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A Personal Trainer’s Top Fitness Tip: Start with Diet Before Exercise!

Most times when people consider improving their fitness, their first thought is to implement exercise (specifically running or some form of cardio).

Well, not only is cardio the slow path to many fitness goals, but exercise in general might be something you want to put on the backburner until you’re right with your diet and eating habits.

We’ve all heard the saying “You can’t out-exercise a bad diet” and that’s completely true, but it’s only part of the wisdom of nutrition-the part that considers only fat loss and the idea that you can easily eat more calories than you burn. But what if your goal isn’t simply fat loss, or fat loss isn’t even something you care about? What motivates you to prioritize your diet when your fitness goals are not fat loss related??


We’re so conditioned to think of food as calories and the determining factor in your body fat content, when in fact the amount, timing and quality of food you eat plays a massive role in your mood, your energy & metabolism, your hormone balance, your ability to heal, your sports performance and SO MUCH MORE!

Fat is actually one of the least significant things that your food affects, so whether you’re getting into fitness to help improve your mental health, or to improve your strength and sports performance, you need to be educated and intentional with your nutrition. Our recommendation is to consult with a nutrition coach to help guide you towards the perfect eating habits for you and your lifestyle.

Here’s how prioritizing your nutrition enhances your fitness journey and the results you achieve:

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Proper nutrition ensures that you have the energy and motivation to pursue your goals with minimal risk of injury and increased ability to heal!

A common occurrence when working on a fitness journey is to undereat, or to eat too simply-sometimes to the point of omitting entire food groups.


This is observed in the bodybuilders who live off a low-fat diet of chicken, broccoli and white rice, or the person who eats one solid meal a day.

The lack of food in general makes it much harder to function, stay in a good mood or motivate yourself to work out-that’s because it slows down the body and it’s normal functions.

The lack of nutrient diversity (i.e. eating chicken, broccoli and rice for dinner every day) ends up causing nutrient imbalances where you might be deficient in one nutrient and have too much of another. In the instance of the “chronic chicken, broccoli and rice dinner” it is common to observe negative symptoms of a high protein and low-fat diet such as constipation, indigestion, mood swings, depression, low energy, hormone imbalance, vitamin A, D, E & K deficiencies.

This will not only disrupt the normal function of the bodily systems, but it will also reduce your body’s ability to heal from exercise or stress, and put you at an increased risk for injury.

Low energy, bad moods, symptoms of nutrient deficiency, long healing times, injury…all of these things will get in the way of your workout plans at some point and cause a disappointing decrease in your self-efficacy, and an increase in your sense of failure.

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Eating habits are deeply personal, and are often tied to emotions that can be triggered during inattentive dieting practices, and cause self-sabotage and disappointment.

For most people, eating is so much more than tastebuds, digestion and nourishment. Eating is associated with memories and emotions, and eating habits can be passed down from one generation to the next.

This often causes disordered eating and unhealthy eating habits that a person may not even be aware that they have-both of these things have a profound ability to sabotage your fitness goals. Eating healthier is already the most difficult part of improving your fitness, but imagine how much more challenging it will be to eat healthy when you are working against habits and self-sabotage that you aren’t even conscious of.

Giving yourself the time and space to work on building healthier eating habits helps you make long-term healthy lifestyle changes, instead of just following an intensive diet plan that you don’t entirely understand. This can include learning to cook healthy alternatives to the foods you love and enjoy, taking the time to try new dishes, and even studying your own personal food sensitivities.

The result is you finding an eating regimen that works with you so you can actually enjoy your diet and appreciate what it is doing for your health.

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You will be spending more time eating than exercising so it’s important to have a good relationship with food.

Any fitness journey is the same: you do 5-7 workouts a week, but you eat 21-35 meals and snacks a week-some people eat more!

That ratio alone obviates how much more you will be confronted with the need to express healthy eating habits as opposed to the need to get to the gym for a workout. This is exactly why you “can’t out-exercise a bad diet”!

Starting your fitness journey by addressing the habit you spend the most time on makes sense! Take time to assess and determine: how many times a day you eat, are you more inclined to eat big or small meals, and if there is anything about your eating schedule or ingredient consumption that needs to be changed…

Use this information to prepare yourself for and implement the best meal plan for you and your lifestyle. Make sure you are planning to practice eating habits that can become second nature to you so that over time, you will not have to think about or organize your nutrition habits.


There are many facets of a fitness journey that need to be addressed to improve a person’s health and wellness, and we guide women through all of them. We believe that every one of these facets is equally and uniquely important, but that it is unnecessarily difficult to attempt to approach them all at once.

The specific order in which to manage each of the parts of your fitness journey is secular to you, but all of our clients have showed us one commonality:
 The journey to health and fitness is much simpler when you start with time to address and correct the eating habits!

Give yourself a respectful amount of time to nurture a healthy relationship with food and you will find the rest of your fitness journey to be significantly more enjoyable!


This mini-article was written by Elexis Smolak CPT, CNC, founder of Adapted Fitness and Master Trainer. Learn more or schedule a virtual coffee at