Have you ever heard someone say that they diet so they don’t have to exercise? Or that they can eat whatever they want because they exercise so much? The relationship between food intake and exercise is one that is ripe for misinterpretation, and leaves plenty of room for error. Understandably, people want to pick and choose which element of health most suits them, and forget about the rest. However, in the battle of diet versus exercise, which one really is the most important?
Our favorite answer, of course, will be that it’s truly best to do both – to exercise a few times per week, while choosing to eat mindfully and healthfully. Employing a healthy mix of these two elements really is your best path to success. But if you have to choose just one? Here are the arguments for both.
The argument for dieting:
- Hands-down, if weight loss is your main goal, then keeping close tabs on your diet is key. The perception of the amount of calories burned during exercise is often a far cry from the reality. You may think that you’ve worked off an entire Thanksgiving meal with your workout, when in truth you’ve barely tackled the mashed potatoes alone. The truth is that a typical workout may burn anywhere from 200-500 calories depending on your weight, and the intensity and length of time of your workout. And when you consider the shockingly small amount of food that this equates to, you may think twice about a post-workout eating frenzy.
- Have you ever heard the “garbage in, garbage out” philosophy (perhaps even spoken by you as you tried to convince your teenager to stop watching trashy television)? Well, it rings true for diet as well. Many studies have confirmed the link between poor food choices (simple carbohydrates, sugar) and poor lifestyle results (low energy, moodiness, behavioral problems in children). Eating a diet that contains a high amount of whole grains, Omega-3 fatty acids, plenty of colorful produce and lean protein can help you to think more clearly, have a happier disposition, have more energy, and even sleep better. We believe that food is among the best and most effective types of preventive medicine.
The argument for exercise:
- To be honest, exercise is like that straight-A teacher’s pet from 5th grade who is not only the smartest and best-looking kid in the class, but who also happens to be an all-state athlete, volunteers her time at the homeless shelter, and is really, really nice. Darn her. The list of reasons why exercise is important and healthy just keeps growing. Just to name a few, exercise may do the following: improve cognitive functioning, strengthen bone mass, reduce stress, improve sleep, improve your complexion, produce higher self-esteem, help your clothes fit better, give you the shapely arms you’ve always wanted, help with digestive problems, and way, way more.
- Yes, exercise does burn calories and help you to keep a healthy weight and strong body. One pound is the equivalent of around 3000 calories. If you are seeking to lose weight, and if you keep your calorie intake about the same, you’re just a couple of week’s worth (or so) of moderate workouts away from starting to shed some pounds. Even better: especially rigorous and intense exercise can cause your body to keep a raised metabolism for several hours after the workout is completed. This means even more calories burned for your workout efforts.
In truth, once you start embracing one of these elements, either diet or exercise, the other will likely soon follow suit. If you exercise hard, you may be less willing to indulge in an ice cream sundae. Just like if you eat a healthful diet, you’ll likely have more energy to get out and exercise.