Diet vs. Fitness | Which is more important for weight loss?

Diet vs. Fitness | Which is more important for weight loss?

When it comes to slimming down, which one matters more — diet or exercise? There’s no doubt that they’re both vitally important to good health, but do they carry equal significance when it comes to losing weight?

Diet vs Exercise

A combination of a healthy diet and a well-rounded exercise regimen is key for weight loss. But if you pitted the two against each other, we’ve found that one yields more results than the other. While exercise is crucial for leading a healthy life, exclusively, it doesn’t always promote weight loss.

A 2015 study found that calorie control is more successful, especially because exercise typically increases appetite in many people, which often leads to the consumption of more calories than those burned.

Another study published in the International Journal Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders found that when participants tracked both exercise and dietary intake, although on paper a caloric deficit was shown, no weight was actually lost amongst the subjects. Why? Because energy expenditure was overestimated whilst caloric intake was underestimated.

Furthermore, another study found that a group of women who were instructed to exercise but not change their diet, lost approximately 2kg (4.4 lbs) over the course of the year. When this was compared against the total amount of time spent working out, this equated to an average of 1kg (2.2 lbs.) weight loss for every 77 hours of exercise! In short, all the exercise in the world won’t help you lose weight if your nutrition isn’t on point. Or to put it even more simply, you can’t out-train a shitty diet!

Mags don't eat like an asshole
Coach Mags 📸 by Brittany Copeland

Don’t misunderstand us, we are advocates of fitness! But when it comes to losing weight, what you put in your body and how much, is more important than how often you move it.  It’s much easier to cut calories out than to burn them off. Essentially, what we’re saying is this; most people lose weight when they eat fewer calories than expended and that’s more easily achieved by eating less, than accumulating more activity.

Benefits Of A Healthy Diet

1. Increases longevity

When you practice healthy eating habits, in combination with exercise, you can improve your lifespan. Roz recently had her bloodwork tested with InsideTracker and according to their analysis her “inner age” is 27 years old, vs her actual age of 34. Roz attributes this primarily to her nutrition.

2. Boosts productivity & energy

When we consume a great amount of unhealthy food, we often feel lethargic and tired. However, when you eat a balanced diet consisting of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products, your body is provided with the essential nutrients to increase or maintain your level of energy. Have you ever noticed how different your focus is at work when you skip breakfast? Many of our clients are amazed by the improvement in their energy levels & focus once they start consuming the right balance of food.

3. Fights disease 

A healthy diet can help prevent or manage a wide array of health conditions including diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, depression and certain types of cancer. These are all common modern-day diseases that

4. Controls weight 

As we mentioned above, studies have shown that by eating a balanced, calorie-managed diet, you will be able to maintain a healthy weight and be more successful with weight loss than with exercise alone.

5. Enhances mood 

Maintaining a stable blood sugar level through adequate nutrition will help you feel better since what you eat has an impact on the part of your brain that regulates mood. I’m sure you’ve experienced feeling hangry before? Well that’s basically your brain pissed off at you for waiting too long since your last meal. A healthy diet can also help reduce stress as well.

6. Reduces wrinkles 

Vegetables and fruits are foods with high water content, helping moisturize the skin and maintain hydration. They also contain antioxidants to protect your body against damage to the cells, resulting in younger-looking skin.

7. Saves money on health care

Depending on your health, you may have to pay double the life insurance cost in premiums or be denied for coverage entirely if you’re considered obese. By adopting a healthier lifestyle, you could drastically lower your costs when you apply and significantly reduce the number of visits to the doctor.

8. Improves Quality of Sleep

Have you ever gone to bed with a belly full of pizza and had a terrible night’s sleep?! we have! We know that nutrition can not only effect your sleep from a comfort level, but on a more physiological level too. If your body is not getting the nutrients it needs then important functions that happen when your body is at rest can’t take place. You body tries to find other ways to make these functions happen which can put a strain on your organs and can cause you to experience disrupted sleep and wake up feeling like you haven’t rested at all.

 

Benefits Of Exercise

1. Helps you control your weight

Along with diet, exercise plays an important role in controlling your weight and preventing obesity. At a simplistic level, to maintain your weight, the calories you eat and drink must equal the energy you burn. To lose weight, you must expend more energy than you eat and drink.

2. Reduces risk of heart disease

Exercise strengthens your heart and improves your circulation. The increased blood flow raises the oxygen levels in your body. This helps lower your risk of heart diseases such as high cholesterol, coronary artery disease, and heart attack. Regular exercise can also lower your blood pressure and triglyceride levels.

3. Help your body manage blood sugar and insulin levels

Exercise can lower your blood sugar level and help your insulin work better. This can cut down your risk for metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. And if you already have one of those diseases, exercise can help you to manage it.

4. Improves your mental health and mood

During exercise, your body releases chemicals that can improve your mood and make you feel more relaxed. This can help you deal with stress and reduce your risk of depression.

5. Improves cognitive function 

Exercise stimulates your body to release proteins and other chemicals that improve the structure and function of your brain which helps keep your thinking, learning, and judgment skills sharp as you age.

6. Strengthens your bones and muscles 

Regular exercise can help kids and teens build strong bones. Later in life, it can also slow the loss of bone density that comes with age. Doing muscle-strengthening activities can help you increase or maintain your muscle mass and strength as you age.

7. Reduces your risk of falls

For older adults, research shows that doing balance and muscle-strengthening activities in addition to moderate-intensity aerobic activity can help reduce your risk of falling.

9. Improves your sleep 

Exercise can help you to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.

10. Increases your chances of living longer 

Studies have shown that physical activity can reduce your risk of dying early from the leading causes of death, like heart disease and some cancers.

Recommendations

If you’re trying to lose weight, what we’ve basically just told you is that your time will be better off spent focusing on your nutrition than increasing your time at the gym. So what steps should you take next and how should focus that attention? Here are our recommendations.

1. Calculate your caloric needs

There are plenty different calculators online where you can calculate your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) or you can track your activity with your fitbit or Apple Watch for a general idea of your daily caloric expenditure or for more precise information obtain a body fat analysis through something like an InBody machine. Once you have a general idea of your “maintenance calories”, you’ll want to calculate roughly a 20% deficit to figure out how much you need to consume in order to lose weight.

2. Track your food

One of the MOST important tools in achieving sustainable weight loss is keeping a food diary. We recommend to our clients to track their food with the app MyFitnessPal. We’re not affiliated with them in any way sadly! But we think they have one of the most comprehensive and accurate databases out there for food tracking. To start with, just get in the habit of tracking your food every day. You might start to notice that you tend to eat the same foods most days. See if you can make life easier for yourself and rather than tracking your food as you go along, try planning your day of food ahead.

3. Count your calories

You already calculated your daily caloric needs and figured out your 20% deficit needed in order to lose weight. You’re also habitually tracking your food and noticing things like how often you eat out and what types of foods you typically eat. Now try keeping your calories in check. Every day, try to consume the same amount of calories – not more and not less!

4. Calculate your macronutrients

As you were tracking your calories, you may have noticed that there are 3 macronutrient groups that make up the foods we eat, they are our protein, carbohydrates and fat. Up until now we’ve been considering weight loss rather crudely with a simple calories in vs calories out approach. The truth is, to maximize your weight loss and improve your body composition, the right balance of macronutrients is extremely important.

Have a look back through your diary, which macronutrients do you tend to eat more of? Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to consume 1.5 times your body weight in protein in order to lose weight. We’ve found that 80% of your lean body mass goals for women and 90% for men works well for most people. So if you want to weight 120 lbs. as a woman, then you would need to consume 96g of protein a day in order to support your body’s needs. If you’re ready to start paying attention to your macros we can help you calculate your individual needs.

5. Food Prep

Are you too exhausted to cook after the gym or too wiped out to go to the grocery store? We’re not saying you should skip the gym, but look at where you’re spending your time and find a balance that’s more beneficial. Food preparation is an important aspect of being successful with your nutrition. How are you going to keep your calories or macros in check if you don’t have the right kinds of foods available to you? Now that doesn’t mean you’re necessarily standing in your kitchen prepping 6 meals for the week ahead. It can be as simple as planning out your next day of food, or making a shopping list of foods you’ll need to pick up or have delivered to your door. When we think of food prep this is often what we consider:

  • planning my day ahead of food in my diary;
  • setting time aside to go to the grocery store and buying fresh produce;
  • chopping and storing veggies so they’re easily on hand for snacks and to make quick salads or to throw on the stove as a side dish;
  • making breakfast for the following morning;
  • pre-cooking enough protein to last 3 days;
  • deciding how many times you’ll eat out this week;
  • re-organizing the kitchen or pantry so that tempting foods are harder to reach.

Yes, it’s work, but it’s worth it! And probably significantly easier and cheaper than a grueling 60 minute personal training session! All this might seem like effort and work in the beginning, but just like all the other things you habitually take care of in your day-to-day, they slowly become a a part of your life and your way of thinking.

The Takeaway

More and more research supports that in order to keep the pounds from piling up, the food choices we make may be more important than the amount of exercise we’re doing. Spending 2-3 minutes a day keeping a food diary, is likely to be more beneficial than 30 minutes of exercise when it comes to losing weight as calorie expenditure through exercise, is relatively small in the grand scheme of things.

When it comes to weight loss, we believe that primarily happens in the kitchen. Health, on the other hand tends to be gained in the gym. Don’t make it an either or scenario, for staying lean and maintaining overall good health, both nutrition and fitness are important. Incorporating both can have huge benefits that can affect your health and well being. The key to successfully managing diet and exercise, is to follow a regimen that allows you to balance them both consistently and seek professional support and accountability.


We’ve helped thousands of people transform their lives and lose weight for good by making simple changes to their nutrition. For more information on our coaching programs check out our Lifestyle Memberships or feel free to reach out to us with any questions you might have.