You know you need to eat the right foods and get regular exercise to lose weight. But when the thought of early morning workouts at the gym is overwhelming and the idea of counting calories is making you think twice about getting healthy, you may wonder, “Do I really have to do both? Could I only do one or the other and still see the results I want?”
What your question boils down to is this: Is diet or exercise more effective in the weight loss battle? Many people have asked the same question. Here’s the answer.
By a Landslide
For someone whose goal is to lose weight, diet is the clear winner. When it comes to weight loss, studies show that diet generally accounts for 75 percent of your success and exercise only pitches in 25 percent. This is good news. Think about it: it’s a lot easier to cut a few hundred calories in your diet each day than it is to burn the same amount with exercise. Would you rather skip that third piece of pizza or run a couple miles to burn it off?
One study of more than 700 people found that those who dieted and didn’t exercise lost 23 pounds in 15 weeks. Those who exercised without dieting only lost six pounds in 21 weeks.
This means it’s time to start taking your diet seriously if you want to lose weight. Watch your calorie intake and find a balanced diet plan that you can stick with for the long run. Yes, low-carb or crash diets will lead to fast results, but can you sustain such a diet for the rest of your life? Of course you can’t. So instead of crashing and burning, eat a diet that includes lean protein, healthy fats, whole-grains, fruits, and veggies and eliminate the junk.
If you cut enough calories, you’ll still lose weight even if you never set foot in a gym. Just don’t reduce your calories to an unsafe level. Women should eat at least 1,500 calories a day and men a few more.
It’s Still Important
Just because you can lose weight through diet alone doesn’t mean you don’t have to exercise. Physical activity is an essential part of health, long life, and weight management—not to mention faster weight loss. People who exercise in addition to eating a healthy diet lose more weight than those who diet alone.
Exercise not only burns calories, but it aids in weight loss in several other ways.
First, it’s an effective way to manage stress so you won’t be as likely to eat in response to your emotions. Second, it boosts your metabolism so you’ll burn calories more efficiently. Third, exercise builds muscle. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn. Fourth, exercise helps your body lose fat, build muscle, and strengthen bones. Weight loss from diet alone often means a loss of bone density and muscle rather than fat. Lastly, people sleep better when they exercise. Since sleepy people are prone to overeat to stimulate their brains, working out regularly is your best bet against sleepy-time eating you’ll regret the next morning.
You may be tempted to lose weight through diet alone, but keep in mind the statistics for lasting weight loss through diet alone aren’t very hopeful. Only a small percentage of dieters are able to keep their weight off long term. Most find their weight constantly fluctuating as they go from one diet to the next. But those who use a combination of diet and exercise to lose weight have a much greater chance of keeping the weight off for at least a year.
Keeping It Fun
Exercise doesn’t have to be a dreaded chore. Find an activity you enjoy and make it a regular part of your life.
~Your Fitness and Nutrition Coach,
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