Why Diet and Nutrition should be Paired
Content by Anna Kallianteri, RD, BSc, MSc, Dietitian
In today’s fast-paced world, where convenience often takes precedence over mindful choices, it is becoming increasingly crucial to prioritize our overall health and well-being. While there are numerous factors that contribute to a healthy lifestyle, two key pillars stand out as essential components: fitness and nutrition. Often discussed in isolation, the true power lies in the synergy that arises when these two elements come together.
By understanding and embracing the intrinsic connection between these two pillars, we can unlock a host of benefits that contribute to our overall health and quality of life including reduced risk of chronic diseases and mortality, more effective weight management, improved mental wellbeing and sleep.
The importance of pairing fitness with nutrition
It is well established that both diet and exercise are vital for overall health, but you may not know that there is evidence that integrating both nutrition and physical activity produces greater benefits than focusing on one or the other (1).
Eating healthy and being active have similar effects on our health. These include:
- Reduce the risk of chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and some cancers and associated health conditions
- Prevent weight gain and/or promote weight loss
- Improve overall wellbeing
Disease Prevention and Longevity
Health food or exercise alone isn’t enough to prevent chronic disease, new research shows. Not surprisingly, people with both higher levels of physical activity and better-quality diets had the lowest mortality risk. A big scale prospective study on UK national data (2 ), showed an overall positive association between physical activity levels with a lower mortality risk, and further that, those who regularly engaged in vigorous exercise — the kind that makes you break a sweat — had a particularly lower risk of cardiovascular disease mortality.
Combining a nutritious diet with regular physical activity has a protective role against the risk of heart disease (3). Combining the two with behavioural counselling is very important especially in individuals at increased risk of cardiovascular disease (4).
Also, the combination of dietary interventions with regular exercise can significantly favour our overall health by modulating our gut microbiota with a protective role against obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (5).
Sustainable Weight Management
Physical activity in combination with healthy dietary approaches is key when it comes to preventing overweight/obesity and achieving desired weight management long-term.
In fact, one review showed that combining modest calorie restriction and exercise was the best way to achieve weight loss. In some cases, combining the two led to over five times more weight loss compared to exercise interventions alone (6).
Various factors affect and influence someone’s energy balance. There is a general consensus that weight loss occurs with a negative energy balance (energy expenditure is higher than the energy intake). There is a dynamic, non-linear relationship between energy intake and energy expenditure that is affected by factors such as diet composition, body composition, the type and amount of someone’s physical activity levels, the thermic effect of food, an individual’s hormones, environmental and lifestyle factors such as sedentary behaviours, mood and stress, to name a few (7).
Exercise can affect appetite in two ways. Regular exercise may help manage hunger by regulating your hunger hormones and thus preventing overeating (8). That being said, excessive exercise may increase appetite as well as injury risk, so considering what sort(s) of exercise fits to your lifestyle and that is sustainable to you, is key (9).
Maintaining regular physical activity increases energy expenditure and resting metabolic rate which means your body uses more energy even at rest (10). This allows you to have more flexibility with your diet, so that weight loss feels more enjoyable, less restrictive, and more manageable long-term (11).
General interventions to promote a healthy lifestyle that incorporates healthy dietary habits and regular exercise has been associated with overall improvement in mental health (stress management, socialising) and overall quality of life and healthy aging (12).
By adopting a balanced diet and engaging in regular physical activity, we can experience a multitude of positive effects on our mental well-being. Not only do these practices help reduce stress levels, but they also have the potential to enhance brain activity. Moreover, the release of endorphins through exercise can act as a natural antidepressant, fostering improved self-esteem and preventing depressive symptoms.
Specifically for women, there is evidence to suggest that when it comes mood, women are more sensitive to dietary triggers, meaning that compared to men, women may have higher needs for exercise to achieve mental wellbeing depending on the type of food groups consumed. Caffeine, fast food and high glycemic foods for example can trigger mental distress whereas this did not apply in men, according to a recent study (13).
Diet, exercise and sleep are very tightly interconnected and their relationship is bi-directional. A very interesting recent study suggested that the quality and sleep alertness of an individual after waking up is positively influenced by having higher physical activity levels the day before, by consuming a breakfast that is rich in carbohydrates and when a lower glycemic response after consuming breakfast is produced (lower rise in blood sugars after breakfast) (14)
Additionally, diet and exercise can influence your sleep habits. It’s recommended that you don’t exercise heavily or eat right before bedtime. Healthy habits in both areas can turn restless nights into comfortable ones.
How can we support you with healthy eating and fitness at Uniquely Health?
If you are looking for support in how to achieve this symbiotic relationship between fitness and nutrition, our new Food and Fitness Plan may be the perfect thing for you!
This is a unique opportunity to have a dietitian and exercise scientist, both specialists in their field, working together, collaborating on your plan to get one truly holistic plan.
Whether you’re aiming to improve your fitness, manage your weight, or enhance your overall wellbeing, our team will create a bespoke health and wellbeing plan to achieve your goals and achieve lasting results.
Our team of experts will be with you every step of the way, providing bespoke recommendations, motivation, and accountability. We believe in empowering you to reach your goals and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Start your holistic health journey today
- Koehler K, Drenowatz C. Integrated Role of Nutrition and Physical Activity for Lifelong Health. Nutrients. 2019;11(7):1437. doi:10.3390/nu1107143
- Ding, D., Van Buskirk, J., Nguyen, B., Stamatakis, E., Elbarbary, M., Veronese, N., Clare, P.J., Lee, I.M., Ekelund, U. and Fontana, L., 2022. Physical activity, diet quality and all-cause cardiovascular disease and cancer mortality: a prospective study of 346 627 UK Biobank participants.British Journal of Sports Medicine, 56(20), pp.1148-1156.
- Lanier, J.B., Bury, D.C. and Richardson, S.W., 2016. Diet and physical activity for cardiovascular disease prevention.American family physician, 93(11), pp.919-924.
- O’Connor, E.A., Evans, C.V., Rushkin, M.C., Redmond, N. and Lin, J.S., 2020. Behavioral counseling to promote a healthy diet and physical activity for cardiovascular disease prevention in adults with cardiovascular risk factors: updated evidence report and systematic review for the US Preventive Services Task Force.Jama, 324(20), pp.2076-2094.
- Zhang, L., Liu, Y., Sun, Y. and Zhang, X., 2022.Combined physical exercise and diet: regulation of gut microbiota to prevent and treat of metabolic disease: a review.Nutrients,14(22), p.4774.
- Swift, D.L., Johannsen, N.M., Lavie, C.J., Earnest, C.P. and Church, T.S., 2014. The role of exercise and physical activity in weight loss and maintenance.Progress in cardiovascular diseases, 56(4), pp.441-447.
- Manore, M.M., Larson-Meyer, D.E., Lindsay, A.R., Hongu, N. and Houtkooper, L., 2017. Dynamic energy balance: an integrated framework for discussing diet and physical activity in obesity prevention—is it more than eating less and exercising more?.Nutrients, 9(8), p.905.
- Douglas, J.A., Deighton, K., Atkinson, J.M., Sari-Sarraf, V., Stensel, D.J. and Atkinson, G., 2016. Acute exercise and appetite-regulating hormones in overweight and obese individuals: a meta-analysis.Journal of obesity, 2016.
- Alajmi, N., Deighton, K., King, J.A., Reischak-Oliveira, A., Wasse, L.K., Jones, J., Batterham, R.L. and Stensel, D.J., 2016. Appetite and energy intake responses to acute energy deficits in females versus males.Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 48(3), p.412.
- MacKenzie-Shalders, K., Kelly, J.T., So, D., Coffey, V.G. and Byrne, N.M., 2020. The effect of exercise interventions on resting metabolic rate: A systematic review and meta-analysis.Journal of sports sciences, 38(14), pp.1635-1649.
- Foright, R.M., Presby, D.M., Sherk, V.D., Kahn, D., Checkley, L.A., Giles, E.D., Bergouignan, A., Higgins, J.A., Jackman, M.R., Hill, J.O. and MacLean, P.S., 2018. Is regular exercise an effective strategy for weight loss maintenance?.Physiology & behavior, 188, pp.86-93.
- Santos, E.M., Canhestro, A.M., Rosário, J.M., Fonseca, C.J., Pinho, L.M. and Arco, H.M., 2023. Efficacy of Health Promotion Interventions Aimed to Improve Health Gains in Middle-Aged Adults—A Systematic Review. Geriatrics, 8(3), p.50.)
- Begdache, L. and Patrissy, C.M., 2021. Customization of diet may promote exercise and improve mental wellbeing in mature adults: The role of exercise as a mediator. Journal of Personalized Medicine, 11(5), p.435.)
- Vallat, R., Berry, S.E., Tsereteli, N., Capdevila, J., Khatib, H.A., Valdes, A.M., Delahanty, L.M., Drew, D.A., Chan, A.T., Wolf, J. and Franks, P.W., 2022. How people wake up is associated with previous night’s sleep together with physical activity and food intake. Nature Communications, 13(1), p.7116.