Getting In Shape Is 90% Diet and 15% Gym

If Your Diet Doesn’t Change, Your Body Won’t Change

How many times have you heard this? “I only go to the gym so that I can eat what I want, when I want.” It’s probably one of the most frustrating things that I hear, although I don’t show it.

Eating what you want, when you want implies that you’re justifying a diet full of junk food. At a young age, it might appear that this idea is working but the chances are that these results stem from great genetics.

Usually younger people who go to the gym to justify dirty eating habits, see a major weight gain as they get deeper into adolescence. The signs of an unhealthy diet that were not prevalent in young age, make themselves clear with age.

In reality, getting fat is a good sign from your body that you should do something about it. This can be seen as a blessing because even if someone has genetics that don’t allow them to get fat with an unhealthy diet, they may be doing damage to their physiology.

The way I see it, the gym improves your engine and your diet is the steering wheel. Which way do you want to go?

Being skinny or having a 6-pack does not imply health. Many people that are lean are actually in poor health but unaware of it. For example, many people who are lean actually exhibit major signs of insulin resistance (a precursor to type 2 diabetes). [1]

Diet determines body composition in major ways. One study in particular showed the difference in body composition following 2 different diet approaches. [2] The diet that was higher in protein, demonstrated an identical reduction in fat mass than the lower protein diet. However, the lean body mass was preserved more effectively in the high protein diet.

Preserving lean body mass is an advantage that should be valued when trying to lose weight. Muscle mass carries many benefits that help with metabolism of food and overall well-being.

Why Using The Gym To Burn Calories Isn’t Effective

Entering the gym to burn as many calories as possible is a hopeless pursuit. Although it may work in helping to lose weight, it doesn’t favor a preservation of lean muscle mass. In saying this, I do not mean that activity level is not important. It is very important to have an active lifestyle in order to improve many aspects of health. It’s just that when it comes to the gym or any aerobic exercise, Calories should not be the focus.

People often don’t understand what a Calorie is a measurement of. A Calorie is a measurement of energy. Since the body requires energy to function, you need food. Looking to burn a large amount of Calories on a treadmill leaves you with less energy for other physiological processes. Does fat loss have to come at the expense of feeling miserable?

In observing cultures that live secluded from western civilization (and their low incidences of diabetes, obesity, cancer, etc) I would like to believe that fat loss should come naturally when we are active enough in our daily routines and eating to optimize our physiology. I don’t believe that suffering should be a part of fat loss. When a broken metabolism is fixed, the fat should fall off. Maybe this is wishful thinking.

Although the verdict is still out on this, some also believe that attempting to burn as many calories as you can in a workout, just makes you more hungry throughout the rest of the day. This puts you right back at square one.

The 2 problems mentioned above may arise from long duration steady state cardio, but some people still actually succeed. The problem for these people is that they usually struggle to keep the weight off after their intervention.

The approach to fat loss should be to change physiology permanently. What you eat has a major affect on how your body utilizes energy. You want to put your body in a state where it permanently prefers to burn fat rather than store it.

Specific training regimes can help to accomplish these goals but the real magic doesn’t start until the diet is in order.

Strength Training Makes You Superhuman

The reason I think that getting in shape is 90% diet and 15% gym is because as I said earlier, the gym only improves the engine (energy metabolism) which you steer with your diet (body composition changes and physiological changes). Improving your engine without steering in the right direction will result in unfavorable results.

90% of your success comes from diet. 10% of the remaining success will come from proper training, with  an additional 5% of success coming from bodily changes that proper training can provide. This 5% above 100 is what gives you superhuman results.

Some of these superhuman results include: an increase in resting metabolic rate, activation of specific genes that help reverse the aging process, improved cognition and of course, increased strength.

Although strength training does not burn a significant amount of Calories within the workout, it is the alteration of total energy expenditure that really makes the difference. It has been shown that strength training can increase resting metabolic rate by as much as 9%. [3] This means that throughout the day, you will burn 9% more calories than if you didn’t strength train. In the bigger picture, this may equate to more calories burned than a long steady state cardio session.

Since strength training (or any high intensity workout) is a stress on the body, it must find ways to adapt. Through this stress, the body will activate genes that can help to slow the aging process majorly. [4] Some of these genes also encourage the body to give up it’s fat stores which can help to permanently keep it off.

Anyone who is consistently partaking in a strength training routine will most likely report that cognition improves in some way. It has been reported that mental health and memory retention are both improved through strength training. One study in particular showed the improvements in the memory retention of seniors. [5]

The biggest factor in the aging of the human body is a loss of strength. Elderly people these days are very concerned with a fall that may result in serious damage! Just because it’s common doesn’t mean that it’s normal. This fragility can be reversed by maintaining a consistent resistance/strength training program in conjunction with a diet that allows for appropriate recovery.


If you take anything out of this article, let it be that Calories are not very important. Focusing on other aspects of your health will garner better results for a longer period of time.

The type of Calorie that you consume is very important to positively impact your physiology and the ideal diet is different for everyone. There is no one size fits all.

When in the gym, focus on improving your metabolism and increasing your lean mass. This will turn into better fat loss results, improved longevity and life long happiness.


[Cover Photo] The Paleo Diet. “Is Your Brain Hardwired For Junk Food?”. [Online]. Available:

[1] European Journal of Endocrinology. “Prediabetes is not all about obesity: association between plasma leptin and prediabetes in lean rural Chinese adults”. [Online]. Available:

[2] The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. “Effect of a high-protein, energy-restricted diet on body composition, glycemic control, and lipid concentrations in overweight and obese hyperinsulinemic men and women”. [Online]. Available:

[3] European PMC. “Effect of strength training on resting metabolic rate and physical activity: age and gender comparisons”. [Online]. Available:

[4] American Physiological Society. “Influence of age, sex, and strength training on human muscle gene expression determined by microarray”. [Online]. Available:

[5] NCBI. “Resistance training promotes cognitive and functional brain plasticity in seniors with probable mild cognitive impairment: A 6-month randomized controlled trial”. [Online]. Available:


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