Diet or exercise?
Which is better to lose weight: exercising more to burn more calories, or knocking off those calories by eating less or different kinds of foods?
While a combination of exercising more and eating less is a good idea, the key to losing undesired body fat is to eat fewer calories and keeping up regular exercise. Subtracting food seems to be more important than adding on exercise for fat loss.
While aerobic exercise like running or cycling does help create a calorie deficit, a smart choice is to also lift weights. Building muscle in the body burns fat quicker. The more muscle you have, the more fat you burn while in a sedentary state. Lifting weights helps preserve your muscles. Otherwise, if you’re just doing cardiovascular exercise and lifting no weights, more of the weight you lose will be in the form of muscle, which in turn will not help you burn body fat.
Exercise becomes more important when you are ready to maintain your fat loss. Research suggests that dieters who have been obese need about 60 to 90 minutes per day of exercise. (Having been obese seems to reset the metabolism and creates a strong biological drive to regain the weight). Walking is a popular exercise among dieters. Pedometers are helpful tools to guide people to ramp-up their activity, with a goal of 10,000 to 12,000 steps per day.
The bottom line is that losing weight is all about balance. Balancing your exercise, what and how much you’re eating, sleep, training, etc. Keep working hard and experimenting with which tactics work best with your body, using these suggestions as your guideline.
Written by Nancy Clark MS RD, who has a private practice in the Boston-area where she teaches athletes one-on-one how to eat to win. She is author of the best-selling Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook.