A Key to Getting the RESULTS You Want from Exercise

This past November my family took a trip to Florida watch my husband Chris compete in his first full Iron Man competition. This triathlon event involves a 2.4 mile swim, followed by a 112 mile bike race, followed by a marathon (26.2 mile) run. 

Iron Man athletes heading out into the ocean for the 2.4 mile swim

Iron Man athletes heading out into the ocean for the 2.4 mile swim

In my opinion, Chris did an awesome job. Anyone who can complete this race (in the allotted 17-hour time frame) is pretty amazing.

I could probably do it... with a life jacket, a comfy bike seat, and a three-day time limit. :) 

(I'm all about daily exercise, but my exercise personality is drastically different from my husband's.)  

Chris finishing up the 112-mile bike race

Chris finishing up the 112-mile bike race

Chris   starting the marathon

Chris starting the marathon

In Chris's opinion, his time (12:17) was too slow. This time put him in the top third of those who finished the race. But Chris was disappointed in his run time in particular. 

Of the three triathlon events, running is what Chris naturally does best. Having been a college athlete in track and cross country, the run is where he typically gets the chance to pass a lot of competitors.

He expected to run the marathon portion in about 3.5 hours. But it ended up taking him 5 hours and 11 minutes. 

The reason? 

It wasn't because he got injured.

It wasn't because he felt too tired.

It was a nutrition problem. 

 

His salt intake had been too low, which got his electrolytes out of whack. So at mile 7 of the run, both of his calf muscles and his right upper arm cramped up like a Charlie horse, making it difficult for him to run long lengths of time.

He drank a lot of broth that was offered along the way, and by mile 20 the cramps finally began to subside. It was a long 13 miles of cramping though.

As if the cramps weren't bad enough, his spirit deflated as he thought about the months of hard work that were sabotaged by this nutrition miscalculation. 

NUTRITION & EXERCISE

I realize that most of us aren't trying to carefully balance nutrients and electrolytes for endurance races.  And most of us need less salt in our diets, not more. But I think this story highlights an important point about getting the RESULTS we want from exercise: 

What we put INTO our body affects the results we want FROM our body. 

 

This is important not only for competitive athletes, but for anyone who wants to look and feel their best. Getting the right kind of nutrition will ensure that exercise helps us reach our health goals, such as:

  1. Weight loss
  2. Toning/firming
  3. Feeling Our Best

 

1. Weight Loss

Consider, for example, a 175-pound person who is hitting the gym every morning to lose weight. That person walks on the treadmill for 3 miles. This burns about 100 calories/mile (300 calories total). 

A pound of fat = 3500 calories. So it would take about 6 days of going to the gym and walking 3 miles to burn one extra pound of fat.

That's a lot of work for one little pound of fat!

You know what isn't a lot of work? Consuming calories that keep the fat on. 

Let's say that this same person forgets to pack a healthy lunch and grabs McDonald's one day. They think, I went to the gym this morning, so it'll be okay.

They order a Big Mac, medium Coke, medium fries, and a medium shake.

That's 1780 calories! The caloric equivalent of 1/2 POUND of body fat in ONE meal! SIX times the calories they worked off at the gym that morning!

In other words, 

You can't out-train a poor diet. 

 

With weight loss in particular, focusing on your diet is likely to get you results much faster than exercise. And a combination of both diet and exercise will get you on the fast track to success. 

2. Toning/Firming

A person can do all the strength/toning exercises they want, but if the muscle is buried under layers of fat, a defined look will not be achieved. Thus the popular saying:

30% gym, 70% kitchen. Abs are made in the kitchen.

 

3. Feeling Our Best

Just as athletes require good nutrition to perform well in their sport, we all require good nutrition for our bodies to perform well on a daily basis. This enables us to feel our best.

When we exercise regularly and fuel our body with a healthy diet (comprised mostly of non-processed, plant-based whole foods -- plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, some nuts/seeds, and water), we are giving our body  the nutrients it needs to perform its best. Benefits include: 

  • Increased energy 
  • Stress reduction
  • Improved mood
  • Improved focus and concentration
  • Better sleep
  • Healthy weight
  • Toned muscles
  • Improved cardiovascular conditioning (not huffing and puffing when you taking a flight of stairs)
  • Improved coordination (preventing falls and injury)
  • Fighting off disease (infections, high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, certain cancers, osteoporosis, etc.)

 

Final Thought

If you're looking to get healthier, there's no question that exercise is important. But remember to set yourself up for success.

RESULTS (whether it be athletic goals, looking better, and/or feeling better) will keep you motivated. And a good diet is key to achieving great results from exercise

 

Need some inspiration for healthy meals? One of my own goals for 2018 is to try one new healthy recipe per week. I am focusing on simple, whole-food plant-based (WFPB) recipes (primarily main dishes and veggie sides). I will be sharing these recipes in my weekly newsletter. If interested, you can sign up for my newsletter below. 

This post was originally published on January 18, 2018.