THE BLOG

New Editorial Argues You Can't Out-Exercise a Bad Diet

05/13/2015 05:15 pm ET | Updated May 13, 2016

A new editorial published in the British Medical Journal argues the overemphasis on physical exercise while neglecting healthy eating becomes a convenient way for manufacturers to create "'health halo legitimisation of nutritionally deficient products."

Without naming names, you know the products they're talking about. Flavored waters, fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt, fiber-fortified cookies, and vitamin-added colas are among the masquerading-as-nutritious, high-sugar impact products that line grocery and health food stores.

Ultimately, this brilliant marketing feeds our waistlines, especially considering that "poor diet now generates more disease than physical inactivity, alcohol and smoking combined."

Conventional thinking subscribes to a calories-in-calories-out mentality. The argument goes that people become overweight because they eat too much and exercise too little, so to lose weight they should reduce calories and increase exercise.

Experts who espouse this theory completely neglect that your body is a biochemical lab, not a bank account. Calories matter, but hormones matter far more for fast, lasting fat loss.

"Stopping obesity means understanding hormones, not just calories," writes Dr. Jade Teta. "Hormones are the messengers that tell the body to burn fat or store fat, remain full or feel hungry, have cravings or not, enjoy balanced energy or feel fatigued. Hormones even impact your mood and motivation to exercise. You can think of hormones as analogous to computer software. They give the body instructions about what to do with the information it is exposed to."

In other words, what you eat signals hormones to store or burn fat, boost or crash metabolism, and build or break down muscle.

That's not to discount exercise. Researchers mention that regular workouts help reduce risk for developing cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, dementia, and some cancers by at least 30 percent.

"Exercise boosts your metabolism and reduces inflammation, depression, diabetes, heart disease, and even dementia," writes Dr. Mark Hyman. "But if you're eating a bad diet, exercise is not enough ... Bottom line: For optimal health, you need to exercise, but you can't exercise your way out of a bad diet!"

I watched people practice this burn-and-refuel mentality during my years as a personal trainer. They would "burn" a certain number of calories at the gym and then hit the fro-yo store around the corner. "The elliptical machine said I burned 600 calories, so I definitely earned that pineapple banana topped with shaved coconut," they argued.

Listen, nobody is more pro-exercise than me. Exercise is one of my strategies for sugar withdrawal. It can provide the endorphin boost you were looking for in the cookie jar, and it's also great for speed healing because it helps quickly restore insulin sensitivity in the muscles. It's critical for long-term weight management because it helps burn up your fat-storing enzymes, and it boosts your metabolism so you burn more calories from fat throughout the day. And -- yeah, I have to say it -- exercise makes you look better naked.

Combined with a low-sugar impact diet that includes lean protein, healthy fats, lots of leafy greens, and slow low carbs, burst training and weight resistance can become a powerful diet-exercise combo to blast fat. Optimal nutrients, 7 - 9 hours of quality uninterrupted sleep, addressing food intolerances and weight loss resistance, and controlling stress levels further boost those efforts for fast, lasting fat loss.

As these researchers argued, just don't think you can join a gym or do CrossFit without making correct dietary changes and watch the fat melt away.

"It is time to wind back the harms caused by the junk food industry's Public Relations machinery," they concluded. "Let us bust the myth of physical inactivity and obesity. You cannot outrun a bad diet."

What "halo effect" food did you once think was healthy but later discovered was high-sugar impact and unhealthy? Share yours below.