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So you’re ready to start on your journey to losing fat, improving your health, building some muscle and looking leaner. First up you need to plan or diet. Or do you start training first? Let’s find out.

The Case for Diet

On the face of it, diet appears to be the most important factor in changing your lifestyle and body shape, at least when it comes to weight loss.

At a basic level, losing weight and burning fat comes down to just one thing – calorie balance. To lose weight you must burn more calories than you eat. Sure, you can increase your calorie burn through exercise, but it’s far, far easier to create this calorie deficit by dieting.

Take a look at this example to illustrate the point:

It takes a calorie deficit of 3,500 to burn one pound of fat. The amount of calories you burn exercising depends on many different factors, namely the type of training you do, how much effort you put in, your age, gender, weight, body composition and genetics, but for argument’s sake we can say that one hour of moderate intensity cardio training, such as jogging or cycling burns around 600 calories per hour.

Therefore, to lose one pound of fat, you’d have to exercise for nearly six hours. Now, even for the most hardened of gym devotees, six hours in say, a week, is a fair amount of time to give up for training. And that’s just to lose one measly pound.

Talk about diet however, and it’s remarkably easy to cut calories – you just eat less.

This doesn't mean following some horrendous, low calorie, low carb, deprivation style diet either. Take a typical day of eating for the average person.

Breakfast might be toast with butter, a bowl of cereal and a glass of fruit juice. Lunch consists of a sandwich, chips, a soda and some sort of candy bar, while dinner is a pasta or rice dish with meat. Add in a few snacks here and there, even of the “healthier” variety such as fruit, and, depending on quantity size, this could easily top 3,000 calories. (Most of which comes from sugar, refined carbs and poor-quality fats, but that’s another matter.)

By making a few simple dietary changes, such as switching your breakfast to a vegetable omelet, or having water instead of fruit juice and a protein shake instead of toast and butter, or ditching the bread at lunch in favor of salad, and lowering the carbs at dinner, you can save yourself well over 600 calories. That’s the same as you’d burn in an hour of exercising, but these changes won’t take you nearly as long. In fact, they may even save you time.

You then have the issue of general health. We’re constantly being warned about the dangers of processed foods, trans fats, sugars and junk foods. Regardless of whether you’re overweight or not, foods high in these pose a risk to your health. By cleaning up your diet and cutting back on these, you’ll make yourself a good deal healthy and potentially prolong your life.

In terms of building muscle and improving athletic performance, food is fuel. There’s a reason why bodybuilders say that diet is as important as training, and that’s because what you put in determines what you get out. Feed your body well and you’ll perform well, feed it badly, and, well….

You simply can’t out-train a bad diet. Even with no exercise whatsoever you could lose weight, simply by scaling back your calorie intake.

Continue reading after recommendations

  • “G-Flux: Building the Ultimate Body” by Dr. John Berardi, Published February 1, 2006, Accessed on October 19th 2013, Retrieved from
  • Photo courtesy of Lindsey Turner by Flickr :
  • Photo courtesy of Ed Yourdon by Flickr :

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