Transcript – Diet vs. Exercise (Which is More Important?) – BioTrust Radio #47
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Transcript – Diet vs. Exercise
Shawn: Hello BioTrust Nation. We are back with another exciting episode of BioTrust Radio. It is Shawn Wells and I’m here with my faithful partner, Tim Skwiat.
Tim: Greetings, friends!
Shawn: And this episode, I’m really excited about this.
Tim: He’s fired up.
Shawn: I’m pretty fired up, but I want Tim to read a review of our show on iTunes. And we do appreciate you listening on iTunes, Google Play/Google Podcast, and Stitcher. We’re now on Spotify, which is really awesome. And you can also listen to us on BioTrust Radio where we have the full transcripts, all the links, the notes. There’s really cool stuff there. I think it’s the most preferred place to go look for us. But we’d certainly appreciate you listening to us and subscribing to us wherever you do. So, a review, Tim, which are very important for us.
Tim: Yeah, exactly, guys. This is one way to support the show is to get on iTunes or whatever platform you listening on, and leave a review. Especially on iTunes, I know it’s helpful with the rankings and things like that. And so, kind of as a shout‑out to the folks who are taking the time, because I know it takes a little bit of time and effort to leave that review beyond the five stars or whatever it is, but to actually leave a nice review. We want to read one of these reviews before each episode and then I will give the person’s username on iTunes, and then if that person who’s reviewed that we read can email us at [email protected] and just claim that was their review, we’ll send them a free product.
Shawn: That’s an awesome deal.
Tim: Pretty cool deal. This review, this five star review is titled “Fantastic” and it was posted by the username is spelled B-K-A-V-R-H-D-T, and I’m going to pronounce it as the BKVART.
Shawn: There you go.
Tim: And so the review says, “Excellent info. I have never subscribed to any type of podcast until now. Absolutely great. Thank you.” Well, thank you. We really appreciate that review. And again, if you can email us at [email protected], I will hook you up with a free BioTrust product to thank you for your support. And we really appreciate your review. Glad you’re enjoying the show. Yeah, keep listening, keep sharing, and that will help us out, too.
Shawn: That’s awesome. So, another place where people contribute is BioTrust.com/VIP. And it’s our VIP area on Facebook. And we’re getting all these questions that we’re supposed to address on this show. This one is from Stephanie Rivera, which I think we should send her a product as well.
Tim: Yes, so if you share a question in the Facebook VIP group, we’ll collect all those and we’ll try to answer as many as we can on the show. But if we can’t, we’ll answer them in the VIP group.
Tim: But if answer them here on the show, we’re going to send you a free product as well.
Shawn: So, this question was so good that we’re going to make the whole show around it, because Tim and I were actually debating this in our pre-show, where we kind of game each other up for the show and kind of talk about what the outline would be.
Tim: Sometimes get bloody noses. [laughs]
Shawn: Yeah. [laughs] It gets intense. But this one was fascinating. We were debating this back and forth with no clear answer. And it’s just a great question that there is no easy answer to. If someone has an easy answer to it, I think they’re crazy. But it says, “We all know that the best way to live a healthy life is to find a balance of healthy eating habits and physical activity. But if you could choose only one, focusing on a good diet or working out, which would you choose and why?” Basically, Stephanie is asking about diet vs. exercise.
Tim: [mimicking explosion]
Shawn: Yeah. And Tim and I were not only debating each other on this, but I found myself debating myself.
Tim: An internal conflict. [chuckles]
Shawn: The internal conflict. [laughs] Diet vs. exercise is really tough. I don’t have a clear answer. I know of studies that look at some of these things, but man, I said to Tim that I believe you can out‑exercise bad eating. And if you look at athletes that are expending 6,000, 7,000, 8,000 calories a day, essentially when you’re just a metabolic furnace. Imagine that train, the train engine and that furnace is roaring, just blazing with heat. You could throw in wood, you could throw in coal, you could throw in gas, you could throw in a lot of different things, and it’s just going to burn. And when you’re eating that much, the negatives aren’t as big a deal and you’re probably getting the positives just because you’re eating so much. So you’re getting enough antioxidants, you’re getting enough protein, you’re getting enough of the healthy fats, you’re getting enough of those things even though you’re getting all this other stuff. And even some of the things that we would say are pro-inflammatory, probably don’t have as much of an impact because you’re exercising and because you’re getting all these other things; the other antioxidants, the other healthy fats. You’re getting so much and it’s a lot more impactful when you’re getting very little what you’re taking in. Does that make sense?
Tim: Yes, that definitely makes sense to me. And I think that the question here about diet vs. exercise really pigeonholes you because I don’t think you can be optimal. And so we could dissect that and say well that same athlete’s going to do better if we optimized his diet.
Shawn: Well, sure.
Tim: Okay. He’s going to do better, but he’s still doing the same level of physical activity, so you haven’t taken that one down. Because what Stephanie is saying is it’s either one or the other, not both.
Tim: And so, you can’t have both. So, in your example, I’d rather have that guy burning off a ton of energy than sitting down and focusing on the diet, is basically what we’re saying. The cost is lower, per se. And just when we first started discussing this, I agreed with you that I would emphasize movement first, if there was this figurative gun to my head. But I will go back to when I was an exercise coach, strength coach, diet vs. exercise was actually what really drove me into nutrition was the thought that always came to mind was that exercise doesn’t work. And what I meant by that was that exercise by itself is a relatively futile tool for weight loss, and you really don’t get much benefit until you start having some kind of nutritional intervention, in terms of weight loss.
In terms of weight management, exercise is a fantastic tool for maintaining weight and preventing weight gain. But by itself, when you don’t make nutritional intervention, it’s not really that good for weight loss. I’m talking like maybe one or two pounds over the course of a year.
Tim: But exercise is also extremely effective for improving body composition. So, there’s so many different ways to take this. But going back to my point, to kind of tie into your point, is that exercise is a very, very good tool for metabolic health and for preventing weight gain.
I once wrote an article, Exercise Doesn’t Work, and that was all about this diet vs. exercise topic, including the statistics on how exercise interventions by themselves don’t really improve weight loss outcomes. But then I wrote a second part that says exercise does work. And it was based on a study where it was an overfeeding study, where they had two groups of participants on very high calorie diets. And one group exercised more and the other group didn’t exercise. Basically one group was exercising and overfeeding, and they actually compensated the calories. So, the group that was exercising, ate even more to compensate for the amount of calories they were burning off during exercise.
While the group that exercised while overeating had better metabolic health, they didn’t have as much metabolic health damage at the end of that study. So this group, they weren’t gaining as much weight, they weren’t having these pro-inflammatory markers. So, exercise was protective. It did work. And so, I often refer to that like during the holiday season. Like okay we’re all going to overeat a little bit. Let’s just move a little bit more to kind of buffer that.
And so anyway, I just don’t think that the benefits of exercise can be overstated. I’m just talking about weight management outcomes. I’m not talking about the mental health benefits, cardiovascular health benefits, the metabolic health benefits. There’s so many, so many benefits to exercise that I just don’t think it can be discounted.
Shawn: I guess, to your point, if I was to say, if we were to have conditions around this question of diet vs. exercise, maybe if you’re very overweight, I might pick food. And if you’re not very overweight, if you’re fairly lean, if you’re fairly healthy already in terms of body weight, then I would go with exercise.
Here’s an example. There’s a study, and we’ve talked about this one study on keto before where it looked at keto versus low fat. And they had those two arms with also two other qualifiers of exercise/no exercise. And it was resistance training, I believe. So keto with resistance training, keto without resistance training, low-fat with resistance training, low fat without resistance training. The low-carb/keto diet was actually superior to low fat plus exercise.
Shawn: And the most optimal for body composition was keto plus exercise. No brainer, right?
Shawn: But the thing that’s fascinating to me about that is if I was to take someone that’s sedentary or has issues with exercise, or can’t exercise very well because of joint issues or disability, man, like my first intervention would be some kind of ketogenic diet. In other words, in the diet vs. exercise debate, I’d lean toward diet — in that circumstance.
Shawn: For someone that has metabolic syndrome, it’s been shown time and time and time and time again that a ketogenic-type diet, that’s very low carb, is super effective. Way more effective than low-fat or some of the other dietary type interventions. If you’re already lean, there’s some debate you could have. But, I guess in that case, it looks like diet would be the profound intervention.
But I’m with you in terms of our being on this planet and the joy of being on this planet. I know people love food and a lot of our holidays and get-togethers on the weekends, and great moments revolve around food and drink. What is that? Eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow whatever. It’s like we go into to war type of thing. [laughs]
So, it’s so important in our society to eat and to drink, and we’ve seen like with Sardinia and some of these cultures in the Blue Zones, how important it is to have fellowship around the food and drink, and be gathered around the table and share with each other, and tell stories. Even probably back to caveman times, with the fire. Whenever they invented fire, like that became the place that you would probably tell stories.
Shawn: And there would be deep interactions, right? Otherwise you were out hunting or gathering, and doing all the things that you do. Fascinating stuff. Diet is important and we definitely, as nutritionists/dietitians, sport nutritionists, we believe in both, of course. But I’m pretty passionate, and I’m saying this as a sport nutritionist and a registered dietician, that movement and exercise is so fundamental to the joy of life and being here on this planet. I think it’s the most important thing. If I was to pick between diet vs. exercise, I think you get some much. You can’t transform your body in the same way with diet, right?
Shawn: Because you’re not going to eat your way into muscles.
Shawn: You need to exercise to get those muscles.
Shawn: You can’t eat your way into a better VO2 Max or better endurance. You can’t eat your way into being able to climb Mount Everest. You can’t eat your way into all these kinds of things. Certainly they improve your performance, but there’s profound things that can happen, accomplishment-wise with your body through exercise that I think are worth bringing up.
Tim: Yeah, Shawn, awesome points there. I think you went you went back and you started talking conditionally there. When you and I first started looking at this question, we looked at each other and said “it depends.”
Tim: Like it really is conditional, where the person is at. What’s the minimal effective dose here, what’s more realistic? Am I really going to get this person to exercise or is it going is the low-hanging fruit going to be improvement. It’s definitely on a case‑by‑case scenario on which it is. But if we have to speak to the masses, which we are, I think we’re on the same page there.
If we were to start looking at like correlations between living longer, more better lives, basically, like better markers of longevity. You’d have things like grip strength is closely tied with longevity. You’d have things like cardiovascular fitness, like VO2 Max is close. I mean that’s not discounting diet and diet quality, but those things tend to be more important, better predictors of longevity.
Shawn: Visceral adiposity.
Tim: Right. Which you can counteract with exercise.
Tim: Certainly diet, too, but exercise is very profound at reducing or preventing accumulation of that belly fat.
Shawn: Bone mineral density and lean body mass.
Shawn: Like you were saying, strength, but also actual muscle mass and quality of your bone mass.
Tim: Exactly. And blood sugar management, metabolic health, is closely tied to longevity and quality of life, too. And exercise is one of the best, most effective ways, besides carbohydrate restriction, in improving glycemic control and glycemic variability.
Shawn: We’ve talked about just walking right after you eat.
Shawn: Just 10 minutes of regular walking.
Shawn: It doesn’t even have to be power walking or whatever. It’s just walking.
Shawn: It can help with blood sugar management pretty profoundly, just right after you eat.
Tim: Yeah, pretty simple. And I don’t want to get in the situation where I’m saying it’s okay.
Tim: It’s okay to have this bad relationship or unhealthy relationship with food. You know, spend six hours in the gym just so you can eat whatever. That’s not something that I’m saying. [chuckles] But it’s funny, as you were talking about those things, I thought back to my graduate school days at the University of Texas—hook ’em, by the way—and there’s a lot of endurance athletes in the exercise physiology program. And I was like, “Dude, why do you guys like that stuff so much?” It’s like, “Just we love to eat. We love to drink. I mean, we like to exercise, too, but this is a way for us to buffer our social lives.”
Tim: Just so many endurance athletes that have told me that.
Shawn: Raymond Felton, when I was at Carolina was there as a point guard, and he went on to the NBA. I’m not sure if he’s still there. He was there a year or two ago.
Shawn: But successful point guard in the NBA over 10 years, and he ate garbage; fried chicken and french fries, and hamburgers, and cookies, and whatever. And he is a phenomenal athlete. He was elite in college, made it to the NBA. And you can’t tell me that you could be an elite athlete and not exercise, but eat really well.
Tim: Right. [laughs]
Shawn: [laughs] You know what I mean? Sometimes like I feel like the diet is, if I was to lean towards one or the other on the diet vs. exercise debate, it would be exercise. And I would add in the good diet to make additional changes.
Shawn: But the interesting thing that Jake brought up, which is a very valid point. Jake is our project manager here in the Dallas office. And Jake has struggled with his weight a lot in the past, and he’s had really good success with the ketogenic diet. He’s been a good athlete in the past and he’s dealt with food addiction. He’s had three children and he’s married life and does a lot of home repairs and flipping homes.
Tim: He’s a jack-of-all-trades. [chuckles]
Shawn: He stays busy. And he has a stressful life and if he gets to the gym quite often it’s at 11 o’clock at night when the kids and his wife have gone to bed. And he gets back at like 12:30 in the morning. Then he finally gets to sleep and he’s back up by 6:00 or whatever. And sometimes when you’re really running ragged like that, I think food addiction plays a bigger, darker role. I think data has shown that when you’re exhausted, when you’re stressed, we go back to you just want to feel good, you want that dopamine rush. You don’t make as good long-term, well thought-out decisions. You make more impulsive decisions.
But Jake has talked about his battle with food addiction. And there is certainly—we’ve talked about this—you go into convenience stores and everything’s colors and exciting Gatorades and Monsters, and then there’s candy packages and it’s bright orange and yellow, and blue, and wow, and Coca-Cola red, and there’s color everywhere. And it’s all about impulse addiction. It’s caffeine, it’s sugar, it’s crunch, it’s bliss point, it’s oil, it’s sweet, it’s salty, its spicy. And it’s crunchy, it’s caramel layers, ooey-gooey. So, it’s all these textures, all these flavors, all this hitting you.
So, it’s food engineering, and we’ve talked about this bliss point thing. And it is powerful. And the Lays “You can’t eat just one,” thing is the essence of food addiction, is the essence of bliss point, is the essence of this food engineering manipulation of your brain to make you overeat and override what’s called satiety, where you feel full.
So, Jake struggles with this. And Jake’s answer, he said clearly it’s food. We had a different point. [chuckles] But, I want to bring up Jake’s point.
Shawn: And what are your thoughts on what Jake said?
Tim: Well, one other thing that I was going to mention—but before I get into that one, because that’s pretty thick into the weeds—was just momentum and the role it plays in diet vs. exercise. And in my experience, for me personally and many of the clients that I’ve worked with, exercise trips the trigger to eating better.
Shawn: That’s true.
Tim: It’s like, “Okay. I’m getting some good results with the exercise. Now I know that I need to take another step.” Or, “Me on my diet was off-track over the weekend and if I exercise on Monday that gets me back into my habit.” So, for a lot of people, exercise builds momentum into better eating habits. And, to me, that tips the scales in favor of exercise in the diet vs. exercise debate.
Shawn: That’s true.
Tim: So, that was just one other thing I wanted to add there. And if you personally find it the other way around, that diet kind of feeds into the exercise, then maybe that tips the diet vs. exercise scales in favor of diet for you. As far as the food addiction and the addictive‑like eating behaviors, I think that’s going to be a good topic for us to discuss because it’s heavily contended. It’s contentious in the research, but I think it’s contentious just over semantics. It’s just like a matter of is it food addiction or is it eating. It doesn’t matter. Certain people are vulnerable to addictive-like eating behaviors. And a lot of those times, those things that—comorbid is the word that comes to mind—but a lot of times those addictive-like eating behaviors manifest because of, like you said, stress, depression.
Shawn: Lack of sleep.
Tim: Lack of sleep and things like that.
Tim: Yeah, exactly. And so, that kind of opens up the larger picture. How to get me on Stephanie’s question, is it most important to focus on diet vs. exercise, or is it more important to focus on mental and emotional health, or more important to focus on sleep hygiene, or more important to focus on social relationships, or more important to fill a gap that people are often trying to fill with food with something else. Whatever that is.
Shawn: I have that answer.
Tim: You do have that answer.
Shawn: I do.
Tim: Let’s go for it.
Shawn: Well, we’ve talked about this before, that the greatest study of all time is from Harvard, and they’re at 75-plus years. There is no study that’s [chuckles] even close to being carried out to this degree. Thank you, Harvard, for funding this monumental study that has gone on decade after decade, after decade.
It started with young men that were in an affluent area of Boston and a poorer area of Boston. And looking at their work life, they were all working men that had families. And looking at their income, looking at how stressed they were, looking at their diet, looking at exercise. They kept adding as they went. They started looking at blood markers, they started looking at their disease states, at what point they passed away. And then they started looking at the families, as well. They started looking at the spouse, the children. And they tracked them by generations. They actually looked deeply at the whole family as it kind of kept spider-webbing out and tracking these families, and then including women, like I said.
And the number one thing that they found that’s most important to long life is quality of relationships. And they made this important point. It wasn’t that the couples didn’t fight. They said that wasn’t really actually that important. And sometimes when you’re close, you actually do fight quite a bit. They said some of the couples were kind of snippy with each other, but they did know that they were there for each other. They had each other’s backs, and they shared important things with each other.
And so I think that if you were to look at it, well-being is profound, and quality of relationships is profound. And like we were talking about before, when you look at the Blue Zones and these cultures, yes, there’s resveratrol in red wine and they sip it at their dinner, and they have low glycemic, high protein, high quality fat meals and all that stuff in Sardinia and in these different places. Around the Costa Rica and these different Blue Zones. Sure. But, [chuckles] they also are sitting around a table with extended family for an hour, two hours, talking, sharing, having therapy, essentially.
How many people go to a therapist? We all need therapists, but how many people go to a therapist? Your wife is one.
Tim: She is.
Shawn: But almost no one goes to a therapist because it’s labelled as, “You’re crazy if you go to a therapist.” We all need one. And when girls say, “I need girl time,” or guys are like, “I want to hang out with the boys,” uh, that’s therapy.
Tim: That’s what you’re talking about.
Shawn: That’s therapy. So, how important is that stuff? I think it’s pivotal. I think that’s where it all starts. And if I was to pick well-being and joy in your life, that’s what I’d pick over everything — including diet vs. exercise.
Shawn: And certainly good food can contribute to that, and good sleep can contribute to that, and good exercise can contribute to that, and all those things are great. But at the core, it should be quality of life, even above quantity of life.
Shawn: Quality of life should be at the core of all of our decisions.
Tim: How you live is more important than the how long you live.
Tim: I love that you said that, Shawn, because it reminded me of the Jim Rohn quote, “You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time around.”
Tim: And so we’ve talked about that before. And you can think of it this way, too, is if those five people that you’re spending—just for the sake of this discussion—if those five people are exercising and they are eating healthy, then you’re more likely to take on those habits anyway, right? It no longer becomes a question of diet vs. exercise.
And so, just to kind of fortify the point you’re making is that feeling and being a part of a tribe can really have a massive influence on you and your health. Way more than we might think. So, I would definitely tack that on there and agree with that.
Shawn: Jay Shetty, who’s a really good motivational speaker, profound guy. I’ve heard him a few times. You guys should check him out. Really good about relationships and just living a positive life. And he said, when it came to anti-aging, we’ve been focused on putting more years in our life; meaning quantity, and extending our quantity of life in anti-aging. He said anti-aging should be more about putting more life in our years.
Anti-aging should be more about putting more quality in our life. Yes it’s nice to extend our lives, but how can we put more quality in our lives. I mean, it doesn’t matter if we live another 10 years if it’s all miserable.
Shawn: We should be finding ways to bring more joy to our lives. And by that, guess what happens? You live longer. [chuckles]
Shawn: So, everything good that you want, happens when you’re happier. So, figure out ways to be happier.
Tim: That’s awesome, Shawn. I think when you and I talk about these associations and correlations, and make recommendations, and when we use the word longevity, that’s what we mean. We don’t just mean like live longer. We mean live longer.
Tim: Quality of life there. So interesting, I was having a conversation with my dad not too long ago and we were talking about life expectancy. And his perspective was that we’re living longer, and we are. If you look at data, the life expectancy today compared to 50 years ago is—without question—longer. But those last whatever, 10 to 15 years or whatever it is, for a lot of people, is they’re not living life.
Tim: There’s no quality there. And I see that in some family members and things like that. So, yes, their life expectancy rate may be longer, but the quality of life at the tail end of those years is generally pretty poor. And so that’s why doing these things, these preventive measures and all these things to improve happiness is so important to actually be able to live our lives to the fullest.
Shawn: Well, and here’s the thing that might happen, too. If you really manifest positivity and you reap the rewards of great relationships, when you get to these points where you’re maybe in an assisted-living, in a skilled nursing facility, those relationships hopefully come back to you.
Shawn: If you’re someone that’s pushed people away, if you’re someone that’s been abrasive and you haven’t had lots of positive interactions, then you’re going to be pretty lonely in those scenarios. But maybe there’s a better chance if you’ve spent time working on relationships and investing in other people, that they’ll invest back into you when it matters most.
Tim: Yeah, Stephanie, I bet you didn’t see that coming, did you? [chuckles]
Shawn: [laughs] Yeah, that was cool. I actually like where that went. It started out with diet vs. exercise, but it went to well-being and joy, which is the most pivotal thing we’ve come to. And I think that was a good exercise, no pun intended.
Tim: [laughs] Oh, gotcha.
Shawn: To walk through. But I liked that question about diet vs. exercise. That that really spurred some good debate with us. We had the three of us, like I said, in the room, with Jake in here as well. And we all had kind of different thoughts. So, that was a great question. If it spurs that much controversy and discussion, then clearly it’s a great question. So, great job, Stephanie. So, we appreciate it.
So again, if you can ask more questions, BioTrust.com/VIP. If you can leave us reviews on iTunes, Stitcher, wherever, Google Play, Spotify, we appreciate it. Definitely check out BioTrustRadio.com for all the transcripts, links, etc.
And we just greatly appreciate you following us and supporting us, and we’ll continue to try and do our best to put out great content for you. But it certainly helps us to hear the feedback from you and get questions from you. That’s part of the whole BioTrust community concept. So, we want those positive relationships.
Tim: That’s right.
Shawn: We want that interaction, and we want to live longer, and we want to change lives, so we appreciate you and thank you so much. We’ll talk to you soon.
Tim: Take care guys.