Diet vs. Exercise – Which is better for Weight Loss?

Today we will try to settle the great debate of diet vs. exercise. Anyone who has ever tried to lose weight knows that wherever they do for advice, they are told to eat less and move more. But that is easier said than done.

Health and fitness are never that simple. Statements like that don’t tell you the whole story and they never reveal the most important point of all; should you be focusing on diet or exercise?

Truth of the matter is that there are innumerable things that we can do for our health. So all the recommendation you get are correct in some way or another but they don’t take into account the time, energy, finances and other factors that are unique to your situation.

Essentially, you can go on any type of diet that is low carb, low fat, etc. and perform exercises all day, you will not make dent in your weight goals until you understand how the whole process works and which aspect you should be focusing on.

Calorie Math

Measurement tape around scale Diet vs. exercise

The first and foremost thing that you need to understand is basic calorie math;

  • When your calorie intake is lower than the calories you are burning during the day; you lose weight.
  • Eating more calories than you require for the day’s activities makes you gain weight.

To lose 0.5kg of weight, you have to make sure that you eating about 3000 less calories than you are expending. To achieve this goal you can control your diet or add exercise to your daily routine.

Diet vs. Exercise – Focusing on Exercise

Athlete running outside black and red clothing

Exercise is great and you should always find time for fitness in your routine, either at the gym or at home. You can find great home exercises and gym workouts on our blog. Remember that information when you are reading the following part of the article.

Most of the calories you burn are because of you just being alive. You don’t have to go out of your way at all. When you look into your calorie expense for the whole day, you will be surprised;

  • A 180 pound man will burn about 2000 calories before getting out of bed in the morning.
  • Activities like digesting and absorbing nutrients, fidgeting, and other daily routine things can burn all those calories.
  • Exercise, take swimming for example, can only burn 400 to 500 calories in one hour.

The difference can easily be seen in those numbers. Creating the calorie deficit for weight loss is difficult with just exercise.

Diet vs. Exercise – Focusing on Diet

Man using dumbbells for muscle building at gym

An important note here is that normal people are very bad at counting their calorie intake and calorie burn count. So focus on the calories that you eating and not just about the food you have ‘earned’ after some exercising.

Now that you know that you can burn almost 2000 calories a day without exercising, you can cut down your calorie intake to about 1000 to 1200 calories per day.

This will create a 1000 calorie deficit and you will start to lose weight. This will be a struggle because it is easier to add exercise to your life then to cut down on your favorite foods. Without exercise the whole process will also be very slow and you may find yourself giving up in the middle.

Combine Diet and Exercise Effectively

Man exercise Diet vs. Exercise

The simple conclusion of everything said above is that you need the help of both diet and exercise. You have to find the right combination of both to help with your weight loss. The primary focus, however, should be the diet.

Picking the right food to eat is the key. When you are creating a diet plan, look for foods that you can live on for a while. Find the food and ask yourself if you would be comfortable eating it for the period of a year?

When you have picked the diet that lowers your calorie intake you can find the perfect exercise program that increases your calorie deficit for the day.

You can start out slowly. Fitness is like developing a skill. You can’t become an expert at it without practice and determination.

  • You can set rules for yourself like;
  • Create a list of unhealthy foods and clear them from your diet.
  • Don’t eat out unless there is no option.
  • Try to order the healthiest item on the menu.
  • Don’t skip your exercise, for any reason.
  • Reduce the amount of exercise but do it like clockwork daily.
  • Start writing down what you eat.


How to Proceed

Now that we have determined that exercise, or diet for that matter, alone cannot help you reach your weight loss goals. Only by practicing both will you be able to be productive.

To simplify everything we will break down your next moves into 5 steps;

Step 1: Find out how many calories you are burning in a day. Click here to calculate.

Step 2: Make changes to your diet and bring down your calorie intake by 15%-20%.

Step 3: Add more protein to your diet. Your body requires more calorie to digest proteins.

Step 4: Pick an exercise routine or start an activity, like boxing or basketball, which you can do daily.

Step 5: When you normalize the diet and exercise, stop counting calories and think macros instead.

These steps are exactly the start you need to begin your weight management journey. To settle the diet vs. exercise debate once and for all think of it like this; weight loss begins with diet and fitness is achieved with exercise.