You Can’t Out-Train Unhealthy Diet

A bus who tried to out-drive unhealthy petrol.
A bus who tried to out-drive unhealthy petrol.

There is no doubt that training more and with higher intensities will give you more flexibility with your diet. It can help you build a buffer zone calorie-wise so that the extra piece of aunt Betty’s cheese cake is less likely to park itself on your hips.

So that’s the positive. That being said, I am going to spend the rest of this post convincing you why it’s still not the best, nor the safest way to go about things when trying to improve body composition. I’ll also clarify what to do instead.

The negatives of excessive training

Not only is high volume and high intensity training more taxing for your body and can lead to an injury or a state of over-training. But there will also come a time when the large volume of exercise is not possible. Whether it is due to an injury, family emergency, Christmas holiday (oh, how timely) or something else that forces the supersonic freight train, that you are, off it’s rails. What are you going to do then? Resort to eating bird seeds?

The more sustainable approach is to get on top of your eating habits. Not by creating restrictive diets but by having habits that allow flexibility during the times that are out of the ordinary. If your main training goal is body composition, then most of your time should be spend on building healthier eating habits. Provided you don’t have them in place yet.

Flexible, healthier eating habits in real life

Too often we get stuck obsessing over the minutiae when trying to live a healthier life. I know I used to be as guilty of this as anyone. Let’s explore three common groups that people seem to fall into.

The “I don’t care” – section

In here pretty much anything edible goes. Want to have nachos and cheerios with chocolate milk and ice cream for breakfast? Have at it. You might be stuck in this section because you think that it’s either this or the next section:

The “I care way too much” – section

This section is the extremely narrow outlook sitting on the top of the triangle. People living here will identify with, “does this have 13 or 14 grams of carbs? I am freaking out!”

Unless you are a professional athlete (even then this is debatable) or someone with extremely restrictive health condition, you don’t need to be in here. But unfortunately many starting their fitness journey will land here first.

If you are just moving away from the “I don’t care” – section, you might think this is the way to go. It’s all or nothing. Because if you’re not here you’re not trying hard enough. You’re not good enough.

This is also where dietary zealots and anyone using scare-tactics sit at. You know, “don’t eat this or else, inflammation and obesity and higher tax rate.”.

I used to sit right at the top of this. Carbs were evil, something that God created on the 8th day, just to fuck with you. But luckily I’ve evolved.

The “I care just enough” – section

In the middle there’s the section that has a lot of room and flexibility for trial and error. For the most folk, people like you and me, this is where we want to be in. Some days you eat ice cream and some days you don’t. And it’s ok.

You’re “in shape” and look healthy but it doesn’t mean that you necessarily look like Brad Pitt out of Fight Club 24/7 365.

Mastering this section will teach you that being “in shape” is not actually that hard. Have a strong, healthy but flexible eating habits and build up to three or four days of purposeful training per week. Stay active outside of the training sessions and don’t let your stress get the best of you. Things will fall into place.

Let’s stop acting like there’s a fine line between healthy and unhealthy. There is a large area with a lot of room in each direction.

The benefit of doing so is two-folded. Having flexible eating habits and skills makes busy times more manageable compared to just trying to out-train your diet. But it also allows you to move away from training programs that only focus on fat loss.

Training for fat loss

Focus on strength and movement skills instead being a speedballing Duracell Bunny on acid. The best training program for fat loss is still a strength based, lower repetition plan. This helps you to maintain or even gain muscle mass when your food plan will be lower in calories than usual. If you only do high repetition, lighter weight sessions you might as well just do cardio.

The downside of cardio is that it does not preserve the lean muscle mass the same way as heavy strength training does. You will feel exhausted after each session, leaving the gym more tired than when you came in. This combined with lower calorie eating means you will lose weight but a lot of it will be muscle mass. You’ll end up with the typical “skinny-fat” body. Yes, I hate the term too but if that what I have to do to convince you otherwise, so be it.

Besides that, being on a typical mainstream “fat loss – training plan” for a long term is boring as batshit. Eventually the hamster wheel will get the best of you.

So, lift heavy, become strong and more independent, improve your bone density and preserve, or even build muscle.

By trying to out-train the unhealthy diet with excessive fitness endeavors, you are not aligning your actions with your goals. You are climbing the wrong ladder. Reaching for the wrong star. Eating the wrong frog. You get the point. It’s like trying to build a massive deadlift by only working on bench press. Eventually you’ll have to pull the bar off the floor too.

Stop majoring in the minors.


While you’re at it, you might also like:

Why and How to Stop Training for Fat Loss

Adjusting Training and Eating Habits for a Lifelong Success

Habit Change Made Ridiculously Simple

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