Which Helps Lose More Weight, Diet or Exercise?

Written by: Damijana Presečnik, M. Sc. in Nutrition, and Miloš Kalc, prof. of sports education

Some say to eat less, some say to exercise more and for some the answer is easy: "Burn more than you've consumed!" These are all correct but for different circumstances. For initial weight loss you should focus on your diet. When you're already shaping your body and reaching your ideal weight, fitness and diet will be most beneficial. At your desired weight, regular exercise should do the trick.

Phase 1: Initial Weight Loss without Adding Muscle Mass

When we start the process of getting fitter, we usually want to see our progress in weight loss, first. To do so we should decrease calorie intake and the easiest way to control our nutrients intake is keeping a food diary.

This doesn't mean you should starve yourself! Healthy weight loss means losing a pound a week at the most. Reducing portion size and picking the ingredients carefully is usually enough. Here is an example of a healthy meal that doesn't take much time to prepare, it will make you feel full and is only around 400 kcal:

Salmon Salad

  • lettuce,
  • tomato,
  • grilled salmon fillet and
  • Olive oil.

This doesn't mean that you should be avoiding exercise in the first phase of weight loss. Suitable workouts can always help at weight loss, but you need to pick your sports activities carefully, especially if you're overweight. We recommend moderate cardio activity such as Nordic walking or running at a moderate pace.

Phase 2: Shape Your Body and Reach an Ideal Weight

It is easier to work out after losing a few pounds and regular exercise helps with the shaping of our body. Cardio workouts are the best for "burning" fat, which means it is good to focus on aerobic workouts, such as:

  • running,
  • walking,
  • biking,
  • swimming …

You shouldn't push it too much. Working out at 60% to 70% of your Heart rate reserve is the most efficient for losing fat.

To continue losing weight we should consume less energy than we spend, but the difference shouldn't exceed 500 kcal per day. Due to increased muscle mass our body will burn more energy and our food pyramid will help us determine whether our meals are nutritionally balanced.

Phase 3: Maintaining the Ideal Weight

Finally, we have reached our goal and we can be proud of ourselves! But our path to a healthy lifestyle has actually just started. In phase 3 we can start with different workouts, e.g. group sports, strength exercises, circular workout etc. It is also good to track and note any sport activity, because it can help us determine calorie input and output. The ratio between consumed and spent energy should now be equal to 1.

Phase 4: Keeping Healthy and Less Stressful Lifestyle

Good looks shouldn't be the only reason for weight loss. The process of shaping your body is supposed to be a great start of living healthier and a steady investment for the future. To make the healthy-lifestyle-package perfect, also include the stress management activities to your daily routine. Stress can also slow down the slimming process, so we should try our best to keep it under control.