Q. Glen, Which is better? Diet or exercise? Can you really get lean - and more importantly, stay lean - without exercise?
A. Lose weight without exercise is one of the most common claims made in the weight loss industry, yet it remains the subject of fierce debate.
Fat Loss Lie #9: "Exercise is not necessary... all you need is a diet"
The Truth About The Diet Versus Exercise Debate
Yes, you CAN lose weight by cutting calories. But as you learned in the first part of this course ("the starvation diet lie"), there is danger in using very low calorie diets; you almost always re-gain weight that's lost with highly restrictive diets.
Some people use calorie restriction out of necessity. For example, I know some wheelchair-bound individuals who lost weight with calorie restriction alone. I also know some people who were very obese and had orthopedic problems (making exercise difficult at first), who chose to get started only with dietary restriction, then they added the exercise later. They also lost weight.
However, for able-bodied people, dieting is the absolute WORST way to lose weight.
Two Ways To Create A Calorie Deficit And Lose The Fat
As you learned in part 5 on calories, to lose fat, you need a calorie deficit. However, there's more than one way to create a calorie deficit. One is to decrease the amount of calories you consume (eat less). The other is to increase the amount of calories you burn (exercise more).
Of the two ways, burning the calories with increased activity is the superior method. Or, you can also combine the two - eat a little less, and exercise more.
Paradoxical as it seems, the most effective approach of all is to eat more and exercise a LOT more (as long as you still keep your calorie deficit). Nutritionist and exercise physiologist Dr. John Berardi calls this a "HIGH ENGERY FLUX," which simply means, higher energy input, higher energy output. The result is a high level of nutrition and a turbo-charged metabolism.
Top 10 reasons why exercising ("burn"), not dieting ("starve"), is the superior method of losing body fat:
The most effective fat-burning programs in the world always contain two types of exercise - weight training and cardiovascular training. The reasons to include both could go on for pages, but here are the top 10:
1. Exercise increases your metabolism.
2. Exercise creates a caloric deficit without triggering starvation mode.
3. Exercise helps you sleep better and manage stress better.
4. Exercise (strength training) tells your body to keep the muscle. Dieting causes muscle loss.
5. Exercise increases bone density.
6. Exercise helps prevent diabetes, control blood sugar, and improve insulin sensitivity.
7. Exercise improves cardiovascular health.
8. Exercise improves mood, helps relieve depression and increases self esteem
9. Exercise increasese mobility and quality of life as you get older
10. Exercise helps you keep the weight off long term.
The Science Behind Burning More, Not Eating Less
The role of energy expenditure in weight loss (diet vs exercise) is still the subject of controversy. For years I've been a strong advocate of weight training and cardiovascular training to "burn the fat" instead of just cutting calories (and being a "couch potato"). Take a look at some of the research-proven benefits of the "burn more" approach and see for yourself:
“Strength training may have greater implications than initially proposed for decreasing body fat and sustaining fat free mass. Research suggests that adding exercise programs to dietary restriction can promote more favourable changes in body composition than diet or physical activity on its own.”
-Stiegler, Sports Medicine, 2006
“Treatments relying only on energy restriction commonly cause substantial loss of lean tissue…” - Walberg, Sports Med, 1989:
“Increasing daily activity and regular exercise plays an important role in weight maintenance due to an impact on daily energy expenditure and a direct enhancement of insulin sensitivity.”
- Astrup, Int J Vitam Nutr res, 76:4, 2006”
“Physical activity is a critical factor for successful body weight regulation. Physical activity facilitates weight maintenance through direct energy expenditure and improved physical fitness.”
- Saris, Int J Obes relat Metab Disord, 1998:
“Reduced energy expenditure appears to facilitate weight gain in individuals susceptible to obesity."
- Saltzman, Nutr rev, 1995:
The Lies And Deceptions That Fuel The $50 Billion Weight Loss Machine
With this kind of proof, why is there any debate at all? Well, the biggest reason is because the weight loss industry thrives on novelty. Without “what’s new,” there's no story. People want to hear about some cutting edge new revolutionary pill or unique new diet breakthrough.
The industry also bets on laziness. Exercise is a hard sell because it's perceived as hard work. Advertisers know there's a lazy side hard wired into human nature, so they do everything they can to make their weight loss solutions look quick, easy and painless.
I believe the fact that we need to exercise - for health, quality of life AND for improved body composition - is such a common sense and intuitive conclusion that I find it almost comedic that there's any debate about it at all.
Think about it: What will your body shape look like by dieting without doing any training??? Diet without exercise tends to create a “skinny fat person” - someone with a low body weight but little if any muscle, and the last 10-15 lbs of stubborn fat is left defiantly clinging to your hips, butt, thighs, abs or "love handles!"
Here's what else I believe about exercise vs dieting:
- I believe that the human body is the only machine on the face of the earth that wears out and breaks down from not using it enough
- I believe that much obesity and disease are a direct result of inactivity
- I believe that much of the deterioration that happens as you age is a direct result of a sedentary lifestyle and a loss of muscle
- I believe that cardiovascular exercise + weight training + a small calorie reduction is vastly superior for fat loss purposes than a calorie reduction alone, both in the short and long term
- I believe that calorie restriction alone is a short-sighted and incomplete approach to a complex problem, and it requires a complete change in lifestyle habits to achieve better health, better body composition and results that last
- I believe that everyone who is able-bodied should get some type of physical activity almost every single day
- I believe that anyone who is healthy and physically able should get involved in weight training 3 days per week (up to 4 - 5 times per week for athletes and bodybuilders)
- I believe that anyone healthy and physically able should do at least 3 days per week of vigorous cardiovascular exercise (jogging, brisk walking, treadmills, stairclimbers, ellipticals, aerobics classes, etc), and they may increase their exercise frequency, intensity and or duration if necessary, to accelerate fat loss
- I believe that more people should stop taking their bodies for granted and start appreciating that those wheelchair-bound individuals I mentioned earlier would give anything to be able to run or ride a bike
It's tempting to keep looking for some kind of "no-sweat" secret, whether in the form of a special diet technique, a magic fat burning pill or whatever, but in the end, it always, comes back to this: You need a calorie deficit to lose weight... and it's better to burn more calories than to cut more calories.
Exercise - including weight training and cardio training - should be a part of every weight management program and a part of your lifestyle. This is one of the ultimate secrets to fat loss and long term weight control:
Remember, don't starve the fat, "BURN THE FAT."
Any personal health questions or problems mental or physical or before starting any diet or exercise program.Please consult your physician !
Wishing You Great Health!
Any questions? Ask Glen