Diet vs Exercise for Fat Loss and Optimal Health | The Hart of Health Podcast
Our podcast & transcript
Hi everyone. On today’s podcast, we’re talking about diet versus exercise.
Yeah, I think a lot of people have an ingrained kind of idea of what this entails. So I think it’s pretty good for us to clear this up, especially for people above the age of 35. So yeah, a lot of people, especially now you look at these programmes like The Biggest Loser or anything where they have this weight-loss transformation. I Used To Be Fat…that was on MTV. Yeah. That is another good example. They are always so focussed on like: “Oh they exercise and they ran and they, you know, did all these things and then they lost the weight”, and look at them now.
How little did they talk about diet? Come to think of it.
Yeah, so many of the things they say. Like, they just almost sort of just mention it. Like: “you can’t just eat whatever you want.” But their whole show is almost focussed on the drama of them pushing themselves and gymming hard and it’s created this sort of idea that in order to lose weight, you have to really sacrifice and push yourself in the gym and like really put in a big effort to lose the weight, where it is actually almost entirely about your diet.
Yeah, it’s like 80% diet. Okay. Well, if you take sleep out of the equation, cause we both agree that sleep is the most important thing but diet is like 80% of it. Exercise is 20%. You just have to move often throughout the day.
Yeah. I mean like they showed us studies where you literally do three minutes of high-intensity interval training, okay, it’s not really a study. It was that one show. It wasn’t a study. It was that show where that guy did high-intensity exercise for three minutes a day and they were measuring the changes and just doing three minutes a day of high-intensity training, gained him massive benefits. So, I don’t get how spending hours in the gym every day is going to…
Are you talking about Vishen Lakhiani?
No, it was a British guy. We watched that BBC documentary that my dad showed us and then I was like, well obviously this is going to show you….Where he just rode that bicycle for 15 minutes at a really intense pace.
The other day, we were watching a video on YouTube where Vishen Lakhiani, the founder of Mindvalley, was talking about when he started doing HIIT training, he saw really incredible results with his health. And then I started doing HIIT training more. I’ve been having fun with it.
Yeah. I’m not taking anything away from HIIT training but it’s sort of like, it’s to compare it to the whole Biggest Loser formula where they almost like have to go into the gym for two hours every day and grind at it in order to get any results.
That’s just with the trainers. They probably have to train on their own as well, like exercise basically all the time. I don’t know if it is all the time, I might be exaggerating.
Yeah, it’s sort of almost saying you have to just exercise your way into being thinner or healthier or whatever.
I think I remember there was this Biggest Loser diet printout that I got one day because I’ve been obsessed with Jillian Michaels like my whole life. And she was one of the original trainers on The Biggest Loser. So, I found this Biggest Loser diet and I think it’s what the show released, and you ate around 1200 calories a day. It was either 1200 or 1300, but it was quite low. And then I just thought, with the amount that they exercise as well, it was, well, I couldn’t stick to it, but I remember that diet.
Yeah. So not only do they reduce the calories way too much, they forced them to exercise into like a state where they’re in really bad shape and super stiff and sore the whole time. Where if you look at that guy who did the longest fast ever, he did no exercise except for more like light walking and whatever. And he went from obese, I can’t remember exactly his weight, but he went from morbidly obese to a normal looking person in 380 something days. And that was just with not eating. So, he just did a really long fast. Yeah, they had doctors to monitor him and he was taking minerals and vitamins and making sure he was properly hydrated and getting enough salt and all those things. But he literally just didn’t eat for more than a year. And then he went from morbidly obese to normal looking with no excess skin.
Yeah. The no excess skin is the significant part. Because I think for most people, if you say they didn’t eat for a year, they’d be like: “That’s crazy. That’s dangerous.” But a lot of people who lose weight very, very quickly need skin surgery. And I really think that intermittent fasting and prolonged fasting can help reduce the loose skin while you’re losing weight. Or if you’ve already lost a lot of weight and have loose skin now, it might not help that much.
Yeah, exactly. So, if you have no fasting in your protocol. So, this is an example of a guy who only did fasting. So he literally just did not eat anything and he became a normal person where on the, on The Biggest Loser, what ends up happening is they are eating regular meals but small meals throughout the day. So, they really are not doing any kind of fasting. They’re eating very low calories and they’re kind of forcing the weight off, but their body is not going into any kind of autophagy to try and actually use up any of those excess skin cells. And that’s why after that process, you’re stuck with so much extra skin that you have to now go for a surgery.
I haven’t seen that many people with a lot of loose skin on The Biggest Loser, I don’t know. But, on most shows that I’ve seen where people have lost a lot of weight. Um, they needed some sort of skin surgery maybe. But yeah, you actually get The Biggest Loser effect. Like that’s what they refer to it in studies. They took a look at a lot of people who were on The Biggest Loser and their basal metabolic rates. So the amount of energy that their bodies burn during a day lowered a lot during the experience and now just to maintain their weight, they have to eat a lot less than they used to. So that’s why most of the people who’ve been on The Biggest Loser gained the weight back.
Yes. Like we discussed in the previous podcast where you can’t have a massive reduction in calories because it almost like shocks your body into like this scarcity mode where it’s like: “Oh shit, we’re going into a tough time. You’re going to be starving.” So it really wants to hold onto fat. Where if you sort of just gradually reduce your calories and like taper into it and then also have periods where you eat more and take breaks. Take diet breaks encouragement. I mean I’ve heard of a few studies where they were sort of saying that there was a group that had diet breaks and a group that didn’t and basically, there was very little difference between the two in weight loss. The one got to take diet breaks and the one didn’t. And you think: “Oh, the people that didn’t take a break from their diet were going to lose some more weight. And it was like: “Nope, they didn’t.” So, it’s very interesting to just not be completely in starvation mode when you have such low calories and a huge amount of exercise. It’s obviously going to put you in a really bad place and your metabolism is going to be really low. It’s going to be trying to hold onto any calories you consume.
So, why is exercise good for you? One thing, mental health, like I feel way better when I’m exercising. If I don’t exercise, it only takes three days and I start feeling quite blue.
Yeah. I mean, when I broke my elbow and it was much harder for me to exercise, there was definitely a depression associated with it. So, even though we are saying that when it comes to like health and weight loss, exercise is sort of only 20% of that equation, it is still quite important. I mean it’s still an important factor and like not moving at all is not good for your health.
We’re just saying you don’t need to exercise three hours a day,
Just don’t put 80% of your effort into something that’s only giving you 20% of the benefit.
Because what also happens is a lot of people exercise and they exercise quite intensely. It makes them quite hungry and then they eat a lot more afterwards. And they might even not move as much afterwards because they’re tired from the exercise. So then maybe during the day overall, you’re not burning as much as you think you are. And you might be burning 350 calories during a workout, but then you go and eat a burger that’s 500 calories and now it’s like, okay: Yes you exercised, but now you’re plus 150 calories so a lot of people out-eat their exercise, I guess.
Yeah. So that’s also a very good thing to mention is that it’s very easy to out-eat your exercise.
Very easy. I can do it within five seconds.
Yeah, exactly. So you put all this effort into like killing yourself and putting yourself in a massive like physical deficit, so that the next day, you can barely walk and then all it takes is like one meal to undo everything you just did; Not to say that eating a calorie excess is the worst thing.
No. If you’re trying to gain muscle or build your butt, that works.
If you’re coming from a weight-gain perspective, it’s good to know that you can’t really, unless you’re doing really long-duration cardio, can you really burn enough calories if you are eating good calorie-dense foods? But yeah, I also what I found with the diet is it’s less effort, physical effort. It’s more mental effort.
I’d rather watch my diet and train hard. Don’t get me wrong. I like moving and I like dancing and working and yoga and I really like strength training, but I don’t exercise until I feel like I’m dying. Like it’s usually at a pace where I still enjoy it.
Yeah, especially with your sensitivity to cortisol.
Yeah. If you exercise for way too long and too intensely for too long, then it can make you feel more anxious because of the excess cortisol because your cortisol levels do go up. So usually, I try not to exercise for longer than an hour. And if it’s something that’s quite intense, then not longer than half an hour.
Yeah. So it just shows you that yes, exercise, but rather work on the mental discipline of diet if you really want to get results with less physical effort
And isn’t it that too much exercise can speed up ageing because that is a lot of stress on your body? And if you put too much stress on your body, that’s not good. You need to give your body time to rest and recover as well.
Well, it’s basically with everything, it’s like if you do too much of anything and it stresses you too much, it will be detrimental. It’s like a little bit of stress can always have a good bounce back effect where a little bit of stress makes you stronger once you’ve recovered. But, that’s where it becomes very individual because for one person it’s a moderate amount of stress. For one person that’s low stress, and then for the third person, it’s way too much stress and it’s all about finding that Goldilocks zone, where it’s a nice moderate amount of stress. It wasn’t too little, so that you don’t get any benefit. And it wasn’t too much that you actually end up getting into a deficit.
Can I tell you something? I hate sticking to an exercise programme, because I’m one of those people, that need to do the exercise that I feel like doing on the day. So, I try to listen to my body. So, if I’m feeling really lazy and I don’t want to go for a walk outside, then I’ll just do some yoga. Or if I feel like I have energy, then I’ll do weight training. Most days I have the energy for some strength training and yoga, but I don’t always feel like cardio.
Well yeah, intuitive exercise is not a bad idea because it helps keep you more in tune with your body because then you can do what feels right. Do you need to rest today? Yeah, and another good piece of advice for exercise is: do something you enjoy. Because a lot of people have this, like we said in the beginning, this sort of picture of “I have to like go into this hell hole of pain and suffering in order to get where I want”, where you get way more benefit just going and doing something you enjoy that’s active.
Yeah. And the same applies to diet. Find a diet that you enjoy and it doesn’t have to suck.
Yeah, basically find a diet you enjoy that’s low in processed food.
Yeah. The basic rules apply. Low in sugar, low in processed foods, and then have fun with it.
Yeah, I mean Mediterranean, I think, is probably quite an easy diet and a diet that’s low in deficiencies. So I think that’s almost like the go-to diet.
Yes, I even like a good Keto Mediterranean, but Mediterranean is just my favourite diet. I love it so much.
I think it’s quite an easy one to stick to and it’s got a good sustainability to it that it will definitely benefit you in the long run.
Yeah. So, we definitely think diet is more important than exercise, but they do go well together. And get enough sleep. That is the most important. Yeah.
We mentioned that sleep is the most important because it influences both of those factors. Because, I mean, if you don’t sleep well, your eating gets out of whack and it’s much harder to get the benefits from the exercise and to exercise well.
Yeah. Good luck performing well. Bood luck saying no to that brownie when you are sleep deprived, like you tend to make bad choices when you’re sleep deprived. Like what is it: no good decisions happen at 2:00 AM. Like you know when we were young, uh, I feels so old. I’m turning 26 but I used to go out and then we’d stay up until like two in the morning and then you’d get junk food and eat it then after you just had quite a bit of alcohol plus the day before’s food. We danced a lot but definitely didn’t make up for the calories we consumed. I remember this one time there was this huge pizza. Like literally, I think it was probably like a metre in diameter. Like yeah, my friend just ordered it because she just wanted to have this big pizza. She could only finish one slice. Because it was huge. One slice was about as big as my face, but we ate a lot. Yeah. It’s, it’s just…
Oh, that’s also alcohol involved that that doesn’t help you with decision-making.
No, but now you’re tired and you have alcohol in your system.
Alcohol is definitely not very good.
And the next day, you feel like crap. So then you eat more junk food.
Yeah. Also because alcohol is almost like anti-fat storage chemicals. As soon as you’ve had alcohol, your body’s like, okay well, we can’t use our fat stores now. So you know, if you are trying to lose weight, cutting down your alcohol will probably also be very effective. Don’t think: “okay, I can drink every night, I just need to exercise harder.” That doesn’t work that well. You have to put in a lot more effort to get even a tiny result, where just avoiding alcohol will give you a much bigger boost in your weight loss efforts.
Yeah. So yeah, those are our thoughts on diet and exercise for today.
So yeah, go out and get your diet sorted and exercise for fun and don’t go and kill yourself in the gym.
Life’s too short, and it may just shorten your life.