The Last Conversation You’ll Ever Need to Have About Eating Right

Mark Bittman and doctor David L. Katz patiently answer pretty much every question we could think of about healthy food.

Lose weight

I want to lose weight. Is diet really more important than exercise? Yes. It is much easier to outeat running than to outrun all of the tempting calories that modern marketing encourages us to cram in. Both diet and exercise are important to health, and exercise is important in weight maintenance. But to lose weight, the preferential focus needs to be on controlling calories in, more than calories out.

If I want to lose weight, should I eat less? And if I eat less, will my metabolism really slow down? If you starve yourself, yes. And if you lose weight, yes, because a smaller body burns fewer calories than a larger one. The effects tend to be modest, however, unless the weight loss is extreme. You can compensate with exercise, and building some muscle, both of which increase your metabolic rate.

Fasting

What about intermittent fasting? Is that actually effective for better gut health and energy levels? It’s effective” relative to doing nothing.

I can eat how I want and then just occasionally fast to reset” my diet? No. Fasting is not more effective than limiting calorie intake every day. Fasting is a way to control average, daily food intake — but not the only way. If it works for you, it’s a reasonable option, but it does not involve any magic.

Variety Routine

Can I just eat the same thing every day? Yes, that’s quite reasonable. Variety over time is important to the quality of a diet, but that can be concentrated at dinner if you prefer. So, for instance, how about whole grains (hot or cold), mixed fruits, and nuts for breakfast — every day? Then, how about a salad, soup, or stew of mixed vegetables and beans or lentils for lunch? And then for dinner, a wholesome variety of choices.

Working Out

While we’re on the subject of Wonder Woman: What’s the best thing to eat before and after working out to lose weight and build muscle? If your diet is wholesome and balanced overall, it almost certainly doesn’t matter. That said, for extremely long or intense workouts, there may be advantages to carbohydrate and protein prior, concentrated antioxidants after to help with muscle recovery. But none of this is relevant for a trip to the gym; this is for the Tour de France or a marathon. Otherwise, eat well over the course of each day, and distribute that eating around your workouts any way you like.