Exercise vs. Diet: Which is best for losing weight?

When it comes to weight loss, people are always wondering whether or not they should focus on diet or exercise, writes Olivia Budgen.

Both diet and exercise play an important role in losing weight, but when it comes to achieving and maintaining the best results, I firmly believe that one clearly trumps the other. As a rule of thumb, weight loss is generally due to 75% diet and 25% exercise.

Exercise has many incredible benefits for your health, including preventing musculoskeletal disorders, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, pulmonary and neurological diseases and depression, but not so much when it comes to losing weight.

I see all too often that people who push themselves at the gym or get flogged by a personal trainer five days a week do not achieve desired results. Or, they lose weight in the beginning and then plateau. When I speak to them about what they’re eating, it soon becomes clear that they haven’t bothered to change their diet!

Can exercise compensate for a poor diet?

One of the biggest misconceptions about weight loss is that you simply need to burn more calories than you consume. People fail to realise the importance of energy INTAKE compared to energy EXPENDITURE. For example, to burn off the calories from a single slice of pizza would require approximately an hour of walking.

But don’t simply look at the ‘calories in, calories out‘ method as the equation to losing weight. This strategy is flawed; Calories are not created equal. The body actually uses calories from different nutrients in different ways. Studies have suggested that natural sugars are easier for the body to properly utilise. Processed foods on the other hand are harder for your body to digest, creating more fat.

Essentially the point we’re trying to make is that eating fresh fruits, vegetables and lean meats will ALWAYS be better for weight loss than a cheeseburger of equivalent calorie value. The quality of what you put in your mouth is most important.

Weight loss is a life-style

From personal experience, I can say for sure that the food I ate played the biggest role in my weight loss journey. To put it into perspective, I have lost 15kg altogether and did not exercise at all for a majority of that time.

Remember – your body is working for you. It wants to be at its healthiest and most ideal weight – it doesn’t want to hold onto excess fat. For your body to release unwanted fat, it needs to be clean and working efficiently, and one of the best ways to keep your body clean is by eating good food.

If you have the determination and motivation, then yes, doing both is great. But if you’re feeling unmotivated or  you’re dealing with serious health issues, then the most efficient path to take is to focus on consuming fresh whole foods like fruit, vegetables, leafy greens and starches, including legumes, potato, sweet potato and pumpkin and a small amount of good fats.

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