Is Weight Loss More About Diet or Exercise?

Medically Reviewed on 5/11/2022
Is Weight Loss More About Diet or Exercise
The key to sustainable weight loss is maintaining a modest calorie deficit through both diet and exercise

Weight loss is achieved not through diet or exercise alone, but through a combination of the two. When you consume fewer calories through diet and burn more calories through exercise, you will lose weight.

Many experts recommend following the 80/20 rule for weight loss—80% through diet and 20% through exercise. However, this is not a hard and fast rule. The key to sustainable and healthy fat loss is maintaining a modest calorie deficit by eating a healthy, balanced diet and finding an exercise routine that helps you build muscle.

What diet is good for weight loss?

When it comes to choosing a diet for weight loss, it is important to make sure it is realistic, healthy, and sustainable. Diets that are effective for weight loss include intermittent fasting and the Mediterranean diet.

Intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting is a dietary strategy in which you have periods of eating and fasting spread throughout the day or week. The most popular methods include the 16/8 method and the 5:2 method. 

  • 16/8 method: Involves fasting for 16 hours a day and eating normally for the other 8 hours of the day
  • 5:2 method: Involves restricting calories to 500-600 for 2 days a week and eating normally for the rest of 5 days.

While intermittent fasting can lead to weight loss, be careful not to overcompensate by eating too much food during the non-fasting periods.

Since intermittent fasting can lead to significant drops in blood sugar levels, consult a doctor if you have conditions such as:

Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean diet has won top honors as the best diet in annual rankings. The diet emphasizes eating fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish, olive oil, and a small amount of meat, dairy, and wine. 

In addition to weight loss, the Mediterranean diet is good for the heart because it helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol. It may also help regulate blood sugar levels and protect against diseases such as Alzheimer's.

5 eating habits that can help you lose weight

Follow a low-carb, high-protein, healthy-fat diet

This dietary pattern restricts the number of refined carbs (such as white bread, rice, and pasta) in your diet by substituting them with protein-rich foods. 

  • Low-carb: The low-carb part of the diet can be followed in one of two ways:
    • Very low-carbohydrate (less than 10% carbs) or 20-50 grams a day 
    • Low-carbohydrate (less than 26% carbs) or less than 130 grams a day 
  • Protein: Protein makes you feel full for a longer time and reduces your food cravings. Both factors promote weight loss.
  • Healthy fats: Eat healthy sources of fat in moderation, such as nuts, nut butter, avocados, olive-oil-based dressings, canola oil, and trans-fat-free margarine.

Limit added sugar intake

Although sugar can be found naturally in fruits, this type of sugar is less likely to cause weight gain as compared to added sugar. 

If you want to lose weight, added sugars should make up no more than 10% of your daily diet. For example, if you eat 1,800 calories a day, your sugar intake for the day should not exceed 9 teaspoons. Look for hidden sugars in packaged goods, where sugar may appear as the following on labels:

  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Corn syrup
  • Brown rice syrup
  • Barley malt syrup
  • Dextrose
  • Raw sugar
  • Cane sugar
  • Evaporated cane juice
  • Coconut palm sugar
  • Agave

Eat more fruits and vegetables

Most fruits and vegetables are low in fat and calories and are rich in fiber, which helps keep you satiated. Additionally, some fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants, such as vitamin C, which help improve overall health.

Drink in moderation

One glass of wine contains as many as 123 calories and a can of beer contains about 350 calories. Limit your alcohol intake to no more than one serving a day to avoid adding empty calories to your overall calorie intake.

Cook at home

You may not be able to control your portions when you eat out at a restaurant. If you cook at home more often, you will be more likely to be mindful about what you are eating and how much.


The Best Diet Tips: How to Lose Weight the Healthy Way See Slideshow

What exercises are good for weight loss?

In order to lose weight, build a workout plan that combines these two forms of exercise:

  • Strength training: Every pound of muscle you gain through strength-training exercises will help you burn 5-10 extra calories a day.
  • Cardio exercises: Cardio workouts burn the most calories. Examples include fast walking, jogging, bicycling, or swimming and can be done on alternate days along with strength training.

Aim for at least 3 hours of moderate-intensity exercise a week. High-intensity workouts will speed up the rate of weight loss.

5 exercise tips for your weight loss

  1. Find an exercise buddy. Having an exercise buddy can help you stay motivated and accountable for sticking to a workout schedule.
  2. Schedule your workouts. Keep a calendar that lists specific days and times for your workouts. Set up reminders so that you don’t forget.
  3. Measure yourself daily. Weighing yourself or measuring your waist is a simple way to give you an idea about whether you are on the right track. 
  4. Take it slow. If you are getting back into shape or just starting a workout program, don’t overdo it and start lifting heavy weights on the first day. Start slowly and gradually increase the intensity as you become stronger.
  5. Get professional help. Enlist the help of a certified nutritionist and fitness expert for better results.

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Medically Reviewed on 5/11/2022
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