I’m sure you have heard the arguments as often as I have. Which is more important for weight loss, diet or exercise? Well, before we get into that, let’s talk about the whole issue of weight loss. Weight loss does NOT equal good health. Cut off one of your legs and you will have instant weight loss. Are you healthier? I think not. Google pictures of anorexics. Are they healthy? What do you think? So, before you get into that perennial new years’ resolution to lose weight, first think about what your goal really is. Are you a type 2 diabetic who is trying to lose fat to improve your health? Are you trying to lower your blood pressure? Do you just want to feel better? Or is it like most people and you just want to look good? All of the above are great reasons to make a change. Just know what you want and why you want it before getting serious. You will be more successful than the average person who just thinks they should drop a quick 10 pounds.
The real key is fat loss.
So back to the beginning. What is the best way to lose weight? Is it diet or exercise. I can’t count the number of ads I have seen for the latest miracle pill for weight loss. Check the fine print and you will almost always find the words “taken regularly along with a proper diet and exercise” the results are guaranteed. So, we have a pill, a proper diet and exercise. Seems to me one of these three things is not necessary. Unless of course you sell the pills and have a car payment to make, then it becomes vital that people take your pills.
Now we are down to diet and exercise. Sorry folks, it’s both. Theoretically you can just eat less or exercise more, and it should work. There is no mystery here. If you take in fewer calories than you burn, you will lose weight. The laws of physics can’t be beaten. It’s that simple. The problem is your body’s ability to adapt. If you go on a severe calorie restriction, your body recognizes this and slows down your metabolism to prevent starvation. Whereas you were burning 2200 calories a day before you started and now you are only eating 1500 that should work right? Not so fast. Your body sees that tough times are ahead and with your new slower metabolism due to your body’s adaptation you are now only burning 1400 calories per day. Not only do you not lose weight, but you feel like crap and are miserable watching everyone else eat.
So, let’s try exercise instead. One pound of fat is about 3500 calories. If you burn 3500 calories exercising, you will not only lose that pound of fat, but you will also lose a pound of water attached to that fat. Where’s the catch? Running a mile only burns about 100 calories. If you are already running 35 miles a week, you probably aren’t looking to lose weight. The extra calories burnt purely due to more exercise just aren’t that much.
The solution in my opinion is a combination of diet and exercise. I don’t care what the calories are from, fat, carbs or protein, they are still calories. So, just keep it sensible. No gorging until you can’t stuff another Twinkie down your throat. Then get up and start moving. Burn more calories than you have been. But the real key to exercise is to rev up your calorie burning machine during that 23 hours of the day when you aren’t exercising. How? Build muscle. Muscle is a calorie burning furnace. Resistance training may do more for your weight loss than all your cardio ever did, by building up muscle. Muscle does actually weigh more than fat but also burns way more calories to stay alive than fat cells do. For those who don’t want more muscle because it weighs more than fat, go back to the beginning and remember that plain old weight loss does not equal good health. Either way, the extra weight from more muscle will be more than compensated for by the even greater weight loss due to the extra calories burnt by the new muscle.
Recently I read an article by Dr. Jason Karp who stated that diet is most important for losing the weight and exercise is more important for keeping it off. That sounds reasonable to me. The bottom line is we all need to eat properly and exercise. You will feel better, look better, and live better. The time spent exercising will be regained and then some by your increased productivity due to your newfound vigor and ability. Forget the quick weight loss schemes and focus on the lifestyle change that you may need. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Good luck and it will be worth it.
Keep running my friends.