Corinne Austin | Personal Training

Nutrition & Exercise Should be Mutually Exclusive

2015-07-18-19-08-35Over the last thirty or so years a connection between nutrition and exercise has been created and reinforced as a result of weight loss or weight management programmes, and as a way of improving the state of our health.


In actual fact, the two subjects – nutrition and exercise – should be mutually exclusive.  (Side note:  This doesn’t include professional athletes or those undergoing huge exercise demands whom need to ensure they’re eating sufficient quantities of macro and micronutrients to stay at their peak.  I am talking more for the general population, and in particular those who are trying to seek a greater level of health and wellness alongside weight management).


We need food for survival.  And we need exercise (or rather movement) for survival.  Exercising shouldn’t affect our food choices.  And just as importantly, our food choices shouldn’t affect our decision to exercise.  Nutrition and exercise should be talked about separately, and without one affecting the other.


Through the calories in versus calories out equation (which was actually originally created for wounded soldiers in military hospitals – a far cry from the context it’s used in today!) we have mistakenly found solace in knowing that by exercising we can potentially undo some of the damage we may have caused by eating foods that we know are not good for our health.


IMG_4951Similarly, many of us are wrongfully guided by the notion that we’ve exercised hard all week so we deserve to have go a little outrageous with what we choose to drink or eat for the weekend.


So many of us think like this, and it’s not doing our health, our weight management, or our relationships with food and exercise any favours.


We need to veer away from this connection between nutrition and exercise and view them as two separate and distinct elements of our overall health.  Eating well via clean, colourful and nutritious food will help to enhance our health.  Similarly, engaging in regular movement or exercise will also help to enhance our health.  But when we put nutrition and exercise into the same equation, with the misleading expectation that one will cancel the other out, we are doing ourselves, our bodies, and our ability to improve our overall health an injustice.


We need to stop mentally justifying our rights to eat certain foods, or our need to exercise as a way to undo foods that we’ve already consumed.


Movement is critical for survival.  Whether it be via exercise, movement due to a physically demanding occupation, or simply just being conscious of moving about more than we are sitting about – which, in this technological age is jolly hard to achieve or master.  We just need to move, full stop.  We need movement to keep a huge array of biological, physiological, physical, psychological, and biochemical processes in our body happy and functioning optimally.  This is what should motivate us to move or get out there to exercise.  We can’t and shouldn’t let our movement be affected or motivated by the fact that we have not eaten as well as we could have.


And on the nutrition side of the equation we must acknowledge that food has a purpose too – to fuel our body with the very ingredients, minerals and vitamins it needs to sustain vital living functions.  For the most part we should be eating good, clean, whole, unprocessed foods – foods that nourish us and that are high in nutrients.  And when we decide to splurge on foods that we know are occasional foods, we shouldn’t need to justify this with any excuse.  Instead we should just accept that sometimes, for social reasons, our bodies can tolerate (and our taste buds appreciate!) foods that aren’t ideal or particularly nourishing.  And just enjoy them for what they are, and for the overall experience that accompanies the consumption of them.


So, from this day forward, for the betterment of your physical and mental health, ensure that nutrition and exercise form two separate and distinct elements of health in your mind, and you’ll be freed from the current needs and pressures of these unproductive thought processes.