As we head into a new year and out of the holiday season, many if not most of us are looking to clean up our diets and drop a few pounds. So the question becomes, should the focus be diet or exercise?
The short and definitive answer is, first, ditch the ‘or’. A healthy and sustainable fitness level is not achieved and maintained via one or the other, but rather at the intersection of both.
The Calorie Equation
The road to weight loss means creating a calorie deficit. According to the Mayo Clinic, The key to weight loss is to consume fewer calories than you burn. and/or to burn more calories than you consume.
In general, if you cut 500 to 1,000 calories a day from your typical diet (this could differ for males/females and other variables and it’s best to consult a Registered Dietitian), you will likely lose about 1 pound per week.
The Quick Skinny on Dieting
Cutting 500 to 1,000 calories per day via food restriction is not at all easy and could actually be unhealthy.
Addie Claire Jones, MS, RD, CSCS Director of Nutrition for VIDA, says “A very low calorie (<1500) diet is almost never the answer. Behaviorally, it frequently leads to binging or feeling out of control in the evenings or weekends. Physiologically, it leads to negative metabolic adaptation which makes future weight loss endeavors increasingly more difficult. We even see these very low calorie diets cause nutritional deficiencies for people to stay on them longer than a few months.“
Additionally, according to the American Council on Exercise, only about 5% of dieters are successful in keeping weight off, and weight cycling is very common. Usually, one-third of weight lost is regained within one year and almost all is regained within three to five years.
The terrific news is regular exercise increases your metabolism even during rest, meaning you will burn more calories as you sleep, work, and go about your day due to that 45 to 60 minutes you put in at the gym. Yep, exercising helps you burn off the food you consume faster. What a win!
According to the CDC, regular physical exercise is one of the most important things you can do for your health. We all know this, but sometimes need a little reminder of the many benefits – beyond weight loss – that come from exercise.
Consider that your Bodypump 45 class not only strengthens muscles but improves your bone density. When you walk out of Full Throttle dripping in sweat, you also just worked to increase your brain health and reduce the risk of disease. You’re keeping your joints healthy and reducing stress in Power Yoga and dancing your way to a healthier heart in Zumba. Bottom line is, when you walk out of that gym door hoping the number on the scale makes you happy tomorrow, your mind, body and soul are all healthier as well.
And in order to keep moving and gain all of these benefits, it’s important to fuel your workouts with good calories.
So, the answer is, combine exercise and a healthy diet, and you’re on the fastest, healthiest and most sustainable road to weight loss.