A healthful diet and regular exercise regime are essential when it comes to weight loss but which one is more important in achieving the results you want? If you want to drop the weight, it turns out that reducing calorie intake from your diet is more effective than exercise. “People expect exercise to be a great way to help them lose weight, but the effects on weight are only small,” says Dr. Dick Thijssen, a professor in cardiovascular physiology and exercise at Liverpool John Moores University. According to him, if you exercised for 3 or 4 months without changing your diet, you’d only lose about 1 kg. Findings from research studies agree with Dr. Thijssen. Apparently, exercise alone has a negligible impact on weight loss, so if you are relying on exercise alone to lose weight, you will most likely be disappointed.
Why isn’t exercise as effective as diet when it comes to weight loss?
The key to weight loss is achieving a negative energy balance, meaning you take in fewer calories than you burn. Decreasing our calories through diet is so much more effective than exercise because it takes a lot of physical activity or working out to create a calorie deficit. For example, you need to burn 3500 calories to lose 1 pound of fat. If you relied on exercise alone, you would essentially need to run over 10 km or cycle 2 hours each day to burn 500 calories and lose one pound a week (without increasing your caloric intake, i.e. without eating more to compensate for that killer work-out!). On the other hand, 500 calories in food is approximately equivalent to a plain bagel with 2 tbsp of cream cheese, a Belgian waffle with butter and maple syrup, 2 glazed donuts or a Starbucks Grande (16 oz) S’mores Frappuccino blended coffee with 2% milk. As you can see, it’s much easier to cut calories from your diet than to burn the same amount of calories through working out.
So, does that mean I don’t need to exercise?
No, exercise is essential to our well-being! Not only does exercise reduce our stress and decrease the risk of heart disease, diabetes and dementia but it’s also linked to a happier mood and longer life expectancy.
Although cutting calories from your diet will yield faster results for weight loss, keep in mind that when you start eating less, your metabolism starts to slow down and your body will resist weight loss. Exercise can counteract this. Dr. Yik usually recommends a mix of cardiovascular and strength-training exercises- 30 minutes of moderate cardio exercise 4 to 5 times per week plus 2 to 3 strength-training sessions per week. In terms of diet, you want to be cutting 500 calories a day in order to lose one pound per week (500 calories X 7 days = 3500 calories, which is equivalent to 1 pound of fat). I always recommend a healthful, whole-foods diet comprised of lean protein, colourful vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
If decreasing calories through diet and exercise doesn’t work, then underlying causes of weight gain should be investigated and addressed. Click here to read up on 5 common hidden causes of weight gain.
SOURCE: http://www.cell.com/current-biology/abstract/S0960-9822(15)01577-8, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2991639/, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28514618, http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/what-500-calories-really-looks-like-different-foods.html, http://www.starbucks.com