Welcome to the first installment of BACK TO BASICS, a LL feature that aims at simplifying common fitness and health questions so that everyone, from beginner to expert, can understand them. This week, I thought I’d address THE most common question I get as a fitness professional:
What’s more important – DIET or EXERCISE?
First off, I think this is a common question because no one really WANTS to hear the answer, let alone put it into practice. We all kind of know what the answer is in the back of our brains.
Simply put, if you’re looking to lose weight or change your physique, DIET plays a more important role than exercise. You’ve probably heard the saying, “You can’t out train a bad diet.” Well, it’s true. You can’t. Actually, I suppose that if you were in the gym for 6-7 hours a day, blasting out burpees and deadlifts, you probably could eat most anything you wanted. But your body would fight back with injuries or sickness. Not good.
Let’s talk about an average person. Susie goes to the gym for an hour a day, working hard, burning anywhere from 500-700 calories. Then she spends the other 23 hours of her day sitting at a desk, laying on the couch or sleeping in her bed. She burns calories doing those activities, but just enough to function. Since she goes to the gym, she splurges on a bowl of ice cream most every night, thinking that she “earned it.” When Susie weighs herself, the scale doesn’t budge. In fact, Susie’s weight might go up a pound or two every year. She’s at a loss as to why she cannot lose weight.
The reason she can’t lose weight has very little to do with the one hour she spends in the gym. It’s the other 23 hours in the day that are most important!
Maybe you’re Susie. Or maybe you work out MORE than Susie. Maybe you starve yourself during the day and binge eat at night. Whatever you do, you won’t see a REAL and SIGNIFICANT change in your physique until you change the way you eat.
I know first hand.
Back in December, I was eating basically whatever I wanted (Christmas cookies, nachos, daily ice cream, etc) and still working out like a mad woman. I gained weight. Not a lot, and in fact, I wrote about it here and expected it to happen. But I did gain. As soon as January came and I changed my diet (cut out sugar and processed foods), my body changed drastically. The workouts I was doing didn’t change. In fact, I starting working out LESS and I still had amazing results.
This isn’t some novel idea – it’s been around for quite some time. One of my favorite authors, Tosca Reno, has a great set of books called, “The Eat-Clean Diet,” where she outlines this principle.
As seen above, your food intake makes up approximately 80% of the weight loss equation!! That’s huge! And honestly, it’s a bit discouraging. It’s easier to go work out for an hour than it is to restrict what we put into our mouths. I recently asked a question on my Facebook page: What’s harder for you? DIET or EXERCISE? And, of course, the vast majority answered DIET.
The follow-up question to all of this is: WHAT SHOULD WE BE EATING?!?!
Whole Foods. Real foods.
- Whole Grains
- Lean Proteins
- Healthy Fats
- …And lots of Water
Our bodes THRIVE off of foods that closely resemble their natural state. The less processing that takes place, the better. The less labeled foods, the better. If the food has a TV commercial for it, you probably shouldn’t be eating it. This whole foods idea goes FAR deeper than weight loss – eating a whole food diet effects your skin, your digestion, your energy level and your vitality. THAT’S why we should be eating this way. To FEEL BETTER. Not just to look better!
Can you out train a poor diet? NO.
And maybe you shouldn’t TRY.
QUESTION: Diet or Exercise – What’s the hardest part for you??