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Diet Trumps Exercise: Truth of Myth?

When it comes to weight loss, the subject of diet vs exercise has never been more widely debated and is full of conflicting information.

Maybe you have all heard many different reasons as to why diet or exercise is more important than the other.

Some claim that low-calorie diets are the only way to go. Or that you could achieve weight loss with only diet and no exercise. If dieting doesn’t work, does exercise alone allow you to lose weight?

Whether it’s the 80/20 diet rule or the 30 min cardio routine, it can be confusing to figure out whether you should prioritize exercise over diet. We wonder, does the answer lie somewhere in between?

In this article, we aim to explore the mystery of diet vs exercise, and if one is more important than the other when it comes to weight loss.

Is Diet More Important Than Exercise?

There is a simple reason for these low-carb diets to work: It reduces energy intake and imparts a negative energy balance. Basically, you burn more calories each day than you eat1.

These low-carb diets may be effective. But only in the short term. It essentially forces the body to burn through its glycogen.

cooking vegetables

On a very low-carb diet, the carbohydrate metabolic pathway shuts down. As that happens, glycogen stores are depleted. But unlike fat, glycogen holds water. Because the body stores glycogen in its hydrated form, with three or four parts water per glycogen, burning it also leads to water loss and a rapid reduction in body weight.

Once the glycogen stores are depleted, the body relies on the fat metabolic pathway to provide energy. You’ll begin burning your stored fat, but ONLY if your daily energy expenditure exceeds your intake.

There is simply no way that anyone is losing weight without consuming fewer calories than they are burning daily, regardless of what these calories may be made of. While it may be entirely possible to lose weight without counting calories, it is not possible to lose weight without eating less than you burn.

In retrospect, we can say that yes, diets are key to any form of weight loss.

The Role of Exercise in Weight Loss

While exercise only accounts for a small percentage of weight loss, the main benefits of exercise are not limited to its effects on metabolism. It also keeps you strong and fit. The benefits of staying strong are particularly important as we age.

In Burn, a book by Herman Pontzer, vigorous activity as defined as anything demanding 6 METs (Metabolic equivalent. 1 MET is defined as 1 kilocalorie per kilogram of body mass per hour), has positive effects all over the body.

As blood rushes through the arteries, nitric oxide is released, keeping them open and elastic. Pliable vessels also keep the blood pressure low and are less likely to clog or burst – which if they do, could cause heart attacks and strokes.

a woman stretching her leg preparing for a run

How does Regular Excercise Help?

Regular exercise also keeps you sharp mentally, slowing the rate of cognitive decline with age. Studies have also shown that running and other aerobic activities increase blood flow to the brain and cause the release of neurotrophins, molecules that promote the growth and health of brain cells.

a girl doing a dumb bell exercise

Some studies have even shown that normal exercise has little effect on weight. As a whole, the test subjects showed that their bodies were able to adjust to increased workloads perfectly.

Exercise did, however, reduce their stress response. When the test subjects were exercising regularly, their bodies produced 30% less adrenaline and cortisol each day which in turn improved their depression2.

As far as weight loss is concerned, the role of exercise is to increase energy expenditure. The U.S Centers for Disease Control recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate and vigorous activity per week.

Despite that, only 10% of the American population can meet that goal. But it doesn’t have to be exercise – take the stairs. Or walk instead of taking the car when traveling short distances. Any form of physical activity helps to regulate your energy expenditure and reduces calories.

The Difficulty of Staying within the Caloric Deficits in Diets

In order to lose weight, you need to eat and drink fewer calories than you burn. That’s essentially called a calorie deficit. Being in a calorie deficit temporarily may not be a problem to achieve, but sustaining it might prove more challenging for most.

Everyone leads a very different lifestyle, but with more office jobs and the rise of work-from-home opportunities, a sedentary lifestyle is becoming increasingly common. The lack of daily movement can make it difficult for people to remain in a calorie deficit.

This is because their bodies are not expending the energy needed and it is hard to make time to do so. Particularly if your job is one where you sit down most of your day, it is hard to increase energy expenditure the same way someone with an active job and lifestyle does.

While it is possible to ensure a certain amount of caloric reduction through exercise, no amount of exercise can out beat a bad diet. Say you are eating 3,000 calories a day without knowing. To be in a calorie deficit would require an extreme amount of exercise daily.

When on a diet, will exercise hinder weight loss?

Our bodies expend energy in our day-to-day lives without us even knowing it. Regular bodily functions, such as digestion and breathing, can burn up to a quarter of our body’s daily calories.

During exercise, this amount of energy is included in the total calories burnt which, unless participating in a high-calorie burning exercise, deems the workout to be not as effective as you would expect if you were to eat more than you were burning.

a girl measuring her waist in a gym

Which exercise burns the most calories?

Exercise Calories/Hour Food Type
Burpees 546 calories/hour 1 McDonald’s Big Mac
Sit-ups  259 calories/hour 1 Glazed Donut
Jumping Jacks  546 calories/hour 1 Starbucks Venti Caramel Frappuccino with whipped cream
Stationary Bike  464 calories/hour 2 Bars of Snickers
Yoga  273 calories/hour 1 Can of Coke
The Eliptical  341 calories/hour 1 Medium Bubble Tea
Jumping Rope  750 calories/hour 1 Burger King Whopper

Bedosky, L. (2020, August 29). Calories burned during exercise and how to calculate it. Openfit. https://www.openfit.com/calories-burned-during-exercise

Non-Invasive Fat Removal Treatments As An Alternative to Diet and Exercise

CoolSculpting

a photo of coolsculpting machine and the interface

CoolSculpting (or Fat Freezing) is an FDA-approved, non-invasive fat removal treatment that uses Cryolipolysis. The CoolSculpting method works on sections of fat and can affect up to 25% of the cells in the localized area. It uses a vacuum-like apparatus to apply controlled cooling, usually effective at -10 to -13°C to the areas of the body where you are looking to remove fat.

The treatment is increasing in popularity as it is a non-invasive method to assist with fat loss, particularly the stubborn fat that may find it difficult to lose despite healthy changes in their lifestyle. The targeted areas of fat crystallize and die and are then excreted through the body’s natural waste disposal system over the course of 3 months.

SculpSure

SculpSure is an alternative method to CoolSculpting, providing a non-surgical solution for fat loss. It uses laser technology to gently heat and destroy fat cells. The SculpSure apparatus is an applicator that is surrounded by a cooling plate to ensure only the targeted area is treated and the patient can be comfortable during the treatment.

This method of fat removal heats fat cells up to between 42 to 47°C and damages them and they are soon excreted from the body through its natural waste disposal system. The treatment also provides a dual positive, penetrating into the cells of the localized area such that it stimulates collagen production, making it effective for skin laxity.

an image of SculpSure machine

Choosing the Right Treatment for You

CoolSculpting and SculpSure are two effective and non-invasive ways to remove stubborn and unwanted pockets of fat. It is entirely dependent on your personal goals and preferences as to whether you choose CoolSculpting or SculpSure. As always, a detailed and tailored consultation will be provided so that you get your best results.

Maintaining a healthy diet is always just as important to keep our bodies healthy overall, but if you’re struggling to budge those few pockets of fat, CoolSculpting & SculpSure are safe, non-invasive options that you can consider.