Should You Actually be Eating MORE and Exercising LESS?


Many individuals are working hard to build a better body. And they’re doing things totally backwards.

The popular notion is eat LESS and exercise MORE. While this is *true for those who are sedentary and overweight, there are some who need to do the complete opposite. If you’re no stranger to eating well and working out properly but you want to improve your physique and/or performance, then pay attention.

(*Some individuals who are very overweight would do well to focus first on food quality and not just quantity along with other simple changes. For instance, swapping out sugar laden sodas for water or unsweetened tea, eating real food instead of relying on a drive through window, etc. And if they’re sedentary plenty of extra movement is beneficial and encouraged).

So, who should be Eating MORE and Exercising LESS?

Before I take on a new distance coaching client, he/she is required to give me some information about their work out history, injuries, goals, and current nutrition habits among other things.

More and more I’m seeing women who are overly restricting how much they eat. Even worse, they’ve been doing this for months, if not years. They’re working out almost daily as well.

There are tons of women who are following “skinny rules” and literally eating less (many consuming 1200 calories or less, daily) and exercising more (long, grueling workouts 4-6 days per week).

Sure, this may help them lose fat and gain momentum to build a better body at first, but after a while they get burned out.

After eating too little for too long, and performing grueling workouts too frequently, the results come to a screeching halt, their energy levels plummet, gym performance wanes, enthusiasm for training is extinguished, or you can experience other problems from stress and damage caused by dieting. Not exactly a recipe for success.

For them (and quite possibly you) the solution is simple . . .

 Eat MORE and Exercise LESS

Now we’ll dive into the specifics I provide my clients who could benefit from Eating MORE and Exercising LESS, and I suggest you do the same if you’ve been eating too little and working out too frequently.


Here are the Eat More simple guidelines:

  • -Stop counting calories
  • -Eat primarily real, whole foods
  • -Eat when you’re hungry
  • -Eat until you’re satisfied (but not stuffed)
  • -Two to three times per week, eat your meal of choice (insert favorite foods/treats here)

The intention with these guidelines is to keep everything as sane and simple as possible.

Sane and Simple is the new sexy (or something like that).

The second goal is to provide freedom from the confines of tracking every piece of food eaten and to regain sanity from the previous OCD eating habits. I want my clients (and you) to go throughout the day without having to revolve their/your life around an eating schedule or experience unnecessary stress from rigid guidelines. Let’s face it — we deal with enough stress on a daily basis. Why follow a workout program or nutrition guidelines that add to it? It doesn’t make sense.

Initially some are terrified to stop counting calories and others are fearful of eating more. A few of my clients may even think I’m totally insane when they first read those guidelines; but since they’re paying me, they decide to go along with the madness. I also give them the reminder that food is not an enemy, and it shouldn’t be treated like one. Eating enough high quality real food will allow for positive changes to occur to their physique. It’ll allow them to accomplish their performance goals. It’ll give them more energy throughout the day along with a host of other benefits.

So I say again – food is not the enemy.

We shouldn’t look at food, or specific food groups or macronutrients, thinking, “Oh, this may make me fat” or something similar. Instead, we should look at food in a positive aspect like, “This is gonna help me set a new deadlift PR” or “This is going to give me enough energy to tackle the busy day ahead.” Yeah, it may sound totally silly, but many people desperately need to tweak their mindset and shift toward a positive mentality.

Exercise LESS

The other part of our equation is to exercise LESS.

First, and I don’t know about you, but I despise the term exercise. It sounds like a chore, like something you’re obligated to do even though you don’t want to. To me, the term exercise reminds me of being a kid when my Mom would  tell me to make my bed and clean my room. (Sorry, Mom!) That was a chore I had to do, even though I didn’t want to.

Chores suck.

Don’t allow your strength training routine, or any component of it, to become a chore.

Anyway . . .

Here’s a glimpse at how I set up the training for my clients who need to scale back their workout frequency and duration.

They strength train 3-4 days per week and are encouraged to participate in fun, recreational activities and NOT more “exercise”. Let’s address the strength training portion first.

The workout program (depending on experience level, workout equipment, goals) revolves around a few key principles:

  • -Mainly big, compound exercises
  • -Focus on performance and nothing else (doing a little better each time by performing more reps, adding more weight, etc)
  • -Optional 10 minutes at the end of each workout for beach work or finishers
  • -Workout 3-4 days per week (full body workouts for 3 days/week and upper/lower split for 4 days/week)

A more specific example is the Free Beautiful Badass Workout provided in the 6 part Mini Course. If you want a sample workout that hinges on the above guidelines, sign up below:

Each strength training workout only has a few exercises and takes about 30-40 minutes to complete; they do this 3-4 times per week. Another example of this set-up can be seen in the Minimum Training for Maximum Results workout.

Most of the time I’ll get a, “Wait, this is all I do?” response. Most trainees are used to doing way more in the gym.

But, Quality trumps Quantity any day. Don’t forget that.

By using a few exercises each workout, making it a point to improve performance each time, the trainee can stay focused on the task at hand and put 100% into every exercise. This is the goal for the majority of the Beautiful Badass Workout Programs.

In regards to cardio/conditioning work, my clients are instructed NOT to exercise. I don’t want them spending hours each week on a cardio machine or more structured, boring, tedious “exercise”.

Instead I want them to discover ways to have fun.

Ya know, believe it or not it’s entirely possible to have fun AND build a healthier body.

So, instead of interval training my clients may play racquetball, or some other sport.

Instead of walking on a treadmill for 30 minutes at 3.7 miles per hour they’ll go hiking on the weekends.

Sure, interval training works well, but some people would benefit from getting out of the “exercise more” mindset; shifting the focus to “playing” helps.

What happens from eating MORE and exercising LESS?

If they’ve been eating too little for an extended period of time and compounded that with frequent grueling workouts, usually some of the following occurs:

  • -Reduced stress from the simple, flexible guidelines
  • -More energy
  • -Bust through fat loss plateaus (yes, even though they’re eating MORE)
  • -More energy
  • -Improved performance and increased strength
  • -Enjoying the workouts (Gasp!)

That’s a great list of benefits, don’t ya think?

If you’ve been furiously following the “eat less, move more” mentality and you feel stuck, I highly suggest you employ the information in this article.

Apply the simple guidelines for Eating More and Exercising Less above. And, while you’re at it, make sure you sign up for the 6 Part Beautiful Badass Mini Course and you’ll get more information, including a free workout, about building a better body the sane and simple way.

Sign up below.

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  • “I freaking LOVE this info! I'm determined to be a Beautiful Badass!” -Tina V
  • clea

    Great Article Nia…love it!!
    For too long I have been stuck in the fatloss mindset – training five days a week doing conditioning workouts that where burning me out. Abusing Intermittent fasting which often resulted in me binging on junk foods and feeling guilty as a result and I’ve never reached my body composition goals.

    I have just started with Beautiful Badass and am trying to change my mindset towards achieving performance goals and focus on eating real foods and only when hungry. I am excited to get into the gym to train now and love the simplicity of the workouts. I really hope this works for me and I have a really good feeling about it :-) Thanks for everything so far and I will keep you updated on my progress!! Wish me luck.

    • Nia Shanks

      Thanks for the feed back, and I’m thrilled you’re using the programs and info in Beautiful Badass. I truly hope and believe good things will happen. Please keep me updated and let me know if you have any questions.

  • pwitty

    Thanks you, Nia. I have been one of those over-exercisers for years and am only now trying to teach myself to eat more and exercise left. Never thought I’d be saying that. I thought I wasn’t working hard ENOUGH. Now tI’ve been eating more and exercising less, losing weight, and having more energy than ever!

    • Nia Shanks


  • Kellie Davis

    Wonderful words of wisdom, Nia. You always know the right thing to say at the right time. :)

  • Catherine Fletcher

    omg reading this article is like you are actually talking about where im probbably at right now, thankyou for article, also likle the keep it simple, eat when your hungry and real food theory think ive kinda gone off rails here too

    • Nia Shanks

      Glad you enjoyed it!

  • girly

    Thanks, Nia. No, really, thank you for your insight, your permission to wear baggy clothes in the gym, and finally, someone telling us to eat more and not focus on the scale. :)

    Q: Do you consider Hot Yoga to be a cardiovascular activity? I’ve heard mixed reviews. I’ve been doing it for a few years off and on. Recently got back into it and have been going 2-3x week and thinking of it as cardio. My trainer told me it’s not. Curious what you think.

  • Marianne

    Great post, Nia! Love your approach to things :)

  • Nina_CZ

    Thanks for a great post! I never counted calories or watched what I eat, which made my butt as big as it is today. :D I am not overweight though, just a little lower body heavy :)) I turned to paleo diet like two years ago and I am happy with this diet approach. I eat a lot and I am never hungry, I decided that I will never restrict my body of what it needs. I eat when I am hungry and I stop when I feel satisfied. So I don’t think I need to eat more… (I treat myself occasionally, okay, more often with a treat too). BUT I am working out A LOT lately. Every day, to be specific. I vary cardio and weights (new to kettlebells and loving it), I am not taking any days completely off, and I really enjoy it. At the beginning I was sore A LOT, but it got better and with lots of stretching I feel a bit sore sometimes, but not painfully. I enjoy it, I love it, and since I am jobless now, I have a lot of time to focus on my fitness, so I wanna take advantage of it while I still can, because soon I will find a job (I hope) and I will not be able to train daily… Do you think that this is a wrong approach, too? Doing extremes like this (I can do 2 workouts a day if I feel like it…) even though I know it is temporary and I am not doing it because I don’t love my body, but because I DO love it and love to see what I am capable of…

  • Gordon Wayne Watts

    Your rhetorical question is a good one. Let’s not forget that you
    practice what you preach, and it seems to be keeping you in good health,
    and also not looking either fat or skinny. -And able to lift well, as
    well. Even assuming that what works for one may not work not exactly the same for another, … still/&/nonetheless: prospective lifters would do well to heed your advice.

  • Ali

    Wonderful advice!! I had been starving my body for the past 6 months eating only 1200 a day, doing P90x, AND running 3-4 days a week on top of that. While I ended up losing nearly 50 pounds and got to my goal weight, I became extremely obsessive and lost all sense of reality. I have been terrified to eat and used to hate myself if I even ate an extra apple over my calorie goal. Every single day was a battle for me, and I felt extremely weak like I was going to faint all the time. I was so stuck in this weight loss mode, that I’ve been having a very hard time maintaining my weight. Recently I decided to face that pestering (not so) little voice inside my mind, and boosted my calorie intake by nearly 400-500 calories and stopped running as much. I am now 1 month in to my second round of p90x, and have SO much more energy than I used to. I am able to complete my workouts much more easily, and have LOST fat and replaced it with muscle. My results with p90x my first round were completely hindered because I simply wasn’t eating enough, but now I look and feel much better. I’ve had to retrain my brain on how to eat normally again. Food is not the enemy!