More exercise or less food: what’s best for weight loss?

Everyone knows that a good diet and regular exercise are the keys to living a healthy lifestyle. But when it comes to losing weight, which is more important? If you eat well, can you stop exercising altogether? Or if you exercise more, can you eat whatever you want?

Here’s some pros and cons for either side of the argument so you can decide what’s best for you.

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Pro: Improving your diet or changing portion sizes is a great way to lose weight for those struggling to find time to exercise.

Con: While reducing calorie intake may help you lose weight, it isn’t going to tighten up those ‘wobbly bits’. The only way to improve muscle tone and definition is at the gym.

Pro: It takes a lot less effort to eat smaller portion sizes for each meal and reduce your intake by say, 500 calories a day, than it is to burn an extra 500 calories – which would take about an hour of burpees!

Con: If you take this to an extreme, ‘starving’ yourself by not eating enough food is neither sustainable nor a healthy option to losing weight. Dieticians say following a sensible, balanced eating plan is the best way to go, but this results in slow and sustainable weight loss that may take a long time before you see the results you want.

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Pro: Exercise can be a lot easier to figure out if you haven’t got the knowledge or expertise to understand what foods you should be eating. Determining whether a banana is a carbohydrate, protein, sugar, or all three can be difficult – but as long as you have your heart rate up and the beginning of a sweat, you can be confident that you’re doing the exercise thing right.   

Con: Getting your heart rate up takes a lot more effort than swapping chips for veggies, and it takes a lot of willpower and dedication to get up every day and put your body through a rigorous workout. By comparison, halving your portion size isn’t nearly as taxing on your body.

Pro: Not only can exercise have a positive effect on weight loss, but it is beneficial for so many other reasons – it will improve your overall health, boost your mood, increase your energy levels and help you have a good night’s sleep.

Con: Exercise alone only has a modest effect on weight loss, and it takes much longer to burn calories than it does to consume them. Studies have found that for people who are already overweight, even 60 minutes of physical activity each day may not be enough to halt weight gain.

So what’s the answer? Scientifically speaking it is all about maintaining the energy balance equation. If you eat more, you’ll need to work out more to balance it out. If you eat less, you can probably get away with a lacklustre day at the gym.  And if you make a better effort on both sides of the equation, that’s your guarantee to losing weight.

Exercise or diet? The answer lies somewhere in between.

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