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What Is More Important: Diet or Exercise?

by Andrea Cespedes Google

About Andrea Cespedes

Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.

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Between 75 and 95 percent of people who go on a diet regain the weight, reports Dr. Sylvia Karasu in “Psychology Today.” Constantly losing and regaining weight affects your health, long-term weight loss and your psyche. Major health organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Heart Association recommend combining exercise and a healthy diet to lose weight for a reason. Both exercise and diet are essential components of a successful weight loss and maintenance program.

Weight Loss Fundamentals

Losing weight requires a calorie deficit: Use more calories than you consume. You can create this by eating fewer calories, by making your body burn a greater number of calories daily or through a combination of these methods. One pound is equal to about 3,500 calories, so if you can create a 500-calorie-per-day deficit, you can lose a pound per week.

Benefits of Diet

A healthy, portion-controlled diet means you take in fewer saturated and trans fats, added sugars and refined flours, which are conducive to weight gain. A healthy diet reduces your risk of developing chronic diseases and improves your energy. Even losing just 5 to 10 percent of your body weight can have positive health implications. Portion control is also essential, however. You can easily overeat healthy foods to create a calorie surplus and gain weight.

Benefits of Exercise

Exercise helps you burn calories and retain lean muscle mass. If you add physical activity, you burn more energy and can thus create a bigger calorie deficit to stimulate weight loss. Adding lean muscle mass also helps you burn more calories because it is a more metabolically active tissue than fat. A person with a greater percentage of muscle mass burns more calories at rest. When you age, you lose muscle mass. In addition, when you diet, you tend to lose muscle mass. When you lose weight, especially quickly, you lose lean muscle tissue along with fat. When you gain weight back, you tend to gain fat. If you consistently lose and regain, you end up with a higher percentage of fat than when you started. Exercise can help counteract these effects.

One, the Other and Both

You can easily out-eat your exercise efforts. Without dietary control, weight loss will not occur. If you do not exercise, you can only cut calories so much before you start to starve your body of essential nutrients. Of the members of the National Weight Control Registry, a group of more than 5,000 individuals who successfully lost an average of 66 lbs. and have kept it off for over five years, 10 percent used diet alone. Another 1 percent succeeded with exercise alone. The remaining 89 percent combined exercise and diet to obtain results.

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.