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How Food and Exercise Go Hand in Hand

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When it comes to food and exercise, which has a greater impact? As a Performance Specialist I get asked various iterations of this question on a regular basis. The simple answer that I tell everyone is, “Food is fuel. Eat to fuel YOUR life.” This simple answer still leaves us with many questions. What does it really mean when it comes to what you should and shouldn’t eat?

multi-faceted approach to health

First, it is a misnomer to believe that one is more important than the other when it comes to health. Food and exercise do, in fact, go hand in hand. You could argue that other variables, like sleep and hydration, are included in completing a holistic approach to health. Omitting even one of these variables will undoubtedly have a large effect on your overall health. Specifically with food, not allowing your body to properly fuel up to suit your exercise needs will most definitely hinder you from reaching your fitness and health goals.

Prevent the under-fueling cycle

A reciprocal relationship exists between food and exercise; food intake affects exercise quality and results and exercise quantity and intensity affects food intake needs. You can’t out work a poor diet in the gym, but being diligent about fuel intake can propel you to have a great workout and consistently make progress. If you don’t properly fuel up before exercise, you won’t have a good workout. Likewise, if you don’t follow a good post-workout nutrition strategy, your body will not recover as well. It is easy to see how this can become a cyclical process of degradation. Luckily, we can counteract a negative effect by estimating our caloric expenditure during exercise based on duration and intensity. Knowing how much energy you burn through during a workout will help give you an idea of what you need to restore.

contributors to caloric expenditure

Metabolism considers more than just your workouts. Sure, there are some strategies to increase our metabolism, but frankly, every activity we participate in burns calories. In fact, the term that has been coined to describe day-to-day activities is non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT). This term encompasses the caloric expenditure associated with everything we do in our daily lives that isn’t eating, sleeping, or exercising. Examples of NEAT are walking, thinking, gardening, and chores. Thinking of the wide variety of activities emphasized the importance of fueling YOUR life. Every activity in our lives ultimately dictates how much fuel we need to put in the tank. If you don’t properly fuel up throughout the whole day, you can imagine you’ll be lacking energy and not feeling well.

basal metabolic rate (BMR) Explained

Another crucial factor to consider about how food and exercise play into each other is basal metabolic rate (BMR). BMR is how much energy you use while doing nothing. That’s right – if you laid in bed and did absolutely nothing all day you would still burn a base amount of calories. As is with exercise and NEAT, BMR is entirely dependent on the individual. It has to do with not only height and weight, but also lean mass. That is, the more muscle mass you have, the greater your base caloric expenditure. It’s true that there are a multitude of complex equations available that claim to measure BMR. However, there are problems when using these equations because most do not take into account lean tissue mass. Instead, they estimate averages across large spectrums of individuals on factors like height, weight, age, and gender.

BMR & Body COmposition

If you want to get a more accurate snapshot of your personal BMR, I suggest getting your body composition tested. Body composition testing measures the kind of tissues that make up your weight, from lean mass, fat mass, bone, and water. One of the methods that has gained a lot of traction in recent years is bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA). You may have heard of this kind of device, seen one somewhere, or even used one! Not all of these machines are the same, and many of them out there only measure a small part of you body. I suggest using the InBody because it is non-invasive, user friendly approach that gives an extremely accurate result in a time-efficient manner. In fact, it only takes about one minute and will reveal a wealth of information about your body to give you a snapshot of your health. To complete an InBody scan, contact us and our Advantage team can set you up with an appointment and explain your results. Also, if you’re interested in nutrition coaching, reach out to our Scottsdale nutritionist to help you strategize on matching your food needs to your life and workout demands.