Everyone is looking for the fastest and easiest way to get our bodies healthier and stronger.
It’s not just a matter of being “lazy” — this is a goal we genuinely want to achieve as quickly as possible to experience the results as quickly as we can and for as long as we can.
Which gives rise to the perennial question: Is exercise more important than nutrition for getting fit or vice versa?
This question does make the correct assumption that both are indispensable to achieving physical fitness, though it’s inherently asking for permission to downplay one side or the other. And the response may vary depending on who’s being asked and whether you’re prioritizing weight loss.
But many experts, looking at the matter from different perspectives, agree that eating the right food lays the foundation for better overall health, fueling your ability to see the benefits of adequate cardio and strength training.
Look for opportunities
Just thinking about how many times you eat versus exercise per day or week can be instructive.
Most people who’ve established a healthy fitness routine will work out four to five days a week between walking, running, lifting weights, team sports and any other activities they choose.
And, most people will eat at least three times a day; likely more if they snack or plan more frequent meals throughout the day. This means you’re likely to reach many more “decision points” around eating than exercising.
The path of least resistance
The hard truth is it’s much easier to cut calories before you eat than to burn them off.
Most of us tend to overestimate how much we are able to burn off through working out, though its benefits for our heart, lung, brain, muscular and digestive function can’t be emulated anywhere else.
Whether you’re trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy one, you can’t ignore this equation.
Your food is fuel
The food we eat and the effect it has on our bodies has been studied ad infinitum and will continue to be for as long as there are data points and scientists out there to disagree. But there’s nothing to refute that we are what we eat, in the sense that it either makes it easier or harder for us to think, move and otherwise be human.
But there’s broad agreement on how we can eat to improve our physical performance, which makes getting the exercise we need easier and more enjoyable.
Here are a few tips:
- Eat dark leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale for nutrients like folate, vitamin C, calcium, zinc, magnesium and fiber.
- Berries full of antioxidants can help soothe post-workout muscle inflammation and oxidative stress, leading to faster recovery.
- When eaten in moderation with as much fat as possible removed, lean red meats like flank, sirloin and T-bone steak and pork loin are good protein sources.
- Chia seeds, beans, tofu and nuts are among the best plant-based protein sources.