Can nutrition be a barrier to improving fitness levels?

Nutrition is a major barrier people face when trying to improve their fitness. Your body is very similar to the engine in your car. If you give it the right fuel, it runs well. If you give it the wrong or inadequate fuel, it may still run, but there is going to be a lot more breakdowns. Poor nutrition will not provide the body with the necessary energy to run at peak efficiency. Improvements in fitness rely on your body's compensation to increased demands. For example, if you lift increasingly heavier weights, your body compensates by creating more muscle tissue. Without the proper nutrients, your body will not be able to build this muscle tissue, and your fitness progress will stall. You will see the same impediments along the entire fitness spectrum. Whether you are trying to increase stamina, strength, power, speed, quickness, or flexibility, nutrition is a vital piece of your program. Proper nutrition must become a lifestyle choice and is not something you only invest in periodically.

Nutrition is almost always the barrier to improving fitness levels or breaking through plateaus. Poor nutrition means poor fitness and improper nutrition for your fitness goal equates to no progress.
From a body composition standpoint (amount of fat and muscle), nutrition is 100% responsible for exercise induced changes. In other words if you are trying to lose body fat and you eat too many calories compared to the amount you burn, you will not lose fat and you’ll plateau. From a performance standpoint, not eating properly before an event or training, prevents optimal energy potential to perform best when compared to consuming the ideal amount and percentages of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. No one maximize their health, fitness or training/exercise outcomes by randomly eating, so keep in mind the information below.
Proper nutrition can be for everyone:

1. Maximize your health and functional longevity potential.
2. Be 100% responsible for controlling weight up or down including adding muscle – i.e. you can’t add muscle or grow if you don’t eat – and if you don’t eat right, growth and strength can’t be maximized.

Proper nutrition can be for athletes and exercisers:

1. Maximize each event performance including optimizing mental focus by properly loading and reloading energy and fluids.
2. Enhance each training outcome because properly timed meals with the right nutrients will build more muscle and strength than “random eating”. In other words, your body will spend more time and energy building muscle rather than simply repairing the exercise damaged tissues – every workout should make you better, bigger, faster or stronger.
3. Contribute to an extended competitive lifespan. By maintaining proper nutrition the body receives a steady flow of the “right stuff”, which means less wear and tear thus a natural slowing of the athletic aging process.
4. Control athletic weight because diet is solely responsible for achieving ideal playing weight.

You can exercise religiously an hour a day, but if you are consuming too many calories the other 23 hours, there isn’t anything anyone can do to help you.

There is only one way to find out what you are truly eating and it requires a little discipline on your part. Keep a log of everything you put in your mouth for nine days. I mean everything! Even if you grab a piece of candy or a mint from someone’s desk at work, log it. It is important that you don’t alter what you normally eat in order to have an accurate account of your habits. When the log is complete, circle all of the vegetables, underline all of the fruit, and highlight the one item you see over and over again. Now ask yourself the following questions:

   -How many vegetable servings are listed? (Hopefully, there are some vegetables listed. Many times a client’s log doesn’t have any vegetables listed, other than in a Chinese stir-fry!)

   -Do I always eat the same vegetable or is there a variety?

   -How many fruit servings are listed?

   -Is there a rainbow of fruits or does the same fruit appear over and over again? (Most of the time only bananas are listed on a client’s log; probably because they are so convenient to eat.)

   -What kind of snacks am I eating and what is their caloric content? (Snacks should be kept between 100-125 calories.)

   -Do I eat three small meals a day with two snacks? (Most people skip breakfast, gorge at lunch, and eat a large, late dinner.)

   -What beverages am I consuming and what is their calorie content? (Most people consume far too many liquid calories.)

    -Do I have a reoccurring item that is not so healthy? (For example: mocha frappuccino lattes, candy, chips or alcohol.)

   -Do I take a vitamin supplement?

     Most people who take this task seriously are shocked by the results. But statistically, they reach their goals faster. The results give you an accurate depiction of your diet and a good place to start setting goals for yourself. You don’t need a registered dietitian to tell you that a strawberry frappuccino and apple fritter are not the best choices for breakfast.

Yes, nutrition can be a major barrier if you are not eating healthy food; you prepare yourself, in appropriate portions.  You cannot expect your workouts to bring you to your health and fitness goals if you are not in control of your nutrition. You will never lose weight if you workout and then eat too many calories in a day. You will never become stronger if you do not fuel your workouts with the best macro and micro nutrients.  Whether you are looking to run a marathon or just make a simple lifestyle change it all comes down to what nutritional decisions you make. I have heard the saying that, “garbage in is garbage out.” While the saying is a bit silly, it is true. Bottom line, if you do not control what you eat, you will fail. So do some research or contact a professional here on Sharecare to find out what your personal nutritional needs are.

In the meantime please consider the following to help prevent your nutrition from being a barrier in your healthy lifestyle.

1. Prepare your food yourself. Then you can control exactly what and how much you are consuming.

2.Keep a food log. You may not be aware of how many calories you are taking in.

3. Get a small food scale and become aware of what a true portion size looks like.

4. Don’t ignore the obvious. For example, eat grilled meats instead of fried. If you are out, have a salad instead of a drive thru burger and french fry meal.

5. Make your healthy food enjoyable. You need to be happy with what you eat if you are going to make a long term commitment to a healthy lifestyle. Look for ways to cook foods you enjoy in a healthier, lower calorie fashion. You may be surprised what you can eat if you swap out some the unhealthy, high calorie ingredients with some healthier alternatives.


Poor nutrition can be detrimental to improving fitness levels. There are 2 basic ways I think about it:

1. You can work for your food.

2. You can have your food work for you.

Those who work for their food are the ones who work out consistently only to hit the drive through for a greasy burger and fries on the way home. The physical appearance as well as the fitness level will never really change in this instance.

Those who get their food to work for them treat their bodies like a fine tuned machine. They work out consistently as well, but have plenty of energy to spare both during and after their workout. They are aware of the fuel they use for their bodies and they burn off the calories consumed for massive amounts of energy.

The overall goal is to consume enough calories from good nutrient sources (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, healthy fats) to fuel the lean muscle mass that helps you burn more calories overall, even at rest. You can still enjoy treats because food was created to be savored; just don't overdo it and constantly have to make up for nutrition mistakes :)

Without proper nutrition you will never reach your highest potential in your journey to become physically fit.

You can exercise right, sleep right, and do everything else right...

But if you don't eat right, then it's all in vain. At least from a fitness standpoint.

So nutrition can be a huge barrier to improving fitness levels. And for most people it is just that...a huge barrier.

By speaking to a certified personal trainer or nutrition expert you should be able to get a specific idea of the types of food you should be eating to meet your goals, and what types of food to stay away from.


Nutrition is definitely underrated when it comes to achieving good health and fitness. If a person exercises regularly but eats unhealthy food or eats excessive calories, then they will not get the results they are after.

I recently did an informal survey over the course of several months. I asked people at the gym to rank the importance of exercise vs. nutrition in achieving their fitness goals. It was intersting that all of the people in great shape attributed at least 70% or higher to nutrition. Those who were struggling to get in shape usually estimated nutrition contributed 50% or less to their results.

Controlling the quantity and quality of food we eat is a crucial component to good health since it is the fuel we are using to run our bodies. I have noticed that improper diet is the biggest culprit and barrier when it comes to weight loss.

Nutrition has a huge impact on your success in a fitness program.  Proper nutrition is key.  Your body is an amazing machine that requires good quality fuel to function at optimum efficiency.  The less processed your food is the better it is for.  Always try to get food as close to the original product as possible.  Fresh fuits and veggies, whole grain carbohydrates, and meats with very little processing.  Always get the best quality that you can afford and make it point to know where your food comes from.

Nutrition is a lifestyle factor that is key to developing and maintaining an optimal state of health. Consuming 4-5 meals a day with high nutritional value and low calories will provide a sufficient energy source for ones body to perform at optimum levels. A healthy diet and exercising 3-5 times a week for a minimum of 30 minutes will result in improved fitness levels. Also adapting this lifestyle can both prevent and treat many age-related diseases.  

Absolutely! There are three areas of fitness: cardiovascualar training, strength training, and nutrition. You can focus on cardio and strength all you want, but if you are eating too much or too little, you are making it nearly impossible to reach your fitness goals. A healthy, balanced lifestyle is one that includes all three of these areas of fitness. 

Remember, that a healthy diet can include limited amounts of sweets and fats. It's okay to have a treat every once in a while! Also keep in mind that overeating is not the only way to mess up your fitness plan. Cutting back too much can have an impact on your fitness too. It's critical to eat the right amount of calories for your body type and activity level.  

Definitely! So many people at the gym have told me their crazy diets that they are on. Some of them eating too few calories! I had one person almost pass out during their workout because he decided not to eat dinner the night before or breakfast. Food is fuel!

Then there's the other extreme where people think if they workout or do abdominal work that they'll have a six pack regardless of what they eat. Eating a clean, well-balanced diet is key! There are so many different plans out there but calories in have to be less than calories out to see a change in your weight. But 50 calories of vegetables are completley different than 50 calories of potato chips so choose wisely!

Nutrition can be a very big barrier to improving a person's fitness level if attention is not paid to it. The amount of calories, ratio of macro-nutrients, proper amount of vitamins and minerals, and when you eat can all determine whether or not a fitness program is successful. Proper amount of calories and ratio of macro-nutrients (protein, carb and fats) keeps you at a healthy weight. Proper amounts of vitamins and minerals help keep internal function in balance. The time you eat can help keep metabolism functioning at optimal levels. All this and more can determine whether or not your fitness program is successful or not. You can't out-workout a bad nutrition program.

Nutrition has always been the top barrier to improving fitness levels.  In this day and age people just have a hard time eating right with their busy schedules.  So many people are on the go and work such long hours that they just grab what they can and in turn it affects their workouts.  The saying goes nutrition is 80% of your goals.  So if you fail at your nutrition, you will fail at your workouts.  Planning out eat 5-6 small meals a day, tracking your food in a log and making smart choices on the food you eat will go a long way.  If you feed your body right you will have great gains in your fitness levels.

In order to achieve peak fitness your body needs to receive the best "fuel" possible. Nutrition is often one of the most difficult components to focus on for individuals of all fitness levels.  Your body needs to have carbohydrates, proteins and fats in order to function efficiently. The proper ratio required depends on the exercise type and your fitness goals. For example, higher protein diets can be effective for weight loss but can hinder athletic performance for endurance activities.

The preferred source of energy during aerobic activity is carbohydrates; so a high protein diet may help with weight loss but negatively impact you in the gym. In general, moderation and keeping an accurate count of caloric intake is the key. There are so many tools available, especially on this website, to help you track your calories and achieve the best balance. What works for one person may not work for others. Remember your body needs to have energy to improve fitness so put the best calories in to feed your workout. 

I always recommend finding a good balance. Try to limit processed foods, eliminate trans fat, eat lots of fruits and vegetables, and avoid eliminating any one food area entirely from your diet. 

It is always good to talk with a nutritionist to get specific guidance. Also, educate yourself and understand on how your body uses nutrients and listen to how your body reacts during workouts when you consume different foods.

Nutrition can have a positive or negative effect on fitness. If you eat small meals every three to four hours, and are careful to have low calorie nutrient rich foods that are high in fiber, you will go a long way towards reaching your fitness goals. On the other hand, if you eat infrequently, large meals, foods that are high calorie low fiber and low in nutrition, it will be difficult to reach a level of fitness.

Training and proper nutrition work together when it comes to being healthy and fit. 

Simply, yes. Do you ever recall hearing, "You are what you eat?" Well there may be some credence to this after all. Making sure that you’re eating a clean, energy appropriate, well balanced diet is key to improving your fitness level. Eating too much or too little can impact your fitness, strength, energy, and performance. If you are uncertain how to go about creating balance in your diet speak with a registered nutritionist or dietician.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.