Ask the Expert – Exercise and Nutrition (Part One)

Exercise and nutrition work hand-in-hand for optimum health and performance

Have you ever wondered why you may not be getting results with all of the hard work you’ve been putting in at the gym?  You are consistent with your workouts and you know how to get the most out of each exercise.  Well … the problem most likely is what you’re feeding your body in between workouts!  Exercise and nutrition work hand-in-hand when it comes to the results you see in the mirror and your overall performance.

Much like a formula one car requires very specific “race fuel” to perform at top speeds, so does the human body when it comes to being in top form.  The food you eat and the beverages you drink during the day greatly impact how you feel and what results you will get from your work at the gym.

To help answer many of the common questions regarding nutrition and exercise, has enlisted the help of Kris Abbey, publishing editor of Spa Life and Better Health magazine (and trained through the Integrative Health Institute) to get the scoop!  With over 30 years in the health and fitness industry, she brings a perspective that we believe you can relate to and certainly trust.

1.  What exactly is nutrition?

KA:  Nutrition can mean many things to many people, but to me (and let’s put a good in front of that word) it is simply the eating the right food necessary for great health, vitality and wellness.

2.  Why is nutrition important to an overall fitness program?

KA:  What you put in your body determines how well it performs. Put bad food in, and guess what? You’re going to feel sluggish, and not perform at your optimum. If you want to train hard, get results and recover well you need to take a good hard look at what food your putting into your body. After all, 80% of your performance comes down to nutrition!!!

3.  What are the most common misconceptions about nutrition (as it relates to fitness goals)?

KA:  Ahhh, there are many, but let’s start with the two biggies:

1)  Calories are all the same.

NO!  They most certainly ARE NOT!

If you think a calorie is a calorie and you’re hell bent on eating a certain amount of calories per day to maintain or lose weight, I’m sorry to burst your bubble. That’s a really dumb way of looking at your nutrition plan.

Let me explain … A can of coke and half an avocado have the same amounts of calories. One of these has an abundance of healthy properties that will help you lose fat and provide you with a lot of goodness; while the other is a cancer causing can of poison with NO nutritional value WHAT SO EVER. Have you worked out which is which? Sure, they are on par when it comes to calories, but that’s where the similarities stop and they part company. Look at food at a deeper level not just the calories it contains. It’s a bit like judging a person on how much money they make. One may be a drug dealer the other a rocket scientist! One you may befriend the other you should avoid at all costs. Again … have you worked out which is which? And it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to do this.

So, for all you calorie counters out there, choose the amount of calories you’re going to eat on a daily basis from nutritious food sources (although the whole counting calorie thing does drive me to drink… but not Coke). Trust me; your performance and recovery will be much better for it.

And don’t get me started of low-calorie diet stuff!  From 1900 (the time when they started measuring obesity rates) to 1980, the amount of obese people in the US was roughly 15 percent. This 15 percent was consistent for 80 (yes 80) years. Then they (the diet companies) thought if they cut the calories from food and call it diet or low fat, then they can help people lose weight. It makes sense right? Fat has 9 calories per gram while carbs only have 4. Do the math!

But interestingly enough, out went the fat, in went the sugar (a saving of 5 calories per gram) and all would be sweet! Unfortunately, since that time, the obesity rate skyrocketed to over 50 percent in the first 10 years. Today’s obesity rate, only 35 years later it is sitting uncomfortably at 65 percent. Fat is not the culprit. Good sources of plant -based fats are needed in your diet, especially if you’re an exerciser.

2)  If I train hard I can eat what I want.

Ahhh, I DON’T think so!

Oh how I hate this attitude! “I work out so I can eat pizza and chocolate and copious amount of soft drink”. Remember the 80:20 rule I mentioned above? Health is 80 percent nutrition. If you exercise hard, you have created a lot of oxidative stress in your body. This causes inflammation and ageing of the cell. This is why good nutrition and recovery is really important. If you want to bounce back and train hard again tomorrow, you need to fuel your body with food that is going to help reduce this oxidative stress and mop up the toxins in your body. Pizza, chocolate, and soft drink only add to this stress. Healthy food and foods loaded with antioxidants are great. Last I checked pizza was a tad light on for these.

4.  How important in proper nutrition when working towards a fitness goal?

KA:  Have you ever heard of the phrase by Aristotle “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts”? If you combine exercise and (good) nutrition the outcome is much greater than if you were to focus on one without the other. Like one plus one equals seven! If you have a fitness goal in mind you will reach that goal much quicker if you add a good nutrition plan. If your nutrition plan isn’t aligned with your fitness goal – it’s like trying to drive (or doing anything) with one hand tied behind your back AND you’re wearing a blindfold. Sure, you might get there in the end, but it will be a bumpy ride. You might even want to pullover and stop along the way because you feel you’re not getting anywhere. Poor nutrition is your rope and blindfold stopping you from moving ahead on a scenic, enjoyable and smooth ride.

You know (self endorsement coming) I have this diet concept that applies to most people and it cuts through the swathe of diet and nutrition approaches out there. If you eat a Low HI diet you’re eating a quality diet. What is Low HI you ask? Well, you’ll just have to buy the book!!

No, I’m not good with suspense so let me explain its simplistic concept. If you have a diet high in Low HI foods you’re eating quality. HI simply stands for “Human Intervention”. The less human intervention a food has, the better it is for you. Foods with high amounts of Human Intervention tend to be processed foods that come in a box. Poor quality when it comes to nutrition. Fresh GOOD. Processed Poor!

Low HI foods are fresh with few additives and full of health achieving, vital nutrients. High HI foods are poor quality and are manufactured in an industrial kitchen and filled with all sorts of things that don’t sound appetizing at all. Look, I know it is over simplifying things – however, think about it. But the less ingredients or steps in the processing a food has, the better the quality. Poor quality foods tend to be highly process, filled with chemicals and sugar and can sit in your pantry for months.

Feed your body high quality Low HI foods and see how much better and more vital you feel. If you don’t believe me… try it!

5.  How does the “quality” of the foods we eat affect the results of a well-planned fitness program?  Please provide examples of “good vs. bad” quality foods and how they speed up/slow down a person’s results.

KA:  We did touch on this above, also when we spoke of calories. Just a reminder – Some calories are wonderful and of high quality, while others are nasty and health destroying… empty at best.

If you are training hard, it is so important you replenish your body with good nutrition. I know you’ve heard it before, but indulge me… if you’ve spent a lot of your hard-earned money on a nice car; you are going to treat it with respect and put the right fuel in to protect its engine. You’ll even give it a regular service and change the oil and water from time to time. You’re not going to put sand in the fuel tank or do anything that may harm the engine. Think of your body as that pristine, glorious sports car. Don’t put sand in the engine people! The journey your body will take you when you put the right foods in will be much more exciting than that of the sports car. And please don’t drive while blindfolded with one hand tied behind your back!

To Be Continued …

There’s MORE!  Check out “Ask the Expert – Exercise and Nutrition (Part Two)” in the upcoming weeks for answers to the remaining five (5) questions!

Kris Abbey (

Kris Abbey is the publishing editor of Spa Life and Better Health magazines and has been passionately involved in fitness, health, and wellness for over 30 years. As the newest member of the team of experts she will be providing valuable information nutrition, health and fitness for the website.  Welcome to the team, Kris!

For more information on Kris Abbey, click here.

Written by TodaysFitnessTrainer (

Leave a Comment