donuts or cheeseburgers or what have you. You work hard; you’re entitled to occasionally enjoy foods that aren’t specifically in line with your diet plan. Go ahead and treat yo’self!

But remember, by definition, treats shouldn’t be daily indulgences. Exercise, participation in a sport or a fitness regimen, is its own reward, by virtue of the improvements you’re making to your health and physique. If you find yourself needing the extra boost of a reward now and then, make it a nonfood item. Save the donuts for occasional treats and cheat meals.

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