Relationship Between Exercise and Food
07 Feb

Relationship Between Exercise and Food


There is an undeniable relationship between food and exercise.

Food provides energy.

Exercise burns energy.

But exercising only to “burn” the calories you consume can make it feel like there is a direct transaction happening between the foods you eat and your workouts. This mindset might make you think that the answer to weight loss is simply eating less, training more, or both.

This transactional thinking can be problematic for a number of reasons:

1) There are so many other amazing benefits of exercise

Exercising shouldn’t be done as punishment for eating an extra slice of cake or to “earn” your food. We want you to exercise because of all the wonderful physical and mental health benefits it can bring you!

Some of those incredible benefits include:

  • Better stress management and reduced risk of depression
  • Stronger bones and muscles
  • Reduced risk of some cancers
  • Reduced risk of heart diseases
  • Stable blood sugar and insulin levels
  • Improved cognition 
  • Better sleep
  • Better sexual health
  • Longer life

The list goes on, but on top of all these benefits, exercise can help you do all the things you love in life. Whether it’s playing with your kids and grandkids, traveling the world, dancing with your spouse, hiking on the weekends, walking up the stairs to your favorite restaurant, or spending an afternoon in the kitchen baking, you need to have the physical strength and endurance to do these things for life! 

Making exercise a part of your routine is essential to living a healthy and fulfilled life!

2) Calories aren’t only burned in the gym

Considering food and exercise as a transaction is problematic because the reality is that the gym is not an effective way to burn calories. In the scheme of things, your body burns more energy just through your daily activities than in an hour session in the gym. This is called Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT). 

Making movement a part of your life, through actions like a standing desk, regular walks, taking the stairs, going grocery shopping rather than ordering online, and throwing in a random 10 air squats every hour, is a far bigger bang for your buck than focusing only on exercise in the gym. 

This doesn’t mean skipping your gym sessions though! Remember all the benefits we listed above. 

3) It creates an unhealthy relationship with food and exercise

Considering food and exercise as a direct transaction can create an unhealthy mindset. Instead of exercising for the sake of loving your body and eating to nourish it, the relationship can be turned into a mechanical calories in, calories out. 

Over time, this can spiral into restrictive eating habits and obsessive exercising. But again, the relationship between what you eat and your gym sessions are not the only factors that can influence body composition changes, and body composition changes are not the only reasons to eat and move!

4) It ignores other factors that influence weight loss

Along with NEAT, there are so many other factors that play a role in weight loss beyond exercise. Sleep, hydration, digestion, food quality, hormones, stress, environment, and circadian rhythm all have their part to play in metabolism, losing fat, and gaining muscle. 

Neglecting to address these factors can not only prevent weight loss, but also have long-term health consequences. It’s essential to think beyond food and exercise.

Eating food is calories going in. Exercising is calories going out. But these actions are so much more than this oversimplified transaction.

Eat and move for mental acuity, to enhance your daily function, and to help you live a fulfilled life. Not just to consume and burn calories!

OPEX Healdsburg is here to help reframe the relationship between exercise and nutrition and teach you how to use both to enhance your life. 

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