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What’s More Important: Diet or Exercise?


If you’re trying to lose weight the healthy way, your strategy probably boils down to one of two approaches: eat better or exercise more. You might be combining the two, but chances are you’re relying more heavily on one strategy or the other to help you achieve your goal weight. With so many opinions and proponents for each strategy, who’s to say which is more important? It’s time for a closer look to determine if diet or exercise is more beneficial for weight loss.

Focusing on Diet for Weight Loss

There are many ways you can do this, but usually you’ll either be trying to eat less or eat different. The eating less strategy is concerned with how many calories you eat, which foods you have to avoid, and what is “allowed.” The eating different strategy doesn’t bother as much with counting calories and grams as much as it focuses on emphasizing healthy foods to eat. Either way you go, here’s the truth of how focusing on your diet affects weight loss:

Veggie SaladRestricting your calories will cause weight loss. In order to begin burning stored fat, you have to create an energy deficit. Once you create that deficit you force your body to turn to its energy stores (fat) to keep going. Creating the deficit through diet is much easier than through exercise: you can say “no” to 500-calories worth of food, or spend an hour on a bike.

Eating better will make you feel better. Many Westerners (Americans in particular) eat far more processed foods and added sugar than they should. Many health experts argue this is why we feel so sick and tired all the time. By cutting out the high-calorie, highly-processed food from your diet and focusing more on natural, whole foods, it’s highly probable you will see an overall increase in your health.

Focusing on Exercise for Weight Loss

Exercise is also approached one of two ways: focusing on strength/weight/resistance training, or emphasizing cardio/aerobic exercise. The latter is popular for the sake of burning calories faster. Weight training, however, develops strong, active muscles that improve your body’s ability to burn more calories all the time, not just while exercising. Here are a couple of thoughts regarding weight loss and exercise:

Fitness, Weight Loss, Training

Regular exercise will increase your overall health. Aerobic exercise has been proven to improve cognitive function, as well as drastically decrease your risk of heart disease.

Strength training keeps you lean. While cardio is great for burning calories, strength training will protect your body so you lose fat, not muscle, as you shed pounds. Here’s the conclusion: you can’t have one without the other. In fact, one study following 10,000 people who lost weight and kept it off over a number of years found 89% did it by diet and exercise. Diet without exercise will result in being “skinny fat.” Exercise without proper diet will not produce the weight loss results you want.

To lose weight in a healthy way, you need to emphasize both diet and exercise.

That said, your starting point should be to first clean up your diet. It’s said that 25% of weight loss can be attributed to your exercise routine, while 75% has to do with what you eat. Proper nutrition is the foundation to a healthy life, allowing you to exercise well and begin to see your goals become reality.

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