Have you ever looked at your bursting closet and thought, if I have to get rid of something would it be the classic pinstriped blazer, or should I toss the hot red minidress I bought in Vegas on a whim? When thinking about making sacrifices and commitments when it comes to health and fitness, the age old question arises: when choosing between sticking to a diet or routinely exercising, which would yield the best results that are sustainable?
In the fitness world, knowledge is wealth. But it can be difficult to get the right information to help guide the choices we make. Incorrect, misleading, and self-serving facts seem to be everywhere. There is so much misinformation regarding diet and exercise.
Someone will try to sell you a diet that works by you simply sitting on your butt all day. Or you learn about an “all you need” workout program that has no nutrition guidelines. "Eat french fries and burgers every day, but do this workout, and you can still look amazing in no time!”
No such luck. Sure, there are some superhero-like people whose genetics seem to allow them to take in tons of food, burning it to create beautiful muscle. And there are others, whose muscle composition seems to yield a toned, lean body without ever doing a single plank or lunge. That is atypical, and not true of most of us. Health, after all, is about how you feel and function. Energy, sustainability, happiness, strength and mobility are all essential parts of health and wellness. Eating crappy food while looking good isn't the way to live. Energy levels, brain function, and organs will show a very different picture of health due to poor nutrition. Similarly, just because a person can limit calorie intake and eat well doesn't mean they should abstain from exercise. There are many people that look great but can’t walk up several flights of stairs, play sports, or have the balance and strength to simply push themselves up off of a floor.
Diet coupled with exercise is the way to achieve optimal health and quality of life. The key is to balance them both so you are not a prisoner of either one. You should be able to enjoy a great indulgent meal without losing your mind over calories or fats or sugars, and you should be able to go on vacation and skip the gym without thinking that your world is about to collapse. But in order to enjoy the benefits of a fit, strong, healthy body you must maintain both a good diet and exercise routine, always.
I know you still want to know which of the two carries more weight in the overall scheme of things. You may want to know this so that you can adjust your day to day life, implementing the things that matter the most. Here is a small Diet vs. Exercise Cheat Sheet to help you make the right decisions for your particular goals and strike the right balance when it comes to combining diet and fitness.
DIET VS. EXERCISE CHEAT SHEET
We train to look good, but we live best when we feel good. The real goal is to be healthy, to function in our daily lives with energy, to lead a life of well being, to be active and pain-free. When you consider these things, you understand that your body has to move and be strong and with that, exercise becomes an essential part of the process.
Your body is what you eat. The quality of your tissue, brain, muscle, heart, lungs, kidney, liver, you name it... is made up of and fueled by the type of foods you eat.
If you want to look great in a bikini you should note that skinny is not always sexy. Lean muscle, a healthy glow, and curves are what truly define today’s sexy standards. To get those, you MUST follow a strength and conditioning routine. That means you need to have a regimen that raises your heart rate, challenges your endurance, and engages your muscles. You must add resistance to your workouts.
Starvation diets will make you weak and frail. You need nutrient-rich foods that will help to fuel a healthy body. But a healthy diet alone is not enough. Eat good food in controlled portions and do not skip meals or under eat.
You cannot exercise off the last fatty meal you ate. There is much more to your body mass than calories in versus calories out. While your energy in versus energy out is important, the food has lasting hormonal effects on the body. Those hormones can trigger your body to store fat or burn it. So eating well is a lot more more important than the volume of what you eat.
Disease. In order to avoid diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and many more, the prescription is clear—activity AND optimal diet do the trick —not one or the other.
The right type of exercise will enhance your body's performance and prevent injury.
A good diet is one that helps maintain or improves health and energy.
Diet cannot prevent muscle imbalance caused by hours of sitting, poor movement patterns, and inactive muscles. Only a corrective training (resistance) routine can do that.
Exercise cannot provide you with your essential nutrition, including fluids, amino acids from protein, fatty acids, vitamins, or minerals. But neither can a diet of fake, fatty or fat-free foods. Eating whole foods that are optimally paired is the way to get the most out of your nutrition.
Metabolic conditioning is a great tool for burning fat and building lean muscles. In fact, all workouts rely on different versions of metabolic conditioning. Typically, all metabolic conditioning is a systemized workout featuring a structured pattern of work and rest periods made to elicit a desired response from the body. To maximize fat burn, the workout needs to be combined with the right nutrition and workout structure.
You would be cheating yourself if in your pursuit of health and well being, you excluded either diet or exercise. You need both to live a long and healthy life. You need both to get the best results. You need both to maintain and keep your progress going. You need to be on a training program where there are dietary guidelines that compliment your output (your workouts), and where those workouts are not random and sporadic bursts of energy or poorly assembled routines. To change your body for life you need a program that speaks to your likes and dislikes, and gives you a good routine that is sustainable for your lifestyle. Feels like a lot? Think about adjusting your perspective and mindset. Fitness and healthy nutrition should be a welcome part of your day. The two should make you feel so great that your body will crave working out and eating whole foods. After all, that's when the real fun starts. When the results are yours to get, and to keep.