When it comes to weight loss and improving overall health, which is more important; diet or exercise? In this article, I am going to break down what it really takes to lose weight and reach your health goals and what you need to be prioritizing more of to really see optimal results.
Diet and exercise are both essential to living a healthy lifestyle, and both of them provide numerous benefits in making sure you are thriving and not just surviving. Let’s break each one down and discuss some of the benefits.
The Importance of Diet
Benefit number one of having a healthy diet is natural weight loss and easier weight maintenance. When you prioritize a diet filled with fruits and vegetables, legumes, lean proteins, seafood, and other nutritious foods, you are going to have an easier time reducing your calorie intake because of many of the processed foods in our society today pack in a lot of calories for not a large amount. And when it comes to weight loss and improving health, calories always matter, and we need to make sure we are reducing calories in order to see a drop on the scale.
When you prioritize eating wholesome, nutritious foods, not only do they have substantial amounts of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and nutrients, but they naturally tend to have fewer calories than their more processed food counterparts.
For example, if you were to eat 4 oz. Baked sweet potato with some salt and pepper and a dab of butter for one hundred calories vs. 4 oz of sweet potato fries that is generally going to be much higher in calories and be less satiating, causing you to probably overeat them because it’s hard to stop at a handful of fries. So choosing nutrient-dense, wholesome foods most of the time (80%) will naturally reduce your calories and give your body the nutrition it needs.
The second benefit of eating a healthy diet is that it helps prevent diabetes or manage it if you already have it, it reduces cancer risk, and also prevents obesity and any stroke or heart-related diseases. At the end of the day, food is your medicine. It is your body’s information, and that information can either help us or hurt us.
That being said, Western medicine definitely is needed and does wonderful things, but we are easy to forget that we are in charge of our own health to a large extent by optimizing our nutrition and the foods we eat.
The Importance of Exercise
Now let’s discuss exercise. There are many benefits to having a daily exercise routine, with the first one being that it gives you a great boost of energy. It also helps you to be happier, and during this time in your life, I think it is safe to say that we could all use more happiness in our day.
When we workout, it produces a hormone called endorphins, which helps us feel happier and reduces the perception of pain. It also proves our brain’s sensitivity to another hormone called serotonin, which helps lift and relieve stress, anxiety and lowers depression as well.
Benefit number two of exercise is that it aids in weight loss. Simply losing 5-10% of your body weight has been proven to improve your health by lowering blood sugar, blood pressure, and triglycerides. It also can improve joint pain or sleep apnea. When eating in a calorie deficit, your metabolism adapts to the lower-calorie level and slows down. In order to combat the slowing of your metabolism, you need to prioritize daily movement to get a boost in your metabolism. This is going to maximize fat loss while also preserving your lean muscle, which is key in sustaining a higher metabolism. You need to have a solid plan that incorporates both cardio and strength training to burn the fat and maintain your muscle. If you are overall a healthy individual with no underlying health issues or joint pain, I would recommend High-Intensity Interval Training, typically referred to as H.I.I.T., two to four times per week. This style of training will give you a huge metabolic boost and kill two birds with one stone by helping you get in your cardiovascular exercise at the same time you’re getting in your strength training.
Exercise also improves your energy. Chances are, if you are sedentary most of the day, you feel pretty blah, have no energy, and when you are stuck in that state, it is really hard to get out of it. But once you start moving, even by doing a 10-minute walk or bike ride around your neighborhood, you get your blood pumping, your heart rate up, and you experience an instant energy boost. This is why I recommend exercising first thing in the morning because it is one of the best energy boosters to jumpstart your day and give you the mental clarity and focus on helping you conquer your day and better deal with all of life’s stressors that may come your way. Having a daily exercise routine sets you up for success for the rest of your day.
The Bottom Line
In summary, at the end of the day, both diet and exercise are essential in order to live a healthy and fit lifestyle. We need to have both in order to lose weight and to have an amazing life. But when it comes to seeing visible results, I do believe that it comes down to 80% diet and 20% exercise. You could do one thousand crunches a day and still not see your muscles pop through if your diet is not in order. You can’t out-train a poor diet.
No matter how many miles you run or hours you spend on the elliptical, if you’re eating in a calorie surplus and not paying attention to what and how much you’re eating, you’re never going to see the results of all the hard work you’re putting in at the gym.
So make sure you are prioritizing your diet and also getting in your exercise because it is so worth it.