Nutrition vs. Exercise: 80% Nutrition Wins

How 80% Nutrition is The Key to Losing Body Fat

You've heard the phrase "you can't out-exercise a bad diet," and this is the bottom line when it comes to maintaining a healthy body. Nutrition and exercise are both important parts to losing fat and gaining strength. Nutritional habits will have a far greater impact on your body composition and physique goals than any other fitness component. When a combination of exercise and healthy nutrition are implemented is when successful body change happens.

Apply a Nutritional Strategy

Nutrition vs. Exercise
Nutrition Plays the Largest Role in Health and Fitness. BraunS/Getty Images

A person can change their body composition through diet alone without exercise. However, it's the combination of both that provides a complete healthy package. Applying the 80 percent nutrition to 20 percent fitness rule is simply a statement of the importance of nutrition in the equation.

Exercise would not be a complete waste of time without eating healthy, but it would be like swimming upstream not making any headway to changing your body composition. We have all seen the regulars at the gym doing the same thing day-in and day-out for several months or even years without seeing results in fat loss.

The puzzlement can be answered simply in that a non-existent nutritional strategy is holding them back from reaching their fitness goals.

Common Questions

Food vs Exercise
Nutrition Has the Largest Impact on the Body. Lisa Stokes Moment/Getty Images

Common questions heard in the fitness industry and addressing fitness goals are “what percentage of my goals will be a result of exercise, and what percentage will be a result of my diet?”

Usual answers would be “they are both important, but percentages can’t really be assigned” or the well-known “100% training and 100% diet.” Vague answers like this don't address the big picture, especially to novice trainees starting their fitness journey to physique improvement.

The best answer would be that nutrition has the largest impact on body changes than exercise and tossing all percentages aside.

Nutrition and Exercise Logic

Food vs Exercise
Understanding Nutrition vs Exercise. Kevin Summers Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

Let’s take percentages out of the equation for now and apply some logic to exercise and nutrition. The norm exerciser may perform 3-4 weight training sessions and 3-4 cardio workouts per week totally 8 sessions per week.

This gives 8 opportunities to make a positive change in your body through exercise. That same person eats 3 healthy meals per day. If knowledgeable in the value of meal spacing may eat 5 to 6 times per day.

Quick math shows 21 to 35 chances per week to directly and positively impact fat burning and muscle building goals through nutrition.

You Are What You Eat

You are what you eat
You Are What You Eat. David Jakle Image Source/Getty Images

Utilizing the above example, nutrition is clearly the winner in physique improvement opportunities. In fact at 21 to 35 chances per week to improve body composition through nutrition, the percentage does come in around 80 percent.

This leaves 20 percent of physique enhancement resulting from exercise. The assessment of nutrition vs. exercise is pretty accurate given the numbers.

It also indicates if you want to look good, applying 80 percent of your focus to eating right is a necessary component. There is something to “you are what you eat” and how it relates to making positive body changes.

Apply the 80:20 Rule for Results

Healthier Nutrition
Food Plays the Largest Role in Fitness Goals. Hiroshi Watanabe Stone/Getty Images

Have you read success stories of dramatic weight loss? At the forefront of their accomplishments are improved nutritional programs and diets. Some have shared application of drastic food changes and also healthier methods of cooking and eating before starting an exercise program.

This began the journey of their success and adding in the workouts was the bonus that made it all come together. It was important to master a healthy nutrition plan. They also understood it as the largest role in being able to reach fitness goals.

It may be nice to think positive body changes can be made simply by exercising, but that's far from the truth. Applying the 80:20 rule creates the difference and understanding food will be the major player in how you look.

Sources, US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, Effect of diet and exercise, alone or combined, on weight and body composition in overweight-to-obese post-menopausal women, KE Foster-Schubert,  8/1/12, Diet or exercise interventions vs combined behavioral weight management programs: a systematic review and meta-analysis of direct comparisons, Johns DJ, 10/14

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