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Is The 80/20 Rule For Nutrition & Exercise A Myth?

You may have heard that abs are made in the kitchen… 

Or you may have eaten an extra piece of dessert because you exercised that day, so you feel like you “earned” it dammit! 

In order to see results at the gym, lose weight or even maintain overall health, we’re told that it’s an 80/20 balance. Meaning 80% of your results comes from the food you eat and only 20% of your results come from your workouts. 

But is this actually true? …that food is THAT much more important than exercise when it comes to our health and our results in performance?  

Well, it all depends on your goals. Hang in there with me now because it’s going to get good!

Health Goal: FAT LOSS

THE VERDICT? 80/20 Nutrition to Exercise ratio

Have you ever eaten a cookie or other sweet treat after your workout and thought “I earned this, so I’m going for it!” 

So many people assume that just because they’re exercising, they can eat whatever they want. This simply isn’t 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. (Look at me with the math!) 

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 simply stop exercising! It just means you’ve got to get really serious about HOW 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 & LONGEVITY

THE VERDICT? 50/50 Nutrition to Exercise 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.  

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 a few!). [1]  

One study in particular found that a combination of exercise and nutrition provided the best results for achieving long term fat loss. [2] 

But, on the whole – why is food & nutrition more important in the bigger health picture?

The reason that a healthful daily diet is so much more effective than exercise on the whole, 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. [3] 

As you can imagine, the average person simply can’t keep this up, especially without increasing their caloric intake. So then you’re simply back where you started.

So, we should just stop exercising and focus all of 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 “healthified” dessert or high energy snack. 

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 fibre and healthy fats and they taste decadent! 

RECIPE 

Almond Butter Stuffed Dates 

Ingredients 

12 Medjool Dates (no sulphites)

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 

Preparation 

Create a vertical slit in the centre of the date, remove pits if necessary. Spoon one teaspoon of the almond butter into the centre of each date. 

Add optional toppings like coconut or a dash of sea salt to suit your taste buds. 

Enjoy these sweet high fibre treats as they are OR freeze them to enjoy later. Just remember that 1 or 2 is a serving 😉 

REFERENCES 

[1] Centers for Disease Control & Prevention: Physical Activity & Health – The Benefits of Physical Activity 

[2] Journal of the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics: Diet or Exercise Interventions vs Combined Behavioural Weight Management Programs 

[3] Women’s Health Mag: 7 Things No One Ever Tells You About Running a Half-Marathon