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Diet vs. Exercise

Which One Is More Important?

The question of which is more important, diet or exercise,  is an interesting one.  Usually this question is asked of me in the context of weight loss.  Although they are both important, when it comes to weight management, proper diet is king. That’s not to say exercise isn’t an important part of proper weight management - it is, and I’ll explain why later - but you just can’t exercise your way out of a bad diet.  Many people are under the false belief that if they exercise they have a free pass to eat whatever types of food they want with little regard to quantity.  They spend hours in the gym working out and don’t understand why they aren’t seeing results.  When they talk to me about it I always ask “what’s your diet like?”  More often than not they say their diet isn’t as healthy as it should be.  I’m certainly not suggesting that you never eat a treat or some of your favourite foods, you can, in moderation.  But remember that just because you exercised doesn’t mean you’ve earned a treat every night of the week.      

In addition to helping you manage your weight, a healthy diet ensures you are getting all the necessary nutrients your body needs to help keep your energy levels up, your hormones balanced, maintain healthy skin and hair, balance your mood, foster healthy gut bacteria and boost your immune system.  

Exercise, though, is also important.  Along with proper nutrition, it will help support you in your weight management efforts by increasing the number of calories you burn.  Your calorie burning efforts are further enhanced when you build muscle through resistance training.  Muscle is metabolically active tissue which keeps your metabolism boosted and as a result your body burns more calories at rest!  In addition to increasing caloric burn, exercise has health benefits as well.  It increases insulin sensitivity, meaning that your body is more sensitive to the release of insulin so your pancreas will not have to work so hard to pump out high amounts of insulin for your cells to absorb blood glucose.  Increased insulin sensitivity can help mitigate type II diabetes and control belly flab since high insulin levels are associated with weight gain around the middle.  Exercise also helps to promote sleep (provided you don’t do it too close to bedtime), improve your mood, boost your energy, increase blood flow, reduce bad cholesterol, increase bone density and help manage a wide range of health problems.  So in answer to the question, which is better diet or exercise, they both play an important role in maintaining optimal health.  Just be sure you aren’t focusing only on one aspect and sacrificing the other.