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Which Is Better – Diet Or Exercise?

written by Guest Blogger August 31, 2016

Are you looking to spend your time wisely when it comes to health? Maybe you’ve heard that abs are created in the kitchen, and hope it’s true because you really don’t like the gym. Or maybe you heard exercise is the most important to overall health, so you practically live at the gym. Today, Helen Farthing, is here to share with us what she’s found in her research. 

Ok. Let’s be honest. We all know the answer to this question. The best thing for weight loss is a responsible combination of diet and exercise. However, putting all of this good sense aside for a moment, how to diet and exercise match up when taken individually? It’s something a lot of us would like to know.

There’s many a foodie who would love to be able to keep their weight down with more exercise than dieting, and many a gym-averse person who’d prefer to minimize the exercise part of the weight loss equation. So, how do dieting and exercise work individually to get our weight down?


The sad news for gym bunnies is that the exercise numbers don’t add up particularly well when looked at in isolation. It takes a lot of exercise to burn off a little bit of fat – and that’s assuming that your body is using fat to fuel your muscles in the first place.

To burn 200 calories (about the same amount as is in one donut), the average person would have to walk at a good pace for over an hour. To reach calorie deficit through exercise alone, without cutting your diet back to recommended daily limits, requires near-constant movement. It can be done, but it’s not nearly as simple as just hitting the gym for an hour a day.

If you want to see consistent fat loss, you’re going to have to control the calories you’re putting in as well as the calories you’re expending. For those who lose weight through a combination of diet and exercise, only 25% of the total loss tends to come from the exercise. Please don’t read into this as exercise is pointless!

What exercise does more effectively than simply burning fat is that it tells your body how to do so properly. If you’re not exercising, but are dieting, the weight you drop won’t only by from fat, but from muscle and bones as well. By exercising, you’re essentially telling your body that muscles and bones are needed and in use – forcing it to eradicate fat instead.

Not to mention that exercise will also make you generally healthier. Most importantly of all for some, exercise also has significant psychological effects, which can motivate people struggling even with very complex problems to change their lives.

So, while exercise alone probably won’t blast away your belly, it supports your dieting efforts immensely, makes you healthier, tones and tightens your body (so you lose inches), and motivates you to continue your weight loss journey.


If you’ve read the above paragraph, you’ll have gathered that dieting is what triggers serious fat loss. There have been several studies comparing the fat loss effects of diet and exercise – generally, these involve one group dieting without exercising and another exercising without dieting. Without exception, the dieting groups lose dramatically more weight than the exercising groups.

We’re actually pretty energy efficient mammals, capable of hanging on to calories we take in for a long time, meaning that you have to do a lot of exercise in order to see any fat loss. The trick, therefore, is to not give your body those calories in the first place. Once they’re in you, they’re hard to shift – but reducing your overall calorie intake means that you’re not ‘topping up’ your fat levels, and they’ll shrink.

However, it’s best to diet in a healthy and responsible manner, by making good food choices rather than simply attempting to cut calories. Some foods, for example, will make you crave more of the same – and those cravings are hard to crack. Others will make you feel full and satisfied for a long time, without putting too many calories in in the first place.

Green, leafy vegetables, fruits, whole grains…all of these things will help you to lose weight through both physical and psychological actions. Processed carbs, sugar, and many dairy products will do the opposite. So don’t just cut calories, make clever, informed food choices as you do so. Oh, and combine your diet with exercise if you want to see your diet-related fat loss taking the desired path!

About the Author

Helen Farthing is a freelance writer and mother. Previous to this she worked in healthcare and helped people source advice and guidance on fitness and nutrition. She firmly believes that a healthy and balanced lifestyle is key to longevity and wants to now help others through her written work.

Does this article change any of your perspectives on nutrition or diet?

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