When it comes to health and fitness, diet and exercise go hand in hand. Hitting the gym on a diet full of junk food may prevent you from working out to your full potential. Conversely, if you're eating a healthy diet but not exercising, you may have difficulty maintaining a healthy weight. The key to good health and a long vibrant life is combining a healthy diet with regular exercise.
It's easy to lose weight, but hard to keep it off. Only about 5 percent of people who lose weight through diet alone manage to keep the pounds from creeping back on, according to the American Council on Exercise. To lose weight, you need to create a negative calorie balance by eating fewer calories, burning more calories through exercise or a combination of both. People who are successful at losing weight and keeping it off eat fewer calories and exercise more than people who don't.
If you're feeling a little sluggish during your workout, it may be because of your diet. Making healthy food choices before and after your workout prevents muscle fatigue, improves energy levels and promotes cardiovascular health. Good preworkout snacks should include carbohydrates to energize your muscles such as fruit and yogurt, trail mix, or a banana with peanut butter. After your workout, rehydrate with water and restore energy levels with carbohydrate snacks such as cereal and milk or juice and crackers.
Diet and exercise work together when it comes to building muscle. Exercise stimulates your muscles and promotes muscle protein synthesis. Eating protein immediately after your workout, whether it's an aerobic or a strength-training workout, helps repair and replenish your muscles, and promotes muscle growth. This doesn't mean you need to eat a high-protein diet to increase muscle power. A healthy, balanced diet for exercise consists of getting 15 percent of your calories from protein, 55 percent from carbohydrates and 30 percent from fat, according to Natalie Digate Muth, MD, MPH, RD, senior nutrition consultant for the American Council on Exercise.
Diet and exercise together help prevent obesity and reduce your risk of heart disease. Working out and eating right improves blood lipid levels, which promotes heart health. Other than not smoking, the most important things you can do to reduce your risk of cancer are to be active, eat a healthy diet that includes many plant-based foods and maintain a healthy weight, according to the American Cancer Society.
- Harvard School of Public Health: The Benefits of Physical Activity
- American Council on Exercise: Weight Loss: Diet vs. Exercise
- Nutrition411: Exercise: The Pre-Workout Meal
- Nutrition411: Exercise: The Post-Workout Meal
- American Council on Exercise: Will Eating More Protein Help Me Get Stronger?
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans: Chapter 2: Balancing Calories to Manage Weight
- American Cancer Society: Diet and Physical Activity: What’s the Cancer Connection?
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: Your Guide to Lowering Your Cholesterol With TLC
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