Diet or Exercise - Which is Most Important for Fat Loss?1/5/21
There is an on-going debate when it comes to weight loss between diet and exercise.
On the one hand you have those that say that you don’t need to do any exercise at all in order to lose weight, simply lower your calories enough and you will lose weight.
On the opposite end of the spectrum are the individuals who look at exercise as the driver of fat loss since intense physical activity can significantly increase energy expenditure.
But, when you step back and look at what the real driver of fat loss is -- a calorie deficit -- you begin to understand that fat loss can actually be achieve three different ways:
- Reducing calorie intake
- Increasing physical activity (exercise)
- A combination of #1 and #2
Basically, so long as you are in a calorie deficit, you will lose weight.
But, the question remains, which is the most efficient and effective method for fat loss?
Diet As the #1 Driver of Fat Loss
In order to lose weight (fat), you must be in an energy deficit whereby you expend more energy (calories) than you consume.
Taking a step back and assessing the situation, it is far easier to remove calories from the diet than to try to exercise away the same amount of calories.
For instance, it would take almost 1.5 hours of walking to burn 500 calories, whereas you could simply trim up each meal just a bit (removing small amounts of carbs and fat) to reduce your daily calorie intake by 500 calories.
Both courses of action yield the same result (a 500 calorie deficit), but one is much more efficient from a time and energy standpoint (reducing calories) than the other (exercising).
Research has also shown that exercise as the primary driver of fat loss is unrealistic for most individuals since they simply don’t have the time or desire to exercise enough to create a large enough calorie deficit to lose weight.
The truth is that you can lose fat and get lean by simply reducing calories, but you also run the risk of becoming skinny fat since exercise helps build and maintain lean muscle tissue, which is essential to avoiding the skinny fat look and achieving the optimal body composition after your transformation challenge is complete.
You also need to consider that there is only so much calorie cutting you can do before you risk losing muscle and/or dealing with incessant hunger pangs so intense they cause you to flat out abandon your diet plan and binge.
Exercise As the #1 Driver of Fat Loss
We’ve already touched on why exercise is inefficient as the primary driver for fat loss. You simply would be spending your entire day (ok, not really the entire day, but a significant portion of it) exercising your tail off.
Most of you reading this have a full-time job and can’t dedicate hours and hours of each day to walking, jogging, lifting, etc. to create the calorie deficit required to lose weight without tweaking your current diet at least somewhat.
But, just because you can lose weight without exercising doesn’t mean that you should.
While exercise doesn’t burn quite as many calories as people think, it still does burn a good chunk of calories (if you bring the intensity, that is). And using exercise in combination with a fat loss diet allows you to diet on a higher number of calories, since you’re burning more calories during the day on account of exercise.
More importantly, exercise (in the form of resistance training) is essential for maintaining and building muscle while dieting for fat loss. Research has shown that using on cardio as the form of exercise during a cutting phase actually leads to muscle loss.
However, when individuals combine resistance training and a reduced-calorie diet not only do they lose more weight, but they retain more lean muscle mass.
Basically, losing weight while lifting weights is the best way to maximize fat loss while retaining lean muscle, so that at the end of your transformation challenge you have achieved the lean, toned physique you want.
You can incorporate cardio into your exercise program for the week to further increase energy expenditure (and as a result your calorie deficit) or you could use it as a tool to allow you to eat slightly more food during the day while still losing weight at a steady clip.
Just remember, it’s not an either/or proposition. The most effective and efficient way to lose fat is to use a combination of a reduced-calorie diet that is high in protein and resistance training.
And, if you need help staying energized during the day or combatting the pesky hunger pangs that are a common part of fat loss, you may want to check out our premium-line of weight loss support aids, including our men’s fat loss formula (Pro Ripped Max), our women’s fat loss formula (Make Her Lean Max), or our stimulant-free appetite suppressant.
When combined with proper diet and exercise, these tools can help make the fat loss process streamlined, getting your the results you want faster and easier!
- Bryner RW, Ullrich IH, Sauers J, Donley D, Hornsby G, Kolar M, Yeater R. Effects of resistance vs. aerobic training combined with an 800 calorie liquid diet on lean body mass and resting metabolic rate. J Am Coll Nutr. 1999 Apr;18(2):115-21.
- Hunter GR, Byrne N, Sirkikul B, Fernandez JR, Zuckerman PA, Darnell BE, Gower BA. Resistance training conserves fat-free mass and resting energy expenditure following weight loss. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2008 May;16(5):1045-51