There’s no doubt that diet and fitness are both key components to achieving a happy and healthy lifestyle. In a perfect world, we would HIIT the gym (love a pun) three times a week, and we would eat right all of the time – ditching the skinny vanilla lattes for an oat milk matcha latte – but reality often has different plans for our daily lives. Inevitably we get held up at work, so preparing that perfectly planned dinner is not an option because we’re just too tired, or we decide to hit the snooze button one too many times, sleeping through that well-intended HIIT session. So what matters most, when it comes to enhancing overall well-being, diet or fitness? Below, I explore which of the two is more important, depending on your well-being goals.
For weight loss: focus on diet and fitness
Stop someone on the street in the UK and ask them if they are trying to lose weight and according to a recent poll, two out of three of them will say ‘yes’. Some might be eating fewer calories to achieve a slimmer waistline, but many people are now watching their weight because they know that a good diet can increase their wellbeing.
Low-carbohydrate diets are masters of the dietary domain, mostly because they offer quick weight loss results. For long-term health goals, however, they are not sustainable. Women in particular need to be vigilant with their carbohydrate intake because restricting carbs for an extended time could potentially cause chronic conditions like hypothyroid or hormone imbalances.
Strive for a more balanced plan that focuses on smarter carbs rather than cutting carbs. Choose whole grains with a lower glycemic value, which will raise blood sugars more slowly, and stick with a primarily plant-based diet of fruits, vegetables and heart-healthy fats like avocado, nuts and olive oil. Limit processed foods like refined carbohydrates and sugars and increase lean protein like oily fish, chicken and grass-fed beef. The beauty of balance is that when you watch what you eat, you don’t have to watch what you weigh.
Top tip: When trying to reach your weight loss goal, diet is the most direct route for quick weight loss results, but exercise is essential to keep the kilos off.
For energy: focus on diet
Studies show that regular exercise will create surges in energy, but eating smart throughout the day provides you with the best fuel for sustained energy. Probably the most important way to eat for energy is focusing on your macronutrient intake (carbs, fat, protein) for blood sugar regulation.
To avoid energy fluctuations, dodge the foods that bombard the blood with glucose. These foods will only give us a spike in energy, requiring loads of insulin production, followed closely by a dip in blood sugar, leading to the well-known energy crash. So steer clear of those starchy, refined carbohydrates that taste delicious but are devoid of protein and lacking in fibre – these foods are a one way ticket to crash-ville.
Keep your blood sugar balanced and insulin levels steady by having quality snacks in between meals that provide a good source of protein with your carbohydrate – so eat some nuts with your apple, hummus with your carrots and peanut butter with your chocolate (yum). Or, aim to improve insulin uptake by getting up and getting moving. Moderate exercise (like walking) will help to keep blood sugar regulated, so find time for that brisk ten minute walk, or for all of you amazing fitness trackers – go get your 10,000 steps!
Top tip: Protein will help to slow down the digestion of a meal, reducing the rate your blood sugar rises and providing sustained energy for your body.
For mood: focus on diet & fitness
For mood: focus on diet and fitness
In addition to helping you fit into your favourite pair of jeans (along with taking care of your food choices), increasing your heart rate for 20 minutes a day can boost your mood for up to 12 hours. Thanks, endorphins!
When people exercise, they are altering their neurotransmitters – the chemical substances in the brain like serotonin and dopamine, that help to balance our mood. Fire up those happy hormones at a 7am gym class to set yourself up for the rest of the day.
We can also hack our happiness hormones by eating certain foods, commonly classified as ‘mood foods’, that feed our gut. Ninety percent of our serotonin grows in the gut. This neurotransmitter can then travel up to the brain via the gut-brain axis. Research shows that a specific species from the gut microbiome stimulates the gut to produce serotonin, so be bang on trend by gobbling up your ‘high mood’ fermented foods, gulping down a ginger infused Kombucha tea and making sure you’ve got lots of lovely fibre-rich foods on your plate to help to feed your gut microbiota.
Top tip: Get your endorphin rush by increasing your heart rate for 20 minutes a day, and then grow your gut microbiome and boost serotonin levels by eating your ‘high mood foods.’
Diet and fitenss are both crucial elements to focus on when it comes to wanting to achieve optimal wellbeing. The key is to find a balance that works for you and makes you feel your best. What we often see though is when people start to focus specifically on fitness goals, their diet can fall by the way-side and vice a verca. Making these two focal areas work together are work for you is key.
If you need guidance on how to achieve your health and fitness goals then we’re here to help! From creating tailormade weightloss plans, to ensuring you are feeling and moving your best we hope to set you on your journey to thrive!