My answer is BOTH. Unfortunately this question really does not have a simple answer. We have all seen the memes that say “Abs are made 80% in the kitchen and 20% in the gym”. Personally, I believe this needs to be changed to 100% in the kitchen and 100% in the gym. I would also like to add a dimension and say we need a 100% of working on our mindset too. Yes, that is 300%. It is not about dividing ourselves into little pieces and giving little bits of ourselves to certain activities though. It is about making a 100% commitment to take better care of ourselves, isn’t it?
I believe that living a healthier life is about much more than simply losing weight. What we really need to lose is the mindset that got us into the unhealthy situation in the first place. Does this make sense to you? I hope it does!
This journey involves more than changing eating habits, or doing exercise. Your journey requires an honest assessment of how you feel about yourself and what you need to do to provide yourself with better care. This is what a coach helps you with and why I identify with being a coach rather than a personal trainer. There is no app that can help you with this and no impersonal online training plan will provide the correct guidance. I like to enlist the help of professional partners here too. Investigate the services of Arpeggio Consulting and Xen and the Art of Mindful Eating.
Now back to the original question after establishing that how you feel about yourself is the most important factor – what is then more important, eating right or exercising?
I will leave you with the following snippets about eating and exercise which supports my opinion that both are equally important, and that it is not so much about the “what” but the “how”:
- All calories are NOT equal once the body starts to process what you’ve eaten. Some foods, such a proteins, require more energy to store and process than others, such as sugars and refined starches. About 30% of the calories in the protein will be spent on digesting it, because the metabolic pathway requires energy. Not only that, but the foods we eat can directly affect the hormones that regulate when and how much we eat and how we utilize these calories. Bottom Line: Saying that weight gain is caused by excess calories is true, but meaningless unless we understand where the calories come from.
- Why calorie reduction (dieting) doesn’t work in the long term: Whereas people on low-fat diets must be calorie restricted in order to lose weight, people eating low-carb (and high fat and protein) can usually eat until they feel satisfied and still lose weight. If you were to cut calorie intake by 10%, it would only work for some time until your metabolic rate would adapt and you would stop losing. Then you would have to cut calories again, then again… The body tries desperately to maintain its fat mass. This is called the body fat set-point and is regulated by the hypothalamus. If you don’t change your diet, only the amount of foods you eat, then your set point won’t change. Bottom Line:The body tries to resist changes in body fat levels by increasing hunger and reducing calorific expenditure. What is needed is to change the body fat set-point over time.
- All Cardio is not equal, studies have found that High Intensity Interval Training is most effective at burning fat, but what is it about HIIT cardio training that sends bodyfat to the great beyond? There are actually several reasons, but the first and perhaps most important involves its effect on your metabolism. HIIT enhances the metabolic machinery in muscle cells that promotes fat-burning and blunts fat production. Since HIIT is tougher on the body, it requires more energy (read: calories) to repair itself afterward. Studies have found that test subjects in a HIIT program also burned nearly 100 more calories per day during the 24 hours after exercise. You can additionally vary HIIT training to prevent the body from adapting and becoming resistant to change.
- What about building muscle? HIIT is also good news for those who struggle to hold on to muscle mass. Short, hard bursts of cardio will help you preserve your hard-earned muscle mass as opposed to those long slow cardio sessions which frustrate athletes who are working hard for muscle gains.