Diet or Exercise for Weight Loss: Which is More Important?

The key to weight loss is to consume fewer calories than you burn, right? So, when it comes to losing weight, which one matters more – is it diet or exercise? While it’s true that a combination of diet and exercise are key for long-term weight loss, diet is actually far more important! What you put in your body outweighs how you move your body. You may be familiar with the 80/20 rule meaning 80 percent of your results are from nutrition and 20 percent from exercise – but why?

Exercise Alone Is Not Enough

Going to the gym every day doesn’t negate unhealthy eating. You can lose weight with a strict diet alone yet not with a strict exercise schedule alone. For most people, it would be easier to lower their calorie intake to a greater degree than it is to burn more calories through increased exercise.

Keep in mind though, that without exercising, only a portion of your weight loss is from fat since you’re also stripping away muscle and bone density. You should incorporate a mix of strength training and cardiovascular exercises as both burn calories and lead to stored fat being used as a source of energy. Exercise helps you maintain your weight loss. Also, don’t forget that exercise has many health benefits such as lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, reducing your stress level, and improving the quality of your sleep.

Don’t Overcompensate

Exercise increases your metabolism which helps increase the number of calories you burn each day but be careful that you don’t overcompensate and eat extra calories just because you feel more hungry. People tend to overestimate how many calories are burned during exercise and think they deserve a treat. As mentioned in previous posts, it’s perfectly acceptable to treat yourself but keep an eye on the calories and frequency of your treats to make sure you’re not undoing all of your hard work.

Don’t Starve Yourself

While it’s important not to overeat and consume more calories than you burn, it’s also essential that you don’t try to “starve the weight off” because that will shut your metabolism down. Instead, make healthy choices and eat every 2-3 hours to keep your metabolism active and feed your body the nutrients it needs.

The Calorie Equation

Let’s get to the specifics. How many calories will help you lose weight? The most widely accepted equation is that 3,500 calories equals one pound of fat. You can either burn those calories through exercise, or reduce your caloric intake. Safe fat loss is one to two pounds per week so to lose one pound of fat per week, you would need a 500 calorie deficit each day.

Bottom Line: Change Your Diet to Change Your Body Composition

While diet and exercise are both important for long-term weight loss, remember that it’s much easier to avoid calories than to burn them off – you can’t out-exercise a bad diet! You can lose weight without exercise, but you cannot lose weight if your nutrition counteracts your exercise, so what you put in your body is more important than how you move it.

Eating less is far more important than exercising more.

What has your experience been with diets and exercise? Which has worked better for you to lose weight faster or keep it off long-term?

6 Replies to “Diet or Exercise for Weight Loss: Which is More Important?”

  1. The difference between losing weight through diet or burning it off through exercise for my sakes & age is striking a happy balance. We tend to eat more healthier nowadays to how we used to meanwhile we participate in a lot more exercise.

    When I first started work I used to eat everything and in silly amounts but never put weight on because my manual job constantly burned weight away however roll on the years and Iโ€™m sat in front of a computer all day – I’ve developed a spare tyre around my waste – whatโ€™s that!!

    Nowadays my wife & I have enrolled in an adult swim twice a week, go for long walks on a weekend as well as eat more healthier to try overcome the tyre syndome – ha!
    I do agree with your statement however – Eating less is far more important than exercising more.
    All the best and keep healthy,

    • Hi Simon. That’s great you and your wife have found that happy balance between diet and exercise and it’s always easier and more enjoyable when you have that supportive partner right next to you. Unfortunately that extra weight around the waist sneaks up on most of us haha. Best of luck to you both on your continued journey of health and happiness!

  2. Hi Debby, What a great site. Full of good sense and well set out. My old Doctor always used to say, you can’t put on the weight unless you are eating it. So true. Am a great believer in eating freshly cooked food and not too much. Find as I am getting older it is not easy to shift the extra weight. Of course it could also be all the hours spent on the computer. Had better get moving. Thank you so much and wishing you all the very best.
    Kind regards, Jill

    • Glad you’ve enjoyed reading my posts. That’s great you’re sticking to your fresh cooking and making healthy choices. I wish you the very best as well ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. I really enjoyed your article, I find I have a hard time balancing the 2 simultaneously. I’m usually fairly dedicated to keeping a regular workout schedule and if I falter on that I try to eat better ๐Ÿ˜› After reading this though, I’m thinking I should be doing the opposite and focusing more on eating healthy. I just find it so hard to stay away from my comfort foods for too long.

    Thanks for the info! I’m looking forward to reading some more of your articles

    • Glad you enjoyed the post. I know exactly how you feel because comfort food and sweets are a huge struggle for me as well. Like my article said though, you can’t out-exercise poor eating choices so definitely try to focus on your healthy eating. What has helped me a lot is counting my calories so that way if I want a treat, I’m able to control how much of it I actually eat since I’m holding myself accountable to a certain number. Good luck on your continued journey!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *