Sep 10 2009

What is more important – Diet or Exercise?


Here’s an interesting story: a recent study found that it’s far better to be fit and overweight than to be simply thin.

The study found that women who didn’t do any exercise — including the slim ones — were far more at risk for heart attacks, while women with some extra pounds but a generally fit body (thanks to exercise) were less at risk.

Sounds pretty straightforward, then: exercise is important. We know that!

But wait, hold on — ‘cause here comes another study. It turns out those same women who exercise — but are still overweight or obese — are up to nine times as likely to develop diabetes as women of normal weight.

So just a second here — how can anyone possibly win? Think about that equation again:

If you’re overweight but ‘fit’ = you’re at higher risk for diabetes, no matter how much you exercise.

If you’re slim but not ‘fit’ = you’re at risk for a heart attack, no matter how much you diet.

Both of these studies make sense, when you think that diabetes is more closely linked to diet, and exercise is a crucial factor in cardiovascular health. And in the end, they don’t really tell us much we don’t already know, deep down: there are serious consequences to being inactive and/or overweight, so a solution that only targets one of those areas is — by definition — incomplete.


Let’s think about this in another way.

Small amounts of calorie cutting here and there (let’s say 400 calories of excessive junk food per day) can make a big difference — while a commitment to burn 400 calories a day can be much harder to pull off.

But this is missing the larger point, which is that there is no clear equivalency between ‘cutting 400 calories out of my diet’ and ‘burning 400 calories through exercise’.

While studies have shown that cutting out fatty foods will help you lose some weight — while plain old exercise sometimes won’t, especially for women who ignore their diet entirely — it’s still a mistake to see the two areas as mutually exclusive.

Never forget that burning 400 calories through good, balanced exercise — like a great mix of lifting weights and intensive cardio — contains benefits that go far beyond just those 400 calories burned.


The ‘calorie’ counter on modern treadmills and elliptical machines is actually a pretty deceptive thing: it creates too clear a connection between exercise and calorie loss, and that leads to faulty conclusions when it comes to food, too. If a proper counter were (hypothetically) available, it would display all the other things happening to your body when you exercise.

Think about it: you would strap a magic device to your arm, and then go do some interval training one day, and some weights the next. Then, the magic device would tell you all about your increased lung capacity, your conversion of fat into lean muscle, your burning of calories even after you stopped exercising — everything but a simple ‘calorie’ count (I’m sure they’re working on it).

And the same thing applies for our diets, too. Counting calories (or fat, or protein, or carbs) is always going to be important, but slavishly counting just those categories ignores the crucial fact that some calories (or fat/protein/carbs) are far better than others.

Instead of just eliminating excess calories, try replacing them with clean, whole foods. Rather than counting everything you’re eating and measuring exactly how much is going in, use that mental energy on healthy recipes, more effort while shopping, or preparing great, filling lunches to take to work.

Just as exercise does countless things for our body that a ‘calorie count’ won’t reveal, eating healthy does too. It gets impossible to track all the great things you’re putting in your body by eating lots of spinach, using high-quality fats (like extra-virgin olive oil), and replacing white rice with quinoa.


But the point is — it all works. It’s all part of the same approach: treating your body as a holistic system that needs good, healthy attention from all angles — not just crash diets or burn-out marathons, but gradual, sustained, and long-term attention to eating well and being active, at the same time.

There is no magic ratio between diet and exercise, and study after study continue to prove that you can’t reap the benefits of one without suffering the negatives of another. So don’t! Keep a cool head, and realize that changing your body is something you need to do responsibly. There is no ‘choice’ between diet or exercise, despite what some people tell you.

To be healthy, you can’t have one without the other. But there’s one big advantage: tackling both at once is completely complimentary — the better you eat, the more you’ll want to work out, and the better you work out, the better you’ll want to eat.




Around The Web
  • George

    Diet is definitely more important than exercise. Eating healthy will do more for your body that eating junk and exercising.

    A great example of eating healthy with minimal exercise is the Hunza people, I believe, from the Himalayas. These people live well over 100 years and can do so because of their diet. Some of them walk a lot, but for the most part, they have one of the healthiest diets around.

    Then, on the other hand, football players eat a lot of food, most considered “junk” by me, and they exercise quite a bit… and their quality of life does not seem to be that healthy, and especially after they retire.

    Of course, the IDEAL plan is eating healthy and “moderately” exercising. Zuzana’s plan works and that’s why I follow her over everyone else. Just look at her early workouts and compare her body to today’s stuff… amazing. I follow her and I use the Body Motivation Workshop to stay motivated. Not for one day have I wanted to quit.

  • Tamashikara

    The most important thing to see a picture of yourself is look like you want, every time you train. thats the door to success.

    the train must be regularly and alternately.

    and then you can eat what you want because I tried it and do it still IT WORKS.

    and weight is not important because you will look better and better if you do it regulary it is the connections to the door.

  • TheDeadServ

    Great article and completely true.

    I’ve been testing different approaches each week on how my body reacts to different diets and cardio exercise, strength exercise… all I’m missing is HIIT, but the first time I tried It didn’t feel right for me…

    So how did it go?

    Week one, ate a minimal carb high protein and fiber diet, lost 4.5 pounds with ZERO exercise.

    Week two, added daily strength training to my diet, lost 2 pounds. I gained muscle and lost fat simultaneously so the deficit on weight was less but the gains were better.

    Week three, didn’t took much -but still, some- care with what I ate, and kept eating several small portions during the day, and little exercise… lost 4 pounds.

    It’s proof there’s more than one way trough it but I still the best week was the second.

    So, went from 198lb to 188lb in 3 weeks (probably less by now). :D

    You guys are great in doing what you do. Thank you.
    Oh, and you should check scooby’s workshop. He gives great advice as well, though you’re more oriented on cardio exercises whereas he’s more oriented on weight training. My 2 great references on fitness!

    Thank you both Zuzana and Fredrick!

  • Fernando

    Eat less, eat smart and exercise both are important together

  • Tamika

    I think diet is more important than exercise

  • pam

    well i used to think that diet was only enough, now for many reasons i´ve gained some weight and diet isn´t enough!!! now i realize that´s why i wanna start with some exercises and your video of “Burn Baby Burn” is such a great help!!!!!!.

  • Taryn

    Hi there! You have a really good way of simplifying things for us! Cant argue with the points you’ve made!

    I wanted to ask if Zuzana ever drinks alcohol, and if so, how often?


  • http://donthaveany...yet ALXander KODIAK

    Hi Zuzana,

    I have lots and lots of questions, but im going to narrow it down to a few. i really hope i make it clear because im kind of counfused with the translation…

    ive been doin your workouts for week and a half and im really enjoying them (very intense stuff) , thanks for that…

    im looking to gain weight instead of losing some but at the same time i want to get definition… thats why i included your workout routines in my own…but i also know that i have to eat lots of food (for my size and the purpose of the excercise)

    Does the diet affect to get definition of muscle, knowing that my purpose is to gain weight?

    What diet do you recommend?

    thanks and sorry if i didnt make myself clear

  • Liz

    I’m new to this wesite. I’m glad i found it!…I have one question, should i eat anything before going to bed, like a snack?

  • Cecil Fera

    Is there any Muscle building supplement that you’d recommend? I wanna try one but i’m not sure which is best.

  • Jeff


    I love to have a beer each day after work.

    Some of my ultra fit friends tell me to stay away from the stuff to keep my core ripped and healthy.

    What are your thoughts?

  • Brit

    I have an interesting question. I try to keep up my exercise and eat well and I do fairly well. I workout most days of the week and eat very well most of the time. However, I have seemed to notice a really weird trend with my body. When I do exercise and eat well and I am focusing on weight loss I do tend to loose weight and tone up, however sometimes I let it slip. The times I have gone all out and had really bad days eating and not exercised I think I would have gained so much weight because of it. However, i check the scales (at the same time I normally do) and my weight seems to have decreased! Not only this but I notice a bit of a GOOD change in my body. This has happened a couple of times now and I don’t understand why. Nevertheless, I don’t continue to eat badly because I know that it will catch up with me. i just don’t know why the “equation” doesn’t work out – I eat badly and don’t exercise for one to three days and I LOOSE weight. This doesn’t ALWAYS happen but it has certainly happened a couple of times and I have no idea why! Diet can be really confusing!

  • Medifills

    This is a very good read about dieting, I needed this to help my habits.

  • Nikki

    Hi Zuzanna,

    I found you on you-tube, I love your program. I have started eating clean and following your exercises. They are a lot of fun, BUT hard work. When I worked out before I would eat a protein shake after my workouts, but that does not fit in the “clean eating” category. What do you eat after muscle training?

    Thanks and keep up the good work!

  • sreejith

    Hi Zuzana ,

    After having watched your videos on You tube i started do what u do. I just had one question zuzan a. Are these exercises meant for women alone or is it for both genders. I am 27 years old now and would like to go slimmer. Please do let me know if i can do these exercises are for men too?

    • Zuzana – BodyRock.Tv

      Hi sreejith,

      exercising is gender neutral, so yes everyone can work out ;)

  • sreejith

    Hi Zuzana ,

    After having watched your videos on You tube i started do what do. I just had one question zuzan a. Are these exercises meant for women alone or is it for both genders. I am 27 years old now and would like to go slimmer. Please do let me know if i can do these exercises are for men too?

  • wajiha

    hi zuza i am married 28 years old i wana ask that i m a house wife i hav not much time for work out wats the best tim for work out if i do in night so it would be ok or not and could i workout after 2 hours of dnner or not kindly answer me thanks…

  • Ivan

    Hi Zuzana! I just want to tell you that i was searching for a good reason to do exercise, I know my health should be good enoght but it wasnt and I’m very heavy now, in this moment i’m very happy to have found this site, cause now i want to be healthy by loosing my 80 ponds overweigth, thats just because I love to watch your workouts and I really want to do exercise now.
    Thank from Mexico

  • grace

    Need advice

    im 5’3″ 115 pounds, naturally very muscular. Feel like I can gain muscle too easily and am “stuby” I would like to lean down ..LIke jennifer aniston used to be “thicker” and now shes slim and toned. Advice?

  • Julian

    Hi Zuzana! you rock and so does everyone else who helps make this site what it is, thanks for all your time and effort to help everyone else!
    now for my question’s….(sorry if the answer is already on the site and i havent found it yet..)
    “Do you have a 1 or 2 week plan of meals to eat for someone who wants to eat 8 times a day?”
    and “do you/ is it ok to eat the same meal more than once or twice a day?”

  • FlaviaRJ

    It´s simple, and I also like some funtionals foods, like beer yeast.. founded this aricle:

    Tell me what do you think ^^ I discovered this food in a Bruce Lee´s book, since then i studied about it and I started to eat it, it´s great!!

  • tiff

    hi zuzana i just discovered u 2 day and im excited about losing my weight buh didnt kno how…i am about a hundred pounds overweight how cud i get rid of that fast?????

  • Kevin

    Hello Zuzana and Frederick. My name is Kevin and I’m 16 years old, and today I have made the decision of having a healthier life.
    You guys inspired me! Right now I’m preparing some of your diet recommendations, though I combined them hahaha.
    Thank you and congrats for your site, I hope it stays here for a long time

  • Tania

    FUNNY! Thanks.

  • rasa

    “To be healthy, you can’t have one without the other. But there’s one big advantage: tackling both at once is completely complimentary — the better you eat, the more you’ll want to work out, and the better you work out, the better you’ll want to eat.”

    Frederick, this is so true. I was doing a bootcamp program and didn’t change my diet at all and saw little change in my body. Yes, I was getting stronger but I wasn’t lossing weight or seeing defined muscles. Until I really started watching what I was eating. I made the connection between what goes in and what you burn off. If you want results and a healthy body you need to be conscious of both your diet and exercise. Simple as that.

  • Tania

    Hi Zuzana and Frederick,

    Please clear up a disagreement my sister and I have. She believes that when women lift weights they increase their testorone levels and therefore can begin to simulate male anatomy as far as thining of their hair as well as growth of facial hair. I have never known women to have testorone at any level where this can occur unless of course they begin a regimen of steroids. Have you ever heard of such a thing? Or maybe some of your viewers have some input on this. I have $10.00 at stake here. THANKS!!!

    • Zuzana – BodyRock.Tv


      if you sister were right, then I would have to have a beard by now.

  • Bryan

    Zuzana, I am a 39 year old male. I had a blood test and my cholesterol was 327 and my triglycerides were 1534. YES 1534!!! I,m 5’11 and 192 lbs. and I hate to eat most vegetables. I can eat corn ,green beans,peas,tomatoes. I do however love the gym. Is there any hope for me. I ,m not the type of person who sits around and I move around a lot at work. This is not a new problem so PLEASE Zuzana help me. What am I doing wrong?


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  • Jae

    hi are you married? anyways, im 173cm and weight 77kg how much should i lose to have six packs and fit like you are? i am a man by the way

  • marissa

    hey zuzana
    i have a question,
    whats better for working out; a different routine everytime you workout or stick to a exercise routine for 3 weeks and then change it up?

    • Zuzana – BodyRock.Tv

      Hi Marissa,

      if I had the choice between these two options then I would choose different workout for each training. You can also rotate 3 different workout routines for 3 weeks if you exercises 6 days a week.

  • laura

    hey zuzana,

    i just wanted to ask a quick question it may seem a little silly
    but what type of exercises and diet should i be doing to get a body like shakira???
    many thanks.
    laura x

    • Alfiya

      i just wanted to ask a quick question it may seem a little silly
      but what type of exercises and diet should i be doing to get a body like shakira???
      many thanks.
      laura x

      Hi Laura,

      Regarding the diet, I would suggest to try raw food diet to trim your belly and core.
      I believe, raw food diet is one of the best and the healthiest way to lose weight fast.


  • Radwa

    hi zuzana ,i am soooooo happy that i found that website
    i wanted 2 ask u there specific time during the day that i should workout?
    coz i go to my college at 7 am .i only have the night to work out..
    is that will affect my workout??????

    • Zuzana – BodyRock.Tv

      Hi Radwa,

      Welcome to my site :) I am happy that you found us too ;) It doesn’t matter when do you have your workout. The important thing is that you don’t miss a workout :) )

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  • Derek

    That sandwich looks great !!

  • Irene

    Very interesting article!

  • Roq

    That’s a great article !!! A common sense approach.

  • John

    Eat less, exercise more. Its that simple.
    And you dont need all these suplements and protiens to get your body in shape.

    • Zuzana – BodyRock.Tv

      Well said John :)