What’s Better for Weight Loss – Diet or Exercise?
“Eat less, move more” is a mantra I’ve heard and advice I’ve given many times over the years. While both calorie intake and physical activity are important factors in weight loss, which one is more important?
Physiologically speaking, weight loss and gain revolve around the concept of calories in, calories out. In a nutshell, we lose weight when we eat fewer calories than we expend. Conversely, we gain weight when we eat more calories than we expend. Many of us have been advised to add physical activity to our weight loss plan to increase our calorie burn and improve the calories in, calories out equation. After decades of study, researchers have been able to refine effective weight loss strategies. Here’s what we know:
Dieting is more effective for weight loss than exercise. Samuel Klein, MD at Washington University’s School of Medicine says, “Decreasing food intake is much more effective than increasing physical activity to achieve weight loss. If you want to achieve a 300 kcal energy deficit you can run in the park for 3 miles or not eat 2 ounces of potato chips.” The problem with exercise is that it stimulates hunger and appetite hormones, which make you feel noticeably hungrier after exercise.
Exercise is an effective metabolic booster. While exercise may not be as important for weigh loss as calorie restriction”, says Dr. James Hill at the University of Colorado, it’s important in another way. Exercise can boost a sagging metabolism. Exercise is particularly important for weight loss maintenance, because it buys you some wiggle room for extra calories while you are adapting to the lifestyle changes you’ve made to your diet.
So, the fact is eating fewer calories is the most effective way to lose weight; however it is important to exercise to jump start your metabolism. An easy way to look at weight loss is to think about your diet composing 80% of the plan and exercise 20%. Reduce calories, eat better, exercise, and most of all, remember it is a practice that has to be repeated over time – months or years- to be successful.