Why diet alone is important.

why-diet-alone-is-important (1) from Sara Fleming on Vimeo.

The most current research has been pointing to an interesting connection between diet and exercise when it comes to weight loss. The truth is, diet plays a far greater role when it comes to managing our body composition. Exercise is necessary for our health and optimal functioning, but it simply cannot undo regular excessive calorie consumption. There are a couple of reasons for this:

  1. Our bodies get better at burning fat for fuel rather than sugar which makes us more fuel efficient. Fat contains more than twice the calories per gram than sugar and so relying on fat burning pathways actually slows down how much fuel we use. For example, it has been shown in runners that energy expenditure increases to a certain point when they begin training but after several weeks, this plateaus and does not increase despite large increases in daily activity.
  2. Introducing a moderate to vigorous exercise routine to individuals often results in them being less active in other parts of their day. They sit more and move less overall whether it be not getting up as often or simply not fidgeting as much. In other words, they rest more to make up for the energy they just expended.
  3. At higher levels of activity, our bodies may begin to shunt calories during exercise away from non-muscular functions such as hormone production and other maintenance activities.

But, don’t let this dishearten you.

The one thing that is known to work for decreasing or maintaining your bodyweight is to track what you are eating. Most of us underestimate how much we eat and/or overestimate how many calories we are burning through exercise. Simple observation is the key to eating less. If you are starting on your journey to a better 2021 and body composition is part of that goal, do yourself a favor and start tracking your diet, as is, for the next several days. Its impossible to know what changes you need to make if you don’t know where you are starting from. And oftentimes, the changes we need to make aren’t as drastic as we imagine they should be.

Is there an ideal human diet? Unfortunately, no. The diets of indigenous people from around the world are vastly different in content and ratios of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. Their good health is most likely the result of their activity level and not necessarily what they eat. But their relatively leanness is likely a direct result of their overall consumption.

In other words, exercise and diet are two separate entities with two separate roles, but both are equally important for our health and longevity. Go for a walk whenever possible. Be aware of what you are eating. It doesn’t have to be complicated, you just have to pay attention.


Ingels, John Spencer, Ranjita Misra, Jonathan Stewart, Brandon Lucke-Wold, and Samantha Shawley-Brzoska. “The Effect of Adherence to Dietary Tracking on Weight Loss: Using HLM to Model Weight Loss over Time.” Journal of Diabetes Research 2017 (2017): 6951495–6951495. https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/6951495.

Lieberman, Daniel E. “Is Exercise Really Medicine? An Evolutionary Perspective.” Current Sports Medicine Reports 14 (2015): 313–19.

Pontzer, H., B. M. Wood, and D. A. Raichlen. “Hunter-Gatherers as Models in Public Health.” Obesity Reviews 19, no. S1 (December 1, 2018): 24–35. https://doi.org/10.1111/obr.12785.

Pontzer, Herman. “Economy and Endurance in Human Evolution.” Current Biology 27, no. 12 (June 19, 2017): R613–21. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2017.05.031.

Pontzer, Herman. “Evolved to Exercise.” Scientific American, January 2019. Pontzer, Herman, Ramon Durazo-Arvizu, Lara R Dugas, Jacob Plange-Rhule, Pascal Bovet, Terrence E Forrester, Estelle V Lambert, Richard S Cooper, Dale A Schoeller, and Amy Luke. “Constrained Total Energy Expenditure and Metabolic Adaptation to Physical Activity in Adult Humans.” Current Biology : CB 26, no. 3 (February 8, 2016): 410–17. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2015.12.046.

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