Which Comes First: Clean Eating or Exercise?

  • Written By:Jo Schaalman and Jules Peláez, The Conscious Cleanse
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When you put good foods in your body, you want to move more, and when you move more you want to put good foods in your body. It’s the perfect healthy cycle.

- Jo Schaalman

In what can sometimes feel like a very long list of self-care to-dos, we’re often asked which we prioritize, clean eating or exercise. We’re Jo and Jules, co-founders of the Conscious Cleanse, a 14-day whole foods based cleanse. We’ve made it our mission to make clean eating accessible and sustainable to everyone! We’re also both certified yoga instructors and movement junkies who live in Boulder, CO, home of the Rocky Mountains where the sun shines 300 days a year. To say that we like to be outside frolicking in nature would be an understatement.

Amid a global pandemic, many people are finding themselves cooped up, lethargic, and unmotivated in the self-care department. Tired of cooking and cleaning three meals a day and bored with the same ole home workout routine, many find weight loss is now top of mind. This has brought up the question which comes first, clean eating or exercise?

As clean eating fanatics and teachers, you can probably guess our answer. Our daily eating habits are the very foundation for everything in our lives. Our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. What we eat fuels our body, mind, and spirit. Whether we're sitting at the computer, standing in the kitchen developing a new recipe, or sweating it out on the yoga mat, what we eat directly impacts how we feel and how we perform.

Carrie Dorr, founder of 044 Method and Pure Barre, has been on a mission to get people moving for 20 years. We’ve recently joined forces with Carrie to bring a daily movement option to our Conscious Cleanse community. Since we know that clean eating and exercise go hand in hand, and that the benefits go way beyond weight loss, we’ve asked her to join us and share her perspective as a fitness expert.

What’s the biggest benefit you get from clean eating?

Jo Schaalman: Being able to wake up in the morning and feel good in my body! I have chronic back pain from a bike/car accident 15 yrs ago and a whole foods, anti inflammatory diet has been a game changer for me.

Jules Pelaez: Vibrant health is our birthright. Clean eating helps me to maintain that state of vibrancy. Before I identified what my perfect blueprint for healthy eating was, I was about 20 lbs heavier despite working out daily, I had adult acne, and had chronic stomach pains. If I look at my lineage, I am at risk for high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and Alzheimer’s to name a few. Clean eating gives me the energy and clarity I need to live my best life.

Carrie Dorr: Clean eating gives me the physical and mental energy to live an active and full life as well as the stamina to keep up with my three young kiddos!

What’s the biggest benefit you get from exercise?

JS: I’m an endorphin junkie and moving my body helps me stabilize my mood so that I can feel upbeat and positive, especially during a time when we’re experiencing stress at an all-time high. I also have a 6 yr old and 8 month old and exercise helps me stay strong to keep up with them for years to come!

JP: Exercise has always been a big part of my life. In my younger years, I was a competitive swimmer, dancer, and sprinter. I still hold the record for the 100 yard dash at my middle school. As a young adult, I’ve found many ways to keep moving my body that are both physically and mentally challenging. Whether it’s rock climbing, capoeira, snowboarding, long-distance trail running, hiking, or yoga, the biggest benefit I feel that exercise has given me is mental discipline and fortitude. The discipline of body and mind that I’ve developed over the years through sports and exercise helps me every day in the kitchen and clean eating department.

CD: I honestly think the mental benefits exercise provides are equal to the physical benefits for me.

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If you had to pick one, clean eating OR exercise, what would you choose and why?

JS: I’ve always done both together, but when I broke my back I couldn’t exercise and relied solely on clean eating to get me through that tough period of healing. With that said, I need both to feel balanced and healthy.

JP: Clean eating, hands down. I move all day long. In fact, I find it hard to sit still (just ask my family). Whether it’s taking a walk while on a work phone call or chasing after one of my kids, I am on the move. While this is not at all comparable to a focused yoga class or workout, my body always finds a way to incorporate movement. Personally, I put more intention into making sure that my food is pristine and impeccable every day. I have 100% control over what goes in my mouth. I don’t always have that same luxury when it comes to a workout.

CD: I can’t pick! I see clean eating and exercise as an AND not an OR.

Why do you think clean eating and exercise are the perfect marriage?

JS: When you put good foods in your body, you want to move more, and when you move more you want to put good foods in your body. It’s the perfect healthy cycle.

JP: I see many people fall into the trap of telling themselves that they can eat whatever they want because they workout hard in the gym. I love the saying “you can’t exercise your way out of a poor diet” because no matter your workout routine, the food you eat has the power to heal or to harm. Eating a diet that is rich in dark leafy greens and vegetables, with a moderate amount of fruit, healthy fats, and clean protein will fuel you to your greatest physical achievements.

CD: I truly believe the integration of clean eating, exercise, a mindfulness practice, purpose, spending time in nature and meaningful social connections is the recipe for staying young while growing old.

*Jo Schaalman and Jules Peláez are co-founders and authors of the books The Conscious Cleanse and The Conscious Cleanse Cookbook: Lose Weight, Heal Your Body and Transform Your Life in 14 Days, a best-selling, step-by-step guide to help you live your most vibrant life. Together they’ve led thousands of people through their online supported cleanse with their accessible and light-hearted approach. To learn more about “Jo and Jules” please visit consciouscleanse.com. Get their free Green Smoothie e-Cookbook for their favorite smoothie recipes and how to build your own perfect green smoothie.

Carrie Dorr has been innovating in the fitness space for 20 years. She is the founder and creator of O44 METHOD + BARRE as well as Pure Barre. She has dedicated her career to developing programs that really work and brands that empower people with workouts and resources to get healthy and stay well.

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