Here’s something we all attempt to figure out: what is the nutrition and exercise balance ratio we should adhere to?
As we get older, we tend to take on more weight around the middle. (My primary care physician jokingly remarked that if he had the solution for how to lose stubborn belly fat, he’d be on his way to Oslo to pick up a Nobel prize.)
There’s also the fact that many of us become more sedentary as we age.
No matter if you’ve got 5 pounds to lose or a whole lot more or if you’re trying to figure out what exercises will help you to lengthen your lifespan, the question remains: what is the right nutrition and exercise balance ratio?
Think about the following:
Have you eaten an extra piece of dessert because you exercised that day, so you feel like you “earned” it?
Or, maybe you’ve heard that flat, hard-core abs are created in the kitchen.
Perhaps the reason why we’ve been led to believe that to experience results from the gym or to maintain our overall health, it comes down to an 80/20 balance.
And by 80/20, we mean that 80% of your results come from the food you eat and only 20% of your results come from your workouts.
Hmm. Is this true that food …
… is THAT much more important than exercise when it comes to our health and our results in performance?
The answer is that it all depends on your goals.
So, let’s explore that further. Let’s look at two common goals:
Health Goal: Fat Loss
Strive for an 80/20 Nutrition and Exercise Balance Ratio.
Many people assume that simply because they’re exercising, they can eat whatever they want. This is NOT true if your goal is FAT LOSS. While exercise has tremendous health benefits, nutrition plays a bigger role in helping you shed the extra weight and inches.
Most people eat at least 21 times in a week. And, if we’re regularly exercising, that means we’re working out between 3-6 times a week (check out my post, Do You Have What It Takes?).
Just looking at those numbers alone, it’s obvious that WHAT we eat is going to have a bigger impact on our waistline.
Now that doesn’t mean we should immediately stop exercising! It means you’ve got to get truly serious about HOW you fuel your body and WHAT you’re fueling your body with.
So, if your top priority is FAT LOSS, exercise is still important. But if you’re eating fast food and candy because you think you’ve “earned it,” you’re just not going to see the results you want to achieve in terms of changes in body composition.
Health Goal: Optimized Health and Longevity
Strive for a 50/50 Nutrition and Exercise Balance Ratio.
It goes without saying that BOTH exercise and nutrition are important factors for overall health status. The food that we eat most certainly has an impact on our overall health and longevity (check out my post, 5 Life Hacks for Longevity).
As a matter of fact, exercise has been proven to boost mental health, reduce risk of chronic diseases, strengthen your bones and muscles and help you live longer (to name only a few benefits!).
Overall, why are food and nutrition more important in the bigger health picture?
The reason that a healthful daily diet is so much more effective than exercise overall is because it takes a ton of activity to create a 500 to 700 calorie deficit through working out.
Essentially, you’d need to run 7-10 miles a day to lose one pound a week, says Holly Lofton, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine at New York University’s Langone Medical Center.
As you can imagine, the average person simply can’t keep this up, especially without increasing their caloric intake. And then you’re simply back where you started.
Should we just stop exercising and focus all our energy on our daily diet?
No, of course not!
What’s most important is that you’re moving your body and eating nutrient dense food on a regular basis. You can’t go wrong with this strategy for overall health.
However, if your goals change, it may mean that you focus a little more on one or the other in order to achieve the individual results you want. But it doesn’t have to be all or nothing!
You can still achieve results, maintain good health and enjoy delicious tasting food. It’s best to focus on food with real ingredients (whole foods) as much as possible, and you can even create your own “healthy” dessert or high energy snack.
In fact, if you check out my recipe below, you’ll find these 2-ingredient Almond Butter Stuffed Dates are the perfect way to satisfy a sweet tooth without adding processed sugar. Plus, they are high in fiber and healthy fats. And, oh my goodness, do they taste delicious!
Please comment below and let us know what your health goal is. Have you ever reached for the cookies because you felt you earned them by exercising? We’d love to hear from you so please share your thoughts with our community.
Recipe: Almond Butter Stuffed Dates
12 Medjool Dates (no sulfites)
12 tsp. Almond Butter (no added sugar or oil)
Optional Toppings: unsweetened shredded coconut, pomegranate seeds, chia seeds, hemp hearts, cinnamon and/or a pinch of sea salt
Create a vertical slit in the center of the date, remove pits if necessary. Spoon one teaspoon of the almond butter into the center of each date.
Add optional toppings like coconut or a dash of sea salt to suit your taste buds.
Enjoy these sweet high-fiber treats as they are, or you can freeze them to enjoy later. Just remember that 1 or 2 is a serving.