It’s the million dollar question: diet vs exercise, which one is more important to help you lose weight? They’re both crucial but how should we combine them?
Can we simply ‘burn off’ the effects of junk food and lose weight that way? Or is there more to it?
When it comes to slimming down, there are a few factors that come into play. One of the most commonly discussed is the 80/20 rule: that is, the formula for shedding pounds which proposes eating a healthy diet 80 percent of the time and devoting 20 percent of your time to exercise.
The 80/20 ratio is just a guideline – you don’t need to hit it exactly to lose weight but it’s a great estimate. It’s possible to torch the pounds without exercise, but not exercising can often lead to cravings that come with negative emotions. Without the right nutrition, your energy expenditure is futile. But the 80/20 rule applies to the actual food you eat too – eating wholesome, healthy food 80 percent of the time and saving 20 percent for foods that are low in nutrition. Restriction is not sustainable and small splurges on ‘unhealthy’ foods can actually help boost your motivation to eat well, as well as your happiness, according to research into ‘planned hedonic deviations’.
If you want to maintain or lose weight, diet is crucial. The actual trick to achieving weight loss is to reach a negative energy balance – i.e. consuming less calories than you burn. To shed one single pound, you need a 3,500 calorie deficit. Busy lifestyles don’t always allow that kind of calorie burning every day and the average person cannot keep it up, which is why the food you eat plays a huge role in torching weight. Anyone who has ever been on a treadmill knows how long it takes to reach that 500 calorie mark.
When it comes to the diet vs exercise debate, it’s important to look at the signals your body gives out when you lack in either one of them. Cravings. Whether you’re hankering a big bag of salty fries or a gallon of ice cream, there’s often a message behind it – even when they seem to pop up out of nowhere. Often, these signals indicate a lack of nourishment elsewhere in your life – it could be something missing in your diet, the need for physical movement, or even a repercussion of your work or relationships.
For example, craving late-night snacks can often indicate a peak in cortisol levels (hormones released when you’re stressed). You may not actually need that huge bowl of sugary cereal at 11pm – you could probably relieve the urge with stress-relieving yoga or a relaxing bath.
What you eat matters. Exercise matters. If you’re working out, you need to put quality fuel in your body to repair the body post-workout and get ready to conquer the next one. For a good sweat session to work, you need high-quality foods – protein, fat and carbs from wholesome sources – to give you the energy you need to tackle it. If you need extra ‘wiggle room’ in either of them, be more flexible with your fitness regime before you jeopardize your diet and nutrition. Moderation is the key to weight loss success that sticks.