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Is Diet More Important Than Exercise?

Nutrition and exercise are the two fundamental pillars in achieving health and fitness goals. Which is more important? Many of you would've heard the phrase "You can't outrun a bad diet". Nutritional habits have a far greater impact on changing body composition and physique goals. This is compared to any other fitness component. A combination of exercise and nutrition together creates the biggest platform for success.

Nutrition and Exercise Opportunities

If you want to weigh up what's more important exercise or nutrition, first we need to look at the opportunities for both.

The physical exercise guidelines state that the average adult should complete strengthening activities at least twice a week. It also states to complete at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activities each week. You can equate this to two one hour sessions and one 30 minute session in a week. This gives the average adult up to 5 opportunities to influence their body composition through exercise each week.

The traditional approach to eating for the average person is to consume food over three meals a day, breakfast, lunch and evening meal. Without including snacks, there are a potential 21 opportunities to influence your body composition through diet.

Using this basic logic, it implies you have more opportunities to make a greater positive impact on your body composition and physique goals through diet over exercise.

The 80:20 Principle

Building upon the above principle, the opportunities presented through exercise were 5 and through diet was 21. This equates to around 81% of the opportunities presented are through diet compared to only 19% through exercise. This transitions into what is known as the 80:20 principle.

When looking down at your apple watch or Fitbit, how many times have you been left disappointed when seeing the amount of calories burned during a workout? How easy is it to eat that extra snack in-between meals? It's a lot harder to burn calories than it is to consume them.

So you have to look at the situation and ask yourself what's easier, tirelessly burning the calories or adapt how much you're consuming?

With regards to weight loss, the bottom line is to create a calorie deficit. You need to burn more calories than what you're consuming. Research has showed people who didn't exercise still lost weight due to achieving a calorie deficit.

Complimenting this, another study explains the most successful short term results occurred when individuals ate smart.

The American Dietetic Association highlights that it is almost impossible for overweight people to produce the required energy deficit of 500 to 1,000 calories per day without managing and reducing what they eat.

At the other end maximising muscle mass gains, research suggests you need to be in a calorie surplus. This reiterates the concept that without eating the right amount of calories your exercise efforts might be limited.

This idea alone implies that diet is more important than exercise.

Food is the fuel source for exercise

What people forget to realise is there is an obvious relationship between exercise and food. You need to eat the right things to create a food source to drive the exercise. Every individual is different so their own amount of fuel differs. You can't achieve the right goals without that energy balance. Optimising these dynamics all come from the right type of foods.

Final Comments

It's shown in this article that you can adapt an individuals body composition without exercise. This indicates that diet is more important than exercise. But there are plenty of benefits to exercise too. Having a combination of both diet and exercise creates the perfect platform to achieve a healthy lifestyle.

Understanding the relationship between exercise and food is a great tool in achieving more effective results. It's important to note that there are other factors at play which can influence body composition. Factors including, sleep, stress and hydration are also important.

Unsure if you've got the right balance for you? Are you worried that you're eating the wrong things?

Get in contact now and help get on the right track to better results.


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