Can you eat what you want if you work out more?
WRITTEN BY: COACH SARA P
Have you ever justified having that extra slice or two of cake by telling yourself you’ll run it off the next day? (It’s a fair bet that most of us have made this type of bargain at some point!)
There’s a catch, though. While you may be able to burn off the calories in that cake during your workout, food and movement have a complex relationship—not all calories are equal. (And, weight loss is not a calories in, calories out equation.)
Think of 100 calories of Oreos compared to 100 calories of tomatoes. Even though both give you energy, they have different effects on your health and weight. A nutrient-dense diet and regular movement can help propel your weight care journey. Note that this isn’t about eating less and moving more–but about a healthier (and realistic!) approach to using eating and movement to support your weight care goals.
What does a nutrient-dense diet look like?
Food falls into two categories: There’s low-grade fuel like Oreos, which includes foods that are highly processed, high in sugar, and have low nutrient value. On the other hand, healthy fats, lean protein, slow carbs, and foods that are nutrient-dense and rich in fiber are considered high-grade fuel.
And fuel quality matters. Why? Because a diet lacking in nutrients can make your energy levels tank, cause concentration issues, and even mess with your sleep. Even more importantly, a poor diet has been associated with an increased risk of major diseases and health issues, such as inflammation, insulin resistance, obesity, heart disease, type 1 diabetes, and depression.
That’s why Found encourages a diet high in fiber, nutrients, protein, and healthy fats, similar to a Mediterranean diet. (For a refresher, check out our Found Nutrition Guide.) This type of eating pattern has been linked to a lower risk of chronic conditions. In fact, one study on heart attack survivors showed a 66 percent drop in subsequent major heart attacks after following a Mediterranean diet. See what a huge difference a good diet can make for overall health? Add exercise into the mix, and the benefits may be even greater.
Here’s how the powerful duo of a healthy diet and regular movement benefit you:
Decreases your risk of chronic disease
Research continues to show that a diet centered on whole foods promotes healthy brain function and a reduced risk of chronic diseases. The same goes for exercise. The US Centers for Disease Control reports that regular movement (30 minutes, 5 times a week) reduces your risk of chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, various types of cancer, depression, anxiety, and dementia. Movement doesn’t just burn calories—it also triggers changes in your body to help manage hormones, inflammation, brain health, and cardiovascular health.
Enhances muscular strength and bone health
Did you know that your muscles and bones are directly affected by the food you eat and the amount you move? Your muscles need quality protein to stay strong, and your bones require certain amounts of vitamins and minerals to function properly, many of which come from food. Movement makes a real difference, too. Activities like resistance training help strengthen muscles and boost bone density.
Supports healthy gut microbiome and digestion
The best way to promote a healthy gut is by eating a variety of plant-based, fiber-rich foods that feed the good bacteria in your G.I. tract and help them flourish—so they crowd out the bad bacteria. Equally key for a healthy gut: What you don’t put on your plate. Try to avoid highly-processed foods and eating lots of sugar. This type of diet can decrease the diversity of gut bacteria and lead to health issues. How does exercise fit into the picture? Regular movement has been shown to support a healthy microbiome.
Reach and maintain a healthy weight
Your body needs the vitamins, nutrients, fiber, and other compounds, like polyphenols, that whole foods provide to function well and to help you lose weight and keep it off. In fact, research shows that a plant-forward diet (not strictly vegan) may lead to greater weight loss compared to other types of eating patterns. It’ll also give you more fuel to power through that early-morning fitness class or post-dinner walk. And when you feel energized, movement will begin to feel like a reward you want to do more of, instead of a punishment.
Increase life expectancy
One of the primary reasons members join Found is because they want to be around for their family and friends. They envision playing with their grandkids, traveling, and enjoying a longer, richer life. (You, too, huh?) Get this: Research continues to show that a healthy diet paired with regular activity can increase your lifespan. One study calculated that active adults could gain nine more years compared to inactive adults. That’s pretty amazing stuff!
The verdict: You can’t “run off” a poor diet
Your body needs high-grade fuel from food, as well as movement—even if it’s low intensity—to maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle. As often as you can, choose nutrient-rich foods, and try cooking more balanced meals at home.
Research has found that people who eat at home at least five times a week are more likely to lose weight, reach a normal BMI range, and have lower body fat than those who don’t. Continue incorporating regular movement, as well. Not because you need to run off that cake, but because you recognize the perks of being active and enjoy it.
Take some time to log your meals, movement, and other dailies in the app to track your progress. It gives you time to reflect, and science shows it supports your success.
About Coach Sara P
A native of the Midwest, I have over 6 years of experience as a health coach and fitness specialist. I joined Found to pursue my passion of behavior change and improving the way people treat themselves and their bodies. I earned a degree in Exercise and Wellness from Brigham Young University, and I also have additional certifications as a NASM Behavior Change Specialist and NASM Personal Trainer. When I’m not working, you’ll find me playing sports, whipping up a new recipe with loads of veggies, volunteering at church, or trying to win a board game!
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