You may have heard that abs are made in the kitchen… Or you may have eaten an extra piece of dessert because you exercised that day, so you feel like you “earned” it ?  Really? In order to see results at the gym, lose weight or even maintain overall health, we’ve been told that it’s an 80/20 balance. Meaning 80% of your results comes from the food you eat and only 20% of your results come from your workouts.

But is this actually true? …that food is THAT much more important than exercise when it comes to our health and our results in performance? Well, it all depends on your goals. Stay with me here because it’s about to get intersting or confusing? Do your abs really come from the kitchen?

IS YOUR GOAL FAT LOSS – lowering your overall body fat%?

YES?  then THE VERDICT is …. 80/20 Nutrition to Exercise ratio

Have you ever eaten a cookie or other sweet treat after your workout and thought “I earned this, so I’m going for it!” So many people assume that just because they’re exercising, they can eat whatever they want. This simply isn’t true if your goal is  FAT% loss. While exercise has tremendous health benefits, nutrition plays a bigger role in helping you shed the extra weight and inches.

Most people eat at least 21 times in a week. And if we’re regularly exercising, that means we’re working out between 3-6 times a week. (yeah math!) Just looking at those numbers alone, it’s obvious that WHAT we eat is going to have a bigger impact on our waistline. Now that doesn’t mean we should simply stop exercising! Or even exercise more!  It  means you’ve got to get really serious about HOW and WHAT you’re fueling your body with.

So, if your top priority is FAT % loss, exercise is still very important. But if you’re eating fast food and candy because you think you’ve “earned it”, you’re just not going to see the results you want to achieve in terms of changes in body composition.


Then THE VERDICT is…. 50/50 Nutrition to Exercise ratio

It goes without saying that BOTH exercise and nutrition are important factors for overall health status. The food that we eat most certainly has an impact on our overall health and longevity. 

As a matter of fact, exercise has been proven to boost mental health, reduce risk of chronic diseases, strengthen your bones and muscles and help you live longer (to name a few!). [1One study in particular found that a combination of exercise and nutrition provided the best results for achieving long term fat loss. [2]  

But, on the whole – food & nutrition more important in the bigger health picture?

The reason that a healthier choices daily is so much more effective than exercise on the whole, is because it takes a ton of activity to create a 500 to 700 calorie deficit through working out.  Essentially, you’d need to run 7-10 miles a day to lose one pound a week, says Holly Lofton, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine at New York University’s Langone Medical Center. [3]

So, we should just stop exercising and focus all of our energy on our daily diet?

No, of course not…NOW, I am NOT saying exercise or beneficial movement is not very needed.  However, as you can imagine, the average person simply can’t keep this up, especially without increasing their caloric intake. So then you’re simply back where you started.

The trick is finding a healthy balance, with the movement needed for you and your life! What’s most important is that you’re moving your body and eating nutrient dense food on a regular basis. You can’t go wrong with this strategy for overall health. However if your goals change, it may mean that you focus a little more on one or the other in order to achieve the individual results you want. But it doesn’t have to be all or nothing! 

You can still achieve results, maintain good health and enjoy delicious tasting food. It’s best to focus on food with real ingredients (whole foods!) as much as possible, and you can even create your own “healthified” dessert or high energy snack.

I am not one to recommend always counting calories, or even always counting your macros, but you must start somewhere to judge what you need personally to achieve your goals.  


[1] Centers for Disease Control & Prevention: Physical Activity & Health – The Benefits of Physical Activity
[2] Journal of the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics: Diet or Exercise Interventions vs Combined Behavioural Weight Management Programs
[3] Women’s Health Mag: 7 Things No One Ever Tells You About Running a Half-Marathon