Exercise + Nutrition = Beautiful Partnership

True or False? To be healthy, you can eat whatever you want as long as you exercise regularly.

Sure, you CAN do this, but this will put you at a higher risk for developing chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension. So, for all intents and purposes, this statement is false.

Regular exercise is very important, and your health will certainly be better off if you are exercising than if you were not, but nutrition is an equally important component in maintaining your health. Think of exercise and nutrition as BFFs (Best Friends Forever). They supplement each other and make a beautiful partnership.

Achieving good health is a balancing act just like every other aspect of our busy lives today. To be considered “healthy” you need a balance of physical, mental, and social well-being. Think of these areas of health as represented by legs on a stool. If all of your “legs” are not balanced your stool will wobble. That stool can only teeter-totter for so long before it will eventually fall over. An example of this would be maintaining a healthy weight with exercise alone, but developing high blood pressure or diabetes from a poor diet.

You can maintain a healthy weight with exercise alone purely due to burning an equal amount of calories as the amount you take in. However, we cannot control which calories we burn just like we can’t spot reduce weight loss with exercise.

I know you’ve seen those people at the gym who are exercising 2 hours a day, but still have the noticeable belly fat. You wonder, “How have they not lost that belly fat yet?” If those people didn’t reward themselves for exercise with a doughnut every night after dinner that belly fat would vanish. If you eat a doughnut and then jump on a treadmill you are not magically burning off only those 250 calories from your after dinner indulgence. Other than a future trip to the dentist, that doughnut also gives you a regular dose of undesirable nutrients such as:

  • Trans fat
  • Saturated fat
  • Refined sugar

A regular combination of these is a good way to ensure a negative impact on your health, despite regular exercise.

I have talked with many patients in the past who argue that they “feel fine” and their weight is healthy with exercise alone. Poor nutrition and its risks are not always reflected by our outward appearance. Many health conditions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol have no physical manifestations.

Remember when I said that exercise and nutrition were BFFs? Exercise is the extroverted friend and nutrition is the introverted friend.  Exercise is noticed more through our physical appearance whereas nutrition is more of a behind-the-scenes friend.  You will see balanced nutrition reflected more in:

  • Laboratory results
  • Energy levels
  • Mental alertness
  • Mood

My patients often feel overwhelmed with nutrition because they have the “all or nothing” mentality. They feel that they must never ever eat anything “bad” for them or all of their efforts are ruined.

Scratch that thinking right now! It’s impossible to never eat anything “bad” for us. You are setting yourself up for failure with this mentality. Balanced nutrition means eating foods that will be beneficial for your health most of the time, but also not feeling guilty when you occasionally eat something that may not be the best choice.

I know you’ve heard it before, but moderation really is the key. However, people have different ideas on what is moderate. Having ice cream once per day is not moderate. Focus your daily meals and snacks on whole foods like lean meats, fresh vegetables and fruits. Save the ice cream for special occasions. You’ll enjoy it more this way because then it really is a treat!

Now go grab your BFF for a sweat session followed by a healthy meal!

Lisa McCune

About Lisa McCune

Lisa McCune MS, MPH, RD, LDN is a Registered Dietitian in Knoxville, TN with over six years of experience in clinical nutrition as well as public health nutrition. She enjoys talking about food, eating food, making food, and CrossFit. For more information regarding nutrition and health education consulting services contact Lisa at lisamccunenutrition@gmail.com.