Built And Lean: Is Diet Really More Important?

Written By: Fitman
June 16th, 2014
Updated: June 13th, 2020
Categories: Articles Training
21.3K Reads
It is often said that results boil down to 70, 80 or even 90% diet. Is this true? Eric Brown wants you to focus on putting 100% effort into both your training and eating plan.

In the fitness game there are many myths that have persisted for decades.

Myths like you must perform high reps to get cut.  Myths like you must exercise excessively and then eat like a bird to get lean.  Myths like carbohydrates are evil. Even myths like performing a high number of abdominal movements to get your abs to show still persist to this day.

These myths are absolutely nothing but pure fandango.  And doing the dango gets you going nowhere fast, like driving in a blizzard.

There is a question that I am asked often about physique development that feeds into another myth.  The question is: “What is more important my training or my diet?”  This question stems from the myth that your diet is substantially and exponentially more important than your training. It is often accompanied with percentages.

Most folks have these phantom percentages in their mind.  80 percent diet and 20 percent training.  50 percent training and 50 percent diet.  I even hear it said that results are 90 percent diet and 10 percent training.  The problem with these numbers is that they are all false.

Think about this scenario for a second.  If you had an immaculate nutrition plan and combined it with an extremely lackluster and non-progressive training plan, do you honestly think you will develop your ultimate physique?

When a claim is made using percentages like this it minimizes the other equally important part of the puzzle.  Based off of what I see daily in gyms and on the track, I would say the average trainee is probably only operating at 25-50 percent of his/her true capability. They have a sub-par training style and eating habits.  Can you imagine if that trainee was operating at a much higher level?  And what if that trainee I mentioned is currently you?

To build your ultimate physique it requires a combination of a progressive training protocol and a customized nutrition plan designed to help you reach your goals.  And to do this you will need to put 100 percent effort into your training and 100 percent effort into your diet.  This does not mean that you must become an obsessive compulsive freak about it.  But it does mean that you will not be cutting corners and making excuses along the way.  Let’s talk about the importance of both factors.

Built and lean

Diet without training

Training your body allows you to build muscle, become more athletic, get stronger, become mentally tougher, get leaner and a host of other fantastic benefits.  When you train with passion and with a progressive plan you have the ability to change your physique in ways you could not have imagined.  You can literally build a superhero or heroine physique, and also become very athletic and fit.  Training is as equally important to the physique building process as your diet is.  But you may have been conditioned to think otherwise.

Imagine this scenario.  You have your macronutrients lined up and are hitting them with extreme precision every day.  Your meal timing is perfect like Curt Hennig, and you are eating the highest quality foods.  No one can match your diligence in the kitchen.

But when you get to the gym you are exposed like a skunk at a perfume convention.  Your training program has no rhyme or reason.  When you “train” (you can't really call it this), you perform some lame machine circuits and rarely do any big compound moves unless you are trying to impress someone of the opposite sex.  But this makes you look worse because your partial squats and alligator arm chin ups are fooling no one.

You even attempted to squat last week, but felt fatigue building in your legs and you quit at the first hint of struggle.  You brag in the gym to anyone who will listen about how the game is 90 percent diet, yet when you look in the mirror the reflection is of someone who looks flabby and sick.

Even though your diet is fantastic, you have not trained hard since high school football summer camp.  And this fact shows up when you view your soft physique and your lousy numbers in the gym.  You are in denial because you have been conditioned to believe that getting results is all about the diet.

Now can you imagine the end result if you were training with passion, purpose, and a plan?

Training without diet

A proper diet allows you to support your muscle growth, but also has a host of benefits including promotion of better health and helping you get leaner.  When you are consistently eating the correct foods in the correct amounts, you can finally begin to uncover your abs and show off your muscular definition for the world to see.  But that muscle will not be unsheathed fully if your diet is not in order.

Imagine another scenario.  You are training like a beast, like a modern day Rocky Balboa.  Your workout protocol is progressive and you are continually hitting PR’s and making astounding progress.  You are labeled as John Van Fit at your gym because you are well known for training so incredibly hard.  But despite your efforts, you still appear softer and smoother than someone who trains like you should look.

Even though your training program is spectacular, your eating habits are subpar.  You think that your superior training protocols give you a pass to eat like a pig.  Your pre-workouts meals consist of garbage and your post-workout meals consist of more garbage.  And this fact shows up when you view your smooth physique.  You can feel the muscle and even see the shape somewhat, but you just are not as lean as you should be.  You are in denial because you have been conditioned to think that getting results is all about training at an extreme level.

Now can you imagine the end result if you were eating correctly and doing it consistently?  Check out my video on the importance of training and diet below.

How to combine training and diet to create great results

As you can see from the above scenarios, building a strong, lean, and athletic physique requires you to pay close attention to your training program and your nutrition habits. When you overemphasize one over the other, it simply doesn't work because of the downfalls I documented previously.

Precision nutrition will leave you very healthy, but when combined with the training program of Glass Joe then you are doomed to be weak and soft.  A progressive training program will leave you strong and athletic, but when combined with the diet of Homer Simpson you are doomed to be smooth.

In order to get the best of both worlds and put 100% effort into your training and nutrition to create your best physique you must:

1) Follow a progressive training program

You can make progress on almost any training program as long as you are constantly using one of the following forms of progression:

  • Using more weight
  • Using more reps
  • Using less rest between sets

Take your conditioning for example.  You need a plan here too.  Performing the same workout every week with no changes leads to no results.

Say you run at 75 percent of your max speed for 100 meters and you do 5 reps this week with 2 minutes of rest between reps.  Next week run slightly faster or reduce the rest or add a rep or 2 to slightly change the workout and make it harder.  That is how you make progress!

You need to enter the gym, or arrive at the track or the park with a purpose to dominate.  In the gym you could use 5/3/1 or 5×5 or even RP-21.  It does not matter.  What matters is that you must commit to the program and do not give up when you have one bad workout.  We all have some bad ones!

2) Follow a nutrition protocol that works for you

There are many nutrition protocols out in the game today.  But know that what works for Larry Lean might not work for you.

For example, I have experimented with low carb diets to test their effectiveness.  Do you know what happened to me?  I got smaller very quickly, and began to disappear like compact discs in an MP3 generation.  Does this mean that low carb diets are trash?  Not at all.  It just means that for me, the genetic ectomorph, I need a plan that allows for higher carbohydrate consumption.  And my nutrition protocol of choice is a daily rotational carb cycle.

Also, your nutrition should match your goals.  Putting 100 percent into your nutrition does not mean you have to eat like a bodybuilder who is prepping for a show.  That may not be your goal.  Putting 100 percent into your nutrition is doing what it takes to reach your goal.  You should always strive so that your nutrition matches the goals you have set for yourself.

3) Be consistent with both

If you are consistently training hard and eating correctly, you will have a strong and lean physique year in and year out.  Let me share a short story with you.

A guy in the gym told me the other day “I’m mad at you.”  I was stunned because he is a good guy, and we never had any issues.  Of course I asked him why.  He stated “Because every time I see you, you are in shape and lean.”  The way he presented his comment was hilarious to me but it speaks to the point of being consistent.  Consistent habits will build a consistently fit body.


So moving forward we will no longer state that our results are 80 percent diet and 20 percent nutrition.  Or 70 percent training and 30 percent diet, or any other random percentage scheme.

When you put 100 percent effort into both of them you will receive the results that you are looking for.  Train with passion and intensity and eat to match your goals.  End of story.

Posted on: Wed, 06/18/2014 - 15:40

hey Eric...i had a very good shape once before with 12% fats...but i turned my goal from fitness to bulk...but when i started my new job i visit the gym twice or 5 times per week....also got fat belly because no cardio just lifting...now its ramadan is coming and its my chance to make good shape on my bulk muscle

Posted on: Tue, 06/17/2014 - 03:51

50% Gold standard whey + %50 Curling in the squat rack =110% swoltastic. do you even math bro?

Eric Brown
Posted on: Wed, 06/18/2014 - 09:15

Hey SoldierOfFortune. Your math is very enlightening, lol.

Shehab Alsaleh
Posted on: Mon, 06/16/2014 - 23:39

What if i told you that i can't eat with passion....or even stick with a perfect diet,because i don't have time for breakfast and i wake up,take a shower,take a peanut butter sandwich with a protein shake then go...i keep hungry for 8 hours just trying to drink orange juice during the business day.

Eric Brown
Posted on: Wed, 06/18/2014 - 09:14

Hey Shelab. Unfortunately in life most of the time the situation is not ideal. We have our families, our careers and other obligations that require our attention. I'm not asking you to be perfect because no one is. But if you have a goal and you are really serious about it then there are ways for it be attained regardless of the situation. Every meal may not be perfect but if you are putting the effort to consistently eat good meals with good timing then great results will follow.