Diet vs. Exercise

Ah yes, the ultimate battle of the superpowers - dieting vs. exercising. We all have those friends or family members who claim to have lost weight through some extreme or obscure diet. Or what about the coworker who slimmed down by finishing "the hardest workout program eva!"

Which one is better?

I am reminded of the commercials I keep seeing on the t.v. about these dieting companies that promise to lose "x number of pounds" by "certain date". A lot of these programs will allow you to see moderate to even excellent success, but they aren't necessarily always sustainable for the long haul (life).

Both diet and exercise are beneficial for healthy living, but each has its own strengths and weaknesses. The purpose of this blog is to detail where each strength and weakness lies, and how you can effectively spend your time and energy to maximize your results.

Lose Weight

Plain and simple, it is MUCH easier to cut 500 calories out of your diet than it is to burn at the gym. To give you an example, many of you could complete a gruelling hour-long half hour workout and only burn a few hundred calories. Yes, you read that correctly.

However, by ordering from the lunch menu at the restaurant and skipping dessert could easily drop those unneeded calories. Diet and exercise are extremely effective of keeping weight off, but diet wins here for dropping weight to begin with. Be sensible with what you eat, choose smaller portion sizes, and weight management becomes much easier.

Winner: Diet

Boost Energy Levels

There is nothing like exercise to get your blood flowing. Not only that, but an intense workout causes a massive flood of "feel-good" hormones throughout your body that not only lift your mood, but also give you a boost of energy. Sure, some foods can give you a quick boost of similar hormones, but they are generally short-lived and can even cause dips in the opposite direction. Sound familiar: eat because you're unhappy, unhappy because of what you ate?

Winner: Exercise

Reduce Risk of Heart Disease

Many people will say, "Exercise is good for your heart!" The more correct phrase would be, "Exercise is good for your cardiovascular system". You know, your internal plumbing?

Things like high cholesterol, high sodium, high fat, high sugary diets can cause 'clogs' in your internal plumbing that can lead to a myriad of diseases such as (but not limited to) heart disease and stroke. Exercise flushes things out with such positive effects as lowering your blood pressure and resting heart rates. Having said that, consuming healthy fatty acids like Omega-3's can reduce your heart disease risk big time. I call this one a tie!

Winner: Tie

Prevent Diabetes

This category will be a shock to many of you. You automatically assume that diet is the winner here correct? Well, not exactly. Diet goes a long way, and I am a strong advocate for cutting as much processed sugars out of your diet as you can, but healthy active muscles gobble up glucose out of the blood for energy like it's going out of style!

Routine exercise goes a long way to stabilizing your blood sugar levels, so even if you do go for that dessert treat every so often, you are mostly covered!

Winner: Exercise

Prevent Cancer

Consuming a mostly plant-based diet has been shown to be a major deterrent for cancer. Having said that, studies also show that regular exercise strengthens this fact even more. I call this one a tie as well!

Winner: Tie

Improve Mood

Similar to the "Energy" category from above, there is nothing like exercise to boost your mood with that flood of hormones that are released from exercise. Think of it this way: exercise is so good for you that your brain wants to thank your muscles for doing such a good job, so they release these hormones and make you feel great! That's not exactly what happens, but think of it that way. Also, more and more studies have shown that exercise is a great tool to curb the symptoms of depression.

Winner: Exercise

Injury Prevention

The United States has one of the highest dairy consumption rates per capita amongst many countries in the world yet their rates of osteoporosis are also rising, what gives? No, this does not mean that consuming dairy or supplementing with calcium is all for naught.

Your diet can only get you so far here. You can take in tons of calcium and nutrients to make your body somewhat look good, but your body still survives by the "use it or lose it" mantra. Exercise, and especially resistance training, puts a lot of stress and strain on not only your muscles, but your bones as well. Your body is a fighter in that regard because when it sees a challenge, it attacks it head-on by strengthening your bones, ligaments, and muscles so that they can withstand these forces. The more exercise and tensile strength we put our bodies under, the stronger they become and less prone to injuries caused by neglect!

Winner: Exercise

Overall Winner: Exercise

Based on these categories, yes, exercise is extremely important. Having said that, our diets play such a large part in the way we live our lives it is hard to choose one outright winner. The truth of the matter is, no matter what your goals are, whether you wish to lose weight, gain weight, improve your mood/energy levels, live longer, etc., diet and exercise need to go hand-in-hand.