The saying goes that you can’t out-train a bad diet. I disagree with that old cliche, but you probably won’t like the HOW part.
When I was 24 years old, my nutrition goal was 5,000 calories on training days and 4,000 on rest days. As a nationally ranked decathlete, I NEEDED this amount of food to keep from being too lean and light. The calories were coming from ANYWHERE and EVERYWHERE. Have you ever tried to eat 5,000 “clean” calories?! Not fun. Especially for a college kid. So I didn’t eat clean. I ate dirty, a lot, and often. I remember weekly trips packed in a miniature car with a bunch of over-sized throwers to jack-in-the-box and hitting their dollar menu for 4-5 items and eating most of that before we got back to campus. IN ADDITION to sports, I was also in graduate school studying for (blank, whatever) degree, and living with my best friend in a large off-campus apartment adorned with a full-size beer pong table as our living room centerpiece. We practiced flip cup so frequently that we actually won a tournament. So add in 20 Coors lights each weekend and you have the full picture.
The punchline: While eating TERRIBLY, I maintained sub-8% body fat, had stomach veins, and was the most muscular I’ve ever been.
So the answer to the question – can you out-train a bad diet? Yes, of course you can. BUT you need mid-20’s hormones and you have to train 20 hours a week.
Not the answer you were expecting to hear? Were you hoping to hear that you can eat cereal for breakfast before work, keep so busy that you skip lunch, and arrive home so hangry that you eat an entire bag of “healthy” chips, all the dip, and 4 oz of unexpected cheddar WHILE you cook dinner (I have done this), and just apply my magic training secret to your life? Honestly, if you want to keep eating poorly, then training hard 3-4 hours every day may be enough to keep the pounds from piling up, if your body can take that abuse. But as an adult, who has time for that shit?
I strongly warn against this method because it might bury you like it did me. During this time in my life, I was sick every other month with a sinus or upper respiratory infection. I was lean, big, and strong, but I was not healthy. My nervous system was thrashed and took years to heal completely. This was NOT an optimal situation.
Instead of eating poorly and training like batman to stay sexy, you could train for one hour three times a week, and spend an extra two hours on a Sunday meal prepping to support eating well throughout the week. You could clean up your sleep hygiene. You could also work on maintaining strong and positive relationships with EVERYONE in your life to minimize psychological stress.
You have to learn to BALANCE your life, now. Not someone else’s life. Yours. Good luck. You will need it.