There is a new editorial in the BJSM today emphasizing the theme “you cannot outrun a bad diet” and the importance of nutrition over exercise for fat loss. I may not agree with all of the statements in this BJSM editorial, for instance the lack of emphasis that inactivity has contributed to the obesity epidemic. However, having not performed a minute of cardio in 10 years of fitness modeling, I do agree that for initial weight loss nutrition appears to be superior to exercise. Training changes minimally the day I receive word of an upcoming photoshoot. It is our diet that plays a vital role in initial fat-loss.
=>NUTRITON – Studies suggest it is most important for initial weight LOSS, which is associated with a significant reduction in-all cause mortality. Exercise certainly plays a role in weight loss, however, reducing energy intake appears to be the more superior method of achieving sustained caloric deficits.
=>EXERCISE – Becomes increasingly important for weight MAINTENANCE and avoiding weight regain. Evidence suggests exercise is less important for initial weight loss. However, lost in this articles’ argument is the long list of exercise-related benefits outside of fat loss such as cardio-respiratory fitness and growing/maintaining functional lean mass with age, not to mention inactivity contributing to bulging waistlines. Remember, there is a significant difference between losing 30lbs of “weight” that includes lost muscle, and 30lbs of fat while preserving muscle through focused strength training and adequate protein consumption. By no means am I suggesting exercise is not important for optimum health, as there are many lean individuals with weak hearts and hypertension, and conversely, many obese individuals with high levels of aerobic fitness.
=>TAKE HOME MESSAGE: If you have time, exercise (including strength training) with a safely elevated heart rate from day one. If not, it should eventually be integrated into your lifestyle.
WHICH IS THE PRIORITY: EXERCISE OR NUTRITON FOR INITIAL FAT-LOSS?
If a client insists, “I have only time for one thing, meal prep OR exercise”, encourage them to prepare home-cooked meals, while making a point to mention that exercise should play a role in healthy lifestyles long-term. Integrating regular exercise will help individuals sustain weight-loss in the long term. Regarding sugar, the priority is to reduce liquid calories in general, which for most clients are predominately composed of sugar and fat.
TIPS TO: REDUCE PORTIONS AND CRAVINGS
1: Protein – Very underrated. Evidence suggests those with higher protein breakfasts have a greater feeling of fullness.
2: Fiber (soluble and insoluble) – Apples, berries, bran buds, pears, oranges (think seeds or skin that you consume).
3: Whole-foods fats – Almonds, walnuts, pepitas etc. (portioned)
OBESITY-RELATED: PUBLIC HEALTH POLICY
Lost in this discussion is the importance of public health initiatives in relation to curbing obesity rates. Specifically, “changing the food environment” as is appropriately mentioned in this new BJSM editorial. This is precisely why the systematic approach to communities using the Prevention Rx exercise and nutrition prescription pads I have created includes community integration and advocacy. For instance, patients are rewarded with discounted healthy meal items at local restaurants when they present with a doctor-signed nutrition prescription. The only foods discounted are ones that meet the lofty standards of the Prevention Rx program. Improving the quality of food available in our communities combined with renewed emphasis on obesity-related public health policy is vital for Canadians to see improvements at a population level.
Aric Sudicky co-founded London, Ontario’s first medically integrated personal training and nutrition program. He is a former Canadian Fitness Professional of the Year award winner, an obesity researcher, and is currently finishing his Doctor of Medicine degree. You can follow Aric via his facebook or twitter pages.