3 reasons why you can’t exercise your way out of a bad diet

1. You won’t burn enough calories Have you ever eaten an entire pizza worth around 1000 calories and justified it by telling yourself you’ll go t…

Do you ever feel that no matter how many HIIT classes you attend, you still don’t seem to be getting any closer to achieving your weight goals?

If this is the case, firstly, you’re not alone. Secondly, it’s likely that it’s your diet that is holding you back.

Many people assume that if you want to lose weight you need to exercise and, while this is a contributing factor, nutrition is fundamentally the primary factor. In addition, your food choices have a big impact on the rate at which you lose weight.

Here are three reasons why you can’t exercise your way out of a bad diet.


1. You won’t burn enough calories

Have you ever eaten an entire pizza worth around 1000 calories and justified it by telling yourself you’ll go to the gym to work it off the next day? We’ve all been there. But, realistically, even after a really intense workout, you’re still only likely to burn around 600 calories. 

The truth is, it’s easy to consume a large number of calories very quickly, particularly when you eat processed foods that are considered empty calories (those that do not provide any nutritional value). At the same time, it’s hard to burn a large number of calories.

If you’re not sure how much you’re consuming, it may be time to assess and calculate the calories you’re burning compared to those you’re consuming. This is really simple to do with a calorie tracker like Lifesum.

The trick is to consume whole, minimally-processed foods like whole grains, vegetables and lean protein (chicken, beans and fish etc) that increase satiety but are low in calories.

It’s worth remembering that eating pizza every now and then isn’t bad. And there’s no reason for you to feel disappointed or guilty if you do. It’s just a case of adjusting the rest of your daily/weekly intake so that you’re still within your calorie deficit – this being the shortage in the amount of calories consumed relative to the amount of calories required for maintenance of current body weight. Of course, adding some exercise will allow you to consume more calories than if you didn’t. 

Pro tip: Sync your exercise activity information through Lifesum which will be reflected in your recommended daily intake allowance.

2. Exercise increases your appetite

When we exercise, our brain triggers a signal to tell our bodies to eat more in order to recover. While this, in theory, is a good thing, if we don’t replenish with the right foods, we end up consuming more calories than necessary and this can actually make us gain weight. 

After exercising, it’s common for people to feel hungry and therefore replenish on refined carbs like white pasta or bread. The problem with these food choices is that while they provide calories, they don’t provide the proper nutrients that will make you feel full. That means, if you fail to fuel up with nutrient-dense food you can end up feeling constantly hungry and this leads to high calorie consumption.

Some nutrient-dense foods perfect for post workouts include:

1. Whole grain pasta, rice or bread

2. Vegetables

3. Protein like spinach, chicken or protein shakes

3. A bad diet limits your performance

When you have poor nutrition habits, your exercise performance suffers. That means you’ll never be able to reach your peak or get the most out of your workouts because your body isn’t supported correctly. This also translates to not being able to effectively burn the calories you want to.

To get the most out of your workouts you need to think about what your eating and when you’re eating.

As a rule of thumb, follow this guide:

Early morning exercise: Have something small before training (i.e. a banana, rice cakes, or a smoothie). Make sure you fill up afterwards with a proper breakfast. There are plenty of delicious breakfast recipes in Lifesum’s recipe tab – why not try the Banana Oatmeal or Yoghurt bowl?

Midday exercise: If training between main meals, make sure you have a low calorie snack before and try to refuel with a larger meal after training (i.e. lunch or dinner).

Evening exercise: The same applies for evening as it does for midday training. After your workout, make sure you refuel. If you’ve already had dinner, a carb and protein-rich night snack will help optimize recovery. Check out our post on the importance of carbs.

So, there you have it – three reasons why you can’t exercise your way out of a bad diet.

Take away messages

1. It’s easy to consume many calories and hard to burn off many calories. Always track your calories and sync your exercise activity to keep check of your calorie deficit to ensure you reach your goals.

2. Exercise increases your appetite and replenishing your body with the wrong foods has negative consequences. Get the low down on nutrition so you’re aware of the types of food you should be fueling up on.

3. Your diet impacts your exercise performance level. You’ll never be able to perform at your best on the wrong diet. Take note of what you should be eating and when, to improve your exercise ability.

The bottom line is when it comes to reaching your weight goals, exercise and nutrition complement each other. However, it’s the nutrition part that will always win if you want to see drastic changes.

For many people, having the motivation to exercise is the hardest part of making healthy changes so if you’ve got that part covered you’re well on your way to achieving your goals!

Small improvements to what you eat can help you address bad habits and turn them into good. Think about adding an extra serving of vegetables to your plate, drinking more water and cutting out processed foods and beverages where you can and soon you’ll start seeing the results you want.

All of the content and media on Lifesum is created and published for information purposes only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Users should always consult with a doctor or other health care professional for medical advice. If you have or think you are at risk of developing an eating disorder, do not use the Lifesum app and seek immediate medical help.

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