Exercise Versus Diet: The Weight Loss Debate

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Ever wanted to lose a few extra pounds? For many people, weight loss is something they want to achieve as part of their health goals. If you’ve done some reading, you will find that weight loss techniques focus almost exclusively on two things: diet and exercise. Unfortunately, a lot of sources disagree on which of the two is better for shedding fat. A study conducted by Rick Nauert, Ph.D. says that “… exercise alone does not help a person lose weight.” 

What you need is a balanced view of how each of these two options can help you lose weight. They act through different mechanisms, and you might be surprised to learn that diet modifications trump exercise routines. Nevertheless, you should do both if you’re serious about losing weight.

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Exercise For Weight Loss

Human bodies are equipped to store excess energy, mainly in the form of fat. In the past, this feature served as a safety net, allowing early people to survive during times of scarcity. Technologies such as vehicles permit us to do more while expending fewer calories, leading to an energy surplus that leads to weight gain.

Therefore, it makes sense to increase the calories you burn. Exercise does increase your calorie expenditure. Cardiovascular exercises work out your entire body, especially the cardiovascular system. Your body needs to increase its metabolic rate to supply enough energy to complete the workout.

Anaerobic exercises also burn additional calories during the workout, although not as much as cardio. However, they have another weight loss feature. For the first few hours after exercise, your body is busy trying to restore itself to its resting state. This process consumes additional energy, which means that you continue to burn extra calories even after your workout. Strength exercises also increase your muscle mass, which increases the base amount of calories you expend every day.

However, fat is a dense form of energy storage. One gram of fat has nine calories. The energy you get from one pizza slice can translate to nearly an hour of running. Additionally, your body eventually becomes used to physical activities, so you may find yourself burning fewer calories unless you switch routines.

Dietary Changes For Weight Loss

Aside from increasing the rate at which you burn off calories, you can also reduce the number of calories you eat. Given how energy-dense some food is, you should expect better weight loss by making changes to your diet. Experts often quote that 75% of your weight loss potential comes from the food you eat.

“…our intense focus on finding just the right diet can keep us from paying attention to what really matters when it comes to weight loss: actually sticking to whichever diet you’ve chosen,” says Christy Matta, MA.

However, you should still tread lightly. Many people do this through fad diets that propose significant changes to what you eat. For example, the ketogenic diet suggests low-carbohydrate meals laden with protein.

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Many of these diets deviate from the balanced portions that medical experts suggest. While they provide rapid weight loss, the extreme energy deficit forces your body to use other materials as fuel, such as the protein in your muscles. The result: weaker bodies and malnutrition.

What works? Avoid junk food rich in unhealthy fats and sugars, such as most fast food. Instead, eat more fruits and vegetables, which fill you up with fiber and nutrients without adding too many calories. Eat enough carbohydrates to power your body while still triggering a mild energy deficit. Also, consume protein to help your muscles rebuild.

Partner your diet with physical activity. “People want to see that positive influence,” says Lora Cavuoto, Ph.D. “Understanding how social influence affects people’s participation in health programs can lead to better-designed wellness interventions.”

Your body’s metabolism may slow down once it detects that you’re eating less. Exercise forces your metabolism to remain high. In this way, diet and exercise can work together to aid you in losing weight.

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