Most people are familiar with the chicken or the egg causality dilemma. It’s commonly stated as “which comes first the chicken or the egg? Well, in the fitness arena, we have our version of this dilemma. It’s the question of “what’s more important nutrition or exercise?”
Recently I had a conversation with one of my clients. She was discouraged because she wasn’t getting her desired results from her weight loss program. She had a disturbing pattern. She’d lose 3-4 pounds one week and regain it the next week. She is morbidly obese and works out 4-5 days per week. Since her program is relatively new, she should be dropping weight quickly. Prior to the program she led a sedentary lifestyle, so as long as she’s putting in a decent effort she should be getting results. I suspected her problem, but I listened as she explained her issue. To my surprise she seemed genuinely unaware of why this was happening.
I asked her about her diet. She claimed to be eating well. I followed up by asking if her diet was any different now than before she began her program. She said no. She was still consuming mostly fast and processed food. She wrongfully assumed that all she needed to do was workout and she’d lose weight. That’s when I told her – no amount of exercise will compensate for a bad diet.
Personal trainers put it like this –“You can’t out-train a lousy diet.” Here are a few reasons why:
1. No matter how much you exercise, if you over-consume calories and/or consume the wrong types of foods, you will gain weight. You have to burn 3500 calories just to lose one pound.
2. The bad diet will win every time. In the same 3 minutes it takes to consume 800-1000 calories of food a person only burns approximately 40-45 calories in high impact cardio exercise. It takes a lot more effort to burn 800 calories than it does to eat 800 calories. The average person does not work out at that intensity. Unfortunately, the excess calories rarely get burned off.
3. Exercise alone helps maintain weight, but it has no impact on heavier women.
A study that appears in the Journal of American Medical Association says women who rely on exercise to lose weight are destined to fail. Researchers found that exercise alone was useful in maintaining the weight for women, but it had no effect on heavier women.
The study analyzed almost 35,000 women over a period of 15 years. The scientists found that for women whose BMI was less than 25 kg/m2, there was a clear dose-response correlation between activity levels and weight gain. It took one hour’s moderate-intensity exercise each day to avoid the gaining of weight. Exercise did not, however, reduce weight and did not even maintain weight among women with a BMI from 25 to 29.9 kg/m2 or in those with a BMI of 30.0 kg/m2 or more. This was true regardless of how much exercise the participants did, both exercise and nutritional interventions were required to successfully reduce weight.
Here’s the bottom line. If you want to ensure your success in losing weight you have to improve your nutrition. Exercise alone will only get you so far, you need proper nutrition for optimum results. So, the answer to the question is – nutrition is more important when you want to lose weight.
Question: What has been your experience with nutrition and exercise?