How can we improve our relationship with food to achieve our fitness goals?

A number of fitness motivation professionals have publicly stated in the past that any successful health and fitness lifestyle is only 25% exercise related - the other 75% relates to nutritional habits. These percentages may vary from one person’s opinion to another, but the fact is that eating will always be the most significant factor in terms of the frequency of meals (or snacking) and the actual food and drink consumed. Experienced trainers have probably lost count of the number of enquiries from people who cannot shift those last few pounds despite spending two hours a day in the gym, before noticing that most workouts are followed by a self-congratulatory cappuccino or muffin.

This is only a basic example, and we are not saying in the slightest that people should not be able to treat themselves sensibly - the key point is that it is often poor diet choices that prevent people from reaching their goals. Nutrition is an amazingly powerful concept, and it is just as easy to put it to work positively. An effective eating plan can be tailored to the exact needs of the individual concerned, which means that every single bite and drop can be designed to push people further and further towards their overall goals.

It is vital to dispel the myths that accompany nutrition and fitness, and the most common one of these is that skipping breakfast will put you on the right path. This could not be further from the truth, and some people may actually be surprised to learn that a sensible breakfast can actually accelerate weight loss and fat burning. Missing the first meal of the day can cause the metabolism to slow down, meaning that fewer calories are actually burned, and the resulting ‘hunger pangs’ can also lead people to make crazy food choices when it gets to 11am - this is well in advance of lunchtime for many people. This concept represents a major mental breakthrough for some ‘lifelong dieters,’ as it reinforces the fact that eating can be an incredibly positive activity when it is done correctly.

When thinking about eating in more general terms, there is another mental technique that can assist people who always seem to be reaching for junk food. Eating is all about satisfying one simple human need - the requirement to feel ‘full’ while obtaining enough nutrients to keep the body going until the next meal. Picking up a cream cake or a chocolate bar will fulfil this need to a certain degree, but we should all think about the next stage. What happens when the treat has gone? Surely it would be just as beneficial to consume something else that will leave us feeling full, as the result will always be an empty plate or box in either case. If the only regular option is to visit a vending machine, it is always possible to purchase pre-packed healthy snacks or use plastic containers to prepare food in advance. Once again, this isn’t about never being able to indulge in something that is a little bit ‘naughty,’ it is a question of being able to identify when a habit of harmful snacking is emerging that can be avoided.

‘Eat big to get big’ is another concept that seems to be screamed out from people within the bodybuilding community, and the simple truth is that for general fitness it is more important to have a balanced diet. Someone who is obese may have a dream vision of losing the excess fat and developing an immense muscular physique, but at the same time there is a more pressing need to drop the excess weight first of all and use this as the basis for an adjusted programme in the future. Lean muscle gain is the best fitness goal for burning fat, so initially it isn’t a question of consuming tubs full of cooked chicken and protein powder - starting off sensibly will actually burn the fat to show off the muscle that is underneath.

Modern-day humans are often so stressed and busy that nutrition becomes an afterthought, and we can think that an hour in the gym will solve all of our fitness concerns. With a little thought about what we are consuming every day, our dream health goals will be achieved 100 times faster, and it is staggering to think about how food can effectively help in the gym.

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