Diet versus exercise: Which works better?

For leading a healthy lifestyle, it simply comes down to diet and exercise, the most effective method is where things get controversial. Anyone with common sense would most likely tell you that in order to get the maximum results it is best to combine them both; However many people still try to pit the two against each other to see which yields the most results. When a new year starts many people set goals of losing weight or just simply trying to get healthier, but they often give up on their goal. Why? That part is simple. It is because they do not see results or they think that they have to choose between dieting or exercising.  

Living a healthier lifestyle can be frustrating especially when many of those who try often fail and give up because they make the most common mistakes when it comes to starting. The number one mistake is that people commonly believe that results are instantaneous; however, that is never the case. I think that many are led to believe that that results will be almost instant because of so many commercials out there that advertise products for example meal replacement shakes that help you “lose ten pounds in a matter of days,” but the truth is that those are just marketing schemes. Results can take weeks, months, and even years before they are noticeable; Working out for a few days then waking up with an athletic body is only in everyone’s fantasy. Most goals and dreams in life are not instant so why should a healthier life be? Patience is one of the many keys in order to achieve a goal such as this.  

Calorie counting is another mistake a lot of people make and what I mean by that is people think that they can still eat what they want as long as they track their calories, but that is only true to a certain point. While tracking calorie intake is a good idea it does not mean that a person should eat what they want. For example, a piece of fun-sized snickers is about eighty calories and while that may not seem like much, those are empty calories. That one single fun-sized Snickers has the same calories as twenty pieces of baby carrots, the only difference is carrots have nutritional value while the snickers does not. Nutrition is the reason we eat, to give our body energy. Tracking calories is definitely important because as Dr. Jay Kenney a nutrition specialist at the Pritikin Longevity center says “excess calorie intake is the main cause of weight gain” so it is important to make each calorie intake count. While it is not bad to treat yourself every now and then lots of people do it excessively which is a major factor in weight gain.

Fast Food places also tend to get blamed for the obesity problem, but the funny part is that the same people blaming them are the same ones going there late at night and ordering food that packs a ton of empty calories. The mistake many people make is thinking Fast Food places only offer unhealthy food, but there is a reason why they also have a healthy options menu. I work in a Fast Food place and all the time I see the same people get the same junk food and it makes me wonder why they choose to get a burger that is about eighty if not ninety percent of their daily calorie intake and large fries and a large drink to go with it because that one meal exceeds the calorie count of an entire day’s worth meals. I understand that many people are in a rush so they want to grab food and go, but it is good to keep in mind that fast food places sell yogurt, salads, grilled chicken and other healthy things. Through media, we are always lead to believe that Fast Food is the only reason for the obesity problem, but in reality, it is the people’s bad choice making skills. Although Fast Food Places have been changing their ingredients to make their food a bit healthier such as McDonald’s removing preservatives from their fried products and using only natural meat, for example, is a great way to start dealing with an issue such as this. I am not saying people should not eat fast food I mean it is hard to resist delicious food like that, but many do it excessively which is terrible for their health.       

Another very common mistake people make is thinking they can eat whatever they want as long as they exercise daily, but this is not true for everyone. Some people just naturally have a higher metabolism than an average person so they can put a buffet out of business by eating everything and still not gain a single pound. I have a couple of friends who are like that, they can eat a ton of junk food or any food and just sit on the couch without any gaining any of the weight because they have a higher metabolism, while me, on the other hand, being one of the unlucky ones, would have to run like a dog and lift weights for hours just to burn off the calories from a slice of pizza.

Genetics are one of the things often looked into to see what role it plays in weight control and while research has recently shown that things such as food preferences, dietary patterns, and exercise behaviors are all likely to be determined by genes, they do not play a major part. Genes play a part in determining susceptibility to overweight, but there is no evidence that it plays a part in the actual weight fluctuations or weight gain. “The bottom line is that biology is not destiny. While genes influence susceptibility to overweight and have an influence on weight-related behaviors, the genes cannot be expressed unless the environment supports them” (The Weight Watchers Research Department).  

Exercising has many unique benefits such as it “Reduces blood sugar, heart attacks, strokes, and burns calories” (Killoran, Eugenia). Regular exercise helps keep our body in shape and our mind sharp. Exercising is a great habit to have because it is one of the things in the world you cannot have too much of because the more of it you do the better your health will be. Exercising is often a great way to relieve stress Dieting also has many health benefits such as it helps with weight management, weight loss, and proper nutrition because if we constantly consume empty calories such as junk food not only is weight gain imminent, but our body is also not going to be properly nourished, leading to health problems and illnesses.  

The whole subject of getting healthier is an important subject to me because many of the challenges I have had to go through and experience first hand so I’m familiar with what works and what does not. I first started working out mid-June of 2014 because I was obese and had been since childhood and my cousin who had majored in biology at MSU was worried about my health, so he started helping me change my lifestyle. He started taking me to the gym with him and working out for about three hours showing me proper workouts and since it was summer when I first started we went to the gym daily. Progress was very slow for me and I did not see much results because even though I was exercising for hours which felt endless my diet was very bad. I was a kid who loved chips, soda, and junk food which was all terrible because years of that sort of a diet had made my cholesterol, blood pressure, and weight horrible. Each time I saw my doctor she would shake her head with disapproval because it was all terrible, especially for a fifteen-year-old kid. My cousin drew up a diet plan for me which I combined with exercise for about eight months, yet I still did not see much results. Eventually, I started doing my own thing around late March of 2015. I used many of the workouts that my cousin had shown me and still do to this day, but when it came to dieting I made my own plan. A close friend of mine had also introduced me to a couple of trainers who introduced me to using health supplements to assist me because I was a very lazy person at the time and I always lacked energy, but supplements, proper diet, and daily exercise helped me lose majority of the weight and within about five months I had lost seventy pounds of fat and had gained thirty pounds of muscle. After all of that everyone was happy about my hard work especially my parents and doctor, but most of all I was happy because I had done something I thought I would never be able to do. All of that happened about seventeen months ago and since then I have gained a lot of muscle mass and my health is better than it ever was. What keeps me going is my strong determination to get in the best shape of my life and the fear of turning back into my old lazy self.  

The other issue many people who want a healthy lifestyle have is that they just do not know where to start and what to do. I was once one of those people who wanted to live a healthy lifestyle and not knowing what to do can be frustrating. The first thing that will help is creating a diet plan focusing primarily on a plant-based diet (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and heart-healthy fats, like olive oil) and limiting processed foods (such as frozen meals, deli meats, and refined carbohydrates) will reduce daily calorie intake significantly. This is actually very similar to my diet and from my personal experience, I would have to say it works great because it does the job of reducing daily calorie intake so seeing results is more likely with this sort of diet. The second step in starting a healthier lifestyle is creating a routine. Many trainers recommend that when creating a routine it is very important to set it up so it works the best for you. Copying someone else’s routine more than likely will not work because they set it up to work for themselves not necessarily for others. Another important step is to make sure that you have proper exercise equipment and the easiest way for that is to get a gym membership which does not have to cost you a ton of money a gym with the most basic exercise equipment will work especially for beginners. What I find is that those that try to start exercising more than often lack the energy to do so because they are either too exhausted from work or are just too lazy to workout and I know how both of those are like. When it comes to exhaustion best thing is to fit a quick power nap no longer than two hours just to refresh the body. When it comes to laziness it is a lot trickier because obviously if a person does not have true motivation they will not care, but if they are just lazy because they do not have much energy, then supplements  are a great place to get a boost, but it is important to make sure they will help and not have any bad side effects. Supplement use for getting healthier or giving yourself a boost prior to working out is something that has varying opinions from doctors. Many doctors say that there is nothing wrong with supplement use when it comes to giving your body a boost for weight loss or energy to workout, but they also say that supplements are not meant for everyone which is why they recommend checking with a physician prior to using them because many are not approved by the FDA.

If my personal experience has shown anything it is that exercise and diet work best when put together, but it also shows the importance of diet because I did not see any results in my look and body shape till I implemented a diet that worked for me. My tips for those trying to get healthier is to create a routine that works with your life schedule, spend any free time at the gym working out rather than spend it doing nothing because thirty minutes of lifting weights, stretching, or even walking on the treadmill is far more beneficial than sitting on the couch watching tv. Eating healthy is also a huge part of living healthy, getting enough sleep is very important and it is something many professional trainers recommend and it is always important to stay hydrated especially when dieting.   

Both diet and exercise are very important for a person’s well-being. As Dr. Jay Kenny puts it  “ Don’t make it an either/or choice” (Killoran, Eugenia). Dr. Kenny says that compared to the nineteen-seventies, people in the U.S weigh more and the main cause of obesity is not from lack of exercise, but rather from poor diet and food choices. “For staying slim and overall good health, both food and fitness are important. But science is now discovering that Americans are getting fatter largely because of what they choose to eat and drink” (Kenny quoted in Killoran).

Tom Venuto, a bodybuilder, freelance writer, success coach, and gym owner has spent his life in advising other to lead healthier lives and so he has also jumped into the argument of which is more important diet or exercise. Venuto has argued that “you cannot separate nutrition and training” and that “The two work together synergistically and regardless of your goal….. You will get less than optimal or non-existent results without paying attention to both.” (Venuto, Tom).  According to him it really shouldn’t be a choice between nutrition and training, but at certain stages “more attention on one component over the other can create larger improvements”. He explains that Beginners (those that are starting to get in shape) nutrition is the most important. Those that are advanced trainees should focus more on training because by this point their nutrition is in place. Overall he points out that no matter what you do or how hard you do it “You can’t out-train a lousy diet!” (Venuto, Tom).  

What exactly is the answer to the importance regarding whether exercising or dieting grants better results? This is a question which will ring for many years no matter how many answers are out there for this one question. Research has provided an answer to that and it is dieting which yields the most results. While both are essential to living a healthy diet, eating healthier will keep your body functioning at full capacity as long as it has the proper fuel(nutrients) to do so. When it comes to their body people do not really think too much about how they treat it. I like to think of them as a nice car; just imagine what will happen to a car if you pour the wrong viscosity grade of oil in its engine. Eventually, that will shorten the engine’s life or if you pour a lower grade of gasoline than the recommended one that will cause damage to the engine. What we put in our body to provide it the required nutrients is very important to our well-being. I’m not saying that exercising is a bad thing. In fact dieting and exercising make up the best duo since Batman and Robin. They work better together, but when it comes to picking one dieting is the better choice because you can run all you want, but as long as you provide the improper fuel you will start to eventually function incorrectly and might even develop serious health problems besides obesity. Shawn M. Talbott, Ph.D., a nutritional biochemist and former director of the University of Utah Nutrition Clinic has said in his research that in living a healthy lifestyle and losing weight “seventy-five percent” is solely diet based and “twenty-five percent”  is exercise. “An analysis of more than seven-hundred weight loss studies found that people see the biggest short-term results when they eat smart. On average, people who dieted without exercising for 15 weeks lost 23 pounds; the exercisers lost only six over about 21 weeks. It’s much easier to cut calories than to burn them off.” (Talbott, Shawn). Talbott’s research study showed that in order to eat healthily it does not mean a person has to cut calories completely low as that will result in a slower metabolism and he has concluded that “For a healthy daily calorie count, allow 10 calories per pound of body weight” (Talbott, Shawn). He believes that if people did that and ate only necessary calories than they would be losing regardless of how much they exercise. “You can’t out-exercise a bad diet,” (Talbott, Shawn).

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CC BY-SA 4.0 Diet versus exercise: Which works better? by Ramazan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

1 Comment
  1. Profile photo of Kevin
    Kevin 1 week ago

    Dear Writer,
    I agree that to stay healthy you should exercise and eat healthy. If you Exercise and Eat junk food then you wouldn’t be getting healthier. So I think you were right that to eat healthy without exercising would make you lose weight and if you exercise then you would probably be more healthier. I sometimes try to eat healthy and I try to not eat too much junk food. I also agree that eating healthier is better than eating other junk food because if you eat a candy it would be as much as eating a lot of healthier fruits and vegetables that gets you more full. So I think eating Healthy and Exercising would help you get healthier rather than doing only one.

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