Trying To Outrun My Fork But It’s Gaining On Me

weapon of mass destruction
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“You can’t outrun your fork.”

I saw this sage piece of advice at my gym this morning on the electronic bulletin board or whatever they call it. I thought it would be a good quote and “Googled” it, but there’s no specific attribution to source. The same thing goes for “Abs are made in the kitchen.”

Even though I don’t celebrate Christmas, my weight crept up over the holidays. Currently, I’m eight pounds heavier than I was at my lightest, which I last saw about four months ago.

Getting back to counting my calories and paying more attention to what and now much I put in my mouth is one of my goals for this year. So just for giggles, I took a look at the search results for “You can’t outrun your fork” just to see what came up.

The first search result was a blog post written by Daniel J. Schultz for the Huffington Post. It’s obviously written for runners (hence “outrunning” the fork) and other endurance athletes, but he had some interesting points:

You can start an intense exercise program to lose weight, such as training for a marathon or completing a century (100 mile) bicycle ride. However, along with increased energy expenditure comes the side effect of increased appetite. As I personally trained for both of these activities, I remember how ravenously hungry I was after my training runs or rides. Our bodies do not like being in a state of energy depletion.


Dr. Yoni Freedhoff dissects this concept of outrunning your fork. Dr. Freedhoff cites that dietary choices account for 70 to 80 percent of weight outcome, while only 20 to 30 percent can be contributed to exercise.

The long and the short of it is that you can always out eat your exercise regime.

Next up came a Nerd Fitness column that outlined two basic “truths:”

  • If you’re overweight, you need to make significant changes to your diet if you want to get in shape.
  • If you’re skinny and want to bulk up, you need to make significant changes to your diet.
Outrun Big Mac

Steve, the author, also provided a handy little table outlining how many calories are contained in various favorite junk foods and what you’d have to do to burn off those calories.

For instance, one McDonald’s Big Mac (I can feel a wave of nausea pass over me just thinking about it) contains 540 calories (that’s all?) and you would have to jump rope vigorously and continually for 38 minutes to eliminate those calories.

I should mention right now that it’s not just the calories but what they’re made of. You’ve probably heard the phrase “you are what you eat.” So if you eat junk, your body will use junk to create junk. If you eat quality, you get a more quality body, so it’s not just the raw calories we’re talking about, but where those calories come from.

540 calories of Big Mac aren’t the same as 540 calories of prime rib or leafy green salad (and that would be a lot of salad). Actually, a recent Business Insider article contradicts this saying that eating a little junk food won’t be bad, but a lot of Americans eat a great deal of junk and processed food, and for some folks, it’s 100% of their daily diet.

I agree with the article when it says portion size is really important. Even the healthiest diet in the world will still make you fat if your calorie intake exceeds how many calories you burn. You’ll never exercise enough to burn down the average American over-portioned junk food diet, so your only alternative is to reduce how much you eat.

For a more “you are what you eat” consistent article, try the one at

Other information that came up when searching for “You can’t outrun your fork” resulted in similar advice. The only way to lose weight, even when on a good exercise program and when eating well, is to also reduce your calorie intake.

In searching for “Abs are made in the kitchen,” I discovered an Elite Daily article titled “7 Scientific Reasons That Prove Abs Are Made In The Kitchen Not The Gym.”

One of the “reasons” discussed is that we count calories because they’re easy to count, however it’s also a matter of what we eat (Do I hear an echo in here?). The author focused on carbs but it’s still not as easy as counting grams of carbs because we need carbs for energy. However, the article’s writer didn’t go into any specifics of what we should be counting or how we should be eating.

Another point was to not eat when we’re not hungry. You’d think that would be a no-brainer, but consider last month. How much yummy junk was in the break room where you work or in your home or your neighbor’s home? Pretty hard to resist when you’re surrounded by the stuff. You’re not even hungry, but it looks and smells (and tastes) so good.

I don’t know if I agree with the rest of the advice given. I’ve read opposing opinions about whether or not it’s the kiss of death for weight loss if you eat too close to bedtime. Some folks have suggested that especially for those who are trying to build muscle, a small amount of protein near bedtime might actually be a good thing.

Of course, like any other type of popular wisdom, there are detractors for whether abs really are made in the kitchen.

justin bieber effect
Photo: states that “Abs are NOT made in the kitchen” The point is that you can lose all the weight you want, but if you want ripped abs and a killer six-pack, you have to do a lot of ab related work to develop those muscles and avoid what the author calls “the Justin Bieber effect”.

This is actually a case of splitting hairs since you can’t reveal your abs if they’re buried under a layer of fat, but you won’t actually have ripped abs if you don’t do a lot of gut work.

The last article I read was at BodyRock. Condensed down, creating abs for writer Sia Cooper requires the following:

  • Do compound, multi-joint body movements rather than thousands of crunches.
  • Do interval training for cardio rather than long, continuous runs.
  • Eat five or six small meals a day.
  • Cut out processed crap.
  • Eat healthy fats and lean protein.
  • Drink at least half your body weight in ounces of water.

I suppose I should say that BodyRock…

…is your 24 hour fitness pal, offering daily high-intensity interval training exercises to help you reach your fitness goals.

So they’re high-intensity interval training (HIIT) evangelists and naturally, they’re going to promote HIIT as the obvious solution for what ails you.

For me, the takeaway is that what you eat, how much you eat, and having a good exercise program all needs to work together in order for you (or me) to lose weight and gain lean muscle mass.

I haven’t even talked about the requirement of both resistance training and cardio. Cardio is a more efficient calorie burner for unit of time, but not only does resistance training also burn a ton of calories, but more muscle mass makes you a more efficient calorie burner.

I don’t plan on ever having totally ripped abs. I don’t think that’s in the cards for me. On the other hand, I’ve gained back some of the fat I worked really hard to get rid of and it’s time to get more serious about my game and get it gone.

To be fair, in addition to having eating lapses in December, I was more focused on recovering from my back injuries, learning and practicing proper form in lifting, and re-entering a specific strength training regime, in this case, the 5/3/1 program, than I was on daily meetings with the bathroom scale and cataloging every calorie that I shoved into my pie hole.

muscle vs fat
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But since weight loss and muscle gain requires a combination of what and how much you eat and an exercise program involving both cardio and resistance training, I need to get back to incorporating all of those elements in order to have a chance at achieving my weight (fat) loss goals.

It’s probably a matter of an inch or so around my waist and one belt hole more that I use to hold my pants up, so it’s not like I went from Brad Pitt to John Candy. Actually, I never got to Brad Pitt but in the distant past, I was probably approaching John Candyland.

It’s a lot easier to gain (fat) weight than to take it off. I’ve paid the price for being lax, so the only person I have to blame is myself. Also, the only person who can do anything about it is me.

Today, I got on the cardio wagon again as well as doing some core and mobility work. Tomorrow, it’s back to the weights and continuing to walk on the comeback trail.

Oh, after my workout as I was getting ready to leave the gym this morning, I had the chance to talk with my personal trainer Chase. He asked me how I was doing, and I let him know how valuable his training was. Still no back pain and in fact, even the early morning soreness when I first get up is going away. Good times.

If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude.

Colin Powell


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