The first time I trained for a half-marathon, I thought, “Okay, this is good. I’ll be burning a ton of calories running all these miles and I’ll probably drop a few pounds. Awesome!”
And, yeah, I burned lots of calories, but I didn’t lose weight. Not at all.
The saying goes: You can’t outrun (or out-lift, out-train) a bad diet.
That means, exercise alone isn’t enough.
If you really want results, you need both: regular exercise and good nutrition.
How can it possible that even when you’re burning a lot more calories you don’t lose weight?
One possibility is a phenomenon called “The Halo Effect”
The Halo Effect
In a nutshell, it’s when you think something or some one is so good it’s hard for you to be objective.
When it comes to fitness, the halo effect is:
I work out so I can eat whatever I want.
Sure, I can have dessert and a jumbo margarita! I just ran 10 miles.
I’m running a 5k tomorrow. I can have an extra serving.
The Halo Effect results in a person losing objectivity and allowing herself more high calorie indulgences or “rewards” because she worked out.
Thus the saying: You can’t outrun, out-lift, or out-train a bad diet.
In my experience, nutrition is way more critical in losing and maintaining a healthy weight than exercise, but it’s also the more challenging component.
And, it seems that the nutrition piece becomes even more important with age. You may be thinking, “I used to be able to eat whatever I want and never gain a pound.” [I’ve never said that, personally.]
So how do you do it? What’s the easiest way to get the best results from all your hours at the gym?
Here are a few tips on how to incorporate exercise and nutrition for the best results
Simply put, eating clean means eating whole foods in their most natural form as possible. For example, if you have a choice between an apple, apple sauce, and an apple flavored, gluten-free fruit chew, the apple’s the best choice. Choose minimally processed food with no added sugar whenever possible.
Eat more vegetables
At every meal, have at least one serving of vegetables, and shoot for 2 – 3 servings each meal. Starchy vegetables like corn and potatoes don’t count.
Drink water to stay hydrated
The standard recommendation is to drink half your body weight in ounces every day and even more than that if you’ve been sweating. Adequate hydration improves all bodily functions. Not drinking enough water can cause dehydration which can result in problems such as headaches, constipation, muscle cramps, and more.
Be aware of added sugar in beverages and choose accordingly
Sports drinks, soda, fruit juice, adult beverages, and sweetened coffee drinks often have a ton of added sugar and a ton of extra calories.
Many restaurants now have calories per serving listed right on the menu and others have nutrition information on their website. It’s worth taking a look.
Read labels for ingredients and serving size
When you look for calories on the label, don’t forget to check the serving size.
For more information, read How to Read a Food Label
The most important thing is to find what works for you and then stick with it. For more recommendations and nutrition tips at How to Start Eating Healthy and Stick to It
Over the past few years of working out and finding what works best for me, I discovered that exercise has many benefits but losing weight isn’t one of them. Maybe that’s because of the Halo Effect. I don’t know for sure.
What I know for sure is that making good nutrition choices improves my overall feeling of health, wellness, and fitness. I make my share of bad choices and I’m not anywhere near perfect, but when I do these things most of the time:
- Eat clean
- Eat my veggies
- Drink water
- Avoid added sugar
- Pay attention to food labels
I get better results. It’s most likely, you will too.
How about you? Do you agree with the statement: “You can’t outrun a bad diet”? What works best for you?