So we all know exercise is important. It stimulates a healthy hormonal balance within the body, it builds muscle and helps the body burn fat through increased metabolism. It will also make you look better naked, and who doesn’t want that. BUT, and this is a big but [no pun intended], you can not out-train a bad diet.

Nutrition forms the foundation for pretty much all of our health – and that includes body composition. No matter how much you work out, if you are eating the wrong foods, it will be very difficult to see optimum results for either health, fitness or body composition. Focus on health as a priority, however, then ideal body-composition will usually follow.

Unfortunately, the standard western diet is full of foods that do not promote health and are certainly not optimum fuel sources for the body. Eating processed foods, such as wheat and sugar, promotes inflammation in the intestines, which then can not only cause a host of health problems (such as auto-immune conditions, diabetes, bloating, joint pain etc), but will also very often lead to weight gain and body fat retention – specifically around the abdomen*. No amount of exercise will help when this is the case. In fact, too much exercise can exacerbate things by adding more stress on the body – leading to a dis-regulation of cortisol levels, and again, often contributing to the retention of abdominal fat.

So, the key here is finding a level of training that is right for your body – preferably shorter high-intensity workouts (such as CrossFit) rather than long periods of traditional “cardio” – and cleaning up your diet so that it is comprised mostly of whole, unprocessed foods as close to their natural state as possible. If something needs a label, or can sit on a shelf for months, chances are that it’s not going to be very good for you.

*Further reading: Excerpt from William Davis’s “Wheat Belly”