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Diet or Exercise, Which Comes First?

<b>Diet or Exercise, Which Comes First?</b>

Diet or Exercise, Which Comes First?

If this is your question, you are likely trying to improve your health, perhaps lose some weight, manage your blood sugar, or have more energy throughout your day. 

What do you think of when we mention the word “diet”? Today we understand the word as “food or drinks we habitually consume” or “a way of eating with certain restrictions.” 

But, before we knew the word as it is, the word “diet” came from the Greek word, diaita, which means “a way of life.” Its Latin root diaitan means “to lead, govern, arbitrate one’s life” Somehow, we understood how food dominates life since early days.

This perhaps explains why “food is medicine” is a saying that is seen in many ancient cultural practices such as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurvedic Medicine. 

If you think of the body as a car, the right fuel will help the car run at its best, just as how the right foods will help us perform optimally. 

On the other hand, if you have ever left a car sitting unused for an extended period, you would most likely have seen some of these: dead battery, deteriorated tires, rusty engine, faulty fuel pumps, and more. The car needs to be driven just as how the body needs to move. 

Being active has shown many health benefits, both physically and mentally. But what if exercise also impacts how we respond to food and how we choose food?

Precisely how exercise influences appetite and weight is undetermined and remains a significant area of interest for researchers. One recent study published April 2020 in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise (1) brought some good news: subjects in the study that underwent a 12-week exercises program reported less “want” to seek out high-calorie, fatty foods, comparing to those that were not on the exercise program. 

While there is a lot more to understand, this does tell us that exercise is needed if we want to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Besides, it is quite often when one starts to feel fitter after a new exercise program, and it becomes more natural to want to eat better to support the new body!

Numerous studies on diet, exercise, and weight loss have repeatedly demonstrated combining diet and exercise gives much better long-term health outcomes than these alone. 

One meta-analysis(2) that looked at twenty-one controlled trials concluded that interventions that combined both diet and exercise offered better long-term weight loss and improvement in waist circumference, fat mass, blood lipid, and blood pressure better than diet or exercise as a single intervention. The paper also found evidence suggesting dietary intervention yielded some superiority over exercise alone. 

Let’s say we eat three meals a day, seven days a week, and plan for three sessions of short exercises a week, that is 24 opportunities per week when we can do something positive to become healthier and stronger. 


Where do we start, diet or exercise?

The answer is, “whichever that you are ready to take action on!” Pick one, and make one change this coming week: say no to sugary drinks, schedule a post-dinner walk, or something of your choice; anything, just get started 

If you remember the car, you are not getting the most bang for the bucks by leaving out one or the other: food fuels us for optimal performance, exercising helps regulate, tune and build the body.

In the coming weeks, we will look more into nutrition and exercise. Do let us know if there are topics that you’ll like to see here. Get in touch with us, and we would love to hear from you!





(1) Beaulieu K, Hopkins M, Gibbons C, Oustric P, Caudwell P, Blundell J, Finlayson G. Exercise Training Reduces Reward for High-Fat Food in Adults with Overweight/Obesity. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2020 Apr;52(4):900-908. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000002205. PMID: 31764466.


(2) Schwingshackl, L., Dias, S. & Hoffmann, G. Impact of long-term lifestyle programmes on weight loss and cardiovascular risk factors in overweight/obese participants: a systematic review and network meta-analysis. Syst Rev 3, 130 (2014).