Fitness,  Nutrition

Why Exercise Won’t Offset a Poor Diet…

Do you prioritize exercise over meal planning or even just meal cooking? While in theory it seems logical that you can just burn off the food you eat, this is not entirely true (not for every body at least).

Food is meant to be fuel for the body, plain and simple. Regardless of what you eat, your body will see food as energy. Not all energy we eat is used by our body, which is why we gain weight when we eat more than we need.

Here is why “burning calories with exercise” may not be resulting in weight loss:

When you eat foods high in fat, your body uses SOME of the fat. The body breaks down the fat, uses it as energy, and then stores the rest for later. Now, it takes more energy and effort to break down fat than it does to break down carbohydrates and proteins. Your body, being as efficient as it is, doesn’t like to waste time and energy breaking down fat if it doesn’t need to. Instead, it breaks down carbohydrates first, proteins second, and fat last.

So while you’re there thinking you’re burning of that double cheeseburger and fries from In-N-Out, your body is really only using the energy it needs in the moment (mostly the carbs and proteins you consumed), and then saving the unused energy for later. Literally, storing it away as fat.

Here are some truths about the body that explain why nutrition is SO important to health and why it plays a very important role in weight loss.

Your Body Needs Food to Survive

Food is fuel. You need to eat. If you are not eating enough, your body will enter starvation mode where your body clings onto fat. It fears that it will not have enough food or energy to survive and to function properly, so it hangs onto fat instead of burning it or using it.

Exercising while in this mode is even worse because your body doesn’t want to burn the small amount of energy it has saved up. So, it pulls energy from your muscle storage instead of the fat storage. The weight loss you would see here is muscle loss instead of fat loss.

Your Body Prioritizes Internal Issues

If you are eating too much, and your body doesn’t need all that energy, it stores it as fat to be used at a later time. Exercise can help decrease the amount of fat stored, but you are basically negating the effects of exercise when you eat an unhealthy diet.

Exercise helps reduce cholesterol and blood pressure levels. If after your workout you eat pizza and drink beer, your body has to work extra hard to reduce those levels again and it gets stressed out. Not to mention, the focus is on regulating your internal factors rather than focusing on fat burn and weight loss.

Often, if you are eating foods high in sugar, salt, and fat, your body is working first to regulate your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. Fat burn is lower on your body’s list of things to do. So, you can be exercising and thinking you are burning off the fat in your body, when really you are doing very little fat burn, and causing way more fatigue to your muscles and your body.

Your Body Likes to Be Calm

When you eat a healthy diet, full of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats, and whole grains, your body typically has less internal work to do. If your refined sugar intake is low, your body will spend less time regulating your blood sugar and more time burning fat. If you drink less alcohol, your body spends less time trying to rid itself of the toxin, and spends more time burning fat. The more we can clean up our insides, the more changes we see on the outside.

Also, when your body knows it will be receiving food consistently, it no longer has to worry about holding on to fat for later! It is okay with allowing that energy to be burned. Your body knows that even if that energy is used up, it will be able to survive. It trusts you to keep yourself alive and it doesn’t have to save fat for later! Eat food, it is good for you!

If weight loss is your goal, there are healthy and effective ways to drop weight. Starving yourself, dieting, or exercising despite acknowledging nutrition are not the way to go.

Eating a Healthy Diet is Beneficial

It’s important to remember that your body is trying to stay alive. It wants to be healthy, it wants to live in a state of fat burn. When we eat too little, too much, or when we eat foods that stress the body out (sugar, alcohol, too much salt, lactose when you are intolerant, etc.) the body spends more focus and energy on fixing the inside rather than burning fat. If fat burn is your goal, then there may be things you need to correct with your diet.

All the exercise in the world will not offset poor nutrition. It is unfortunate, I know. It can be so much more entertaining to hit the gym or do a home workout than spend time in the kitchen. However, taking the time to correct some of your deviations around food will help you see better results not only in your physique, but also in your digestion, energy, blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol, and hormones!

Let me know in the comments if this was helpful for you! As always, happy Sunday friends.


  • Kelly Martin

    Hi Kat!

    This is all stuff I’ve read or been told before, perhaps by you, but I REALLY needed this reminder and I want to thank you for it. I hope you had a great Labor Day weekend! 😊 Talk to you soon!


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