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Diet Vs. Exercise – Which is Better For Weight Loss?

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“What works best when it comes to weight loss? Diet or exercise?” I questioned few of my friends, family, and colleagues and 2 out of 3 said that it’s a blend of both. Unfortunately, that consensus complicated things for me. Because I have been coupling both, and yet, the weighing scale doesn’t seem to move. It was clear to me that it is the time for some fact-checking. So, I set out to find out the hows and whys and came to the conclusion that I never thought I would! In this article, I have put down everything I learned about what works for weight loss – exercise or diet or a smart combination of both. Keep reading, and you will break your weight loss plateau – that’s a guarantee. Let’s start!

A Few Necessary Points One Must Know

To understand if exercise works better or a diet does, let us first discuss a few essential points:

  • Your body is not like someone else’s. So, if a low-carb diet suits someone else, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will suit you.
  • Crash diets and fad diets will only slow down your metabolism and not speed up your weight loss.
  • Before starting any weight loss regime, consider your body type and your lifestyle first.
  • Talk to a doctor first to find out if your weight gain is hereditary, and if you have any medical conditions.
  • Physical activity helps if you suffer from anxiety, depression, and other mental ailments.

Diet Vs. Exercise – The 80/20 Rule

The 80:20 Rule

The 80/20 rule is all about putting in 20% effort and getting 80% results. In easier terms, less effort, more results. In weight loss too, you can apply this principle – but in a somewhat different manner.

For weight loss, fitness gurus and nutritionists agree that 80% of your effort should come from diet and 20% from exercise. That means you have to be more careful about what you eat, how much you eat, and when you eat.

This holds true as a majority of us tend to overestimate the energy expenditure and underestimate the calories consumed. That’s because the amount of calories you need to stay alive is varied than what your friend would need. The energy you consume through exercise will also vary even if you both do the same exercise, at the same intensity, for the same duration. Diet is a primary determinant of whether you will lose the flab or your friend will.

So, adhere to your diet even if it’s weekend or you are going out on a lunch date.

Role of Exercise


You will lose weight by going on an accurately controlled diet. But you will also lose muscle mass. And when you lose muscle mass, your metabolic rate decreases. That’s because your muscles are present where a large number of mitochondria are available. Mitochondria are cell organelles that support the conversion of glucose to ATP or energy.

When the muscle in your body reduces, the number of mitochondria will also decrease. As a result, your metabolism will decrease. To counter this, you need to exercise. In fact, a mix of all workouts is the best. Three days of strength training and 2-3 days of cardio is what you should ideally strive for.

Cutting Calories Or Increasing Exercise: Does It Vary With Age?

Yes, it does vary. Muscle loss hits in post 30. If you are someone over 30, your preference should be preventing muscle loss and building some lean muscle mass.

You can do different forms of exercises at the gym using weights or just your body weight. Keep it engaging, and you will be able to limit muscle loss and look toned. However, you should talk to your doctor first and you must not perform exercises that will harm your bone health and pose a risk to your life.

You have to be extra careful about the sugar and salt intake. With age, a lot of health problems like diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular problems start to appear. And a big part of guarding yourself against these possibly life-threatening diseases is controlling what you consume.

Why is Diet So Important?

balanced diet

Diet is very crucial when it comes to weight loss because the effect of exercise is canceled out when you don’t take care of what you eat. To lose 1 pound of fat in a week, you must cut back or burn 3500 calories which are roughly 500 calories per day. That means you would have to run at 8 mph for at least 45 minutes or 55 minutes of Zumba without stopping.

You might think it’s OKAY to eat two slices of pizza in the middle of the week and then go to the gym and burn the calories. But to burn two slices of pizza (~560 calories), you would have to do 65 minutes of moderate cycling or 60 minutes of intense Zumba without stopping. That’s crazy and might be dangerous too.

So, every time you think of walking away from your weight loss diet, consider if it would be really worth it. Yes, you should let go sometimes but choose healthier foods for enjoying a cheat meal.

The Verdict

Who Wins – Exercise Or Diet?

Diet is the winner. Diet alone is equal to the three pillars of weight loss, and exercise is equivalent to one. So, if you do not keep a track of your diet, no matter how many hours you spend at the gym, you will not lose weight. Also, you cannot maintain weight loss or your health without exercise. Exercising on a regular basis can also help improve your mental health and a few chronic conditions over time.

To conclude, the weight loss journey is a herky-jerky ride. It will take a look at your possession to remain place and come through your goal. But it’s worth following the 80/20 rule and enhancing your overall lifestyle. The end result – you will feel better and be more active and productive, and your mental health will improve. So, keep the four pillars of weight loss paired together, and you will not have to go on a fad or crash diet to lose weight.

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