If you want to get in shape, exercise is the best route to get you there. If you want to lose weight, exercise can also help by burning calories. Although exercise can help offset unhealthy eating by burning more calories than a sedentary lifestyle would, healthy eating will help you achieve the best fitness results. An unhealthy diet can undermine your exercise program by making you feel lethargic, and it can cause a variety of health problems.
Regular exercise offers many health benefits, including helping with maintaining a healthy weight and preventing diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. The American College of Sports Medicine advises adults to do moderately intense cardio exercise for 30 minutes a day, five days a week or do vigorously intense cardio for 20 minutes a day, three days a week to stay healthy. Exercise can also help you lose weight by burning more calories than you consume. You need to burn about 3,500 calories -- or 500 calories a day for one week -- to lose 1 pound of body weight.
An unhealthy diet does not include all the nutrients your body needs and often includes foods that are high in calories and low in nutrients. A deficient diet may be high in bad fats such as trans fat and saturated fat, which build up in your arteries and can lead to high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease and heart attacks. Fried foods, prepackaged snack foods, red meat, high-fat dairy products and baked desserts often contain saturated or trans fats. Foods that are high in added sugars -- such as soda, desserts and some snack foods and cereals -- tack on extra calories to your diet without many nutrients.
Diet and Exercise
You may be able to burn some of the extra calories from an unhealthy diet by exercising, but you can still gain weight if you are eating a very high-calorie diet. The amount of calories you burn exercising depends on your body weight, the length of time you exercise, and the type and intensity of the exercise. If you do a high-intensity exercise such as running fast or swimming, for instance, you will burn more calories than you would walking. How you feel during your workouts is affected by your diet as well, and if you are deficient in nutrients, you're more likely to get fatigued easily, feel bloated or get muscle cramps.
To look and feel your best, eat a balanced diet rich in nutrients. Your body needs enough carbs, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals to function properly, and if you eat unhealthy foods, you are probably lacking in some of these nutrients. The Institute of Medicine advises healthy adults to eat from 45 to 65 percent of daily calories in the form of carbs, 10 to 35 percent as protein and 20 to 35 percent as fat. Choose healthy, unsaturated fats instead of bad fats such as saturated fat and trans fat. You can get unsaturated fats from vegetable oils, seeds, nuts, fish and avocados.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Healthy Weight Loss
- The New York Times: Eating to Fuel Exercise
- National Heart Lung and Blood Institute: Balance Food and Activity
- American College of Sports Medicine: Physical Activity and Public Health Guidelines
- Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes