We all know that one person who says, “I eat what I want and then just work it off at the gym,” and then proceeds to stuff their face with pizza, tacos, and cheeseburgers. But is there any truth to out-exercising a crappy diet?
In short: NO. Working out like a monster is not going to counteract a bad diet, it’ll only make it harder for you to achieve your fitness goals. Different foods have good and bad side effects toward various parts of the body. Healthy foods contribute essential nutrients which impact our skin, sleeping patterns, and joints, for example. Dense foods that are rich in calories but low in healthy nutrients can make us feel groggy and bloated (think Popeye versus Garfield). So if you’re regularly eating junk foods like fries and doughnuts, heading to the gym for 45-60 minutes is not going to work off your Wendy’s 4 for $4 either. Instead, it gets stored as fat and disrupts your #gainz.
Perhaps the only people who can justify a bad diet are pro athletes. They require an enormous amount of caloric fuel because they burn off the intake with frequent exercise and high intensity workouts, aka energy output. For the average person, it’s a lot harder to work off your caloric intake, no matter how much we believe we live at the gym and breath exercise. Unless you’re training to be the new Michael Phelps or a linebacker at the next Superbowl, there’s no rationale for unlimited breadsticks at Olive Garden.
Having a bad diet and keeping your physique may have worked when you were in high school, but that’s not the case once you pass 25. Your metabolic rate, or how quickly you burn calories or fat, is at its highest in your teens and early 20s, even if you didn’t exercise regularly, meaning, eating fast food during your lunch block was fine and dandy whether or not you had track practice later. However, everyone’s metabolic rate is different and determined by genetics, and as we get older our metabolism slows. Such is life, unfortunately.
So what about that person we all know who believes they can have their cake and eat it, too? One: they might be lucky and have a high metabolic rate (try not to let that jealousy get to you). Two (and most likely): they’re not going to see the results they want. Having bottomless fries at Red Robin then working it off didn’t cancel out the fries; it just made it more difficult to lose. Therefore a regular diet high in bad fats and sugars will constantly get in the way of your gym goals. It’s unreasonable to quit an entire diet cold-turkey. But in small ways, the key is to make smart food choices that when stored are healthy for us and give us good nutrients, but will also be “easier” to work off.